Is the Art of Photography Dying Due to Digitalization?

Photography has been my hobby ever since I got a hold of my very first camera, a Kodak C310. I think that was the start of the exponential advancement in the technology of digital cameras. After that, I received a Canon DIGITAL IXUS 80 IS. Since then I have taken a lot of photographs, and my dream was to have a DSLR of my own. Now I have a DSLR and it was like a dream come true when I took my first shot with it.

During those old times, I did not think of myself as a pro. Even until now, I am not taking photographs thinking that I’m a pro with my DSLR hanging around my neck. I just take photos because I love photography.

Everything’s all and well until I had this very odd encounter with a friend. I was enjoying myself photowalking when I bumped into one of my friends. I let him borrow my camera. He pointed the camera on the streets and then pressed the shutter. We looked at the photo. Then he said,

“Wow! Even I can become a pro with this…”

I was surprised actually. Then I began to ask myself these questions:

1. Is Photography Really that Simple?

Is Photography Really that Simple

This photo was taken a few days ago using Canon EOS 1000D and that pretty girl is my “Iyaan” (this is our endearment). I uploaded it on Facebook and friends started commenting. Most of the comments are really flattering, but there are also comments that are quite saddening, really.

For example,

mao…!!!!mupalit ko ana na cam pra tanang maot mugwapa..!!!aw….peace..!!!!hehehe….”

The exact English translation would be,

“correct…!!!! I will buy the same camera so that everything that’s ugly will come out beautiful..!!!”

That’s when I thought that maybe photography has become really, really easy.

With today’s technology, everything’s available to the public. The significant boom in digital cameras makes photography as simple as point and shoot.

2. Is there even Art in Photography?


Image by: Colin Brough

In seeking answers to my questions, I learned that there has been a lot of debate not just about whether or not the art of photography is dying, but if we can even consider photography an art?

There has been a lot of treatises on whether it is or it isn’t. To the opposing side, the primary objection is that taking a picture of something does not create art. The mechanical process handles all the work –  can a photographer capturing the image of something which is already present be considered ART?

Well, according to Tolstoy, which I know many of you guys know,

“Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously by means of certain signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that others are infected by those feelings and experience them.”

From that definition of art. There is no doubt for me that Photography is ART.

This brings us to my next question.

3. What makes Photography an Art?


Image by: purple21

I wanted to define art for the sake of the discussion but it would just lead to a much wider debate. So let me just quote William Faulkner.

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.”

No other words can define photography any better than this. So, what makes photography an art?

  • Photography shows the Photographer’s Vision

It is true that when we look at a photograph, we are looking at a scene that already existed in this world and that’s just a mere image recorded. But definitely that’s not all. We are also looking at how the Photographer viewed the scenery and how the photographer chose to capture and present it to make it his art.

  • It makes a Statement

A beautiful, expressive face; a transient moment in nature; the aloofness of a splendid cliff; the warmth of fire; the coldness of ice; the passion and love of a mother for her child; the sorrow of an old man mourning at his wife’s grave…a photograph is life distilled and preserved for eternity. Sometimes, a photograph is just a very ordinary scene in the real world but a photographer can capture that scene in a such a way that it makes a statement. Let’s take for example street photography, a picture of a little kid so innocent and so pure. The scenery alone is very ordinary in the real world, but the innocence of that kid can be captured and preserved for eternity, and the image has the power to move the audience.

  • Photography “infects” the Audience

A photograph delivers a message, an emotion, a feeling, in a way no words can. A sense of beauty and magnificence of life, nature, and experiences of mankind. Through photography, these messages contained in a photograph have the ability to grab and “infect” the viewer with the idea the photographer wanted to convey.

This is just my humble opinion and I might be able to make some of you think of photography as a true form of art. Actually, I can’t think of reasons why photography is NOT an art so I did my research and I found this one site that says “10 Reasons Why Photography Sucks and Isn’t an Art Form“.

