The introduction of mobile phones incorporating cameras opened up an entirely new source of news stories and photographs. Suddenly everyone had the means to record interesting events. Now, whatever happens unexpectedly is photographed by those who are nearby.
When the cruise ship Costa Concordia struck rocks and capsized off the coast of Giglio, Italy, on 13 January 2012 there were no professional photojournalists on hand to record the unfolding disaster. However, there were on board the ship over 3,000 passengers and 1,100 crew, most of whom had mobile phone cameras. The events of that fateful night were consequently recorded in thousands of amateur images and video clips made by those on board. By the time the emergency services arrived at the scene, the story of what had happened in the critical period following the accident had already been recorded. Within a few weeks of the disaster, a one-hour television programme, consisting exclusively of clips and images made by those involved, had been broadcast around the world. There was no cast nor directors, just the straight truth represented by what various passengers actually witnessed and experienced.
In 2005 a new agency, Scoopt, was founded to handle links between citizen photojournalists and the press. The site was later taken over by Getty. Users upload images or video clips to the agency's website, and the agency sells the scoops to the press whilst retaining the right to market the material for a period of twelve months.
The stock photo business has changed rapidly over the last decade. "Microstock" agencies, those which accept and market images via the internet (often sourced by amateur and hobby photographers), are well established and challenging the more traditional and expensive professional sources in some major fields. It has been often reported that many professional stock photographers have consequently seen a decline in their incomes.
The quality of the images obtainable from microstock agencies is generally lower that that expected from traditional sources, but so are the prices asked for images. In an age when millions of web designers are seeking small images for use on websites, the technical quality issues have become relatively unimportant. Even mobile phone cameras now produce images of a technical quality that is more than adequate for web design. So-called "crowd-sourcing" of images, where events are photographed by countless people, has also increased the probability of reasonably well composed images being captured. The gap between the "professional" and "amateur" markets has been blurred to some extent.