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Everyone’s a Photographer

Is it just me, or is everyone a photographer these days?

I don’t mean everyone has a camera or that photography is a popular hobby, I mean I’m seeing more and more people proclaiming to be a bone fide, card carrying professional photographer.

They have a large black camera, the kit lens and maybe a flash, a web site and business cards but seemingly no idea about the craft of photography. Perhaps you don’t need to know an f-stop from a bus stop when you’ve got a shiny new DSLR? Surely a £1000 camera takes care of all that. But when it inevitably doesn’t, they still post online galleries full of unimaginative, poorly composed and technically inept images next to the words “portrait sessions just £399”.

Then there are the ones who are “now booking shoots in December” when it’s only March. Really? Your out of focus images of your cat have got you enough bookings with aspiring models, brides and families to make it through the year already? Or maybe that portfolio comprised of images from a single group shoot is really working for you and going through the agonizing process of whittling it down to 20 stunning images and ego crushing portfolio reviews just isn’t necessary.

Shooting on location

Now don’t get me wrong, group shoots (where a studio will hire a model for a day then sell time slots to aspiring photographers) are a great way to learn. All the details are taken care of and the studio owner is there to assist with lighting and camera settings. The whole day is designed so you learn a few new ideas and come away with some good shots. So when you download your images that night and find some nicely lit, tack sharp shots of a good looking model bear that in mind. Look at them critically, analyse what worked and what didn’t, learn from them. Don’t simply pat yourself on the back, decide you have learnt all there is to learn and start trying to charge potential clients.

Buying a pen or a sports car doesn’t make you an author or a racing driver any more than buying a camera makes you a photographer. It gives you one of the items you need in your tool kit. Now you need to collect the ones you can’t buy, so know your foundations (the exposure triangle and reciprocals) get out and practice (a lot) and look at (really analyse what you like and don’t like about) as many photographs as you can.

That’s when you can start calling yourself a photographer.

23 Comments

  1. Dan@srbpower.com

    haha Si very well written mate and sooo true!

    I was starting to think the key to good photography was 200 shots taken inside an hour or 2, presented to the client on disc, for £20, was the way forward – as seen on facebook! lol

    Reply
  2. Luke "Lucky13pix" B

    Mr Pow……. i am clapping… standing up…… cheering and totally agree’ing to this “rant” in E-Beef Style….. and i think i even know who a chunk of it is aimed at…

    unfortunately it is the case that alot of people do look at “photographers” and think…. ” WOW if i had that expensive camera and some gear i could do that EASY!….” and they forget what the very meaning of “photographer” is…. ” to write with light” … or to capture the light as it were… , and ive seen plenty un-imaginative…. poorly lit….. horribly composed shots taken with budget SLRs from people that claim they are “pro” …. and yes… it does hurt a little that some of us took the time to learn about F-stops and exposures and the theory of rembrandt lighting….. but….. what can we do….. but just continue to do what we do….. and get paid for it and appreciated by the right people….

    i AM a strong believer that you dont need the most expensive kit to be a good photographer… as i do believe you could take an amazing shot on practically anything …. IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!!!!!! ….. that to me is the difference between a photographer…. and a guy with a camera….. 🙂

    Reply
    • Darren Skidmore

      When I first upgraded from a point and shoot to a DSLR it was like using a camera again for the very first time, so much to learn.
      These people that think they are photographers just put it in green box or P mode and just shoot away, whats the point in doing that!

      Reply
  3. Luke Orrey

    Well said Simon, as i constantly see people who think there are an expert with a dslr but in actual fact there doing what a child could do stand there and just take a picture of someone, it takes real skill and effort to become a decent photographer which some people lack the skill of doing but i see from all your work that you are one of the people whom have this skill.

    Reply
  4. Darren Skidmore

    Although I don’t claim to be an expert by a long shot I do think I pass as a photographer 🙂

    My gripe is people that do a studio or location shoot of a model then just slap it up on the internet without any post processing! Obviously the art is to get everything as good as possible in camera in the first place but there are inevitably some ‘tweaks’ required e.g. a spot that blossomed on the models face that morning or dirty marks on the wall/floor that couldn’t be avoided or worse that lampost growing out of their head (Although a good tog should notice that!) or just slightly tweaking the WB

    The other extreme is making the model look like a porcelain doll which I admit to doing myself but on purpose to get a different effect to the norm but there are some people out there that do it everytime, probably with a photoshop action rather than spending time on the pictures.

    Just my humble opinion as like I say I don’t claim to be an expert but I like to put some effort into my pics 🙂

    Reply
    • Simon

      You make a good point Darren. It’s not just the lack of knowing the technicalities, it’s the lack of vision and the inability to self edit.

      Simple post processing like a crop to take out a distracting element or a rotation to get horizon level get missed.

      Not to mention dozens of similar images posted online instead of just the best of the batch.

      Reply
      • JoeB

        Take away photoshop and most if not all photographers will cease to exist.

