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A professional photographer shares some uncomfortable truths about photography.

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    I don't know how many of you are on the sub reddit /r/photography or Reddit at all but this is a great post that I have meant to share with you guys much earlier. Have a read and see/comment what you think!

    I would tell you to direct all of you up-votes to his account bit it is a throwaway as he wants to remain anonymous

    "This is a long goddamn thing, I need to get it all down, I physically can't sleep without saying this to somebody, even if it's just typing it for my own catharsis.
    This mainly has to do with the business of photography, rather than the art of photography. If you are a happy shutterbug who is damned good at shooting or wants to be and that's your goal, you don't need to listen to me at all. This isn't about that.
    This is about doing it for a living.
    I think some things need to be said out loud, for once, as least things that I've noticed:
    1. It's more about equipment than we'd like to admit.
    Years ago, I started with a **** film camera. The PJ playing field was divided between those who could afford fast lenses and bodies that allowed quick film loading and those who could not. Talent meant not just knowing how to compose and expose a frame correctly, but also knowing how to trick your goddamn ****ty equipment into doing what you want it to do.
    Nowadays, especially those of you in college, the playing field is divided between those who can buy adequate equipment to get the job done, and those who can afford ****ing MAGIC. Let's face it: the ******* kid whose dad bought him a D3 and a 400mm f/2.8 is going to have a better sports portfolio than you when you apply to our paper. You're both talented but we're too ****ing cheap to provide equipment and so was your school. As a consequence, he got all the primary shots he needed for an assignment in the first five plays and spent the next half-hour experimenting with cool angle choices and different techniques while you were still trying to get your 60D to lock focus quickly enough.
    True, you can't pick up a pro camera, set it to P mode and instantly turn into Ansel Adams, but if you're learning on the same pace as everyone else and you are trying to keep up because your equipment can't hack it, the difference will be stark, and frustrating.
    2. People are doing some unethical **** with RAW and nobody really understands or cares.
    Photoshopping the hell out of photos is a nono in photojournalism, we all know this. And yet I see portfolios and award compilations come to our desk with heavy artificial vignetting, damn-near HDR exposure masking and contrasts with blacks so deep you could hide a body inside them.
    When I question anybody about this they say "oh yeah, well I didn't do anything in CS5, just the raw editor in Lightroom real quick so it's okay, it's not destructive editing, the original is still there."
    It's not okay.
    But it doesn't seem like anybody cares. Some of the **** on the wire services looks exactly the same so they got jobs somewhere.
    That dude that got canned from The Blade for photoshopping basketballs where there were none? He's found redemption- I remember reading an article where some editor says "oh he sends us the raw files so we know its kosher now."
    ****ing storm chasers are the worst offenders at this ****. Guess what he does now.
    3. Many times, sadly, it doesn't even matter if your photos are all that good or not.
    We are in the age of the Facebook Wedding Album. I've shot weddings pretty much every Saturday for a decade and if there is one thing I've learned it is the bride paradox: people hate photos of themselves even if they are good, people love photos of themselves with people they love even if they are bad.
    And that's totally fine.
    Now that everyone has a phone with a decent camera or a little money for a DSLR with a pop-up flash, there exist an entirely new and growing population of couples who are perfectly happy employing their wedding guests as proxy paparazzi for everything from prep to ceremony to formals to cake to dance. They will like their photos better than ours. They won't last, they won't be able to put together a quality album, and they really don't mind.
    Consequently, there also exists a class of photographers that saw how happy their friend was with the photos they snapped at their wedding in this manner and read an article on Forbes that said they could make $1500 a week doing it again and again if they wanted. They make no attempt to get better, they spam the bridal shows with booths that are alarmingly tacky and worse yet they learn they don't actually have to shoot the thing themselves with they can pay somebody else to shoot the wedding at a third of the cost and pass it along.
    And nobody cares.
    My buddy, an excellent photographer that chooses to shoot mediocre but proven poses for senior portraits, yearbooks, weddings, school sports, etc.,.. makes something like $70k/year in Midwest money. He's a really great photographer, but you'll never see the good stuff he shoots because it doesn't sell. You shoot what the clients want.
    More and more, you won't like what the clients want.
    And that goes for news outlets, too. "User submitted photo" is becoming the number one photo credit, it seems.
    Nobody cares about recording history. Nobody cares about documenting the events of our time for the future. Just send us a low resolution .jpeg still frame from a movie you shot with your phone and that'll work if we get it by deadline because all the photographers are laid off. Nobody seems to care.
    I wish I could tell you I haven't seen it happen myself.
    4. Photography is easier than we'd like to admit.
    Here's something for you: I've been doing this for a long time. I am an excellent photographer. Give me an assignment and tell me what you want and I assure you, I'll come pretty ****ing close to the picture you had inside your head. I am very, very good at what I do.
    You know what? You could learn everything I know in a few months.
    Maybe less if you really focus on it.
    That's it.
    My knowledge, my experiences, all of it- from professional sports to weddings to news to feature to product to portraits.. A few goddamn months.
    In college, I studied alongside classical artists like we were equals.
    We were not.
    5. We need to stop being goddamn snobs and accept the coming of The Golden Age
    Remember that ******* kid with the $5k Nikon D3 whose portfolio was better than yours? Guess how much that camera is going to sell for in say.. five years.
    Would you believe $300? $500, maybe? That's all that body will be worth, if it's in good condition. And that's if Nikon decides to keep repairing the shutters that will inevitably die by then.
    Have you played with a D3? That is a sweet goddamn camera. That can do everything you need to do, right now. Even ISO 6400 is beautiful. A lot of cameras are like that.
    Right now.
    Imagine what will be $300 in ten years.
    Everything is getting better. Sony, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, everything is fantastic. All of the future's crappy old stuff will be today's awesome new stuff. And that means more people are going to be able to afford really great cameras that can do amazing things and we are going to see some amazing photography come from surprising places.
    It's going to be awesome.
    It may also be the death of our profession.
    Of my profession.
    If you want to be a photographer- wonderful, good, yes, do that, I can't recommend it enough.
    But I do not think we will last."
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    I knew this. I did my cousin's and sister's weddings with a relatively decent Canon compact, shooting in RAW (hacked camera) and with only cropping and a tiny bit of post production turned out beautiful pictures that they loved.
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    Some very thought provoking facts he presents. I am not a pro photographer by any stretch, but I am afraid for the industry still because of the growing trend of "do-it-yourself" photographers. I take photos as just a fun hobby but if I ever was going to get married or have some other major event in my life, I'm not going to have some amateur taking photos from their mobile phone for me. no offense to my friends and family but I want the photos that I'll be keeping the rest of my life to be good ones. So if it is within my means I'll hire a pro, and try to help keep the honored tradition alive.
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    Wedding photos are common. I am employing an oil painter and an engraver to record my nuptials
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    (Original post by DanBrwn)
    I don't know how many of you are on the sub reddit /r/photography or Reddit at all but this is a great post that I have meant to share with you guys much earlier. Have a read and see/comment what you think!

