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"We are hot chicks with big cameras. We don't need talent"
April 1, 2011 6:55 PM   Subscribe


 
Apparently photographers don't write anything down.
posted by mecran01 at 6:58 PM on April 1, 2011 [17 favorites]


Photographers fight back against race to bottom in photography by racing to bottom in animation.
posted by DU at 7:05 PM on April 1, 2011 [22 favorites]


The exciting race to the bottom in photography has suddenly been joined by a race to the bottom by animators! What an exciting development!
posted by clvrmnky at 7:13 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fact is, many people want photographers to record an event, not necessarily to do so in a highly artistic style or with skill to rival Ansel Adams. I'm an "okay" photographer, and I've made a couple of hundred bucks as a "low-rent" event photographer. Everyone was satisfied.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:16 PM on April 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


Is this where I can say I frigging hate those computer generated dialog thingies? 'Cuz I hate them, really, I do... And they distract from any message they are trying to get across!
posted by tomswift at 7:17 PM on April 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


Heh. I've always loved how Photogs have bitched and moaned about how their photo of (someone else's) statue/building/whatever was totally art, but MY mechanical reproduction of their something was a crime against their grandchildren.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:17 PM on April 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


Xtranormal is the new Downfall Angry Hitler.
posted by brownpau at 7:18 PM on April 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yeah, because swearing cartoon rants about it will magically change people's behavior and cause them to realize that professional photographers are worth their weight in gold. Those of us who value quality will hire professionals when we need them, but there are plenty of things that simply don't require a pro anymore because amateurs can get good enough results, and for lots of applications, good enough is just fine. Wedding and other non-commercial photographers didn't help their cause either by pulling crap like "you paid me several grand to shoot your wedding, but a few extra prints for your aunt are going to cost you $10 each, even if it's 10 years later and you want to have them printed yourself."

How did complaining work out for travel agents? A good travel agent is worth his weight in gold when you need him, just like a good pro photographer, but no one is going through a middleman anymore to book a quick business trip to New York. Photographers would be better served by doing their best to adapt and innovate instead of making videos where they look like South Park characters and swear at their clients.
posted by zachlipton at 7:21 PM on April 1, 2011 [17 favorites]


Wow, looks like professional photographers have themselves a pretty good echo chamber somewhere.
posted by pahalial at 7:30 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyone who complains about anything using Xtranormal, I am okay with them getting crushed.
posted by FLAG (BASTARD WATER.) (Acorus Adulterinus.) at 7:32 PM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]




Some of their arguments seem counter-productive. Like, it doesn't just take training to MAKE a good photograph, but to even RECOGNIZE a good photograph. If amateurs can't be trusted to even recognize a good photo, then I'd say the emperor has no clothes and the photogs are just buying into their own bullshit.
posted by rikschell at 7:42 PM on April 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow, the "painfully" YT link is really just an indictment of the history of wedding photography. "Black and white with the bouquet in color" - Uncle Bob didn't come up with that himself, guys; implied mockery for a pirated copy of LightRoom - because Adobe's pricing being out of the range of anyone other than professionals clearly makes amateurs bad at life; implied mockery for "all their photos on a disc and they can print their own" - because no one knows how to print and treat photos properly but you, there is only walmart, and thus you should get to charge extra for a print (10 years later, as mentioned above.)

There are a couple good points made throughout these videos, e.g. the costs of insurance, backup equipment, a similarly-competent network of colleagues that will cover for you if you catch the black plague.

Yet they mention them all in the same breath as the very things they are being reviled for, while omitting the particularly egregious ones like retaining copyright on your wedding photos despite the entry price tag they openly admit is high (1/4 the cost of a honeymoon.)

If their industry is really going to just devolve into an echo chamber of passive-aggressive xtranormal videos, we can't be far away from some extremists taking the RIAA route on copyright violators (100:1 odds on them just stalking a client's facebook for "unauthorized reproduction") and putting the nail in the coffin of their industry with the ensuing horrible PR.

So.. i guess it'll resolve itself? I look forward to the counter-movement that pledges to help you remember your moments and only wants a perpetual personal license to their works.
posted by pahalial at 7:47 PM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


The market has efficiently determined that the price of professional photography is significantly less than the price certain professionals have grown accustomed to. In watching these videos, I am reminded of real estate agents struggling to explain why they are worth their 6% commission.
posted by FuturisticDragon at 7:49 PM on April 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


I want to give up being a photographer and turn to a life of comedy writing. There's this website that lets me write my funny lines and have them animated. I can then publish them to Youtube and start my life as a comedy writer.

I tell jokes all the time and people laugh. All I need is to write them down and have them animated. It has to be easy. I can't believe people spend all this time learning how to write stuff.

