Technology is neither...it just is, what it is. The fact that clients, in this day and age and under these economic times perceive the costs to have gone down and the difficulty to have gone down are simply unwilling–in general–to pay what they used to pay willingly.
And when I said "Photoshop" is what has changed the industry, I wasn't kidding. The craft of photography is now digital and shots are assembled and retouched either by a photographer or retoucher and the skills required to "get the shot" in a single exposure are no longer valuable...
That's not to say this isn't a great time in photography, it is...and Photoshop has been very, very good to me...but to be a working commercial photographer these days ain't much fun as it relates to the commerce (of which there ain't much).
And none of this has anything to do with how good images are now or were years ago...there are great images being made all the time. And it really has nothing to do with talented amateurs or weekend warriors...what it has absolutely everything to do is current nature of the business for working pros.
I hear you Jeff, and whether or not technology is blessing or menace if of ones own perception (I find it to be a blessing).
This isn't just photography, it's video, animation, the whole damn thing. To do the basics once require expensive equipment and know how... Clients then were also educated in that and so they understood the high prices those skills commanded, otherwise it simply couldn't be done.
Today's clients simply don't have the time or care... let me put this way: a few years ago we'd all go down to the studio and spend the entire day messing around with the shoot. Everyone had a part, and it was like a party of sorts. It meant something... you don't need that anymore. My last photo-session was scheduled in outlook for 2pm today. I spend ten minutes setting up and logging into a desktop sharing application. My clients, two designers, were four states away watching their screens. They directed me over a speaker phone, and while I set the next shot, they went about working on other projects. I'd shoot, then call their attention. They would suggest a change, ten minutes later I had another shot. We went back and fourth over the course of an hour until we got the shot. That was it. Job done. It's very hard to justify $2500-$4000 for that kind of work.
I remember doing the math when they first hired me as the inside guy, how much money I save them in the course of a single year. Five years ago a photo-shoot was $2500/day, a thirty minute training video was $35,000, an interactive CD/DVD was $50,000, and three minutes of 3D animation would run as high as $90,000 (As a medical device company, we're commanded some pretty high fees). So, it's not too surprising that I averaged a savings of 1/4 to 1/2 mil by bringing this in-house, and all thanks to digital technology making it cheap. I still have fellow employees wondering why I get my own studio, three workstations and all those 'toys'. They don't get it, that it's all paid for. More importantly, I'm happy, I get to make a living doing what I love. I still do side work, and it helps, but no way do I see myself doing this full time on my own. I still get calls from friends doing freelance work, needing me to shoot side jobs, and these corporations are only willing to front $200 or so for the work. I laugh. It's true, tightwads all of them. Not because they're broke, but because they'll find a sucker hungry enough to bite, and then beat them up over it. There's no glory or respect in that. One of my ex-coworkers, Mike, tried freelance, and he's very good and always busy, but was living hand to mouth. Fortunately he was able to land a job as the inside designer for another corporation, and couldn't be happier.
Weddings are different, from what I've seen, that's a tight group and fees are competitive. Too risky to allow an amateur or 'Uncle Joe' ruin a one chance in a lifetime moment. So, of course it's easy to justify the cost.
This was a great question, and a good discussion. I'm not the expert, even after twenty-five years, and only the last eight of them professionally. But this is how I see it. I'd be curious to know if others have a similar story.