We Need To Be About Our Work
Recently a guy made a web site touting a top ten list of things you can do to help start your photography career. I’m going on a rant and it’ll be the last one for awhile. If you care to read it, hit “more”. If not, no worries. I need to get this out of my “system” and then I should be good to go.
So this guy makes a top 10 list for starting a photography business. Sound like a joke? Good. Because it is.
I won’t name the guy nor will I link to site. If you know who I’m talking about, fine. If not, don’t worry about it. Evidently he could not stop the sh*t storm he created with it and has taken it down and is currently “revising” it with feedback from 5,000. That’s a heck of a long email chain to keep up with. I’m going to go on a rant and I hope he reads this and ponders it for the revision instead of just blocking everyone who disagreed with him. You know. Like he did the last time. I, and many others, tried to engage him in civil conversation and we were blocked, ignored, and dismissed. Ok. I’ll blog about it then.
The reason for this rant is:
A) I, and countless others, care far too much about our craft to let this thing slide.
B) He’s not a photographer yet he’s trying to help you become something that he isn’t any more. Huh?
C) His “system”
is was full of crap. It’ll be interesting to see his revision.
D) He took a big steaming dump on the shoulders he stands on and it pissed a lot of us off and I have to vent.
This guy has built a nice fortune (nothing wrong with that) for himself on the shoulders of the wedding industry. Those shoulders we stand on stretch for decades. Many photographers have gone before us armed with 12 shots loaded in a Hasselblad. They built the industry that many now work in. Countless hours of dedication have been invested and passed forward to us today. He and his mousketeers have taken a steaming dump on top of those shoulders and it both saddens me and angers me.
If you are just getting started in photography I know how new everything can feel. I know the excitement that each milestone brings. That first time you nail that sun flare shot. That first job you book. The first time you see your work in print. It’s these milestones that keep you going. That builds your excitement. I get that. I know that. We hit those milestones and we love it. But understand this, you’ve only just begun to crack the surface of photography. While you feel you may be in over your head, you have no idea how deep this rabbit hole goes. While certain things seem so completely new and fresh to you, understand these are things that have been around a long time and you’re going to run into a lot of folks who aren’t so impressed. Been-there-done-that sort of an attitude. Don’t write those people off as mean. Just understand for a second that the rabbit hole is deep and you haven’t gotten that far into it yet.
Please go read this awesome blog post by Spencer Lum. Please read that. Please. Take it to heart. Realize it’s dripping with truth. Please read it.
I have wasted way too many hours getting sucked into conversations talking about this system thing and have I “seen-the-twirling-girl-in-the-Mercedes-video?” Yes. I have. Last I checked, Jesus didn’t die on a cross so I could make videos of myself driving around in a drop top Benz. If that’s the case then Jesus seems to like hip hop far more than photography. (Here’s me being grumpy BTW.)
I’ve wasted too much time on all of this. It pisses me off. It raises my blood pressure. I need to just walk away. Breathe. Be about my work. It’s just photography. We aren’t curing cancer here. It’s just a job. It’s just pictures. That’s all. But I can’t let it go. It’s like a rusty nail stuck in one’s foot. It has to be removed or it won’t stop bugging you. I wish I could remove lame web sites like this because they are adding far more noise than signal. Be the signal folks. Be the signal. Drown out the effing noise.
I once heard a photographer say “Jump in over your head and swim for the top!”
There’s a few problems with that. A) it sounds like you’re trying to swim back to where you already were. The quote wasn’t, “Open the hatch of the sunken submarine and swim for the top.” B) There wasn’t a mention of all the dead bodies you’d pass on the way up. All those dead bodies (broken dreams and careers) are those who were trying to do the same thing you are trying to do now. Hard work. Dedication. Time. Patience. Some good luck here and there. (Luck favors the prepared.) Tenacity. A deep and abiding respect for the craft and the industry and your peers both young and old. That wins the race. No 10 step system. No fast track. No specific camera body or lens. No $16,000 spent to ride the rainbow for a day. 30 days to a better career? How about 30 years to a better career?
Why did this web site ruffle many of our feathers so much? Because of the stupidity in it. Because anyone who is new who might come across it might think it’s actually good information. It came from a guy who won this award, and that award, and this other guy over here called him the Golden Boy. This information must be good! Umm. No. It’s not. Please. For the love of the craft. Don’t listen to this crap.
Direct quote :: “Cameras these days are so good and getting better so the old photographers who tell you that professionals should be shooting in “Manual” mode are clueless.”
OMG. OMG. OMG. Clueless? Clueless? See that dig at “old photographers”. Steaming. Dump. On. Shoulders.
This guy got started in the photography industry and then bowed out as soon as he found a better deal. He didn’t shoot professionally for very long and he hasn’t shot at all on a professional level for quite some time. And now he wants to help you get started in the business he has little experience in. Sounds like an awesome guy to listen to. Want to know how to market software to a specific industry? This is your man then. He’s got that down. How to build a sustainable life long photography business? Yeah, maybe you should look elsewhere for advice.
