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What future for formal photography?

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With the publishing of Kate Middleton’s photographs of baby Charlotte yesterday in the press, it raises some interesting questions about the future of formal photography.

Kate’s pictures are lovely, capturing moments that only a mum or dad could. So where does this leave the bank of official Royal photographers? A representative of the popular press was interviewed on the radio this morning. He stressed that the growth of amateur photography was a positive trend and should be accepted alongside the work of the professionals.

I found this discussion fascinating as I use both stock prints and my own shots in my publishing work. The growth of Facebook and Instagram has led to an explosion in informal, phone based images. Photography apps also mean that you can edit and professionalise your own shots cheaply and with ease.

I do this myself, partly because of the costs involved but mainly because I enjoy it. For my most recent DCI Dani Bevan novel I used a photograph of my daughter taken from behind, with her leaning against a balustrade overlooking an ornamental garden for the cover. When I had completed the edits and design it was almost unrecognisable from the original. I am a writer and editor by trade, so if I can manipulate a photograph so painlessly then anyone can do it.

So what on earth is the future for photographic studios? I think that in the world of fashion photography and within the glossy magazine culture there is a place for more formal spreads. And fashions change. The informal ‘selfie’ shot is in vogue right now, but it may not always be. There are certain times when I use stock photographs, happily shouldering the cost, because nothing else would do.

But perhaps the evolution of the school photograph is indicative of the future. Gone for our kids are the formal lines and forced smiles. In their place are relaxed groups of children, posed naturally and clearly enjoying themselves. Times have moved on. But do I always purchase these class photos? Actually, I don’t. The mantelpiece is already jammed full.

Also, I kind of think that I could take one just as good myself. And this probably sums up the problems which lie ahead for professional photography.

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