"Will take photos for $10, $25, or $100."
March 8, 2013 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Ourspot will let you hire amateur photographers for as much (or little) as you want.
Currently only running in San Francisco, but with plans to branch out to LA and New York soon, Ourspot lets users upload a job with any amount of money attached to it (even free), and then photographers on the site are able to take or leave it, depending on their needs.

The site doesn’t specify how much you should pay, but suggests $10 for a “fun” gig, $25 for “standard,” and $100 for “quality.”
posted by The Girl Who Ate Boston (121 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
No free, ad-supported option?
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:29 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm one of those amateurs, so this sounds pretty interesting to me. If I was a pro, however, I'd be concerned about the effect this might have on my own pricing.
posted by tommasz at 12:30 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


That’s pretty cool. I have seen startups like this for graphic designers, and it seemed to work well.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:32 PM on March 8, 2013


I really do not know what to say about that. I myself have been hired on such a job, posted here on MetaFilter in fact, and I did it gladly. I even did it for free, because the job poster's reasons for needing the photograph pleased me to no end, and I was more than happy to help.

So why does the idea of a centralized and commercialized version of that transaction feel like such a dirty dirty thing to me? Perhaps because in my situation the job poster was able to clearly articulate their desires and expected outcome and was more than willing to give me an appropriate amount of compensation, monetarily-speaking. I just get a "disturbance in the Force" feeling from this Ourspot program.
posted by komara at 12:40 PM on March 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Is this an advertisement?
posted by jsavimbi at 12:42 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here's what a professional photographer friend in DC has to say about photographers taking on cheap or free jobs:

They are mostly amateurs who can take decent photos, how hard is it to point at a group of people and click to get an average photo?

The difference: all have day jobs or are retired with pensions (military, marine, we have them all). Great way for them to meet charming ladies and make them pose for their "crazy and creative fashion shoots", get free food and drinks, network to get more paying clients, and be the darling of the rich housewives in the charity circuit (every single night we have something here in D.C.)

If you're a real PRO you have expenses they don't carry, (insurance, liability, $8K serious cameras and repair, continuing education, actual taxes, assistant and post processing fees, membership to professional organizations, legal and CPA fees, state and local licenses and payroll, and many more.

Have them fill out this form truthfully and you will see who is the working photographer.

I filled out mine, giving myself a paltry 50K a year salary, the outcome is if I leave my house for less than 650.00 per assignment I have paid out of my pocket for the privilege of being your photographer at that event. Not that I'm sore or anything!

I pay my post production/manager/assistant who is an angel about 2K a month (she's very gracious for not having left me yet) and I'm still up till 1am every night processing and doing paper work and marketing.

Having said all that, I frequently do charity and non-profit events at a steep discount or free of charge, so don't think I'm heartless! I do Flashes of Hope for free, taking portraits of kids with terminal cancer with their parents, photography and video for the shelter we work with once a month, and then just pay cash from profits to Children's Hospital which I love here in DC.
posted by Dragonness at 12:43 PM on March 8, 2013 [17 favorites]


N.B.: If you're wondering as I was, Outspot takes an 8% cut.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:44 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow, that is a thing that sucks.

I'm on deadline at work, though--I'll gladly pay any of MeFi's aspiring writers, oh, say $1.00 to write up how depressing it is. (Only $1.00 'cause this will be sort of a fun comment to write, and it will probably write itself--plus, exposure for your work!)
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:44 PM on March 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


Meh. No one who's only going to pay $25 for a photo shoot was going to hire a pro anyway. They'll get what they pay for.
posted by echo target at 12:47 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


$10 for a “fun” gig, $25 for “standard,” and $100 for “quality.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:51 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Admiral Haddock: "I'm on deadline at work, though--I'll gladly pay any of MeFi's aspiring writers, oh, say $1.00 to write up how depressing it is."

Webster's dictionary defines the word "depressing" as...
posted by boo_radley at 12:53 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

See, but here’s the thing. A friend of mine recently paid thousands of dollars for a newborn photo shoot. In Arkansas. The photography market seems to be out of control. I would rather have a mediocre but nice shoot for $100 than a great shoot for $2500. The markup in price couldn’t possibly be worth the markup in quality.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:57 PM on March 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


Um, skills aside, doesn't the fact that you're paying them kind of take away from their amateur status? Doesn't it make them professionals? (Shitty professionals, but still...?)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:57 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess, now that the media world has pretty much assured that writers will write for free, we're gonna work on photographers for a while.
posted by HuronBob at 12:59 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have actually done this. I have posted ads on Craigslist asking if somebody would be willing to photograph me for less than a professional photographer would charge. Twice, I think. Both times, I found people willing to do the job. The first time was a student who only gave me low-res images after an extra couple days of excuses (she left the camera in her friend's car; she needed a different memory-card reader; etc), but they turned out fine. The second was a professional who asked if I'd be willing to pay a bit more than my ad stated; I agreed, and he shot some terrific photos.

Both times, I also received nasty notes from photographers who saw my ad on Craigslist and found the idea personally offensive to them. I was insulting their professionalism by posting, et cetera.

My feelings on the subject are a bit complicated by the facts that (1) I actually take photography very seriously myself, albeit as an amateur; and (2) I'm privileged to work in an industry that requires extensive education and licensing, so I don't have to worry about my job opportunities being stolen by somebody who randomly decides while brushing his teeth one morning, "Maybe I'll represent criminal defendants today for $25." So I'm not inclined to disagree too harshly with professional photographers who excoriate ideas like Ourspot, even though I've basically done the same thing myself.
posted by cribcage at 12:59 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


$100 for "quality," indeed.
posted by griphus at 1:00 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


de·press·ing
/diˈpresiNG/
Adjective
Everything you read pertaining to the ability of artists to make a living.

Associated Terms
capitalism - singularity of artistic worthlessness - skullfucking

Where's my dollar, Haddock? I want to go buy the twenty-song album the guy who busks outside my liquor store put on bandcamp.
posted by sarastro at 1:09 PM on March 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Ultra-budget Photography a la carte Menu:
  • $2.00 DSLR Portrait, lens cap ON.
  • $1.50 Nintendo DS Portrait.
  • $1.00 iPhone 3 portrait. Finger over lens PARTIAL.
  • $0.75 iPhone 3 portrait. Finger over lens TOTAL.
  • $0.50 Photographer files FOIA request to get traffic camera footage of your event.
  • $0.25 Webcam photo of your friends' facebook photos. Instagram filter $1 extra
  • $0.10 Photographer googles "wedding" and sends you the top three results
  • posted by The White Hat at 1:09 PM on March 8, 2013 [57 favorites]


    Are you kidding me? I'm a skilled amateur at best and I wouldn't get out of bed to go take pictures for less than $500.
    posted by drjimmy11 at 1:10 PM on March 8, 2013


    Are you kidding me? I'm a skilled amateur at best and I wouldn't get out of bed to go take pictures for less than $500.

    Just because you don't doesn't mean the market won't tolerate it at $100.
    posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:13 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


    Honestly, this is a service I could see myself using.

    I have a professional job at an ad agency, where we work with professional photographers charging professional rates, and also a lot with rights-managed and royalty-free photography as well.

    Real clients pay real money and deserve real results from real professionals. No question.

    But I've got a lot of side projects and ideas noodling around in my head, and images have always been a big, big problem for me. I'm a crap photographer. I mean, bad. But I've got a few things I tinker with from time to time which could benefit from photographs, and I could never, ever afford Dragoness' friend.