I'll start by writing funny stories about why I hate people who think it's easy to be a photographer.
posted by fremen at 7:50 PM on April 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


Anyone else reading this thread in the voice of the YT videos? It's a little maddening.
posted by dog food sugar at 8:05 PM on April 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


As an architect I can state that there are indeed professional photographers who can produce images of buildings that are better, more useful, and thus more valuable than those who spend less time on the craft, including quite capable amateurs. However, that is also a fairly small niche, and often it seems that nobody can justify the cost those photographers bill, so it gets skipped or paired down anyway.
posted by meinvt at 8:06 PM on April 1, 2011


Yet they mention them all in the same breath as the very things they are being reviled for, while omitting the particularly egregious ones like retaining copyright on your wedding photos despite the entry price tag they openly admit is high (1/4 the cost of a honeymoon.)

In fairness, some wedding photographers aren't retaining copyright anymore or will provide a release as part of their standard packages. That practice was always highly problematic, but it became absurd when people started wanting to put their wedding photos on Facebook. I think most will at least give you medium-res digital images on CD, and a lot will just give you the high-res files while they retain copyright, which essentially lets the family run off their own prints, while having some recourse if the photos wind up in a magazine or otherwise used commercially.

All of this is like professional chefs complaining that people like to cook at home and some of them have big fancy kitchens with lots of expensive appliances so they think they are chefs too.
posted by zachlipton at 8:08 PM on April 1, 2011


Professional photographers are going out of vogue because aesthetic rigor among the general public is in retrograde. This trend is a bottom-up movement that has even infected creative agency types - and taken advantage of by groups like Getty Images. The whole damn culture is going down the tubes. So, what's new? We're mostly living in a swill-hole culture where bad taste and ignorance are aggressively poised as "art" and "thoughtful" - defended to the nth degree by clueless, artless, ignorant dolts who don't know very much, but who have been led to believe by their degraded surroundings that they know when something is worthy of aesthetic praise, or not.

As for professional photographers; it's really more about the ascendency of the moving image. Their is a trend among many in the profession to expand their skill set. Many will adapt.
posted by Vibrissae at 8:10 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


So does anyone anywhere do anything with Xtranormal beyond butthurt?
posted by maudlin at 8:14 PM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


(The photography links look interesting -- I know that my photos really suck and that I've got a lot to learn to become even a competent amateur -- but the bitchy charm of my favourite female Xtranormal voice just isn't enough to make me watch an entire movie from them ever again.)
posted by maudlin at 8:16 PM on April 1, 2011


So does anyone anywhere do anything with Xtranormal beyond butthurt?

Here. That's the only one though.
posted by KathrynT at 8:25 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


New here - hello. I'm an art director who's more than a little surprised at some of the comments. When I hire a photographer, I'm not (if I know what I'm doing) hiring somebody who can simply take a photo. There's a minimum skill set they need to have...but beyond that, I'm looking for someone who can contribute in a meaningful way to the creative aspect of the job.

Bad art directors hire amateur photographers. Good ones hire professionals and benefit from it.
posted by FunkyStar at 8:26 PM on April 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE ALL HACKS!

There, I said it. They're at best half a notch of cred higher than someone working for Jostens or Sears, and two below the guy who shoots the products for drugstore flyers, but they demand top dollar simply because they can. They are outrageously overpriced, basically useless (You know who else will be taking pictures at your wedding? Everybody.), and 99% of the time they ruin the ceremony by becoming a distracting and obstructive nuisance.

Fuck 'em. Save your money.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:28 PM on April 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


(Also, many of them -- the real thing -- are "hot chicks with big cameras," so I don't know what all that was about. Somebody's got issues!)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:33 PM on April 1, 2011


Professional photography is suffering from the same kind of perceived value crash that journalism has been suffering from in the age of blogging. Digital photography makes it much, much easier for a motivated amateur to do the one thing that set apart professionals for many years: practice.

Practice, practice, practice, and seeking feedback on the results from those who know more, is the only real way to improve as a photographer. The problem for many years was that "practice" meant accepting the cost: buying film by the metric ton and paying to develop it, day in and day out. Digital photography has lowered the barrier for entry not by making high-end gear more affordable, but by lowering the cost of practice and experimentation to zero.

At the end of the day, that practice and experience is what does separate the pros from the amateurs. That experience means being able to frame shots quickly and attractively in a pinch (like, say, while a wedding is going on; knowing without hemming and hawing which angle, which lighting, will work best; and so on. Now that a bajillion people are chewing up Flickr, posting their amateur work, and slowly but surely learning what works and what doesn't, professional photographers really do have something to worry about.

