Before I start, I would like to point out the time this article was written. As I begin, it is now 7:24 AM. If you know me, you understand this statement.
The world is a huge place. The Photography Industry is huge. It’s estimated that 77% of Americans own a smartphone, aka camera in their pocket. That’s about 251 million cameras walking around. It’s not a question of quality, it’s a question of concentration.
To find work as a photographer was never truly easy. Sure, “back in the day” there was a magic to being a photographer. People understood little of what you did, how cameras worked and in general anything to do with photography. Today, with the internet and digital photography, you can read and practice a variety of skills that would have been much more difficult to learn just 20 years ago.
Then, the proliferation of “professional photographers”.
Let me get this straight right now. If you took a nice photo of a cat, maybe even your cat, or a baby, don’t care who’s, and posted it on Facebook or Instagram and all of your “fanbase” tells you how great it is… THAT IS NOT A REASON TO THINK YOU HAVE A “GIFT” FOR PHOTOGRAPHY. You took one or three nice photos, congratulations. I’m pretty sure if I threw a thousand darts at a board, a few would hit, but that hardly makes me a ninja, does it?
Also, to be a Professional, means you do this for a living. If you have a full time job and are doing this on the side, you’re not a Professional. You’re “Aspiring”, and you need to tell people this. If you’ve done 1 wedding a year ago and call yourself a Wedding Photographer, I’m likely to have words for you. I was going to say I’d slap you, but… legalities, lawyers, don’t get me started on lawyers.
Now, even if you suck at it, but people pay you, and you make a living, you are indeed a Professional Photographer. See? Quality has no place here for the moment. That, in and of itself is an issue too, since there is no watermark, no defining quality that makes a Photographer’s quality… enough. There is no license no permit, no… nothing that specifies the quality of the product they produce. They just have to have the prerequisite pieces of paper from government agencies proclaiming they are indeed in business. Sadly, many don’t even bother with the paperwork. This ticks me off. It isn’t expensive and holy crap, it’s literally THE ONLY THING YOU HAVE TO DO TO BE LEGAL. Come on, if you’re charging money to take photos, at least do it legally.
This simple and inexpensive gate to entry has caused an overwhelming number of people to enter the business of photography. Most of them suck. I’m not just being an old cynic here, they do. Google anything to do with professional photography and you will find 95 photos that suck, 4 that suck less, and 1 that is worth paying for. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that those who are successful at photography businesses are the reason for this influx of wanna-be photographers.
Wait… what? Yep, we created this mess.
Allow me to explain. By being proficient at our chosen profession, that being photography, we do it well enough that to the untrained eye of Joe Q. Public, we make it look easy. They watch us joking, laughing, and talking to people who magically fall into good light, fantastic poses and give wonderful expressions for the camera. All we did was step back and click, right? Think from their perspective for a moment, that’s what they see.
So, in Joe’s mind, how hard can this be? He has a fancy camera too, so why can’t he be raking in the big bucks for a few hours of work?
And there you have it, another “professional” mucking up the waters. Let’s be honest, the waters are mucked. Truly mucked.
One thing though, before you go blaming yourself for introducing efficient photography to the world and creating a zillion camera zombies who only want the quick cash, remember this: It’s not your fault people are stupid. It’s not your fault people are greedy. I blame the government personally. Long story, but, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, so those in limbo try to become richer, and photography looks like an easy way to do that.
But really, it’s because people are stupid. They think it’s easy. But, if they actually used even a few of their brain cells, they’d realize that ANYONE who is good at something makes it look easy. I have a friend who is pretty handy at fixing things and carpentry, plumbing, and the like. I say pretty handy, he’s a Professional in his field, and really damn good. He installed a new sink and vanity for us recently. While in the midst of it, he said to me, “You’re a handy guy, why didn’t you just do this yourself?”. I told him that I certainly could have, but it would have taken 2 days, 42 trips to Lowes, lots of cursing, and I’d not enjoy one second of it. He then proceeded to do the entire job in 2 hours, with only 3 trips to Lowes and much less cursing. Had I never done this particular task, and watched him, I’d think it was a really simple thing to do. In some ways, it is, but the devil is in the details. He did it right the first time, no kludges, no leaks, no “well, let’s see if that works”. That’s the difference.
