Photography: Professional hubris

In recent years, it’s safe to say everything has been on the up for amateur photographers like myself. Digital photography has removed the waiting and the chemicals from the workflow, meaning everyone who has a digital camera can see instantly what their pictures look like. The adage that every photographer has a few thousand crap photos to take before they take a good one is dealt with so much sooner now. This, coupled with sites like Flickr, DeviantArt and to some degree Facebook, means amateurs like myself can get their pictures seen by more people than ever before. This leads to being approached for commercial usage and this is where the Professionals have got themselves into apoplexy.

A rank amateur, raining on your parade. ©2008, Stuart Dallas Photography

After decades of hubris, professional photographers are now feeling threatened by the amateurs. Not in terms of skill, training, experience or even equipment but in the only area they can be beaten by a rank amateur and that’s price. You see this reported in the NYT and on blogs everywhere and the feeling is that the amateurs need to stop fuelling the race to the bottom, because the middleman is an evil party making money from your naïveté. We need to help the professionals and start competing with them on their terms, at their prices, otherwise we’re hurting a profession that really needs our support right now.

Well, I’m going to be the one to call bullshit on this one. I still respect professionals, even though they’ve collectively sneered at us amateurs over the years, but if you’re operating at a skill level that can be equalled by a lucky granny with a point-and-shoot, maybe you need to re-evaluate your career. If you’re suffering in this economy, it’s not the amateur’s fault; it’s the economy, stupid.

I don’t know how to save your career, but to be honest, that’s not my job. One thing I can assume is that it’d help if you stopped being complacent. I can tell you that blaming it on amateurs isn’t going to help. You’ve been unkind to us in the past and we’ve been gracious and accepting of your superiority, but to land this one on our doorstep is a bit much.

This is not supposed to offend professionals, especially those I consider personal friends, but come on, if you’ve complained about being undercut by an amateur, give us a break; that was you at one point.

What’s your opinion? Please share it in the comments below or tell me on Twitter.

Jared Earle is a writer, photographer and systems administrator. You can find him on Twitter most of the time.

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  • Nice comment on the pro vs. amateur photographers debate: RT @jearle: Photography: Professional hubris – a rant.

  • From a news perspective: I detest the trend in newsrooms to favour amateur content over pro shots, even when there’s no cost implication (often the case in most big newsrooms when an annual bulk deal will be struck with agencies rather than shot-by-shot).

    Sometimes they are favoured for good reasons – e.g. the amateur was on the scene at the time and the pro didn’t arrive till it was all over.

    But it’s too often done for spurious reasons, say to give the impression that we’re “connecting with the audience”. (No we’re not, we’re just leaching free or cheap content).

    I even knew one editor who routinely requested that perfectly good PA shots were taken off stories to be replaced by crappy UGC shots for that very reason.

    And I dislike the way many news organisations (including mine) are more likely to name-check amateur photographers than pros – or even our own staff.

    But all that aside, it’s as futile for professional photojournalists to protest about being undercut by amateurs than it is to complain about the internet existing. This is the way of the business now and it won’t change. The only way is to adapt – the best do.

  • @jmphotony Had this discussion yesterday. Read this: RT @jearle: Photography: Professional hubris – a rant. #tog

  • RT @photojack: RT @jearle: @photojack One of mine you may not like for once. 🙂 I'd be interested in your opinion

  • Hey pro photographers, do you agree with Jared?

  • Interesting take from the amateur perspective via @jearle

  • agreed!…survival of the fittest!

  • As a young professional, I’ve always had this view in the back of my mind. We need to spend less time complaining and more time improving our craft.

    Thanks for the post.

  • JD

    This is a great post! I see happening in any field where technology has given hobbyists the tools. It used to take a fair bit of knowledge and time to create a web page, now almost anyone can do it. The number of project/home recording studios has risen terrifically. Perhaps I’m overly optimistic, but it seems like this only serves to give people an appreciation of the professional’s work. There *should* be a tremendous difference in skill and equipment. I just want to look at the best photo, I don’t really care who shot it. Sometimes… it might be a hobbyist.

  • Great read! You make an excellent point. We all have to start somewhere. Oh, and Shawn King sent me. I guess we didn’t crash the server! Maybe next time!