Dear “Real” Photographers, Stop With The Mocking Already…

…it’s really unbecoming.

Added Preface: None of my professional photographer friends have ever done this that I know of. So, I’m hoping the majority of the professional photographer community don’t post public snark mocking hobbiests or novices, but for the very vocal hopefully-minority, I had to write this post.

When my oldest child was born I took nine million pictures of him with a point-and-click regular film camera. I got those pictures developed at 1-hour photo and always got doubles to share with my family. I framed 50% of them. I loved pictures of that kid more than anything and worried for any future children because there is NO WAY I’d take as many pictures of them as I did of him.

Fast forward 11 years when I had my daughter and BAM! Digital photography had changed everything. Now I have 14 bajillion photos of my kids, all sitting on my computer.

This love of taking pictures spurred me to buy a DSLR camera in 2006 or so and I fell in love with it. I didn’t understand a lot about it, but I tried to learn. I got a few fun lenses over the next several years, had another kid and just really enjoyed my hobby. In 2009 or so some friends asked me to take their family pictures, I did and felt honored. It happened a few times like that, nothing exciting, just family shots downtown. I felt weird taking payment so I asked them to donate to a cause I supported. I mainly just took a lot of photos of my family and then I took a lot of scenery photos of non-people. My office at home is filled with my own photography.

For a little while, I thought Wouldn’t it be fun to turn this into a career? How much do I love this hobby?

And that’s about the time I read my first snarky article from a photographer I respected and admired, about how irritated she was at people buying good cameras and thinking they could charge people for photos.

And then I read an article where they cataloged a collection of “bad” photos from people “who thought they were real photographers.” The article mocked bad lighting and scene setting and blurred subjects and shallow depths of field.

And all of the other “real” photographers laughed and mocked and complained.

The first complaints I always see are how it’s jeopardizing the integrity of the industry because novices don’t charge as much. I see the same kind of commentary from writers complaining about other writers who give articles to websites for free. Or web developers who can build a business website with a WordPress theme and only charge $100 for the whole process. (I was interviewed by a guy who was OFFENSIVELY snarky about people who did that.)

Listen, I hate to break it to ALL of you, but this is what being a professional is about. Haven’t you heard about 50-year olds getting laid-off or fired and replaced by fresh-out-of-college 22-year olds who will do the same job for half of the pay? IT HAPPENS EVERYWHERE. It’s part of every industry. People trying to break into the field charge less, THAT IS THE WAY IT WORKS. If you don’t like it, then I don’t know what to tell you. That’s the competitive factor of any professional career. If it bothers you that people hire someone for less than you charge, then complain about the people hiring them, don’t complain about the people trying to break into the field.

But specifically, let’s go back to the mocking or the making fun of “novice” photographers by “real” photographers.

My rage about this has always been there, but this article brought it back up again. This is the part that pisses me off. After discussing all of the gear a “real” wedding photographer brings to a wedding, and comparing it to a “friend with a good camera” the article asks if you’ve carried that gear too:

Have you done all of those things? If not, make no mistake, you are not a photographer — you’re just a person who owns a camera. People might pay you to take pictures with that camera, but it’s only because they don’t realize they shouldn’t.

This is the attitude that pisses me off. Did you “real” wedding photographers wake up one morning with all of that expensive gear automatically handed to you? NO. You bought it, probably with money you earned as a photographer who didn’t use that type of gear. No one walks into an industry with everything they need in terms of gear and knowledge from day 01. Allow people time to ease into an industry without you making fun of them. (Unless you just like being an asshole, then please continue.)

Also – on the other side of the spectrum, you hear “real” photographers snark that they could take good pictures with just a regular camera because they understand lighting/mechanics etc, and I’ve seen them do this: mocking people who spend lots of money on gear, but don’t know how to use it.

So, if you’re starting out, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

I have never seen an industry more publicly vocal about mocking novices than Photographers. (Most people feel bad about that mocking and snarking and do it more privately.) I no longer have dreams of turning my hobby that I loved into a career, but I’m still proud of my photography even if it was done with a camera I don’t quite understand. My photos are framed all over my house, because I love them, and every time I see a “real” photographer snark or mock people like me who “call themselves photographers” I look at those photos and wonder if I should be ashamed instead of proud.

DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU DO TO PEOPLE?

Your snarky commentary and articles mocking people trying to be photographers makes people like me look at things they’re proud of and wonder, Should I not be proud? You make people doubt their career choices or dreams which – I guess if you don’t like competition – is a good thing. (Or, if you like being perceived as an asshole by newbies in your field. Then you’re golden.)

No one likes finding out that someone else might can do their job cheaper and/or better with less time and less investment. But that is part of being a professional. If you work for a company for 10 years, chances are you’re getting paid more than the guy they just hired. So, you have to make yourself valuable in as many different way as possible. There are new people coming up in every industry willing to do more for less and all of us old people have to compete with them. Photographers are not the only ones who have people trying to sneak in charging less for more. But no one else publicly mocks their younger/cheaper competition as much as “real” photographers do. I see comics and blog posts and articles about it constantly, and it makes me angry every time.

And photography is also ART. You are mocking someone’s attempt at making ART. Which makes it even worse. I find art snobs the most annoying. People who look at art and laugh at it. That is someone’s SOUL you are laughing at. I have a picture of a dogwood tree in my office that I took and I have no idea if it’s “technically” good or not but it is my heart. I have a lot of emotion invested in that picture and if a “real” photographer looked at it and mocked it I would be devastated. I thought about selling prints of it once (the tree has historical value here) but one of those damn articles turned me against it because – what if it’s not really as good as I think it is?

YOU PEOPLE DID THAT. You people who laugh at people openly trying a new career or hobby…You people make me look at a picture I adore and wonder if I should be embarrassed to have it framed.

PLEASE STOP.

(Unless you just like sounding like an asshole to everyone who is not a “real” photographer. Then, by all means, continue.)

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