The threat isn't some kid with an expensive camera who thinks he's Ansel Adams -- it's a kid who's spent the last couple of years improving his craft without paying for school, film, or development.
posted by verb at 9:10 PM on April 1, 2011 [42 favorites]


This all rather reminds me of the editorial cartoonists. At some point newspapers owners realized that there's no particular reason why they needed to employ 100 or so people to turn out 100 variations on "Tortured visual metaphor for current event with appropriate political slant", and fired a bunch of people. I flipped through these for a bit, and for the first time in my life, was 100% behind the managers in a mass layoff.
posted by Grimgrin at 9:16 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


FWIW, I am actually thinking of leaving journalism to become a wedding and portrait photographer (etc).

Sure, both industries appear to be in freefall, but I'd rather be the captain of a ship in dangerous waters than a passenger.
posted by bugmuncher at 9:41 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't wait 'til all the people claiming to be SEO experts get screwed, personally. How many of those can there actually be, in so young of a field?
posted by raysmj at 9:53 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't wait 'til all the people claiming to be SEO experts get screwed, personally. How many of those can there actually be, in so young of a field?

That already happened a long time ago, really. The "SEO" industry these days actually consists of two camps. The first consists of low-rent content strategy consultants who'll talk to you about publishing more and more targeted articles on your site, keeping things fresh, learning how to develop relationships with similar sites, and so on. The second consists of aggressively amoral scammers who set up linkfarms and Mechanical Turk spamstorms to drive Adsense traffic.

The old days of "SEO" pretty much died; the search engines themselves have gotten smarter and the process of "optimizing" for them is no longer black magic. They reward accessible, well-organized HTML, and everything else at this point is content strategy or snake-oil.
posted by verb at 9:59 PM on April 1, 2011 [10 favorites]


Years back, I was working in a photo lab — not a great one, but a decent one for the area; we served a lot of lower-end professional photographers who couldn't afford or didn't want to pay to go to the 'real' pro labs with dip-n-dunk machines — and made friends with a few of the local pros. Basically all of them did weddings. All of them hated doing weddings. Most of them also hated, seemingly by extension, other wedding photographers. There were bitter professional rivalries and jealousies that had risen to the level of myth and legend. (I'm sure some of them were friendly to each other, but I only ever heard the kvetching.)

Anyway, one day a youngish guy I was friendly with came in to drop off his latest sack of rolls for developing, and mentioned that he and his girlfriend were getting married. I couldn't resist asking him who he was going to hire as photographer.

He grinned and said that he wouldn't pay what any of his competitors charged, so he was just going to post a bulletin on the door of the darkroom in the art building at the local university, hire the first half dozen or so college kids for fifty bucks each (at the time would have been not unfair for half a day or so of work), give them all the film they wanted, and have them drop it in a bin in exchange for their cash on the way out. I think access to the bar at the reception might have also been involved.

I never saw the actual results — either he had them done somewhere else or I wasn't around when they were run — but I did talk to him later and ask him how it had worked out. Apparently it'd been great; six different perspectives on the wedding for three bills. One or two that were just what he wanted, a few that were just okay, and a few rolls by someone who had obviously spent their time hitting on the bridesmaids. Not a bad deal.

There's no real moral to the story; since then I've occasionally heard of similar arrangements, although not with enough regularity to really say there's any sort of trend. It's probably not the route most people want to go, and I don't think that undergrads in cheap suits will really be that much of a threat to the wedding photography industry, but it does indicate that what the expensive wedding photographers charge for is more the streamlining of the process and general professionalism, and not necessarily the actual camera skills. Given that, it's not really surprising that if you're willing to tolerate increased risk and hassle you can get the same thing done for substantially less.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:00 PM on April 1, 2011 [9 favorites]


So, pjern, you assembled a lot of those godawful synth-voiced animations on a single subject, and made an FPP.

Yay.

What amazes more than the fact that "professionals" in the field of image art are using this abominable format, is that we Mefi's are actually discussing this seriously. An article, or series of articles, a dialog in the press, even a diatribe supported by tangentially related links, ... these might make me take the subject seriously.

But this is meaningless video gaga, nothing more.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:06 PM on April 1, 2011


What amazes more than the fact that "professionals" in the field of image art are using this abominable format, is that we Mefi's are actually discussing this seriously. An article, or series of articles, a dialog in the press, even a diatribe supported by tangentially related links, ... these might make me take the subject seriously.