    But if I have an odd nichey sort of project I think could really work, if I could only get the base idea off the ground, I might see my way to investing $100 personally on one of the amateurs that Dragoness' friend is (for understandable reasons) not a fan of.

    Personally, I see a huge opportunity here for amateurs-seeking-amateurs who understand what they get for $100, and can live with that because they can't afford anything else. I think there's a lot of space between "this is an awesome charity that photographers will want to shoot for prestige/karma" and "this is a project with $650 to burn just to get Dragoness' friend to pick up the phone".

    I remember the hand-wringing, garment-rending terror in the ad industry a few years ago when all the crowdsource-a-logo sites started up. At the end of the day, nothing really changed much. It might have shaken some weak links out of the bottom of the chain, but it didn't provoke a cataclysmic shift in agency work. All that wound up happening is a bunch of people with a few dollars to spend got some much better logos for their blogs, hot dog stands and startups than they would have been able to do on their own.
    posted by Shepherd at 1:13 PM on March 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


    Shepherd, that's exactly it. And it doesn't hurt professional photographers for me to pay someone $100, because I can't afford a professional anyway. They weren't getting my business.
    posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:15 PM on March 8, 2013


    There exists a class of photography work for which it doesn't really matter if things are done perfectly or on a tight schedule or with exactly the right gear. That's the market for this service.

    I'd happily fill hours with it between "real" gigs.
    posted by seanmpuckett at 1:16 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    I have no doubt that a $1000/gig pro will make better pictures than a $100/gig amateur who signs up on the website. On the other hand, I wonder how many consumers will notice the difference. One of the more unheralded aspects of ecommerce is how it has challenged, and subverted, notions of minimal commercial quality. The low audio quality of MP3s vs. well-mastered CDs being the classic illustration, but there are certainly many more.
    posted by MattD at 1:16 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


    If I was a pro, however, I'd be concerned about the effect this might have on my own pricing.
    posted by tommasz


    I'm a professional and not the slightest bit concerned. There's room in the market for every price point. Not that I have even the slightest interest in those cheap jobs - I wouldn't even get out of bed for $100.
    posted by blaneyphoto at 1:17 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


    I don’t know, I sort of feel that the professional photographers in this thread could be a little more humble. We get it, people who cannot pay you $500 are not worth your time.
    posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:22 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


    On the other hand, I wonder how many consumers will notice the difference. One of the more unheralded aspects of ecommerce is how it has challenged, and subverted, notions of minimal commercial quality.

    This, plus the difference in how we share photos these days. Most of your friends and relatives are only ever going to look at your wedding photos on Facebook anyway, and half of them probably on a tiny smartphone screen. Images do not necessarily have to be produced to the highest professional standards to look good in this context.
    posted by oulipian at 1:23 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    Both times, I also received nasty notes from photographers who saw my ad on Craigslist and found the idea personally offensive to them. I was insulting their professionalism by posting, et cetera.

    When I went shopping for an engagement ring, one jeweler heard I was shopping elsewhere too and actually called me to personally tell me that I was no longer welcome in his store and that I had insulted him by making jewelry about money.

    I have seen this attitude a lot among folks who work on the high skill, high pay side of event planning: DJs, photographers, chefs, etc. If you see your fellow human beings as competition and the folks who share your passions but not your skills as beneath you, then go ahead, sneer: my only camera is my phone, but that doesn't mean I'm going to pay you a month of my wages for a day of your work.
    posted by anotherpanacea at 1:23 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


    This would have been perfect for my wedding.

    I know that real wedding photographers cost a grip, but honestly, I don't care about those dumb couples shots. Just get someone with a DSLR whose purpose is to snap pictures. We will arrange the family on the steps, and get a few shots with the Grandparents, but other than that, just snap some pics.

    Though, for my wedding we used Mason Jars as cups, rented a city owned historic one-room church, and had the reception in a Masonic Lodge ballroom. Total cost was $2200 including rings, dress, and catered mexican meal with 2 kegs in Portland, OR. It would have been absurd for us to spend anymore than a few hundred on a photographer.

    We ended up asking a friend of a friend photographer, who later became our good friend, to snap pictures on her DSLR for the wedding. We offered money but she declined and gave us the pictures for free. Most of them went straight onto Facebook anyway.
    posted by wcfields at 1:24 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


    I'm one of those amateurs, so this sounds pretty interesting to me. If I was a pro, however, I'd be concerned about the effect this might have on my own pricing.

    I just jumped into this thread without reading, we're talking about prostitutes....right?
    posted by Fizz at 1:31 PM on March 8, 2013


    No, they're the ones who don't get into bed for less than $500.
    posted by griphus at 1:33 PM on March 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


    one jeweler heard I was shopping elsewhere too and actually called me to personally tell me that I was no longer welcome in his store and that I had insulted him by making jewelry about money.

    This is hilarious.
    posted by dogwalker at 1:33 PM on March 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


    We ended up asking a friend of a friend photographer, who later became our good friend, to snap pictures on her DSLR for the wedding.

    That's almost exactly our story (except we paid, and were happy to). That photographer at the time was an "amateur" working at a coffee shop, eager to transition into full-time photo work, and based on the strength of a kick-ass portfolio – built through gigs like our wedding – is now a full-time pro, doing great work and making good money.

    She was motivated to be creative and take fun shots, because she was building a portfolio. She wound up making about $100 an hour for her time taking those shots and then narrowing it down to the 50 or so she made available to us digitally.

    I understand how that might be frustrating to somebody who thinks that this robbed them of the opportunity to make $4000 shooting our wedding, but the truth is it was the low-cost option or taking pot luck from all the relatives with $200 digital cameras who showed up that day. There was never a question of spending thousands of dollars on a pro. There was no opportunity lost.

    I guess my question for the professional that spits on the $100 is whether they even want somebody who thinks $100 is a fair price to pay for photography as a client. This site might be doing them a big favour.
    posted by Shepherd at 1:36 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


    I don’t know, I sort of feel that the professional photographers in this thread could be a little more humble. We get it, people who cannot pay you $500 are not worth your time.
    posted by roomthreeseventeen


    Its really not about being humble or not. Largely, its got to do with the cost of doing business and where you're located. Here in the NYC area, owning and operating a photo business/studio is astoundingly expensive. Its probably less expensive elsewhere. But it does boil down to the fact that its simply not profitable enough for most pros with a large overhead to take low paying gigs like these.
    posted by blaneyphoto at 1:39 PM on March 8, 2013


    Just get someone with a DSLR whose purpose is to snap pictures.

    If you just want somebody to snap pictures, you don't need a DSLR. The value of a DSLR isn't that it takes better photos than your iPhone. It doesn't necessarily. A DSLR offers value because you can switch lenses, and you can control the camera's various functions, and the larger sensor will produce better dynamic range and detail. But if you aren't using a bunch of different lenses, and you don't know or use the camera's different functions, and you aren't going to develop the files' dynamic range in Lightroom or Photoshop, and you aren't going to utilize the fine detail by creating large-sized prints...? Then there isn't any reason to use a DSLR. You might as well use a point-&-shoot camera from Walgreens, or your iPhone.