The author made some strong points and I agree with some of his points, but I will leave it to you. If you want, you can even bring the discussion here and we’ll start our own little debate (thrilled!).

Art or Not, photography has made its way to the mainstream and along with it some allies and also some naysayers. With the advent of “reasonably priced” digital photography, here’s my next question:

4. Where does Photography stand today?


Image by: Pam Roth

When I was a kid, I remember having a neighbor named “Julian”, pronounced as “Hulyan”. In our little town, I remember him being the star photographer. His camera at that time was one of those cameras that uses traditional film. He was there when I graduated grade school. A few years later, he’s nowhere to be found.

While writing this post, I think I know why Julian disappeared. People no longer pay for him to take pictures. Five years ago, moms are already running around with their digital cameras to take their kids’ graduation pictures. Mr. Julian got put out of business.

It also made me think how many professional photographers must have gone out of business because of the ever-changing world of photography. Not just film photographers but also the pioneers of digital photography can have a tough time when it comes to making a living out of photography.

5. Is the art of photography REALLY dying?


Image by: ilker .

With the exponential growth of technology in the photography industry, many professional photographers are worried about how easy photography is these days. Plus with the help of Photoshop, their concern is that someone with a half decent camera can put their camera on AUTO and just shoot without thinking about the meaning behind each shot.

Thus the debate, is the art of photography really dying?

Well I think that, while a lot of photographers are worried about losing their business, or that the professional side of photography is not as respected as it once was because almost anybody can call themselves pro, it really doesn’t concern photography as an art.

Professional or not, getting paid or not, photography is for everybody, just as art is. The important thing is to successfully communicate to the audience the passion and emotion the photographer felt when they pressed the shutter.

My 5 Most Favorite Photographs/Photographers

1. Iwo Jima Flag Raising

A very inspiring photo taken by Joe Rosenthal on Feb. 23, 1945. This is one of my favorite photographs. An ultimate symbol of patriotism and valor.


2. Richard Murai

Shooting the world’s sacred sites using film, Richard Murai’s photos teaches us that becoming sensitive to unfamiliar cultures can encourage tolerance and compassion.


3. Takeoff

Utterly stunning, this photograph showcases the beauty and magnificence of nature and you get the feeling of satisfaction and life itself.


4. “Den Battle”  Kits Playing

Photographer Mark J. Harlow spent six days with these magnificent creatures. They look like kids trying to get their parents attention.


5. Luanne Mae Manreal (>.<)

Really who can understand your shots better than yourself. In this photo I wanted to let my audience know the beauty of the tropical islands of the Philippines!


Now that you’ve finished reading my top 5 favorites in the photography world, let me tell you guys that one photo there dates back to 1945, one photographer prefers film photography, and all of them depict beauty and magnificence. Really, the art of photography is not defined by time, people, and medium. It may change and evolve, but it certainly won’t die.


This is just my humble view with regards to photography. I’m sure a lot of you guys also have a lot in mind regarding this topic. I said everything in my heart and  on my mind, now it’s your turn. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas. That’s art.


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  1. Heidi says

    Digital Art is not the same thing as photography. Those who excessively manipulate images then claim to be photographers are watering down the legitimacy of what photography is. If I see one more heavily manipulated HDR/Bokeh/Tilt Shift I’m going to puke.

  2. says

    Photography has become much easier, but still the god photo easily stand out from bad photos.
    Framing, timing, composition of the shot. Just like graphic design, painting in which all good subjects/design are already made, but we still continue to outgrow them. Similarly photography like other art forms challenges us to keep outgrowing our thought process and capturing things in different perspectives.

    • brancusi says

      Photography is not great art! it has become a reflection of our disintergrating individual in society.
      Photography is only what can be manipulated with the eye! not with the mind. How could a photographer create what is in Blake’s mind, how could he have visons of the imagination beyond what the eye sees.

