John Harrington. Those who had opposing views felt that doing work for free adversely affects the way a professional photographer's value is perceived. You can read the debate on the Strobist site, so I won't rehash the arguments here.
But it got me to thinking that much, as I hate to say it, I believe the days of the professional photographer are largely numbered. I say this for a couple of reasons. Technology has brought convenience and simplicity making it easy for camera-owners to shoot properly-focussed, well-exposed, pictures -- the fact that little thought or creativity is involved, means nothing. Consumers of images have, since the advent of web publishing, been dumbed down and most wouldn't know quality if it walked up and slapped them in the face.
Anyone with a camera
Nowadays, anyone with a digital camera, figures he or she is, or can be, a professional photographer. By way of example, I live in a small town in South Africa that has fallen on hard times as a result of local gold mines shutting down. There are 57 "wedding photographers" here, pretty well all of whom are equipped with a digital camera, painfully slow kit zoom lens (most don't know what that means) and built-in, pop up flash. Their standard operating procedure is to speculatively shoot around 1400 images, download them, burn a CD and present it to the client at the end of the wedding. They justify this mediocrity as "photojournalistic wedding photography," although the nearest any of these "photographers" has ever come to photojournalism is buying a newspaper from a street-corner vendor.
They are happy to work at a rate that, in many cases, just covers traveling expenses. But the client is happy because he's never seen better or "just good enough" is indeed good enough.
Recently, a young-buck newspaper sports photographer asked how I could shoot a motorcycle race with a manual Nikkormat that doesn't autofocus, has no motor-drive and does not allow me to immediately see the shot taken. He spoke from behind some or other 10 frames per second DSLR. As soon as I started to explain zone focussing and the decisive moment, his eyes glazed over. He had no clue what I was talking about an mumbled that those things didn't bother him, he simply put the camera on "auto" and of the hundreds of images he shot he was sure some would be good enough for publication.
I do not think it is the guy shooting for free that is going to put the pro out of business. I think the wave of technology - in much the same way easily-used office software signalled the doom of typists - and the general acceptance of mediocrity, where purchasers of photography can't recognise the quality offered by the true professional, will do that.
It's sad but I think we are a bunch of dinosaurs in a rapidly-developing ice-age.