    And I think that's kinda the point. Using a DSLR, hiring a professional photographer...these are overkill sometimes. Hence, Craigslist/Ourspot.
    posted by cribcage at 1:41 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


    blaneyphoto, I live in Manhattan. I understand what you're saying, but as several people have mentioned, there's a huge market for this, people who cannot afford $500 for some photos that are going to end up on Facebook.
    posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:42 PM on March 8, 2013


    roomthreeseventeen - I know! That's why if you go back to my first post, you'll see that I said there was room in the market for all price points. If someone can find it profitable to do photography for a pittance, so be it - it won't affect MY business. But I sure won't apologize for charging for what my work is worth and turns a profit.
    posted by blaneyphoto at 1:46 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    For everybody who's having trouble finding somebody to get out of bed for $100, I'd like to humbly offer to do it for you. Get out of bed, that is. You can send the Benjamin care of this MeFi account. (I hope the mods will allow this comment to stand, as it is self-promoting, but seriously, it looks like there's an enormous problem finding people to get out of bed for that price. If I can help solve that problem, it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.)
    posted by spacewrench at 1:57 PM on March 8, 2013 [15 favorites]


    If you have a one-off need for decent photos, odds are good that you can borrow a friend with a DSLR camera for an hour. If you want a real photographer, with lighting gear, a studio, and Lightroom and Photoshop expertise, that's way under a budget they're going to work for.

    So... I guess I'm confused what part of the market is going to be served by this that wouldn't just go to their social circle first, and if that failed, Craigslist, which doesn't take a percentage cut.
    posted by tautological at 2:00 PM on March 8, 2013


    tautological, because there are a lot of non-snobbish professional or pre-professional photographers who would probably get out of bed for a $200 wedding?
    posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:03 PM on March 8, 2013


    There's a kid who will mow your lawn for twenty bucks. And a landscaper who will do it for $200.
    posted by seanmpuckett at 2:04 PM on March 8, 2013


    I will get out of bed for $100.

    I won't necessarily do anything, but I will put both feet on the floor and stand up if you send me $100.
    posted by desjardins at 2:07 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


    I would be surprised to learn there are any professional photographers who will shoot a wedding for $200.
    posted by cribcage at 2:11 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    I'm seconding cribcage on that sentiment.
    posted by komara at 2:16 PM on March 8, 2013


    The big issue of "how are people looking at photos" has not been addressed nearly enough by the pro community and camera makers.

    I did a bit of paid work for friends-of-friends on a toddler/parent shoot. It turned out beautifully. Everybody was happy. I made about $300. Yippie! I gave the full rez JPEGs to the parents and then asked them if they'd printed anything 2 months on:

    -They had printed 5 pictures. None of them exceeding 13x11. Instead, the posted the hundreds of 7-10MB a piece JPEGs to Facebook, Dropbox, and G+.

    -They didn't even realize how MASSIVE the pictures were until I showed them how to view 1:1 in Picasa.

    -All of them ended up on a SD card on a 12" digital frame in their living room

    It's hilarious when I look at the 1:1 crops of photos I took for them. I had a Sony NEX-7 that is just under 25MP. With good glass (old adapted Konica lenses costing about $50) and a bit of uprezzing using cheap software you could print a 60x90 inch photo that would hold up under all but comically short viewing distances.

    Sigma just released the DP2 Merrill. It's point & shoot sized camera that produces photos playing in the same league as Pentax Digital MF gear costing $20,000. The camera is $799. Here's a full size sample:

    Please, view this 1:1 after downloading.
    posted by lattiboy at 2:17 PM on March 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


    Also, the equipment "requirements" of a lot of middling photographers is obscene. You don't need a full-frame, flagship camera to do most paid work. You also don't need all that G and L glass. Equipment has gotten so good, so fast there is almost no circumstance where a photographer needs to spend this kind of money to take excellent pictures even under demanding circumstances.

    It'd be like a short order cook at a greasy spoon saying he cannot possibly make your sloppy joe because he lacks a full set of Wusthof Classics.


    PS "Most photogs", not all. I get a very select few do require 791-point active matrix AF and noise free ISO 125,000 and 14-bit 1080p HDMI-direct video. Chances are, they're not shooting your company party.....
    posted by lattiboy at 2:28 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


    Some whiskey is $7 a fifth. Some whiskey is $1,000 a fifth. Something for everyone.
    posted by Lutoslawski at 2:51 PM on March 8, 2013


    The comments about equipment are interesting. Equipment cost is a tangible way to help people understand why pro photography is expensive, but the real value is from skill and experience. I am not a pro, though I have sold a few images, but I do think it might be frustrating to be good at something most people don't appreciate. Particularly something that most people do, like taking photos.
    posted by snofoam at 3:05 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    I would rather have a mediocre but nice shoot for $100 than a great shoot for $2500. The markup in price couldn’t possibly be worth the markup in quality.

    My wife did exactly this for a while. She also did childrens parties, basically saying "You're too busy to hold your camera, let me hold mine!". She very explicitly said she's not a "professional".

    She ended up having "professional" photographers leaving her threatening messages on her website, and she doesn't do it anymore.
    posted by Jimbob at 3:09 PM on March 8, 2013


    I don’t know, I sort of feel that the professional photographers in this thread could be a little more humble. We get it, people who cannot pay you $500 are not worth your time.
    posted by roomthreeseventeen


    I think I understand their tone: an incredible amount of frustration builds up when you spend years of your life in a line of work that people consistently devalue or misunderstand. There aren't many people who, after a day's work, can point to a thing and proudly say "I made that"—a photograph is such a clear and tangible product of labour that it becomes really hard to disassociate yourself from your work. You become so invested that the idea of somebody using a service like Ourspot becomes a personal slight.
    posted by quosimosaur at 3:20 PM on March 8, 2013


    She ended up having "professional" photographers leaving her threatening messages on her website...

    I don't get the grar that professional photogs have for bargain-basement amateurs, but I also don't understand why they don't fight it with the same scam that real-estate agents use: pick a name, trademark it, and market the shit out of it. "Only a ProPhoTM can competently record your images. Don't cheap out and be sorry -- you only get one life; image it properly!"

    Lobby your state legisleazure to pass laws restricting commercial photography, require licenses, all that stuff. It works for restaurants and beauticians, there's no reason it won't work for you!
    posted by spacewrench at 3:21 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    I honestly think the best real world case of people being displaced by technology is photography.

    The rapid improvement in "iAuto" mode on a lot of cameras (especially Sony and Panasonic) has made exposure and iso mere afterthoughts in most situations. Combine that with the level of witchcraft Lightroom is capable of and you've taken the most difficult part of taking pictures out of the equation.

    Not to say there isn't artistry in posing and framing and depth of field, but the idea that all "professional" photographers are talented is a myth. Check out the portfolios of many a small studio and prepared to be shocked (shocked!) by the cliché and hackery people pay incredible sums of money for.

    The last bastion of "you NEED to pay somebody a fair amount for this" skill is lighting, but even there the strobist movement and the advances in flash design on smaller cameras has taken the shine off big setups. The Fuji X100 has built-in flash with such incredible accuracy that you'd swear you had a hot shoe mounted, diffused flash when you look at the results.
    posted by lattiboy at 3:29 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


    I think one of the major "hidden costs" of digital photography is developing the photos. Dragoness's friend gave some good examples of behind-the-scenes costs of running just about any small business, and likewise, skill and experience are important factors that most people do have some awareness of. But I think there's a pervasive idea that when photography moved away from film, developing photos became moot. Many people think Photoshop is for doing wacky things to photos, and they don't know what Lightroom is. "Can you use your photography skills to shoot awesome photos and then give me the memory card?" is, I think, what many customers would like to ask.