    An interesting piece thanks for digging it out and posting.

    I think the author should have tried to be more objective as whilst what is stated is primarily valid, it comes across with too much bitterness and elements of jealousy. I do not understand his comment about raw, most of what he is implying is achievable with jpeg too.

    I have one friend who is a pro. He has a fully configured studio, a medium format, a D3S and D2H, he has an existing client portfolio which includes major mail order companies, "probably the best brewer in the world", etc etc. He shoots everything from fashion an location, for example in Sri lanka, to a jewelery collection, to models with weight lifting equipment etc etc etc. He does not do weddings, pet portraits or family portraits. You would be surprised at which lenses he uses for the D3S and D2H. He works very hard for a reasonable standard of living.

    Another friend has been a life long freelance sports photographer, he has, over the last 10 years, found it increasingly hard to make a living (even though his f2.8 and f4 teles are provided by the manufacturer and or agency. He switches back wards and forward between Nikon and Canon depending upon whats going free where. It not selling the photographs thats the problem, it is what the news papers will now pay. Full page image on the back of a national Sunday newspaper got him 150 quid. So he has recently branched out into family portraits and pet portraits, and the sports photography has become more akin to a self funding hobby rather than a serious source of income, although special events can produce a net income.

    Plus there are 6 billion images on Flickr and even more spread across the stock agencies, especially micro stock. Commissions are becoming rarer and rarer.

    Things will continue to evolve, or erode (depending upon your point of view) Nikon recently filed a patent for applying bokeh in post (rather than simple Gaussian, this is necessary due to the issues with getting a shallow DOF on compacts and bridge cameras, inc the Nikon 1 type body.

    I guess you have read about the camera technology where one takes an image and decides DOF and which element is the focus point after wards in post. Nikon also recently demonstrated the technology for removing shake blur in post.

    Gone are the days when "black magic in the darkroom" sorted the men from the boys (or women from the girls if you prefer.) The things the couple of ARPS and FRPS who belong to my club could do in the dark room goes way beyond what I could do with Photo-shop (Admittedly I am not that good as I do not use it much as I use Capture NX2 to develop raw).

    Now whilst I have on a number of occasions rattled through a 1000 + 35mm film frames at an air show or sporting event, the digital era brings into play the "lots of chimps with typewriters and time = Shakespeare" concept. David Bailey raised this in an interview he did, he said an chimp can take a great photograph, the difference between him and a chimp was that he could take two.

    There are professional drivers as there are professional photographers.