      • Erin says

        Painting and drawing can do the same thing. Anything that we see with our own eyes can be manipulated easily (like political cartoons). Photography doesn’t manipulate an image, it can make the subject tell a story, one that painting probable wouldn’t be able to do. But then again, art is an opinion. What you consider art, may not be what someone else considers art.

  3. says

    Photography is not dying. It’s evolving. Just like paint with lines. I believe it makes the good photographers, the ones with real talent and passion, stand out even more. Just like anything else, photography is easy to get into but to truly stand out you HAVE to love it and you HAVE to keep shooting.

  4. Rabant says

    The art of photography is not dying. A photographer is the key to great photographs not the tools. Digital tools are there to help speed up the photographers work and not to create good looking photographs.

    Edited by Moderator

  5. Jac says

    Plus with the help of Photoshop, their concern is that someone with a half decent camera can put their camera on AUTO and just shoot without thinking about the meaning behind each shot.

    I agree to the first half (I’m kind of a match … camera on AUTO and I’ll get what I want) … but it doesn’t the mean that no one (especially me) thinks about the meaning of each shot … I cherish each and every photo that I take giving due credit to my camera as well. Photoshop brings out the art in the image that the amateur inside me could not create through a sincere click. Well … I’m always tryin to improve and hoping to say goodbye to Photoshop in the near future.

    Oh btw Iyaan’s snap, well … I think it’s a lovely snap! whoever made that comment must’ve had a poor vision! :)

    • passing by says

      Iyaan’s snap…….I must admit, I would have took the comment to mean the trash on the beach; not the girl :-)

  6. Carinae L'etoile says

    I never thought it was dying in the first place! When I first saw the headline, I thought you were asking if film photography was dying and had come here to comment that no, I didn’t think it was dying. After reading, I’d like to throw in my $.02 here.

    Maybe I can be called uneducated or misinformed on this subject, but as a girl who watches what her husband does outside of work (photography), he has a healthy interest in film and digital photography. While some may say film photography is on the way out the door, I see a bit of a resurgence here in the Bay Area. Then again, it could just be my husband and our friends. =)

    I take pictures myself, but mostly because I have a tiny obsession with nail polish…and how the different colors look with my skin tone. I even publish them, too! It’s all digital and to be honest, I like having it digital for that. I shoot in RAW mode and feel all grown up and advanced. Haha.

    Anyway, my $.02 worth…if it’s even worth that. :)

    I came across this blog looking for an answer on how to fix my own so I can put a “Personal” section of my blog that is separate from the main content so it doesn’t detract from the original purpose of my blog. Can I say blog one more time in the same sentence?!

    Thanks for the interesting read and food for thought!

    – Carinae -

  7. Kris Hockley says

    I agree with Dave Saunders. I couldn’t really say it any better.

    Composition, proper subject choice and inclusion rules can not be programmed into computers. All the program shooting modes are helpful in the beginning but shooting in manual mode is where I have control, choice, creative freedom, and artistic bliss. You still have to press the shutter and the right moment. You could blast the shutter in hopes of getting the right moment but then you waste life in the editing of all the images. The more photographs you look at and talk about with others the better you get at really appreciating photography and what makes a great image. It’s not snobbery… it’s experience and most anyone can get to that point if you invest the time and open mind and eye. You can’t expect to just arrive there when you pick up the latest greatest camera in auto mode. Why would you want that anyways? Life is the journey not the destination. Enjoy the photographic ride :)