I think it's actually more interesting in this form -- it's less an impassioned cry for higher standards, and more a peek behind the curtain of boiling professional frustration.
posted by verb at 10:11 PM on April 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think it's actually more interesting in this form

So did I. By reducing the presentation to cheap animation it removes distraction and personalization, and lets the message come through more clearly. My putting the FPP up was not necessarily an agreement with any of the positions (although I recognize some of the situations, surely), and I am not a professional photographer in the sense that I make my living shooting photos. (I do it because I love doing it, but if I am getting paid, I expect to be paid an appropriate rate.)
posted by pjern at 10:42 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Professional photographers are going out of vogue because aesthetic rigor among the general public is in retrograde. This trend is a bottom-up movement that has even infected creative agency types - and taken advantage of by groups like Getty Images. The whole damn culture is going down the tubes. So, what's new? We're mostly living in a swill-hole culture where bad taste and ignorance are aggressively poised as "art" and "thoughtful" - defended to the nth degree by clueless, artless, ignorant dolts who don't know very much, but who have been led to believe by their degraded surroundings that they know when something is worthy of aesthetic praise, or not

That's a bunch of hooey, and it's the same load of nonsense that has been pulled out for centuries whenever people don't like something. We only look back fondly on the incredible quality of the arts in past periods because of the filtering process inherent in history; for every Picasso hanging in a museum or Bach concerto in a concert hall, there were legions of hangers on churning out mountains of dreck, mediocre popular music, and yes, quality popular works. Broadside ballads were all the rage as early as the 16th century. Don't you think the upper classes looked down on them the same way a opera fan might view Britney Spears today? We just constantly think that the culture is going downhill because we only preserve the best examples of the old culture, and some of those works might only become significant in hindsight.

Call me a clueless, artless, ignorant dolt if you want, but I think I'm entitled to my own opinions about what degree of aesthetic praise or scorn to extend to a creative work. Certainly I value the opinions of critics, and their assessments give me a better understanding of what I'm seeing and the context of the work, but I'm tired of holier-than-thou artistes insisting that I'm supposed to look to some exalted class of specialists to tell me what to think about our culture. The beauty of creative works is that they are subjective, and in a free society even the most clueless dolts among us get to decide for themselves whether they like something or not.

So, professional wedding photographers aren't losing popularity because the public has lost its collective sense of taste. Rather, they are losing popularity because most couples are relatively uninterested in paying several thousand dollars to have someone disrupt their wedding with cameras and flashes in order to produce a very fancy leather bound album full of artsy photos that might get dusted off a couple of times in their lives. That's a lot of money and effort for something that sits in a box in the garage. When is the last time you looked at your wedding photos? Wedding video? Will you even have a machine capable of playing back your wedding video in 10 years? What a lot of people want is reasonable quality of documentation of their special day in a format that allows them to do what they want with it. Friends don't want to look at the couple's wedding album months later (they were at the wedding, so they already know what it looked like!), they want to be tagged on Facebook in a candid of themselves having fun at the reception. The bride and the groom don't really care whether the composition of the portrait draws the eye to the ring as the couple holds hands; they want a nice looking picture that they can show their grandchildren someday. It might be about art to the photographer, but to the couple, it's about having the memories, so there's no good reason for them to pay a considerable premium for artistic ability.

Photography is a great art form and I have a lot of respect for its masters, but most of us aren't usually taking and looking and photos for art, and that fact doesn't make us uncultured buffoons who don't appreciate talent and quality when we want it.
posted by zachlipton at 10:57 PM on April 1, 2011 [20 favorites]


I think what a lot of wedding photographers charge for, whether they'll be upfront about it or not, is not "being a good photographer" but "knowing how to manage shooting a wedding." Weddings are REALLY high-stakes situations for some people, with nothing less than perfection being acceptable, and a lot of moments that you have to capture both perfectly and candidly. There's a shrieking OTT mother of the bride, and the focus of every shot is this woman in a giant white polyester Barbie Dream Gown, which must be both hell to light and anxiety-inducing to think about retouching grass stains off of. There are loud uncles and drunken bridesmaids. There are little kids being charming. . . or not. There's the best man deciding to go under the bride's skirt for the garter toss. . . what do you do with that, exactly?

I'm generalizing and exaggerating both, obviously. Not every wedding is like that. Probably most of them aren't. (Mine sure as hell wasn't.) But I think "being a good wedding photographer" involves more diverse skills than just "taking a good picture," many of which have nothing to do with photography at all, and I think it's reasonable for the people who have developed those skills to charge for them. Whether every wedding actually NEEDS those skills? That's another question entirely.
posted by KathrynT at 11:03 PM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


But I think "being a good wedding photographer" involves more diverse skills than just "taking a good picture," many of which have nothing to do with photography at all, and I think it's reasonable for the people who have developed those skills to charge for them. Whether every wedding actually NEEDS those skills? That's another question entirely.

I just want to say that despite my comments above, I certainly agree with you about the difficulty involved and how hard the good folks work to pull it off. It's not an easy job at all, and the pros who are good at it have put a ton of effort into developing both these skills and their artistic talents. The problem for photographers is that an increasingly large chunk of the market doesn't value these skills to the extent of thousands of dollars.