    Some drive F1, WR, or Le Man, some drive huge lorries, some drive people to an from the pub for a few quid, just about anyone can do the latter.
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    Mhm...there's definitely a few points I agree with here. There's always going to be cetain photography where your kit means everything. Sports photography? Definitely. And I can't quite picture someone shoting macro without a macro lens! However, I have also seen photos with great composition done on a point and shoot. The photos that we consider classic, excellent photography were often times done in a pre-DSLR age and what was then top of the art equipment is now something we wouldn't even hand to our little siblings to play with.

    As someone who is in love with fine art photography and doesn't care much for real-life documentary work I like the capabilities that photoshop offers me. Why jump up and down 500 times when I can eaisly do a levitation shot more easily than that? Again, I think it's down to the genre. For some things maxed out photoshop is perfectly acceptable with. I will never fault anyone for correcting light and colour in post production. I've yet to see a perfect photo cme straight out of the camera. Our eyes are too used to seeing perfection now, over and underexposed shots with an unnatural range of tones seem like bad photography.

    As far as the '****ty wedding/portrait/etc' photography goes...yea, it's true and it makes me sad that people accept this type of thing. You can't have a top quality market place of photographers if the client doesn't recognise a good photo. I personally think I'd have a hard attack if someone asked me to shoot their wedding. I've seen bridezilla and would never feel good enough!

    Also, I'm tired of photography being seen as 'not up to scratch' art wise. Photography is art. It's varied and the amount of effort needed to put into a great shot can vary. It can mean luck, it can mean extensive planning. It can also mean hours of photoshop. It's easy to take a picture, it's not easy to take a great picture. You can learn photography in a few months, but 'seeing' as a photographer takes a lot longer. To me, it's about creation.

    All in all, I feel like the author sounded incredibly bitter. Is that someone who still loves photography? Good points, but not really well made. Leave some of the cynicism at home, boys and girls.
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    so do you think that there is not much point in going into something like photography for a living?
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    (Original post by naomihealing)
    so do you think that there is not much point in going into something like photography for a living?
    If you know the right people, live in the right place and have a particular talent already, possibly.

    If not then I would simply say, dont put all of your eggs into one basket
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    It's an interesting subject. The thing I always think is that nice looking photos mean nothing if the content isn't there. Yes you can look at a beautiful photograph of a landscape, with that amazing light and texture in those clouds, that detail in the grass and the trees, the way the horizon scoops across perfectly for the composition. It'll make you go 'wow!'. It may even make you appreciate the beauty of mother nature for a few seconds and awe at that persons photpgraphic ability.

    But look at this:

    No beautifully composed landscape is ever going to do to you emotionally what that photograph just did to you.

    And the above could be the worst shot photograph ever, snapped on someones old 1.2 mega pixel phone camera. It wouldn't matter.

    There is a really big difference between pretty nice looking photos and great photography.
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    (Original post by fran.ha)
    And the above could be the worst shot photograph ever, snapped on someones old 1.2 mega pixel phone camera. It wouldn't matter.

    There is a really big difference between pretty nice looking photos and great photography.
    That photograph would be absolutely nothing with out the photographers use of composition and even I am beyond belief that you think this photograph could have been "snapped" and be "the worst shot photograph ever"

    You cant see the UN aid plane handing out food, the child's mother, the volunteers or the other photographer that you probably didn't even know existed. Why didn't you think about them? Because he framed it perfectly. Even the fact that he had to creep towards the scene to get both subjects in his focus plane is enough to say that it couldnt be "Snapped". Not to mention the extremely strong diagonals and leading line that the composition creates.

    I dont think you would know the difference between a great photo and a pretty nice looking photo if it was planted between your eyes. This shot could not just be "snapped" and to even think so is an insult to a man who dedicated and gave his whole life for photo-journalism.
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    The version linked to seems to be a cropped version of the wider angle original.

    The reaction it provoked in me was "Another photographer seeking personal glory, recognition and prizes by exploiting the misery of others." It is unclear, maybe the author felt the same, upon reflection, he topped himself 3 months later, just after receiving the prize. I think in this instance the authors track record means my initial reaction is not justified in this specific case.

    Whether it was a eureka moment, in which the photographer saw the image and captured it or whether they added the vulture in the darkroom, or whether they visualised and then sat there and watched until the child had crawled into the correct position and the vulture hopped to the right spot, is irrelevant in terms of the power of the final image, whatever response it provokes in the viewer.

    However in terms of instigating an emotional reaction in the viewer, then this genre of shot is definately in the catagory of "low hanging fruit", taking an excellent landscape that makes the viewer realise they live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world and that they are lucky to be alive and experience it, is a fruit much higher on the tree and much much harder to harvest.

    There is nothing about the specific timing or composition or lighting that rules out a "snap" whilst driving by. The point is, it does not matter if it was "snapped" or not.


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