That one quote above tells me that he and all his minions that wrote this thing have no idea how cameras have operated in the last three or four decades and beyond. Light meters are light meters. Spot, average, matrix, and the like have all been around since film. So has AV, TV, P, M and all the rest of it. Last I checked, 18% grey hasn’t changed in a very long time. Cameras are cameras. Let’s say you are in Av mode. It’s metering the scene based on the meter setting you have set. It then averages what it reads to 18% grey. Takes your aperture setting, the ISO you’re using, any EV compensation setting you’ve made, and then calculates a shutter speed based on those factors. Done. End of story. Who is looking clueless now?
Some cameras are trying facial recognition to find exposure. Some are using color meters (Nikon has been doing this since film). Some are trying this and that but at the end of the day… It’s a box with a light meter. They aren’t any better at taking photos then they used to be. Just remember that the smarter the camera gets, the dumber the photographer will be. Wake up and smell the photons.
Direct Quote :: “Spray and Pray. Shoot a lot, and if you forget what to do with your camera, just click it into “P” mode and shoot away.” :: Here’s the first one that had everyone up in arms…
P is for pathetic. Would you want your caterer to forget how to cook chicken and just microwave it? Do you want your officiant to forget your names and just call you “him” and “her”? Do you want your accountant to spray and pray? Your doctor? Your mechanic? Your lawn care guy? Why on God’s great green earth would you want your wedding day covered by someone who has forgotten how to use their camera? WHY set that low of a bar for those getting into the industry? Weddings aren’t school. You’ve got one shot to get it right or screw it royally. Oh! Don’t worry. Most of your first weddings will be for friends and family he says. The perfect people to screw over with bad photos. If you’re having to spray and pray then maybe, just maybe, you need to get your business started on a different kind of job. Like portraits. Portraits are a great place to start. Learn on jobs you can redo if you need to. Don’t screw with someone’s wedding day by not knowing what you’re doing. Period.
Don’t give someone who doesn’t know what they are doing the confidence to boldly set out and keep not doing what they should be doing. Think about it. If those of us who care about this craft actually didn’t want new photographer to succeed then we would be applauding this guy and his site. We’d want all new photographers to go and read it and…. fail.
Do you have to start somewhere? Yes. Are your first weddings going to be award winning? No. But weddings sure aren’t the place to “forget what to do with your camera.” OMG. Listen. If you get into spots where you forget what to do with your camera at a wedding you’re in a horrible spot with your skills and knowledge. Horrible. Wretched. You need to take care of that ASAP. Do not be that photographer who sprays and prays. There’s no way you should be taking pride in what you do if this is how you are operating. Learn. The. Craft. – Books. YouTube videos. Kelby Training.
Build a foundation of knowledge first then strike out carefully. Of course you aren’t going to be dripping with talent at the start of your career but don’t think for a moment that customer service trumps quality product. That is the wrong way to approach photography. This person wants you to believe that, in the client’s perspective these days, the person you are is more important than the work you create. What’s going to be sitting on the client’s shelf twenty years from now? You or your work?
Direct Quote :: “Even though the world has changed some photographers haven’t so you’ll certainly hear people who strongly oppose my view on this. Don’t listen to them.”
From the guy who had to take it down and revise what he said because of the strong opposition. Love it. Want some ketchup with your words?
This guy goes on and on and about the “old photographer” mentality. From shooting, to pricing, to products, to service, to philosophy and he reminds you over and over to not listen to them. Not to pay attention to them. Just listen to him. You know. The guy who barely ran a photography business. He starts his whole thing off with “Read it. Believe it. Share it.” Can you say cult leader? I can. I can say that. Ugh. Again. Pissing on the shoulders he stands on. Remember your elders homeboy. Honor those who built something you get to stand on. Or start a cult. Either way. It’s all good. (Zack is getting grumpy now!)
He’s a big advocate for the digital age. Physical products are going the way of the dinosaur. What your brides want is digital. So buy into his digital fulfillment system. Albums are old school. Come to the new school.
Question. When is the last time you had to replace the batteries in an album? Update its firmware? Pay a monthly fee to keep the album on display? How many times have you had to transfer your grandparent’s wedding album to a new media or format before you could view it? If the wedding album maker who made that album went out of business does the album disappear off the shelf? Ever pick up an old wedding album and look through it? The feel of the pages. The smell of it. There’s no app for that. There is such a remarkable beauty to a wedding album. When is the last time a burglar broke into a house and had to make the split decision on stealing a laptop or a wedding album?
Here is a completely random photo I took while on our family road trip this summer.