A client who only wants to pay $300 for wedding photos isn't insulting a wedding photographer's talent and effort, he's simply telling you how much he values the product. Whining about the situation is like Lamborghini complaining that a guy only wants to pay $25,000 for a car because he's too ignorant to appreciate all the effort and precision that make up a fine automobile. Complaining also won't do photographers any more good than it did for the recording industry, elevator operators, and manual typesetters. If photographers can't get clients to pay premium prices anymore, their options are either to try to do a better job of selling their services so customers better see the value of a professional, figure out a way to increase volume and/or reduce expenses so they can make a living while charging what the market will bear, innovate and add services to provide more value to clients, or find another way to use their skills to do something else that people value more.
posted by zachlipton at 11:51 PM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


"The wedding photographer" video shows some serious rage going on.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:31 AM on April 2, 2011


Professional photography is suffering from the same kind of perceived value crash that journalism has been suffering from in the age of blogging. Digital photography makes it much, much easier for a motivated amateur to do the one thing that set apart professionals for many years: practice.

Practice, practice, practice, and seeking feedback on the results from those who know more, is the only real way to improve as a photographer. The problem for many years was that "practice" meant accepting the cost: buying film by the metric ton and paying to develop it, day in and day out. Digital photography has lowered the barrier for entry not by making high-end gear more affordable, but by lowering the cost of practice and experimentation to zero.


Practice and feedback. Digital cameras have a second advantage for learning that darkrooms don't; you can instantly see the results you have produced and kick yourself at the difference between what you wanted to take and what you took because it's right there in front of you. With a darkroom you need to remember what the scene was yesterday when you tried to take it and by then you've probably gone through an entire roll of film.
posted by Francis at 2:19 AM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pfft. I don't want to be a photographer. I want to be a college professor.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:03 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Practice and feedback. Digital cameras have a second advantage for learning that darkrooms don't; you can instantly see the results you have produced and kick yourself at the difference between what you wanted to take and what you took because it's right there in front of you.

Well...Sort-of. There's only so much critical evaluation you can achieve on a 3" LCD screen. You certainly aren't seeing accurate color on that thing. You're mostly able to see whether the framing was what you want and whether the subject was lit well enough to be seen. But, you aren't going to see the details that can make or break a great shot. For that, you'll have to offload your shots to a computer. And the screen you're using had better be properly calibrated, or you're still not going to be seeing the correct colors. And, no, that $90 inkjet isn't going to give you correct color, either.

With a darkroom you need to remember what the scene was yesterday when you tried to take it and by then you've probably gone through an entire roll of film.

That's called "the learning process". It's a step people seem to want to avoid at all costs today. In the days of film, a photographer was expected to burn through a lot of film, on their way to learning intuitively what exposures to use in what situations. They also learn to keep notes of what settings were used on which roll of film.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:08 AM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


disrupt their wedding with cameras and flashes

I'm kind of amazed at the loathing for photographers in this thread. I've been to plenty of weddings shot by actual professional photographers, and never felt like the ceremony was disrupted. Disruption of the event is usually a sign that the photographer was not qualified for the job. Seems like so many of the problems here (and in the periodic AskMe's trying to figure out how to get photos from a nonresponsive photographer after the fact; example) could be fixed had your wedding or the one you attended hired a competent professional. It's expensive, I know, but so is everything else about weddings. The high price demanded by competent professional photographers--here I mean professional in the sense of being able to get the job done well, on time, with a backup plan in place, satisfying the needs and wants both that the wedding party asked for and didn't know to ask for--is a guarantee of quality and peace of mind. I still haven't said anything about the actual look or artistry of the pictures.

WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE ALL HACKS!

And metafilter commenters are all idiots! Okay, now we've both written obviously false statements. It sounds like you've been abused by a photographer. Trust betrayed, dreams dashed. I don't know what happened, but it seems like you or someone you know didn't do a good job hiring a photographer. Here are the websites of a few photographer friends. If you can't see a difference between these examples and what somebody's "uncle with camera" usually gets from a wedding, I feel sorry for your eyes. I get that not everybody wants artsy wedding photos, but some people do and that should be okay, too. These photographers have prices on the high side, but they do enough business at that rate to pay a mortgage and have a decent standard of living. The market is willing to support them at their rates. I don't know why they should be faulted for that.

they demand top dollar simply because they can

Another way of saying that is "They are paid top dollar because people are willing to pay that much for good photography services." I honestly can't understand why everyone here is so angry that some photographers charge a lot for their services. Sure there are plenty of bad photographers who charge a lot, but I presume they won't survive for very long. Do people here feel entitled to good photography for cheap because of the ubiquity of digital cameras? No one owes you photographs of your wedding, and if you aren't willing to pay what a competent wedding photographer charges, that's fine. But why should photographers be blamed for charging the price they feel is fair for their services if they can get plenty of work at that price?

