The NYT published an Article by Stephanie Clifford last year which bemoans the decline in monetary value of stock photography since amateurs with no interest in profits are flooding image databases and driving prices down.
From a professional photographers viewpoint this is a pressing issue that might affect his entire life and career and I fully understand the fears an individual affected by this development might have but there's also another story to tell here, for which to be seen, you must put the problem in a bigger context.
The advent of powerful PCs, powerful software and the easy ways to publish content during the recent years has completely shifted the relations and blurred the lines between content producers and consumers. With tiny budgets, anyone can theoretically match decade old institutions in almost anything related to creating and publishing content of any kind.
We're seeing this with the record industry, the movie industry, newspapers, journals and magazines as well as TV shows and videogames. All these industries are based on business models that depend on limited access to scarce resources and on the control of established players over these resources. The record industry was based on the linkage between music and physical media.
The movie industry had few studios deciding whom to provide with equipment and money for making films, something that has become much, much cheaper. Newspapers had their networks of journalists, big printing presses and enormous logistics required to move information on a physical medium (paper) to the consumer as quickly as possible. No one in their right mind would associate "paper" with "quick" anymore these days and the network of correspondents has been replaced by the internet where information flows around the globe in realtime, provided by every one who blogs, twitters or uploads videos to youtube.
Just as the basis for these businesses was technical, the technical hurdles to photography have almost disappeared completely and with them, the value of photos. This sounds pretty harsh and it is. But it is a reality we have to accept. And I don't say this as just an external observer, I'm involved in this in three ways:
I enjoy taking photos as a hobby too. Never so much that I would consider uploading them to Getty (although friends have tried to push me) but for example, I take photos of some bands in my circle of friends that they might otherwise have payed someone for.
My father was a pharmacist. In Germany, pharmacies underlie strict regulations as well as special protection through governmental rules. These rules are beginning to erode as large mailorder pharmacies are pushing into the market. As with many many retail branches, customers aren't interested in anything but the price of a product 95% of the time. They don't see the knowledge, guidance and advice that small pharmacies provide and are not willing to pay for that. Local pharmacies are driven out of business more and more often because they are losing their protection to the open market.
I'm a programmer. Years ago that was not something anyone could easily become, but languages like PHP are so simple to learn and if you put any effort into it, you can quickly write small database-driven websites. More and more people do and that leads to the "So expensive? My Nephew can do that for 50 bucks!"-Syndrome.
Fortunately, opposed to photography, the claim to be a programmer has to be backed up by references, word of mouth or any other kind of indirect proof which amateurs usually can't provide. If you hire a coder you only know what you got at the end of the project whereas a photo simply speaks for itself. If you like it you take it, if you don't, you don't
The point that I'm getting at is simple:
Don't make career choices that depend on technical limitations. Don't become a photographer because you know the relation between aperture and shutter speed and about the rule of thirds. This is stuff anyone can learn, and easily. But if you want to do something because you really enjoy it, because you love getting better and better at it and don't fear competition, you won't have problems. You can specialize at some niche or simply excel in your field.
My father on the other hand chose to specialize. He was very successful with Homeopathics and had supply contracts with several retirement homes which valued his proficiency.
Whole businesses are changing. This hurts people working in these fields but in the long run this development can not be stopped. We need to realize this. As much as we laugh about the music industry struggling to keep its business alive, we are in a very similar situation. The only way to deal with it, is to be prepared to generate value through passion and talent, not through technology.