Opinion - Capitalism 101 for photographers

Opinion – Capitalism 101 for photographers

Capitalism 101 (for photographers)


There are two statements that come up over and over again in the photographer forums that make me cringe.  I don’t like to rant, but I like it even less when people act disrespectfully towards others.  So rant I will.

I.  “Everyone is a photographer… Cameras are everywhere and anyone can use Instagram filters (etc, etc…) This undermines the profession (the profession is dead, etc).”

II.  “People who work tfp undermine the profession.”


Please, think critically folks.

I.  “Everyone is a photographer… Cameras and Instagram are everywhere… This undermines the profession.”

Home Depot sells an awful lot of hammers – are they undermining professional carpenters?




photographer (fəˈtɒɡrəfə)   — noun

a person who takes photographs, either as a hobby or a profession

– Collins English Dictionary, 10th edition

By this (valid) definition of what a photographer is – yes, the inferior rookie you are comparing yourself to for some reason, is also a photographer.  Questions is, how are you going to deal with it.  Maybe you want to deal with it by:  1)  lobbying for some sort of accreditation to distinguish yourself from the hacks (oh!  Hang on. That already exists.  Are you not a member, superior photographer? http://www.ppoc.ca/designations/accreditation.html ).  2)  Take better pictures than the rookie, so that people don’t confuse your work.


pho·tog·ra·pher   [f uh tog-ruh -fer]   — noun

a person who takes photographs, especially one who practices photography professionally.

– Random House Dictionary

By this definition, if I practice professionally I am a photographer.  This definition, like the first, is not concerned with quality of work, rates, tools used to shoot, or what Instagram filters are used or not used.  I know “professionals” in many disciplines who do bad work.  They’ve slipped through the cracks. The system granting them the title is flawed and they are allowed to call themselves professionals even if, in my opinion, they don’t deserve to.  Not fair, but once again, it boils down to what do you want to do about it.  See above.

Misrepresentation harms the profession, not access to tools!  Once again: Misrepresentation harms the profession, not access to tools. 

[Misrepresentation may come in the form of using a title inappropriately (and since “photographer” is not a protected title, this is not the concern in this case), using false samples of your work, misleading customers with what to expect, etc.]

If, by your “everyone is a photographer” rant, you mean other people are misrepresenting themselves as good photographers when they are actually bad photographers, then say that.  But why, for such a tangible product as a photo, do you assume a viewer can’t tell for themselves?




II.  “People who work tfp undermine the profession.”

No! No they do not!  Much like how someone who advises people (for free!) on good foods to eat is not undermining professional Dieticians.  If a professional Dietician cannot give better advice than someone who just read an article on Quinoa salad in Good Housekeeping TM, maybe they shouldn’t be charging professional rates.


You get work because you are good at what you do, not because you “deserve” it.

As a photographer, you are in the business of creating images.  If you don’t make good images… (fill in the blank).  If people can’t tell the difference between your work and some newbie’s work… (fill in the blank).

Should I be allowed to play on the PGA tour just because I’ve played golf for many years, have nice clubs, spent lots of money on lessons?  Get real!

For that matter, if someone on the PGA tour decided they did not want sponsors, for whatever reason, should they be shunned?  Are they undermining the other golfers?

How do you have the audacity to tell someone they should not charge because they are not good enough, or that they should charge even if they don’t want to?   Are you open and receptive to random people telling you what you should charge?



For good measure, since I’m on a roll, let me throw in a third issue:

III.  Putting out general requests for a TFP services on a public forum is not offensive.  Period. 

It might be a waste of time.  It is not offensive.  Some people (a wannabe “photographer”) might be glad for the opportunity.  I have never shot a wedding.  I would not feel ok charging to shoot my first wedding.  If I wanted to start shooting weddings and I learned someone might not be able to hire a “real wedding photographer,” and they were ok with it if I did not get them really high quality shots (i.e., I’m not misrepresenting myself, and they have realistic expectations) – it works for both of us.  It is not your place to tell me I should charge or I need to start as a second shooter (might be a good idea, but it’s still not your place).  It is not your place to tell someone they should have a professional wedding photographer if they chose not to, nor how much they should pay – nor how many layers to make their cake, nor where they should have their honeymoon.  You know what is rude and offensive?  Telling people how they should plan their wedding.


If someone approached you and told you that you were purple, would you get offended?

No, you would think “this person is out of touch with reality.  They don’t know what they are talking about.”  If your work is really good and a newbie asks you to shoot them tfp (i.e. , they don’t see that your work is worth paying for) – why would you be offended?  Maybe they just don’t understand the value of what they are looking at – they are missing something.  Maybe you want to ask yourself – why are you getting so offended?


Feeling sorry for yourself because you aren’t getting the money you “deserve” is not helping your problem.  It is a form of narcissism.