A Baltimore Sun photographer who took a buyout, started a blog, and changed the photography business forever.
At first glance, David Hobby looks like just another casualty of the decline of print media: A longtime staff photographer for the Baltimore Sun, he was one of many employees who accepted a buyout in 2008 as part of broad staff reductions at the distressed newspaper.
Yet last month he embarked on a sold-out, cross-country tour that will visit 29 cities. Approximately $1 million in tickets have been sold for the privilege of hearing Hobby and famed magazine photographer Joe McNally speak about their craft. Hobby's blog, Strobist, on which he teaches amateurs the lighting techniques used by professionals, welcomed 2 million unique visitors last year. (The largest professional photography association has a membership 1 percent of that size.) Manufacturers have named lines of equipment after him, an unheard-of honor.
How Hobby went from being a workaday newspaper photographer to an internationally recognized guru is a story tied up with seismic changes in the photography profession. By teaching a horde of novices the skills necessary to shoot photographs of a quality that was until very recently only within the grasp of an elite few, Hobby has played a significant role in the transformation of the profession. In the last few years, the market rate for many types of professional photographs has dropped by as much as 99 percent.