As technology begins to develop, so does photography. From expensive photo-capturing devices that used to take two minutes to complete to relatively cheap cameras that now fit in our pockets, the ability of anyone to grab a photo now comes down to how fast he or she can whip out a camera. Does that mean the desire for professional photographers and photojournalists suddenly diminishes? I don't think so.
The tool with which one uses to take photos and the knowledge brought to the art influences the definition of a professional. Most cameras have an automatic function, meaning settings are determined by the camera based on the surrounding external exposure. On high-end cameras in optimal conditions, the automatic function may produce a perfectly acceptable photo. But few are fortunate enough to constantly receive such conditions, especially those who specialize in weather photography. In those cases, knowing to what settings to adjust ISO and aperture can separate an amateur and a professional.
All of the previous comments are not to say that amateur photographers cannot be valuable. News organizations have limited resources in both the number of professional photographers they can afford to finance on budget and the speed with which they can send those on staff to cover stories. This is where citizen journalists, specifically citizen photographers, can play a critical role. The Weather Channel has pioneered a program to collect photos and videos from weather enthusiasts around the country to capture as many stories as possible. The benefits of this program are twofold: it provides a solution to the previously mentioned challenges for news organizations, but it also engages more audiences, making them more loyal to a specific news product.
It is essential though for these programs to provide participants with a strong user experience. Websites — or mobile applications — that are difficult to navigate, misleading or challenging to understand can immediately drive away a user. Beta testing can help identify those rusty links in the chain before mass unveiling to produce a strong, tested product.
I look forward to more opportunities to learn about the workings of a camera, the editing process and development of the weather-based photography program.