    "No," is the answer, partly because of copyright but mostly because no professional photographer is uploading/printing photos straight from a memory card. Shooting digital does not, not, not allow you to skip the step of properly (and to some degree, creatively) developing good photos. You develop with software now instead of chemicals, but you still need to do it. If you were just going to have your casual photos printed out at CVS or Walgreens...then yeah, shooting in digital allows you to skip that step and save five bucks, and you get quality that is roughly equivalent to what that five bucks would have bought.
    posted by cribcage at 3:31 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


    I don’t know, I sort of feel that the professional photographers in this thread could be a little more humble. We get it, people who cannot pay you $500 are not worth your time.

    I think this is a misunderstanding. Aside from the general virtuousness of being humble, I see no reason why an experienced, talented professional should be chastised for trying to explain why their work is valuable. Also, $500 is not a lot of money, depending on the job. It's not like a guy getting $500 for taking photos for an hour or two, it's a business being hired to do a job, with all the expenses that other businesses have, and a lot of work that happens before and after the actual photo shoot.

    The last bastion of "you NEED to pay somebody a fair amount for this" skill is lighting, but even there the strobist movement and the advances in flash design on smaller cameras has taken the shine off big setups.

    I think the emphasis on equipment undervalues the skill of the photographer. In addition to composition and such, a good photographer also has to understand what the client wants, even if they can't express it, and make them comfortable so they look good (if it's portraiture), etc.
    posted by snofoam at 3:41 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    So I've been poking around the actual site a bit. The paid gigs seem mostly legit, if undercompensated. The free ones are an amazing pile of futility. Some provide too little information. Some provide no information. Some appear to be trying to put some warm bodies in the room to fill out the audience. Some are planning to charge you to take photos.

    If the site actually wants to work, they'll need to ditch the free option pronto.
    posted by echo target at 3:48 PM on March 8, 2013


    I think there's a pretty good test for where people will fall on this issue. Open your Facebook feed and scroll through whatever photos are there. Are some of them amazing and a lot of the rest pretty good? Then you don't need a professional photographer for anything. If 90% of them are awful and a handful are nice shots that were reposted from National Geographic, then you are a professional photographer, or you would value using one.
    posted by snofoam at 3:50 PM on March 8, 2013


    Or to think about it another way, basically everyone in the developed world has a camera and I bet more than 90% of them have never taken even one really nice photo in their entire life. Not even just by luck.
    posted by snofoam at 4:06 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    snofoam, I don't think that's true at all. I mean, I have an iPhone, and I think I take great pictures. Maybe I have low standards, or honestly cannot tell the difference in quality.
    posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:12 PM on March 8, 2013


    roomthreeseventeen, in a totally not personal way, I bet you are wrong. I'm sure you take pictures you enjoy, that have meaning to you and that you might be proud of. But the odds are that you haven't really taken a great photo. How many people do you think will paint one great painting in their lifetime? Or write one great song? How much do you think it would change if everyone happened to own a guitar or a set of paints? Why would photography be different?

    Photography is the ultimate Dunning-Kruger Effect scenario, everyone takes photos and almost everyone sucks. Very few know enough to realize how much they suck.
    posted by snofoam at 4:21 PM on March 8, 2013


    Very few know enough to realize how much they suck.

    Very few "professional" photographers know how much they suck. Or at least, how much they take boring, cliched, by-the-book photos. If you're talking about art photography, you may have a point. If you're talking about people who charge $$$$ to take photos at weddings, or prom portraiture, you're talking bullshit.
    posted by Jimbob at 4:24 PM on March 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


    I will give you a $7.00 fifth of whiskey to stay in bed with me. Oh, and, umm...take a picture, too?
    posted by breadbox at 4:27 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    Very few "professional" photographers know how much they suck.

    I totally agree, and it's totally in keeping with what I said. I didn't draw an imaginary line between pros and amateurs. By volume, I would assume that most "professional" photographers are the equivalent of mediocre cover bands and will also never take a great photo in their entire lives.
    posted by snofoam at 4:29 PM on March 8, 2013


    That said, if the folks at the bar have a good time drinking while you play your Bryan Adams covers, or the client thinks your super cheesy photos of their baby are wonderful, then there is value in that, an also a lot more effort than most people realize. A band doesn't get paid to practice, for example, and most people think about the free beer and having fun on stage rather than the lugging of amps and drum kits. People don't appreciate good photography, and they also don't realize the time and expense that goes into even a cheesy photo shoot.
    posted by snofoam at 4:36 PM on March 8, 2013


    snofoam, I don't think that's true at all. I mean, I have an iPhone, and I think I take great pictures. Maybe I have low standards, or honestly cannot tell the difference in quality.

    I don't mean to be harsh, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder yadda yadda, but I think you just explained why pro photographers can get so worked up about these things. If you don't know enough judge your own level of competency, it's safe to say you should probably defer to the person who has spent years doing that thing.

    The key thing to remember is that pro photographers are really only hired for special events. Any old photo is fine most of the time but it's sometimes worth the extra money to hire a pro. A professional won't only take better versions of the photos that you would've taken, they're job is also to produce images that you never even considered. Anybody who has studied photography has probably come across the idea that taking a photograph is not a simply a matter of recording what happen in front of your eyes, but rather, it's the act of reconstructing what just happened in a way that resonates even more intensely than perhaps the real event itself.
    posted by quosimosaur at 4:41 PM on March 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


    f you don't know enough judge your own level of competency, it's safe to say you should probably defer to the person who has spent years doing that thing.

    Sure, but, with all due respect, I'm the consumer.
    posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:49 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    By volume, I would assume that most "professional" photographers are the equivalent of mediocre cover bands and will also never take a great photo in their entire lives.
    posted by snofoam


    Ah, but then you get into the sticky business of defining what a "great" photo actually IS. Reminds me immediately of that bit from Dead Poets Society.
    posted by blaneyphoto at 4:49 PM on March 8, 2013


    All photographs are interesting if you wait long enough, so I can't accept the idea that most people will go their entire lives without taking a great one. But that really has nothing to do with being professional. I saw this the other day and it seems relevant:

    Photography is so pervasive, so powerful in our culture. We spend our lives, not only surrounded by images, but now taking pictures and posting them. It's fascinating, really. It's the one art form that everybody is capable of performing flawlessly. (Maybe nsfw)
    posted by Lorin at 4:52 PM on March 8, 2013


    Any old photo is fine most of the time but it's sometimes worth the extra money to hire a pro.

    A lot of the time, any old photo is fine; so why isn't there allowed to be a market for people who go and take any old photo? Why, whenever a site like the one in this post appears, do professional photographers jump up and down and complain, when it's not work they'd be willing to do anyway? As I said, my wife wasn't trying to go to kids birthday parties and be Annie Leibovitz. She was offering a service where she's go and make a nice record of the event, as an outsider, so that everyone at the party was included and parents didn't have to spend their time running around with their point and shoot instead of enjoying the event. And she ended up with a "professional photographer" threatening to launch a social-media war against her.
    posted by Jimbob at 4:55 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


    Photography is so pervasive, so powerful in our culture. We spend our lives, not only surrounded by images, but now taking pictures and posting them. It's fascinating, really. It's the one art form that everybody is capable of performing flawlessly.

