Lesson from the Shop: The Integrated Photographer

 by Stanley Leary

When the camera merged with the computer to give us digital photography, the skills to be a successful photographer changed dramatically. Prior to digital photography, the professional photographer only had to know how to use a camera.
Almost everyone who was working prior to computers becoming commonplace, has experienced this phenomenon. The computer was integrated into many jobs. Everyone had to learn word-processing and e-mail. Using the computer to maximize your efficiency for work depended on your comfort level with computers.
There were those who didn’t handle the transition well. They ask the resident “computer guy” to help them with everything — mail merge, printing envelopes, attaching documents to e-mails, and so on. Because they didn’t learn, they became less valuable employees, while the computer guy became more valuable.
In 1990, the publication industry took a big hit. I was laid off due to the recession. Many of my friends also lost their jobs since newspapers were dropping like flies; many two-newspaper towns lost one of their publications.
Fortunately for me, I had computer skills were up to date. These skills helped me to sell computer systems to corporations in Long Island for Tandy Corporation. I used my knowledge to help design networks for clients, and to create databases for mass marketing. I enjoyed the photography forums on CompuServe long before 1993, when the World Wide Web was created. I took a class at Georgia Tech on designing Web sites and created my own Web site back in 1995.
In the early 90’s I was scanning transparencies and film to digitize photos for publication. Once the digital camera surpassed the quality from this process, it was easy for me to make the transition. Today I speak to my peers at conferences and workshops as an expert on digital photography and on how to use the computer to run their businesses.
Ever since I moved from a staff position to a full-time freelancer, I have watched my business average 20 percent annual growth. I’ve come to realize the greatest single factor in my success is the knowledge of computers as it relates to photography.
Those who have failed, have generally not kept up with technical developments.  The successful photographer today is the integrated photographer. In technology, “integrated” refers to two or more components being merged together into a single system. The integrated photographer is the professional who has merged mastery of the camera with mastery of the computer.