wow this thread has gotten deep. I find some of the arguments on both sides valid, and some of them are, to put it bluntly - a little whiny. I'm that hobbyist that probably is the target of so much ire. I show up, shotgun a couple hundred shots and share them with my friends & family. I've never been paid, and never expect to.
Forgive me if I step on a few pro toes here, but I always saw pro photography as a competetive private service industry like any other. Yep, there's alot of amateurs and hobbyists with oodles of cash to buy fancy gear with - just like any other industry. Like carpentry, auto repair, computer repair - etc. And like all those others, you have many options on who to choose from, and like any other event - how important it is to you should dictate what you do with it, and what you spend on it.
but complaining and wishing to ban all photogs other than the pros from any pro covered site is like asking to government to ban all cars on the road other than yours because you can't have your favorite parking spot at the mall. or asking the city to ban homeowner lawnmowers because you own a lawn service, or banning snow shovels because you own a removal service. That isn't a solution - it's complaining. Expecting someone else to solve your problems for you is IMO diametrically the opposite of being an independent business owner like a pro photographer.
The argument was given that an amateur can show up and take shotgun 1,000's of pics and put them up for free. He/she might get lucky and get in a dozen great shots. yep they can. I can be a shadetree mechanic and take apart a car to fix it too. I might not get it right the first time and I have to do it again. The difference comes in time and effort. a pro mechanic doesn't need to take the whole car apart to diagnose the problem. he removes only what is needed to fix it and gets on with another project. Time is money - does not the same principal apply here to photography as well? As a pro, you don't need to shotgun 1,000 shots to get a great one. your hit rate should be much higher. As a pro, you should know how to watch for the right timing and placement. That is your selling point. your time and effort = profit. that's a good thing. Just like a good mechanic, word gets around that you get the job done, and business soon takes care of itself. Another thing is that a pro will do things when a hobbyist wont. you won't catch me out with my gear in the rain, over a long trek, or in tight spaces. forget it. my shooting is for fun - if it's icky out - it's no fun. that's where i'd call a pro again. to do it when it's not fun, or when it needs to get done right the first time.
Same with weddings, yep cousins John and Jane have this monster cam and put 10,000 pics up on their facebook last month. Sure they're going to bring it to the wedding. will they get in some good shots? you bet, law of averages. However, it comes back to time and effort again. There is a need for a pro at these times. one with the knowledge to get the shot you want in a MINIMUM of time and effort. IMO that's what I always thought I was paying for with photo sessions. not the gear, but the experience. I want the photog that can get it and move on to the next item. I don;t want to have to think about the photog being there. that's why I hired one. How did I find one - I asked around and looked at the portfolios available. I went with the one that handled people similar to me and situations similar to mine. Good skills sell themselves, and are never bested by a new gadget or the number of alternatives available.
which is my second point. no matter the number of amateurs out there, there will always be a demand for pro's. so stop worrying/complaining. After all - how did you get to be a pro? you practiced - and probably shadowed a pro and learned the trade.
As far as those giving away their shots for free. Free doesn't necessarily mean good. lots of things are free - but value isn't. the track that the OP mentioned sounds to me like it has a lot of "good times" people at it who are all out for fun. as a business owner, you need to see a demand and capitalize on it. Well, in the OP's case that may signal that the pro photog needs to show something that showcases his/her skills it's entirely possible that the traditional selling "photos" might not be the ticket anymore. posters is a great idea, maybe it's time to capitalize on advertizement shots instead of action shots. In this case I don't know - and I'll take the flaming for that if it happens. I'm not a business owner, nor a professional photog (otherwise I wouldn't have the time to blast all this opinion out on the forum....)
i guess the bottom line IMO is that it's accepted that the business is changing. However, it's up to you as a photog to recognize that its simply a change, not a drop in demand or a loss of employment for you as a pro.
Take for example another industry that's been totally upended by technology. TV repair. every town used to have the good old Zenith or RCA guy that would come to your house if the tube went on the fritz. I think we all would agree that that industry is gone now. Or is it? in my area the TV and electronics shop changed over to home theater specialization, cell phones, and car stereo stuff in addition to tv sales. While the analogy might be not be perfect. the real thing to consider is to make the change work with you.
OK now that I've basically set myself up to get flamed -