    And yet, he also said this:

    "There are more and more books produced on photography each year, and my main job is in weeding out the strongest ones--it can be like panning for gold, but it means the collection I have built has integrity."
    posted by quosimosaur at 4:59 PM on March 8, 2013


    And she ended up with a "professional photographer" threatening to launch a social-media war against her.

    I hope that you guys saved the threats and shared them on that photographer's website or reported them to the better business bureau or something. My sense of Batman demands that they were brought to justice somehow.
    posted by Joey Michaels at 4:59 PM on March 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


    I think I disagree philosophically or whatever, with others in this thread. Saying that every photo can be great is like saying every string of letters can be a great poem in the eye of the beholder. Most people can't even find a decent photo of themselves to put on a dating website. Surely if the world was awash in great photos, people would bother to use them in order to get laid. To each his own, but I will say that basically anyone who thinks the photos they take now are great could probably learn about photography and be amazed at how much better their photos could be. The reason why almost all photos are terrible is that people are so self-satisfied they don't learn to do better.
    posted by snofoam at 5:01 PM on March 8, 2013


    Not trying to argue that editing doesn't matter--in fact I'm really not trying to argue anything, just espousing my particularly stubborn point of view re: what makes a photograph interesting; even William Eggleston was just some guy with a shoebox full of snapshots before Szarkowksi got a hold of him.
    posted by Lorin at 5:06 PM on March 8, 2013


    I hope that you guys saved the threats and shared them on that photographer's website or reported them to the better business bureau or something.

    They were left anonymously through a comment form; we decided it wasn't worth trying to track them down by their IP address or anything. I just raged about it on Twitter, in view of a number of people I suspected...
    posted by Jimbob at 5:28 PM on March 8, 2013


    Just skimming the portfolios, you can see that some of those photographer are decent to good ... and other suck rocks. (Selective color on B&W? Really? Did you just get Photoshop yesterday?) I don't think this website will disappoint photographers nearly as much as it will clients.

    Smart photographers already do work to capture the market that won't pay $500 bucks. My friend Kate does "mini-sessions" - 1 location, 30 minutes a client, 10 retouched images for download. She can stack up 2 or 3 days a month of that type of work. People who wouldn't have called to get a Valentine's day photo of their kids, but are happy to do it for 50 bucks.
    posted by 26.2 at 5:33 PM on March 8, 2013


    Saying that every photo can be great is like saying every string of letters can be a great poem in the eye of the beholder. Most people can't even find a decent photo of themselves to put on a dating website.

    Yeah, I agree with snofoam. I've taken a lot of pictures, and I like to think I know a modest amount about how to do it, but I've taken maybe 3 or 4 that I can think are anything approaching a "great" photograph. I used to get annoyed with people who didn't understand photography, but it's really just unfortunate for them that they're content with terrible pictures and don't have the inclination to realize their ignorance. But then that's easy for me to say since I'm not a professional and don't have a financial stake in it.

    On the other hand, there are certainly a lot of people who take terrible pictures and call themselves professionals. I'm not sure if the internet has made that worse or just made it more visible.
    posted by junco at 5:50 PM on March 8, 2013


    I'm very uncomfortable with descriptions of people who don't "understand" what is essentially a subjective art as "ignorant".

    Do we get to call Jay-Z fans ignorant because they don't like Wagner?
    posted by Jimbob at 6:05 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


    If you've seen truly great photography, generally speaking you know it. Its amazing what a difference things like line, framing, composition, lighting and subtleties of tint and color can make in the final product - not to mention a knowledge of post-production things like cropping, framing and (in some cases) editing.

    Some of the professional photographers that I respect will sometimes take like 10,000 shots of (for example) a landscape and then not use any of them because none of them are quite right - but then they find one that is perfect and make a print that you'll never forget. Others have a unique personal style that they bring to everything they photograph (there's a local photography company out here called Firebird Photo that I am going to have enough money to hire to make me look fabulous and retro someday). A great deal of thought, effort and timing goes into most of the great art photographs (yes, occasionally there's a photo that is amazing and the photographer just got lucky).

    Sometimes, I think many people define a good photo as "my cat looks so cute in that picture" or "damn, I look goooood." Sure, that's one way of defining a good picture - it captures the moment and its in focus and the people in it look cute. But there's a huge difference between a photo that captures the beauty of a person and and one that captures both that person's beauty and personality.

    Anyhow, a great photographer hopefully not going to be too impacted by a service like Ourspot. A mediocre photographer is potentially going to lose work to equally mediocre amateurs. All the more reason a photographer needs to develop and master their art so that people want to hire them over any Tom, Dick or Harry with an iPhone camera.
    posted by Joey Michaels at 6:05 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    Do we get to call Jay-Z fans ignorant because they don't like Wagner?

    No, but if they never bother to listen to Wagner and insist that Jay-Z is somehow better, we can call them ignorant all we want.

    Similarly, if you've never bothered to look at great photography but insist that Uncle Smitty is as good a photographer as Man Ray, then you get to be called ignorant.

    If, on the other hand, you've listened to a bunch of Wagner and still prefer Jay-Z, you are merely exhibiting good taste. Wagner is overrated.
    posted by Joey Michaels at 6:07 PM on March 8, 2013


    If you've seen truly great photography, generally speaking you know it. Its amazing what a difference things like line, framing, composition, lighting and subtleties of tint and color can make in the final product - not to mention a knowledge of post-production things like cropping, framing and (in some cases) editing.

    Some of the professional photographers that I respect will sometimes take like 10,000 shots of (for example) a landscape and then not use any of them because none of them are quite right - but then they find one that is perfect and make a print that you'll never forget.


    And yet, a thousand years from now which do you think historians will find more valuable, one perfectly composed landscape shot, or 10,000 smartphone snapshots of people's daily lives?
    posted by Pyry at 6:11 PM on March 8, 2013


    And yet, a thousand years from now which do you think historians will find more valuable, one perfectly composed landscape shot, or 10,000 smartphone snapshots of people's daily lives?

    I know which ones art historians will prefer.
    posted by Joey Michaels at 6:13 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


    I'm very uncomfortable with descriptions of people who don't "understand" what is essentially a subjective art as "ignorant".

    Do we get to call Jay-Z fans ignorant because they don't like Wagner?


    That's two totally different things. Somebody who prefers Jay-Z over Wagner, having put some effort into understanding Wagner's music and its context and still aesthetically or emotionally or whatever enjoys Jay-Z more isn't ignorant of anything. And craft goes into Jay-Z's music just as it did Wagner's.

    Which is completely different from somebody who doesn't understand the difference between bad photography and good photography because they haven't studied the technical aspects of photography and the aesthetic history of photographic art. They are ignorant by definition, which I'm not really using in a pejorative sense, although willful and self-satisfied ignorance is pretty obnoxious.
    posted by junco at 6:15 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    And yet, a thousand years from now which do you think historians will find more valuable, one perfectly composed landscape shot, or 10,000 smartphone snapshots of people's daily lives?

    Upon reflection, let me respond differently. My larger point in that wall of text I posted was not to put down amateur photography, but to point out that part of the difference between most great photography and most average photography has to do with style and work. It is not to say there's no value in amateur photography and I can prove that I believe that by sharing 15,000 pictures of my cats if you'd like. That quote you responded to, out of context, was part of a larger point and, out of context, means something different than it meant in context.
    posted by Joey Michaels at 6:24 PM on March 8, 2013


    There was a FFP some time ago about pissed off wedding photographers who had made a series of short CG movies to explain their plight. The cognitive dissonance was rather telling, as they had used a cheap on-line movie-making service to create the animations, instead of hiring actual CG professionals, voice actors, writers etc.