I think it's been covered above, but it takes a whole lot more than a camera to photograph a wedding well and with a guarantee that the pictures will satisfy the clients' needs and desires. At a minimum, it's 40 hours of work, not to mention the cost of equipment, insurance, taxes, and life in general.
posted by msbrauer at 5:20 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


All that is happening is that photography is going the same way as writing. It's taking longer because the dynamics are a bit different, but there are two basic problems affecting both fields:

1. Many consumers are philistines who can't tell good content from crap and don't care
2. You can't sell what is being given away for free

Digital cameras have created a revolution with regard to the barrier to entry for practice. No, you don't get good color rendition on the 3" screen but you do see the pole sticking out of your subject's head and the beer can in the foreground of an otherwise beautiful naturescape. You see the lens flare, the framing irks you, and you take the picture again. You get what would have been a year of experience costing thousands of dollars in film in a month for an ultrazoom point-n-shoot and some batteries.

Sure you don't learn the subtleties of color or darkroom technique, but you know what? 90% of consumers don't care about perfection; you avoid the head pole and the beer can and you're good. And what happens is the lucrative mid-range disappears, as the lucrative midrange writing market has disappeared because you don't need four magazines about keeping pet birds if you can find out everything you ever need to know about caring for pet birds by asking Google.

I have a closet full of film camera equipment none of which I've used in over 10 years. I used to sell the occasional photo to a nature or pet magazine, but that came to an end after I took my first digital on one of our nature trips. Sure, we couldn't sell the results to a magazine but it was so much more versatile and convenient for simply recording our experience that we never looked back. And now those magazines that used to occasionally buy a picture from us don't exist any more anyway; so now the primary medium for us to share our photos is the internet, and for that you don't need Kodachrome resolution anyway. The single most common edit we perform digitally is downsampling the resolution for web publication.

The high end still exists, as it still exists for writers, but the barriers to entry there are nearly insurmountable because of the competition, nepotism, and need to live near and schmooze with the editors you're courting.
posted by localroger at 5:43 AM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think part of the issue with wedding photographers may be that people are moving away from spending a lot of money on fancy weddings. My sense is that the $30,000 wedding with professional catering and flowers and photography is a pretty recent phenomenon for all but the richest people, and maybe it's a phenomenon that's not going to last forever. Maybe couples are returning to cheaper, smaller, non-fairytale weddings that don't produce magazine-quality photographs but that allow them to avoid going into debt. Maybe they think that money would be better put towards paying off their student loans or saving for the down payment on a house.

This is a bummer for photographers, because weddings are a stable source of income in a time when a lot of traditional sources of income are drying up. But you can't really blame people for deciding that a fairytale wedding isn't their financial priority. And if a fairytale wedding isn't important to you, then maybe you'll be ok with having your cousin take pictures, even if you know they'll never be as good as those that a skilled photographer would take.
posted by craichead at 7:29 AM on April 2, 2011


I don't think that undergrads in cheap suits will really be that much of a threat to the wedding photography industry


We got a lot of these requests coming into art school - shoot our wedding for nothing and build a portfolio etc - one was a copyright lawyer for the the rolling stones amongst other things, going on a honeymoon with a sailing ship up to the arctic.

£150 / $250

Mind you, I was learning at the time - so it was helpful in that aspect.

Otherwise the bride gets some peace of mind that nothings going to be missed if she hires a pro and taking time out of the wedding to do some shots takes some of the strain off also.
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:36 AM on April 2, 2011


a pirated copy of LightRoom - because Adobe's pricing being out of the range of anyone other than professionals clearly makes amateurs bad at life;

Lightroom is $200, and you can get Aperture for mac for less than half that. If that's out of your price range, yes, you are bad at life. Everyone wants everything for free, and it's funny hearing people complain that $200 is "Too expensive", when at the time i got into 3D animation (mid 90s), a legal copy of Maya, or Softimage was five figures and i legally bought a copy that is now worthless along with the hardware that ran it. All the software has dropped in price substantially. If you can't afford Photoshop you don't need it. ($500 for a legal copy, and much less if you are a student, and most people only need lightroom or elements anyways)

So yes, pirating photoshop makes you bad at life. More so if you make money with it.
posted by usagizero at 9:16 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


a year of experience costing thousands of dollars in film in a month for an ultrazoom point-n-shoot

A DSLR with manual and aperture settings and a good external flash, but not a point-and-shoot. Are you kidding? The point-and-shoot gives you experience with composition and framing, angles, some lighting, but it's not the same experience as you have had at, say, a newspaper or pro studio in the old days. Some higher-end point-and-shoots have manual settings, more control over exposure, etc., you can take fantastic photos with them, but this is not true of most point-and-shoots. And none of them allow the control a DSLR does. (Micro four-thirds cameras are a different story.) I say this as one who used 35mm in the old days, and worked at newspapers, but never worked as a full-time photographer, and has seen my photography become increasingly good since the advent of digital technology.

