I've been trying, for about 2 months now, to get into the wedding photography business on a part time basis (I currently work full time as a consultant). So far, I would say my journey has been a successful one, and I've been having a lot of fun and been learning a lot, not only about photography, but about people, personalities, religions and customs.
However, I've ran into a few concerns with regards to the attitude of some "pros" to people who are trying to break into the market. I do want to say some, and make it clear that I firmly believe that only a minority of photogs behave this way. Sadly, this minority has been the most vocal (as far as I can see) and I simple want to vent, and get the opinion of others.
I think the problem rests firmly in both camps. Pros think most noobs aren't schooled in the art of photography and basically just get a camera, leave it on auto, and run around taking bad pictures, charging less than what the market is paying and basically wreaking havoc for people who make a living doing the stuff. Amateurs often make silly statements like "I can take better pictures than that guy" or "my style is more modern" or even act as if they are trying to make a quick dollar without any regards for the people who hired them and the product they are delivering.
I think these perceptions are harbored and spread by the ignorant or arrogant few. Some pros assume that because your new, you don't know anything and can't learn anything. Some noobs assume working pros are old fashioned, don't know how to use Photoshop or any other software and are basically struggling with technology they find second nature. Both arguments are deeply misguided and are manifestations of a deeper issue IMO.
Some pros are very worried about competition. They don't like it at all and deeply fear it. For them, if they were the only ones taking pictures, life would be good and anything they can do to stop more people from entering the market, the better their bottom line will be. They latch on to the actions of some, make broad generalizations and sow the seeds of self-doubt. They stand up in WPPI meetings and demand tighter regulations. They demand that suppliers give them exclusive rights. These are the guys that get bent out of shape when Aunty Merle takes a picture at the wedding of a pose they constructed of the wedding party. These are the guys that tell everyone they can that photography is hard! They think their light will shine brighter if they put out the light of everyone else around them.
An interesting bunch to say the least
who are willing to work for pennies on the weekend. Some noobs have it all terribly wrong! They walk around, criticizing the work of others, make big claims without proof, deliver products that plain suck and generally have no clue what they are doing! Harsh, but true. I've met some. The problem? Insecurity, impatience, arrogance and a complete disregard for the art, the client and their needs. Bottom line, they believe their own hype.
So, how can we fix this? Well, we can't. I think the definition of a "pro" and an "amateur" needs clarification.
Whose a pro?
A pro has been defined by some as someone who makes a significant part of his income from photography and who has been doing it for a certain amount of time. I couldn't disagree
! Being a professional at something is much more than income and time spent. Its about quality of service, consistency, purpose and aim. Anyone with a camera can make a living with it, but not everyone who does should be considered a pro. Professionalism is the hallmark of a true pro. He/She turns up on time, does what they said they would and deliver what the promised when they promised it. Not because you charge for something doesn't mean you are a pro, that's just silly.
Some of the guys described earlier would fall flat out of my definition of a pro. They are worried about competing against noobs! Seriously? How bad is your product and reputation that you can't compete with startups and make a living? I think these people should do some self reflection, analyze their product, morals and reasons because something is seriously wrong there. Some pros are quick to point the finger, but yet they don't ask themselves what could they do differently? I know a few photogs who basically hold clients hostage by keeping the full res images. Nothing is wrong with that business model, but a lot of these guys are very sneaky about this contract clause and basically trick their clients. How can you expect to get a recommendation with that kind of behavior? They are often late with the product, they charge for everything, even mistakes they make, and generally sit on a high horse barking at people. Get your act together, and if you can't find work, SERVE YOU RIGHT! Attitude goes a long way.
Whose an Amateur?
An amateur, is not necessarily the polar opposite of the pro, as some amateurs do act in a quasi-pro capacity/state. Again, time and income are unreliable. What took you 3 years to learn might take someone else 1 week and just because I don't get X amount of my income from photography, does not mean I am not professional at it. An amateur is basically someone who enjoys photography for photography sake. They don't actively seek clients or market, they don't offer a "product" and they are always striving to be better so that they can enjoy their art more. Their work is self driven and not aimed at any commercial intentions, but they may not turn down work if offered the opportunity. They are clear about their experience and abilities and don't try to talk up their skill points
The "amateurs" I described earlier, yes, these ignorant and arrogant SOBs. I feel it for everyone in the industry when another one of these guys get unleashed on the unsuspecting masses. These guys aren't amateurs, they are pirates. Out to pillage and plunder from the masses without care or regard. I really do understand why some pros get infuriated by these guys. But, like all poorly made products, they don't last and are insignificant in the scheme of things. Most people who hire these guys have a very low appreciation for photography and in most cases wouldn't have hired anyone else simple because their bottom line is price. So, I don't think these guys damage the revenues of pros who have quality, consistency and professionalism on their sides. Most of my role model photographers don't even seem to realize these guys exist since it hasn't made any impact on their bottom line.
New Category: The pretenders
The unsavory characters described earlier are neither pros or amateurs, they are pretenders of the highest degree. In fact, the grumpy "pros" of today where the arrogant "amateurs" of yesterday. So, they are fighting to keep people like themselves out of the industry. Fantastic! If only rats behaved this way, the population would be under control! Let them fight amongst each other, the industry will be better for it.
I do plead to the honest, hard working people out there, don't get caught up in this nonsense of noobs vs. pros wars. Only people without class or talent get mixed up in that stuff. If your product is true and your business is built on solid foundations, you will not be affected by uncle bob's weekend activity.
Strive to be better, be respectful, honest and before calling yourself a pro, act like a professional.
Keep innovating, keep being honest, maintain your professional integrity, be a mentor and a guide to a noob. Rather than complain about them doing it all wrong. Show them how to do it right!
** Notice I said nothing about photographic quality. That is a subjective and unreliable measure. I think consistency is more reliable, since a consistent photographer will deliver what the client expects, based on the photographers portfolio, time and again. Most photographers can cobble together 20+ pictures for a portfolio of some sorts that would look impressive, but to be a true professional at your craft, you need to reproduce these pictures on every shoot, its that simple!
Tell me what you guys think?