    The only reason why there's such GRAR in pro-photographer circles is that the bar to get good enough pics has been lowered dramatically and that's eating their business. I guess that it's not amusing to see ads and corporate documents with photo credits that point to Wikimedia pseudos. Fact: many good enough images that would have necessarily required professional talent a few years ago can be done with a point and shoot today, and no amount of hand wringing, fits of rage or threats is going to change that. Professionals should focus on the kind of great pictures that still cannot be done by enlightened amateurs (due to less hardware or experience), or adapt their prices and services to the new situation, but the good enough market is gone.
    posted by elgilito at 6:30 PM on March 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


    I work in event photography. It's true that above a certain threshold, most people can't discern/don't care between "ok" and "great." As an "artist" it drives me crazy, but as a businessperson... I don't actually care. This site doesn't bother me, either, because it's clearly not for people in the market for a professional. That's ok.

    I'm a professional because I do this EVERY DAY. I have photographed HUNDREDS of parties. Anything that could go wrong already has at some point, and I'm prepared for that. My camera will not break. If it does, I have a backup. And an extra flash. And an extra lens. And someone to fill in if I get sick. And I have invested in the right equipment that works, and isn't fussy. A drunk person falls into my light? That's ok, it's sandbagged; worst-case scenario, I've got another in the car. How will you get your photos? I have a website; here's a nicely printed card with the address where you can find the proofs. Hire me, and you don't have to think about the photography. It will happen, and there will not be a disaster, and you will get your photos in a timely manner and you will be happy with them and you will put them on Facebook. Hooray.

    (And a year later when you want to order a print or lost the files I sent you, I will still have the RAW files and will be able to find them quickly.)

    All of that doesn't actually have much to do with the quality of the photos, but it has a LOT to do with the quality of the photographer. There's a lot more that goes into "taking photos" than clicking a button, or even spending a lot of money on equipment. There's a lot more to making a living as a photographer than taking gorgeous photos.

    (And this is just event photography... Photojournalism or advertising or product photography all have work and professionalism that go into them beyond the photos themselves. I mean, I can count and neatly fill out a form but I still hire an accountant, you know?)
    posted by ruby.aftermath at 6:32 PM on March 8, 2013 [17 favorites]


    I find bad photography incredibly compelling. There's an element of its lack of polish in many of the masters that I admire, perhaps merely as a result of changed perceptions regarding colour and sharpness due to technical advances, or a less quantifiable sort of looseness in framing or style. (An amusing example of this shift in perception might be people booting Cartier-Bresson from "Rate My Photo" groups on flickr, but that's probably a better example of the aforementioned ignorance!)

    I've long collected shoeboxes of old slides, weird old photo albums and anything else I dig up from thrift stores, but it remains to be seen whether vernacular photography will hold the same level of interest when future generations are buried in an absolute mountain of it. That said, and more on topic I suppose, if I were looking for portraits, or wedding photographs, or shots of product I would still go with a professional.
    posted by Lorin at 6:44 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    "Fact: many good enough images that would have necessarily required professional talent a few years ago can be done with a point and shoot today ..."

    I don't mean to put words in your mouth but I'd like to assume you meant "would have necessarily required professional-grade equipment" instead of talent.
    posted by komara at 6:56 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    My larger point in that wall of text I posted was not to put down amateur photography, but to point out that part of the difference between most great photography and most average photography has to do with style and work.

    Yes, of course, the difference between great art photography and amateur art photography has to do with style and composition and so forth. However, most people aren't necessarily looking to create art, but to produce a record of their lives, in which case sheer quantity may be more valuable than composition and white balance. In which case, they might be better served by hiring ten $50 photographers rather than one $500 one.
    posted by Pyry at 6:59 PM on March 8, 2013


    In which case, they might be better served by hiring ten $50 photographers rather than one $500 one.

    If nothing else hiring non-professionals may make it easier to negotiate copyright, which is something professionals seem to be particularly sensitive about.
    posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:45 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


    A joke we told to each other at Art School:

    Q: What's the difference between a pizza and a Photographer?
    A: A pizza can feed a family of four.

    That joke is so funny, I'm now an IT wonk. The work I did as a shutterbug was more demanding than the work I do as a firewall guy, and the work I do now is really freakin' demanding.

    As it is in all modern art, what you can actually do takes a firm back seat to who you suck up to.

    $100 for "quality" - fuck you, pay me.
    posted by Slap*Happy at 7:47 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


    Yeah, I agree with snofoam.

    Thank God someone does! I'm not a professional and not an artist, but I do a lot of wildlife photography for research purposes and every year I can look back and see how bad my favorite shots from last year are. I suck, and I'm better than most people and I take 50,000 photos or more each year. As an art form, it is perhaps the most under-appreciated. No one ever went up to Keith Richards and said, your new record sounds killer, you must have an awesome guitar. Unless you're Ansel Adams or one of a handful of other photographers, you could do better and you will improve with pratice.
    posted by snofoam at 7:53 PM on March 8, 2013


    No one ever went up to Keith Richards and said, your new record sounds killer, you must have an awesome guitar.

    That is literally exactly what happens: Aspiring guitarists crowd the stage between your sets and snap photos of what guitar you're playing, what amps you're playing through—and more importantly, since this is more affordable for them to emulate, what effects pedals you're using.

    Name a guitarist and hit Google. You will find many more discussions about gear than about who he studied with, what keys he favors, whether he practices with a metronome, etc.
    posted by cribcage at 7:59 PM on March 8, 2013


    That is literally exactly what happens: Aspiring guitarists crowd the stage between your sets and snap photos of what guitar you're playing, what amps you're playing through—and more importantly, since this is more affordable for them to emulate, what effects pedals you're using.

    No. There are certainly people who admire certain guitarists to the point of wanting to emulate their tone by using the same equipment, but generally speaking, folks who only strum a few chords know that even if they had the exact same rig they can't play like Eddie Van Halen or Jimi Hendrix. Millions of people think that if they had a fancy camera they would instantly be able to take amazing photos. In this respect, photography is unique amongst all forms of art as far as I can tell.
    posted by snofoam at 8:10 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    My first experiences with professional photographers were school photos when I was a little kid. It was also my first experience with IP law... it was flabbergasting to find out that even though my parents had paid for the photos to be taken and I was the one who had to get all dressed up in itchy formal clothes and endure my mother's hair-styling efforts and then stand in line for a couple of hours waiting my turn, it was the photographer who owned the picture. Despite it being a picture of me, if anyone wanted copies of it they had to pay the photographer; with it being illegal to even make a crappy black-and-white photocopy on your own.

    Then in high school a group of friends and I who didn't see any point in spending fifty bucks for a fancy bound yearbook when what we actually valued was the signatures and messages other people were going to write in it, and didn't appreciate the fact that the teachers (and students too, of course) who volunteered for and managed the entire project had to spend quite a bit of their own money and do all the work to actually lay out and typeset the official yearbook (quite grueling in that distant pre-computerized-desktop-publishing era) didn't actually receive any of the profits from yearbook sales, decided to make our own independent yearbook. But it turned out that even in a public school system the administrators were quite buddy-buddy with all of the publishers and photographers and other companies that actually made all the money, hence we were forbidden from doing so.