(And by that I don't just mean DSLRs. I found some of my old negatives the other day, from the very late '80s and early '90s. Put through a high-resolution scan, with an Epson scanner that only cost me $225 or so, they look about ten times better than they did on the original prints. I couldn't use a newspaper darkroom for my private photos, didn't have the space or money for all the equipment at home. And I still don't think they would have turned out as nicely as they did with the high-res scan.)
posted by raysmj at 9:24 AM on April 2, 2011


If that's out of your price range, yes, you are bad at life.

Many, many people are unemployed or underemployed, in an economy with the smallest workforce in 25 years (meaning that many have given up looking for work), might already have a camera. But there's also open-source software including GIMP (various platforms) and digiKAM for Linux that are excellent, and its makers do not ask you for a dime to use them.
posted by raysmj at 9:30 AM on April 2, 2011


And metafilter commenters are all idiots! Okay, now we've both written obviously false statements. It sounds like you've been abused by a photographer. Trust betrayed, dreams dashed. I don't know what happened, but it seems like you or someone you know didn't do a good job hiring a photographer.

This is true of everyone I know who has ever paid for a wedding photographer, but not me. Yet.

Here are the websites of a few photographer friends.

Hey, that's great. If you think those are in any way even remotely typical of the industry, however, you're kidding yourself.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:34 AM on April 2, 2011


But I think "being a good wedding photographer" involves more diverse skills than just "taking a good picture," many of which have nothing to do with photography at all, and I think it's reasonable for the people who have developed those skills to charge for them.

But it doesn't justify the egregious copyright policies of wedding and portrait photographers. I can understand the high cost of equipment, insurance, and so forth, but not the widespread (though not universal) insistence on only selling their clients a limited license to use images the clients paid to have produced.
posted by Marty Marx at 10:20 AM on April 2, 2011


DSLRs made it much easier for everyone to produce "good enough" images, but there was no reason to think that that would create more positions for professional photographers. It also exacerbates the already-existing situation where networking is more important than talent. If you're a terrific photographer but a bit of a loner, then you will have fewer clients than the so-called philistine who winds up shooting everyone's wedding and not making a total disaster of it.

I'm also very okay with the mega-expensive wedding with the overdone photography going back to being the exception and not the rule.

Digital cameras have a second advantage for learning that darkrooms don't; you can instantly see the results you have produced and kick yourself at the difference between what you wanted to take and what you took because it's right there in front of you.

Adding to this: you can also upload your pictures to Flickr and instantly see what gets views/faves and what does not. You can join crit groups. The good and bad side about this is that people are developing their own tastes and their own "folk art" as to what is good photography or not.

There are Flickr groups that may not have entirely professional standards of quality as far as signal to noise is concerned, but they also feature more interesting aesthetics and formal experimentation than most photography journals. It's a wild, wooly world out there for photography, and I actually think it's sort of cool.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:21 AM on April 2, 2011


It's about the niches, bitches. I worked as a fashion photographer in Paris in the 80's. The only amateurs in the field were the boyfriends of aspiring models, and all they got to shoot were their girlfriends for portfolio submissions - no pro shoots, and they weren't getting paid. But when it was time to shoot the pro models, only pros were hired. And I don't see that changing anytime soon. When I came to California, I made a decent living as a photographer, but even back then, the writing was on the wall. Portrait photography was going to the amateurs. I worked for magazines and for dating agencies. Soon enough, I saw the field flooded with photographers with barely any experience - I thought the results were awful and I was surprised that nobody seemed to care, but I got the hint. I moved on to product photography, and then eventually moved out of the field entirely. You have to identify where there's a niche, and there are still plenty of niches in photography. Niches: the only way to make a stable living at anything. The folks in these links don't seem to have grasped that.
posted by VikingSword at 10:46 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


For all the added plusses of digital, I still miss the darkroom days. The sounds the smells, not stuck behind yet another computer monitor tied to another keyboard and mouse. And I realize that is long gone and probably for the good. But I still miss it.
posted by Sailormom at 11:28 AM on April 2, 2011


craichead: Maybe couples are returning to cheaper, smaller, non-fairytale weddings that don't produce magazine-quality photographs but that allow them to avoid going into debt. Maybe they think that money would be better put towards paying off their student loans or saving for the down payment on a house.

I think part of the reason this is occurring is because couples are paying for their own weddings, instead of their parents. I think there was a lot of motivation in the old days, when people didn't more around so much, for parents to use the wedding as a flashy status symbol within the community. Now, couples are more likely to pay for them themselves, and they often don't have as much money and probably aren't as willing to spend it anyway (since it's so much easier to spend someone else's money than your own.) Plus, using an event as a status symbol doesn't make sense when you're moving in two years and nobody in the new place will have gone to it.