        Reply
  5. Jonesy

    Well said Mr Pow and very well written 😀

    Reply
  6. David 'Glovebox' Glover

    Well said Si.. you know full well that i’m only gonna agree with what Luke and the others have said, its only too common now for a ‘guy with a camera’ to shoot his brothers girlfreinds sister in their kitchen and decide cos he enjoyed it he’s now a phototgrapher.. Now i dont have a problem with ‘guys with cameras’ taking photos and enjoying it, we all have to start somewhere, but why oh why do they insist on becoming photographers before they know what an ‘f’ stop even is, its not only annoying but its killing the industry.

    Reply
    • Simon

      I totally agree David, we all have to start somewhere and I applaud anyone who picks up a camera a gives it a go. I think modern cameras can be too good though and often give the user an over inflated opinion of their own ability.

      As s for killing the industry, I’m living in hope that the sort of client who is happy with the GWC’s images would never have hired me in the first place.

      Reply
  7. Anon Y Mous

    I’m not a photographer, nor do I play one on TV. The Internet has helped create the same issue for me and my profession too though. So I can totally relate. I like taking pics. My bad pics (bad even by my standards)are some of my favorites. But I’m not trying to make money doing it. Nor to I claim to have a comparable expertise. Having worked with professional photographers I respect your art/business and love this post on several levels. Thank you.

    Reply
  8. Ste Nova

    it’s all to easy though…. i’ve bought a dslr to upgrade from my 6 year old compact digital, at the weekend i was doing some learning/practice at an evening car meet, some girls were posing next to cars so i thought i might take some pics (i might get 1 or 2 good ones lol) after they had finished posing one of the girls came straight over to me and asked for my card, i explained i had a proper job and taking pics was just for fun or to go on our car club site, she left, as we are walking away one of my mates says i should get some cards printed, i just laughed

    Reply
  9. Lawrence

    You have hit the nail on the head. Photography is constantly being devalued as a trade, thanks to every man and his dog having a DSLR, and publishing companys unwilling to pay reasonable rates for top quality work. If you think portraiture is tricky, you should try motorsport!

    Reply
    • Simon

      Totally agree Lawrence, especially regarding motor sport. But playing Devils Advocate, why pay for a pro who will get the shot every time when you can chose from a 1000 fans, one of whom is bound to get something half decent purely from the law of averages?

      Reply
  10. Gareth

    Much the same can be said for the world of graphic design… got the latest macbook? got Photoshop? Why not tell the world you are a designer…

    Reply
    • Simon

      Good point, I wonder how far it goes? “Got a cordless drill and a spoon? Why not call yourself a brain surgeon”!

      Reply
  11. Si G

    Its all about the triangle setting

    Reply
  12. Simon Harvey

    A great post Simon! Elequently put and so so true. I agree with everything you have said, and disappointingly do not know the answer to this problem. It is killing the industry, day by day. Mediocrity has become the norm. Clients don’t, and won’t pay the rates they used to due to an abundance of other supposed ‘pros’ who will happily work for the mere chance of getting a picture published with a credit!

    Because the relative start up costs have become so low, and the actual costs thereafter for ‘any’ photographer to take pictures is really only their time … I fear the industry is already half way down the plug hole.

    For me, the word ‘professional’ means you make your living from doing it. How many of these so called ‘pop up professionals’ do this. Or do they mean ‘professional at weekends’

    Thanks again for bringing this up. I’m sure every ‘real peofessional’ is high diving you for this!

    Reply
  13. Richard

    Sorry mate this is rubbish (no offence intended). Anyone can be a photographer/designer/website builder etc. The ones that are good at it rise to the top. Others will die. The people that pay low rates would never go to a expensive photographer because they can’t afford it and the semi pros do a great service to these people. If as a pro you are threatened by such people then you quality of work must be as low as the people you complain about. As a pro you must up your work or get lost in a sea of upcoming amateurs. Truly great artist feel no threat from such people.
    I suggest you look at your business plan and up your prices to take yourself out of the low earnings bracket. You will have a lot less photographers to compete. On the other hand your work must be better or on par with these photographers.
    £20 to £400 is for amateurs and semi pro.
    On another point you never see great photographers winging about such matters in fact they embrace it as bad photography makes there own work SHINE.
    Sorry if you disagree but i respect your point of view, hope you will mine. 🙂

    Reply
    • Simon

      Hi Richard, I think you’ve missed the point of my post. I’m not “winging” about people under cutting me, or ‘the state of the industry’. I am simply suggesting people should learn the craft of photography before calling themselves professional.

      Reply
  14. Andy

    I took the chance to turn ‘pro’ almost 12 months ago and took that opportunity with open arms. So far I’m just about holding my own but when you quote on a job and loose out not to someone who maybe is a tad cheaper etc but to someone who is willing to ‘work’ for 5 days for nothing!!! what chance has anyone got. You do things to ‘run’ your little business by the book,PLI,professional indemnity, kit insurance, accountant and the list goes on which has to paid for then you get a ‘pro’ photographer finishing the day job on a friday then ‘working’ on a weekend and giving pictures away for a ‘pass’ and if they do get paid pocketing the money and not declaring it. Well I have to and it really pisses me off. rant over

    Reply
  15. Corinne

    Sorry I entirely agree with Richard. Being a professional means getting paid. Check out my website, am I a professional or an amateur? Wonder if you can guess?!

    Reply
    • Simon

      Hi Corinne. I disagree. You can be useless and get paid… once. Being professional means you can turn in great results every time.

      Reply

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