    In the subsequent decades most of my contact has been with wedding photographers who stand in front of all of the wedding guests to be in position for the very best shots, thus ruining everyone else's photos, and then get to charge all those guests for copies of the photos they've already been paid hundreds or thousands of dollars to take.

    So, while I'm sure there are lots of nice people who are professional photographers (in fact I'm sure of it because in a business context I've worked with them and have gladly paid top dollar for high-quality work) there seem to be many intent on milking every last cent out of preferential arrangements, and for those ones I have difficulty feeling much sorrow over them receiving similar treatment from new competitors or new middle men in the game.
    posted by XMLicious at 8:18 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


    I'm interested to see what my mom thinks of this site.

    No, seriously, because she's a pro photographer, and she's generally affordable. Too affordable, really. She's been shooting since before I was born, so 40+ years now. She actually teaches photography, or used to.

    She's incredibly good at portraiture photography. Not the stuffy posed studio stuff, but incredibly good, natural candid photography that captures people at their best. It's not just shooting a few posed pics and going home. She's trying to artistically "paint" you and catch you off guard and unaware that you're even being photographed.

    She's not the kind of photographer that's going to take offense at the competition, but she will do our family's characteristic "sniff of consternation" when she finds out a potential client spent, say, $500 on someone who sucks at photography when you could have hired her for the same or less and gotten a lot better, more natural and more artistic looking photos that'll still look great 20 years from now.

    But people just don't understand that and don't understand photography as an art in general. It's not just about nicely focused, high shutter speed and wide depth of field shots of the snapshotty sort. Focus and exposure are tools to gather atmosphere and depth of the memories involved.

    And the work of a photographer isn't done when the last picture for the shoot is captured. Photographers go home and spend many more hours processing the RAW files and sorting and collating and selecting and cropping. They also spend a lot of time dealing with archiving and backups and stuff, and there's the time and materials cost for the storage and so on.

    So when you hire an inexperienced amateur you could be passing up someone like her with 40 years of experience in film and digital for roughly the same price with 100x the results - but like any visual creative artist that's something that comes down to the viewers own tastes and experience, too.

    Sure, a lot of people just don't care and just want some flat visual record of the event. But you could also be passing up owning some real art that's based on your own life at incredibly affordable prices.

    I could see her using this as a way to pick up more work, and I could see it just gutting her existing market because she underprices her work so much. She underprices her work so much that you could afford someone like her and give your up and coming amateur friends a chance at the same time, and your amateur friends could work as casual freelance assistants and learn a whole lot more than if they were just doing it alone.

    It's complicated and frustrating. I've already seen the bottom of the market fall out for graphic design and writing, and it worries me to see the same happening with photography. For design it's arguable it didn't help produce any finer quality work, if anything there's just a lot more really bad design out there in the world despite the massive increases in technology and knowledge available to create better design.
    posted by loquacious at 8:22 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    2bucksplus jokes about a free ad-supported option but I actually wouldn't be surprised if it's not long before you can order a group of drones to flit around your event and take photos in exchange for being plastered with ads or for engaging in some other promotional or marketing-intelligence-gathering activity. Maybe people will be selling the rights to the airspace at their wedding to pay for the table centerpieces in a few decades.
    posted by XMLicious at 8:23 PM on March 8, 2013


    I had the worst time arranging our wedding photographer. We knew we wanted good professional photographs taken by someone with the equipment and knowledge to shoot in the low light conditions of our venue. But our wedding was literally a cocktail party. There was no wedding party, no vows, no nothing but people we loved having nibbles and cocktails for a couple of hours at the same time as our officiant filled in the license. And I literally could not find a photographer who, once they heard the words "getting married" did not insist on a 14 hour package, shadowing us all day while we got ready, with pictures of my shoes and the wedding cake we did not have. Three hours before the "wedding", we were feeding our cats and logging off our laptops--shit we did not need photographed, did not want photographed. I simply could not negotiate with professional photographers for a reasonable price for what we wanted.

    I absolutely knew I wanted and needed a good professional, at reasonable professional rates, but under no circumstances was I going to pay bullshit wedding rates for three hours of candid shots at a cocktail party.

    I understand that most weddings are complicated and horrible to shoot. But pro photographers need to understand that one size does not fit all.

    We hired a corporate event photographer for three hours and his shots were amazing. He got all the important people and we all looked happy and beautiful. But I hired him because he was the only person who did not think I was trying to cheat him when I refused to book a "wedding".
    posted by crush-onastick at 8:35 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


    Crowd sourcing and automation works terrors on labor in subtle ways. Maybe this won't bankrupt every wedding photographer. But crowd sourced micro stock agencies destroyed the careers of who knows how many photographers. And online printing mills got rid of the few local labs that were left after the digital transition. Now you've got 100,000 photographers looking for a job in the field they loved.
    posted by Halogenhat at 9:13 PM on March 8, 2013


    Millions of people think that if they had a fancy camera they would instantly be able to take amazing photos. In this respect, photography is unique amongst all forms of art as far as I can tell.

    I think this is true of most visual endeavors which involve electronic equipment that "normal" people use in their daily lives. Everyone has a camera. Everyone has a computer. Everyone thinks they use them pretty well, and are reasonably competent. Nearly everyone thinks they're good at graphic design, for example, or would be, if they just took a few minutes to fool around with a decent program.

    But crowd sourced micro stock agencies destroyed the careers of who knows how many photographers.

    But one of the reasons for that is that a lot of projects just don't have any budget for stock photos, just as many people don't really have the budget for a professional photo shoot. If I'm on a super-tight budget for a design job and the client needs images they don't have themselves, I always try to get them to buy nice ones (usually it's pretty apparent when shopping for images that the $100+ single-use images are a lot better photographs than the $10 use-all-you-want snaps, but often the budget is $100 for 10 images.

    And frankly, for the kind of quick-and-dirty, low-exposure projects that have budgets like that, it would be insane to pay for a super-lovely image. It would be lost on the client, lost on the intended audience and so on.
    posted by maxwelton at 10:16 PM on March 8, 2013


    So, an anecdote about the value of the trained eye of a pro photographer.

    A once-upon-a-time special someone was a pro photographer. We were texting pictures back and forth one night, pictures of the unclothed variety. I sent him a shot, and he sent back, "drop the phone 6 inches, tip up a bit, and take that one again.*" The reframed shot was, indeed, obviously, significantly better. Overly simple example, for sure, but a real eye-opening moment for me.

    *This is an approximation, the actual message was way more personal and vulgar.
    posted by mollymayhem at 11:37 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


    Millions of people think that if they had a fancy camera they would instantly be able to take amazing photos. In this respect, photography is unique amongst all forms of art as far as I can tell.

    I see you are unfamiliar with the "give me house paint and some rollers and I'll give you a Rothko" school of modern art criticism.
    posted by sonika at 7:50 AM on March 9, 2013


    I see you are unfamiliar with the "give me house paint and some rollers and I'll give you a Rothko" school of modern art criticism.