When you add this to the dramatic increase in the quality of the amateur photographer, it really isn't surprising that professionals are having problems. Plus, there seems to be a trend toward having friends and family contribute in other ways. A lot of my friends who have gotten married have been married by a friend who was ordained online, and it wasn't because they couldn't afford a priest. I can see someone thinking that good amateur-level photographs taken by a close friend are somehow more 'special' than better professional ones taken by a stranger.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:18 PM on April 2, 2011


raysmj: The point-and-shoot gives you experience with composition and framing, angles, some lighting, but it's not the same experience as you have had at, say, a newspaper or pro studio in the old days.

You miss my point, which is that in Instamatic land most people never learn composition and framing and when you need and don't need flash and how to manage reflections and how far it will reach if you do. With a point-n-shoot you will learn all those things. More importantly, with the PnS even if you are an amateur you might actually have the camera with you when you see something worth using it on. The long PnS's with stabilizers do not have the resolution, light gathering capacity, or versatility of a DSLR but they are fine for a wide range of everyday purposes and infinitely better than the camera in a cell phone.

Yes, you won't learn some other skills but my whole point was that you don't need to be that good. You're not getting paid anyway, so it's more about your trips or your pets or other subject as long as you are minimally competent. And it's much cheaper and easier to get that minimal competence now than it was to become good enough to sell a photo even to American Caged Bird Magazine in 1988.
posted by localroger at 12:47 PM on April 2, 2011


For all the added plusses of digital, I still miss the darkroom days.

Well, you could set up your computer on a board across the bathroom sink, turn off the light, pour some fixer in the bathtub, turn on the vent fan, and put a towel across the gap at the bottom of the door. Problem solved.
posted by pjern at 1:38 PM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


>>So does anyone anywhere do anything with Xtranormal beyond butthurt?
>Here. That's the only one though.


Showed this to an anesthesiologist sibling, got this response:
That is old news in the medical world. I love it! I feel that way sometimes. Some of the orthopedic surgeons mimic it when they call me to do a case, complete with mispronunciation of asystole.

Orthopedists have created a response.

Ah, medical humor.
posted by fleacircus at 1:39 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Didn't we put a kibosh on these Xtranormal rants a few months back?
posted by Eideteker at 3:34 PM on April 2, 2011


"Wedding photogs all hacks"
Of course. All of them. Except, well the ones that aren't. The ones I know work for newspapers most of the time and do weddings to make some extra money on the side (at rates competitive to the folks that do it full time of course - no undercutting.) Or they left the news industry and now just do weddings cause, well money.

I can talk about these folks, my friends. I can tell you that they have experience covering riots, professional sports, fires, murders and some not so dramatic stuff. They can show up to something, get an incredible shot that might be seen by possibly millions of people the next day, deal with getting shoved/yelled at by the crowd, deal with getting yelled/shoved by the agitated police, have that photo edited and sent to their desk all in ten minutes. Can you do that? Can your friends at the wedding with their cameras do that? Let me answer for you, no and no.

This carries over to the way they work weddings. Not their job to be in the way, not their job to be part of the story. Their job to get in and make good pictures and not be seen.

Hacks they are not.

Are good, credible wedding photographers pricey. Yes.

Is it fair to label all wedding photographers as hacks because everyone you know was either too lazy, too stupid, or too cheap to hire a real professional. No.
posted by WickedPissah at 3:51 PM on April 2, 2011


So does anyone anywhere do anything with Xtranormal beyond butthurt?
posted by maudlin at 10:14 PM on April 1


(self-link) I did a poem on it which I thought worked okay (not brilliantly, but okay) because the speaker is supposed to sound robotic. It required a lot of messing about, though. I think most people just type in the words instead of trying out creative misspellings to fool the computer into pronouncing things correctly.
posted by joannemerriam at 4:18 PM on April 2, 2011


Yes, I'm sorry, but the crappy animation vids have thrown me into a rage. Nincompoop indeed.
posted by dozo at 7:40 AM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


infinitely better than the camera in a cell phone.

That's not necessarily true anymore in the case of better smart phones, unless you're talking a top-of-the-line or pricier kind of point-and-shoot, in which case you might as well spent a little extra and get a micro four-thirds camera.
posted by raysmj at 10:32 AM on April 3, 2011


But you're still not going to take photos of an old professional quality with any of these (with the exception of the micro four-thirds cameras), except during the day and in a well-lighted location, etc. Composition, framing and some basic lighting is all they're good for.
posted by raysmj at 10:38 AM on April 3, 2011


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