  8. says

    I believe that the “art” of photography is actually being reborn as a result of digital technology.
    Photography when it was first invented may well have been a method of capturing a moment in time but the skill required to ensure that a photograph was actually exposed and not blurred meant that the photographer required the eye of an artist and the subject being taken needed to be as still as someone being painted otherwise they would end up blurred or actually not be there at all. How many street photos from the early days of photography look like no one is there when actually they have just disappeared because of the time required for exposure.
    Over the years technology has improved and even before digital the rise of compact and instant cameras took away much of the mystique of the art of photography, not because it had gone away but because it became commonplace and photographs were now often seen by the public as nothing more than snaps and the majority of professional photography was still staid and boring with subjects just lined up in poses on dark brown backgrounds. Yes there have been great photographers throughout each era who have always been seen as artists and whilst their numbers have been few their work has been revered.
    So why is digital technology creating the rebirth of photography as an art as surely this technology has made “snapping” even more accessible to the masses. It is partly because it has made it even more accessible that the art form is coming back as the opportunities available to the skilled and properly trained and informed photographer are now infinite. The outputs that can now be achieved by the use of post production work mean that the photographer can substantially alter the originally captured image, can combined images, create special effects and in reality transform a moment in time into a work of art. It still needs skill behind the camera to compose the image but not only can photographers now compose images as a photograph but also as a piece of art in effect as an artist would see them and they can remove and add features to an image just as the great artists do, so whilst photographs may capture reality they can now also reflect the imagination and feelings of the photographer who can now be an artist.

  9. says

    I love this article, it really hits home for me. I studied Photography at university when Digital photography was just starting to be taught. I had the fortune/mis-fortune of being at the literal cusp of the transition (where my university was concerned). My personal year group being the last to be taught purely film photography and the year below being taught digital too. It was a very odd experience.

    But upon reflection, it helps here I hope. All that I learnt through Film is now obsolete, in a fast paced environment I cannot justify the weddings I attend to be film photograph, I’d love to, and I know that if I trusted myself the results would be as good if not better. But through shear grit and determination I had to learn the Digital format all by myself. I think a lot of people who learnt film felt that the emergence of digital has brought a sadness and commercialisation to their art form but…

    I feel I am a better photographer for it, but I miss the “magic” of the dark room. However, the tools don’t make the photographer, the “eye” of the photographer is key, as is, in my opinion, the reasoning behind the photograph.

    I think there are a lot of artistic photographers that take great photographs that aren’t ART, but Art is subjective and I think you have found some beautiful reasoning for why Photography, in its Art form, is Art. The commercialisation of the Digital muddies the waters somewhat and anyone can be a photographer.

    But not everyone, I have found, has the eye to be artistic.

    Let me leave you with a few quotes from people I admire in the industry;

    “art is whatever you choose it to be if you can convince someone else it is art”
    – Naturally you can take this however you want, and some will construe this to suit their own commercial folly. But I took this as a great boost in being able to carry on with my photography that I liked doing and not bowing down to the “norm”

    “You can take wedding photographs with a Canon 10D and if you are good, no one will know, but the problem is everyone there will look at your camera and judge you, it will affect your reputation whether you like it or not. Sometimes it is worthwhile swallowing your pride and knowledge and invest for your reputation”
    -Now this is advice that was given not about art but about business and I often realise that to be successful in what I do I need to accommodate both. However I have met a lot of people, and at times I agree with them that state that Wedding photography isn’t art. I’ve come to be ok with that if it’s true as I get to do my landscapes for myself and I use my skills to make a living.
    I really like this article and I understand how this wounded you, I hope through your research you have found that the stigma behind equipment is mainly commercial and for commercial “art” you often need the “best” but for how you take photographs (and you have a good eye) it really does not matter.
    I’d urge you to buy a seagull TLR (twin lens reflex) Medium format camera and send your film off to be developed. You will probably mess up a few times but the beauty of taking pictures with it is astounding, and it’s still affordable for a hobby.
    My only regret is that I don’t take as much as I’d like to. Keep on taking photos and keep on questioning, but be strong and have faith in yourself, and before you think of upgrading your Canon 1000D, spend the money on a good lens. 

  10. Avi says

    Photography itself is the Art. It is still up to the photographer to frame the perfect object, capture the perfect image and make sure the lightning is alright. Ofcourse if you are using your camera on automatic mode, then the camera is doing the job. The camera is yet still an equipement, there is still much for the photographer to inspire from.
    I believe the art is still alive. No doupt it.