When you meet a photographer who has been in business for 20+ years I’m sure there is nothing you can learn from them. You, who forgot how the camera works, I’m sure you’re in a position to call the old man “clueless”. Yeah. News flash! It’s the person, grumpy or not, that has been in business for 20+ years that you need to take to coffee and listen to what they have to say. If they are pissed off about something, there might be a reason for it. You might want to know what that reason is. Or you could listen to a software salesman tell you it’s just better to be nice and make friends than learn the craft, respect those who have gone before you, develop style, and work really really hard. On your own. For not much pay. For some time to come. Naw… that’s no fun. I’m sure you don’t want to be like the old traditional wedding photographer who mainly focused on portraits and detail shots because that is not what’s popular today. Oh wait. Oops.
Speaking of “taking them to coffee.” This guy mentions that when he was starting no one would let him assist them. I hear this gripe from a lot of people. “I contacted photographers asking to help and no one got back to me or they just said no.” I’ve started a new blog on Tumblr. It’s a Q&A blog. You can ask me anything you want about photography. I specifically address this in this blog post.
I could go on and on. I’ve gone on far too much already. If you haven’t seen this system don’t bother. I won’t go into the all the advertisements and pushes for his software. It’s just an infomercial at the end of the day. How many times do we flock to watch those? The guy wanting to help isn’t doing so. Look. I’m not saying he’s doing this out of some evil manipulation. I know the guy. I’ve had dinner with him. He does want to help but he’s gone the wrong way about it and has lost sight of where he comes from; has seemingly lost the respect of the craft, and is quickly losing the respect of photographers in doing so. He’s also not helping by using photos in this thing that he hasn’t gotten permission to use. I spoke with one person about an image on this site of his. “Did he get permission to use that photo?” “No. We’ve been trying to get in touch with him about that.” Good going, holmes! Well done. You get a pony ride!
Does bitching about this mean I’m working hard? No. It means I’m not going about my business. I’m all talk and no game right now. That’s got to end. In a way I’m thankful for this system thing. It’s inspired me to do a few things. One, is the last blog post I made about doing some experiments at weddings. The second is I’ve started the Q&A blog over on Tumblr that I mentioned earlier. In my attempt to add signal to the noise I’m taking questions about photography. Anything you want. Hit me. Can’t promise I can get them all but I’m trying. And if I don’t have a great answer I’m starting to pull other folks in who can give a better answer. I’ve currently answered 200+ questions. One of the better ways to navigate the blog is to hit the archive page. Or just hit the random button. If I can figure out a way to organize it better I’ll do it. Open for suggestions. Right now it’s just an open fire hydrant. Stop by and have a drink.
If you think for a second I’m complaining about new photographers I’m not. I’m complaining about people leading them down the wrong path.
I want new folks coming into the industry to learn the craft of photography so they aren’t forgetting how to use their camera. I’m just so sick of the snake oil salesmen pulling in the new folks into their garbage and bad mouthing “old” photographers. This industry wouldn’t be alive at all if it weren’t for all those “old” photographers. These “leaders” and “golden boys” are setting a low bar by trying to be nice and tell you it’s ok to be mediocre. Sorry. The bar you’re trying to hit (being a photographer)… we can’t even see it. It’s way up there. It’s a moving target. Always getting higher and higher.
I’m tired of all the bad flash products, bedazzled camera straps, 10 steps to an easier life, culling and editing services for new photographers (my thoughts on that), OMG-look-at-my-shoes-pants-dress, cars, mansions on the hills. Nothing wrong with all that. Nothing. More power to you but let me tell you folks, you look at people who have it “all together”, well, it’s just reeks of working hard to maintain a public image. The most truly successful photographers I’ve ever met are bleary eyed, drive old cars that need new tires, and have holes in their shoes. Some of the finest, most bad ass photographers working a camera today aren’t even on twitter. They don’t have a blog following. They’re busy with a camera and they’re chasing the light. Not the following. Not the car. Not the fame. Not the new product to flip and sell to all of us. If they are writing a book their pen is a lens and their ink is light. You want to aspire to something? Aspire to that.
I’m gonna be about my biznazz. That’s making pictures.
Sorry. Just a public rant hoping that it helps purge the anger. I care about this stuff. When I see these fauxtographers piss on the shoulders you and I stand on it makes me mad. It makes me want to do all I can to never associate with anything they are a part of. Let’s run our cameras. Not our mouths. Let’s do that for awhile. Sounds like a good plan. Or “system” I should say. I don’t know how long I’ll let this post live. I just needed to get it out there. I may take it down in a few days. We’ll see. Just letting you know up front that this is just a purge.
UPDATE :: 99 Spray and Pray shirts are out in the world and that’s that. We aren’t going to make any more of those but more limited shirts are in the pipeline. It’s a fun way to raise money for a good cause so we’re going to keep making different ones.
Remember to read this blog post by Spencer Lum. If you are wanting to get into weddings and really learn the craft then you must attend a Foundation Workshop. The What If Conference looks promising. Michael Howard is trying to get Musea off the ground. His head is in the right place. There are good sources of education and information. Don’t waste your time on infomercials.
Here’s my new motto…