Should I go out and start charging money to install sinks? Not a fu#$%^& chance.
On to the equipment.
Everyone has a camera in their pocket, or at least 77% of us. I’m thinking the other 23% must be infants, since even my toddler nephews have them. They have no clue how to use it, but they have to play with them anyway. There’s a saying for another activity that a lot of the population engages in, “It’s not the size of the boat, but the motion of the ocean.”. If you don’t know that one, ask your Mother to explain it to you. I’ll accept the hate mail afterward.
Recently, I saw an interesting saying by Steven Wright on the wall in a restaurant while having pie. It was about toast and cats. Funny stuff, but that’s another article. We were with friends and it was on their side of the table. I got up to try to take a photo of it since… even I Instagram. Speaking of… should Brianized have an Instagram? Can I possibly be cynical on two social platforms? We’ll see. I actually have to earn a living too.
My friends had just gotten new smartphones. This is relevant. So I’m maneuvering into position to get the shot, and my friend pulls out her phone and says, “I’ll take it with mine, it’s got a better camera.”. Well. Of course it does, it’s new, but by “better” do you mean it will make the photograph better than mine will? Also, from where you’re sitting, at that angle, I don’t care what camera you use, mine will be better based on simple geometry. I kind of laugh, and take my photo. So does she. Before seeing hers, I ask what makes her camera better, serious, not being a dick. Apparently you can adjust the aperture on hers. I had to look that shit up because it was kind of hard to believe. But, sure enough, it does have 2 available apertures, wide open and closed down. Why you would want this on a cell phone is beyond me, and in this instance absolutely useless for the task at hand being that it was a FLAT SURFACE so depth of field would serve nothing here. Still, interesting that they did that on a cell phone. I’m sure the 77% of the smartphone carrying world will use that feature to its fullest and we will soon be flooded by a plethora of perfect ima….. oh who am I kidding? 95% of the photos will still suck.
Then she showed me her photo. Now, I’m not making fun of my friend. She is truly one of the most generous, sweet people you will ever meet, and she meant well. Her photo had the same framed saying, but, due to the angle it was captured from, it looked more like a Picasso than a Rembrandt, if it were a painting. It was skewed, crooked and one side of the frame drastically larger than the other. Not to mention the text was distorted. Suffice to say, quality of the camera meant squat. Mine however, was square, and even cropped pretty nicely. Even from my crappy old iPhone 5. All that for an Instagram photo that only a few dozen will ever see and never on a screen larger than their hand.
Overkill. And…. we are seeing the Duning-Kruger Effect in FULL…. effect! Here’s an article on it as it pertains to photography: https://petapixel.com/2018/04/09/why-bad-photographers-think-theyre-good/. Essentially, the worse you are at a given skill, the better you think you are at it because you don’t know how much you don’t know. Let that sink in, and certain prominent individuals in our society presently show to be afflicted by this egregious psychological malady. It’s not a sickness per se, but, it’s truly annoying to those of us who really do know everything. I used to tell people when I lectured Professional Photographer’s Groups, “The more I learn, the more I find out how much I don’t know.”. It’s still true. I almost envy the Mom-with-a-camera who took six thousand pictures of her questionably adorable baby with knitted mittens and matching cap in a field, balanced in their antique rocking crib precariously on a tree limb overlooking a glorious sunset with butterflies parading around the child’s face. One worked, well sort of, and she had to use Photoshop to get a good facial expression, with the butterflies just right, and she missed the sunset so she had to get an image from Google (illegal much?), but when she showed in on Facebook, her fans ooohed and ahhhhed, and now she charges $3,000 to photograph weddings, since… babies come from couples, who have to get married, therefore… Wedding Photographer.
And this is why we can’t have nice things.