  11. Xiomaro says

    When photography was invented, some feared that painting would die as an art. Eventually, painters moved away from traditional representational art and cubism and other abstract styles developed. With digital, it’s easier to take clear, colorful images. But the camera doesn’t know how to compose an image or create a unique vision. The abundance of photos on the internet — because of digital — just means that artists have to move forward and really create something new to stand out from the pack. To me, this is a good thing.

  12. Phillip says

    “I never thought of that,” “I didn’t see it that way,” “now I see it.” Expressions like these help to define for me the role of artistic talent in photography. Each form of art expresses a different kind of creative experience well. For example, a painting can evoke emotion through brush strokes that themselves portray feeling, texture, insight. Airbrushing can be a tool used to express a different feel, treatment etc. Equally, there are things I can do with photography that I cannot do with brush and canvas. For example, out on my Kayak in the mountains seeing the deeper, harder to reach places by water, it might be harder to break out my canvas, oils, and brushes as I go down a river, but my camera can catch these things. My camera is a tool, a tool with which to express a journey, any kind of journey, just because the tool becomes more effective does not mean the artistic and creative use of that tool is in any way diminished. Why should technology and art be opposed, they can be complimentary. Something being “harder” does not make it any more artistic, it simply changes the way in which art is created. If I invent a better paintbrush am I “cheating?” The complexity of a tool increases as it scope of functions increases, if anything, using a DSLR to it’s fullest might arguably be more difficult than using an old camera. Increasing the ability of an individual to capture images digitally in no way increases their ability to compose art, than does “paint by numbers” decrease the value of a Van Gogh.

    Photography as art is still a creative expression, sharing a journey, expressing ideas, capturing moments, reflecting the world, and it is the artistic ability of the one wielding the camera that determines the final artistic quality, or lack of, in the piece.

  13. Dave Saunders says

    In a college photography class we had nearly this same discussion re: black and white film vs color film. Black and white photography doesn’t end when the shutter clicks. The things one can do in the darkroom are truly magical. Less so with color because the complexity of the developing chemicals doesn’t allow for the types of experimentation that is part of the art with black and white film.

    Before that there was silver plates vs celluloid.

    I don’t bring this up to be snarky but rather to illustrate my point of view that photography is about the ability to do far more than click a shutter and get the focus right. No digital camera is going to give you a breathtaking composition or know how to balance positive and negative elements. A digital camera is still just a tool, no matter how nifty its features may be. Knowing how to capture an entire story in a frame IS the art. The study and pursuit of that will continue on into the next disruptive technology that makes current day digital cameras clunky toys.

  14. wendelle says

    I think Mr. Julian lost his business because he did not updated his equipment.. we live in fast-phase world where development of technology occurs every single moment. Just like in web industry, i can still remember when i was young, i won in a web-designing competition. We used Microsoft Frontpage back then.. but I’ve turned my attention in other things. after almost 8 years, i was surprised to see how much the web advanced very well. you see, we need to be updated in order not to lose in track in our profession. and also, In my opinion, Photography can be an art or not, it depends on how it was taken by the photographer.

  15. Adrian says

    Is it dying? No. Has it been devalued as digital makes it easier for others? Yes. The answer? Get better.

  16. Jorgen Kesseler says

    From what I’ve read in numerous photography blogs (because I myself am trying to learn good photography) is that it’s not the camera that takes a great picture but the photographer. A good photographer can make great picture with a point ‘ n shoot as well as a pro-level DSLR whether or not he/she is a professional (my definition of professional is that you make money with it, doesn’t mean you’re good).

  17. Sergio says

    Are we talking about photography as an art?
    If we really are, technology doesn´t have anything to do with this. Oh, and the obvious: no, it is not dying.

  18. Alex says

    I’m not a photographer, but i’m sure the only right answer to your headline is a big giant fat NO!