    To me that's a totally different phenomenon. The implicit assumption there is that modern art isn't great painting, not that everyone is capable of making great paintings.
    posted by snofoam at 9:18 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


    This is not a perfect site, but it's interesting: Can you tell which camera takes better pictures? (Hint: the exif data often gives it away, so don't look at it.)
    posted by desjardins at 9:31 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


    I tried that site last night. I compared a compact camera (RX100) to a full-frame DSLR (5D Mark III) and got nine of ten right. But I also noticed that all twenty images had been edited, and most of them weren't anything more dramatic than pointing a camera in a direction and pressing the shutter. The couple that were, were dead giveaways: One was a wide-angle landscape that would be impossible to shoot with a compact, and another had bokeh that you couldn't achieve with a compact.

    So I think it's misleading for the site to talk about which camera is better, when the lesson is more, "As long as you're shooting roughly the same type of vanilla frames, and as long as you know how to use curves in Photoshop, and as long as you're just going to be posting your images as reduced-size JPEGs...then your compact will perform just fine." Which is a valuable lesson, actually; I think lots of non-photographers waste money upgrading their cameras when they'd be better served spending $80 on Lightroom, or even learning a few tricks in iPhoto.
    posted by cribcage at 10:04 AM on March 9, 2013


    "Or to think about it another way, basically everyone in the developed world has a camera and I bet more than 90% of them have never taken even one really nice photo in their entire life."

    Later on you move the goalposts, but right here you're wrong: Ninety percent of people who own a camera have taken at least one really nice shot. They may not know what they did, it may not be intentional, but there's at least one.
    posted by klangklangston at 10:09 AM on March 9, 2013


    Regarding the difference between a professional and an amateur: I shoot small photo gigs from time to time. I've done headshots and author photos for other MeFites, I've shot events and bands, and done a couple features for Vice. I usually get paid about $100, sometimes a little more to cover, say, shooting slide film. But I'm just a pretty good amateur at that stuff.

    Some of the important differences:

    1) I may not get the shot you really want. I've got a pretty good eye, and have been around photography pretty much my whole life. My mom's a photo prof. But I still struggle to make sure that the bounce flashes are working correctly and that the lighting's right and etc. etc. Pros both have better gear, making them more versatile, and have a better head for conceptualizing a shoot before it happens. Most of my digital stuff is equipment DaShiv used to use and has now upgraded from. I was the third shooter on a wedding of some of my friends, which meant shooting a bunch of Holga shots. About a good two thirds of the film had technical failures specific to the Holga. But hey, they knew that going in and the rest of the shots are pretty gorgeous.

    2) If something goes wrong, they're covered. I don't have insurance or anything — if something falls or somebody gets hurt, well, that's gonna be an awkward conversation, isn't it?

    3) They generally have studios. I shoot pretty much everything outside, in natural light, with just a little bit of fill flash. Sometimes I shoot inside, and I can pull that off, but like I alluded, the bounce flash I use is a wonky mess of way too many settings and I still haven't gotten the hang of it. Being able to control the environment gives pro photographers a lot more control of the image.

    4) They have more time to dick around in Photoshop, and more subtlety there. I can fix a double chin or offset some of the lighting that I didn't think about at the time, but even though I know how to lay down the multiple layer masks to do the color correction to make something perfect, I'm not going to unless I'm getting paid enough to make that worth my while. For freelance stuff, in general, I ballpark about $20 an hour, and what would take a professional about 20 minutes takes me the full hour to get it perfect.

    5) This isn't my only job. I have a day job, and I do freelance writing (ironically, mostly for a publication called The Picture Professional right now), which means that unless there's a hard deadline, it's rare that the photos are my top priority.

    The thing of it is, for a lot of folks, those differences won't matter. It won't matter that they're not getting the best photographer available, especially not for their budget. I'm pretty fun to work with, I grew up shooting film and toy cameras so I know how to improvise and make something work — while people may not get the exact shot they want, I can usually give them at least one really solid image — and people who work with me generally know and like the kind of photos I take.

    I definitely understand the pain of not having a professional skill valued — I've had a couple of years where I lived off of freelance writing, and know what it's like having to trawl the low-ball Craigslist shit while you wait for a magazine check that's six months late. With photography, just like with writing, most people have no idea how much time and effort it actually takes to do something well, and people are cheap. (I'd argue that writing gets it even worse, since people at least realize — and often fetishize — with photography there's a camera necessary.)

    That doesn't mean there aren't shit tons of hacks and folks willing to lowball, but honestly, you get what you pay for. Sometimes that means that what you need isn't all that great, and you're not going to hurt for using an amateur. But you'll probably feel better about the experience if you find a professional and pay them like they're a professional.

    (I'll also add as a caveat, that most of my photography experience comes from the fine art and alternative processes side of things, which is a lot broader in practice and can have a bit of an odd relationship with commerce.)
    posted by klangklangston at 10:37 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


    komara: So why does the idea of a centralized and commercialized version of that transaction feel like such a dirty dirty thing to me?

    It's possibly because they are doing much the same as payday loan companies and the like: skimming the income from those poor enough that $100 is worth leaping out of bed for, and at 8% stand to make quite a bit from it.

    If an individual part-time/amateur photographer benefits from being able to charge less because they don't have insurance and are unregulated then that's no bad thing really (as long as the client is OK with hiring them on that basis because they don't want or need a career professional). If this company cashes in on the same lack of regulation and insurance (etc.) and aggregates all those individual gigs into a healthy profit, then that isn't so cool.

    Not that it's a bad idea (hell, I've signed up just in case they go global, that fridge full of film doesn't pay for itself), just that in a perfect world it would be a friendly/mutual society doing this non-profit, and providing cheap insurance and legal help for the members and clients.
    posted by titus-g at 11:24 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


    I studied photography for 5 years, have a degree, worked as a professional photographer for 10 years. I love photography, but never really reached that level I needed to reach to ensure a comfortable existence and a regular reasonable paying client base. I spent many of the first years pulling the occasional high paying job - but slept on the floors of friend's apartments, and developed and printed in cupboards and under roofs.

    In Australia, not only did we face competing with 'hobbyists' - to whom I lost a considerable amount of work (but that was part of the deal), but we also started seeing 'agencies' running photo competitions, whereby a client could build a huge library of rights-less images for offering a $1000 prize. Until the late 90's, we weren't even sufficiently covered by the copyright act - in fact, if you hired me to take an image for you, you owned the rights of that image, even if you didn't pay.

    I don't begrudge those who spend money on equipment, and want to take beautiful images for people - it's a passion that gets in to your bones. Those agencies/clients who think a high mega-pixel camera makes those who own them as good as a professional photographer, learn very quickly that's not the case. But it grinds you down being proved right, time after time.

    I point the camera at my family now - and still get the occasional offer for work (which I decline) - it was a hard/fun road, but my enjoyment of photography is now more pure sans the stress of being a 'professional'.
    posted by a non e mouse at 2:49 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


    It seems to me that those "hobbyists" figured out something important before you did - photography is more rewarding without insisting on being paid for it, and getting aggro when you don't.
    posted by Jimbob at 3:08 PM on March 9, 2013


    I get that professional photogs (people who make a living, pay their mortgage and raise kids through the pay received as a photographer) don't like being undercut by someone who doesn't have the same overhead or, more importantly, isn't looking to make a career out of it. And I understand their argument that it does, on the aggregate, cheapen their work product.

    No one likes to be undercut. The guy who makes $100k doing freelance web development with an eye towards PCI compliance for ecommerce sites doesn't like the idea of the 17 year old who dabbled with enough WordPress and php calling himself a web developer saying that he'll work for $10/hr. Does that mean that a web developer might cost $10/hr and might cost $100/hr? Yes. Will the first guy get out of bed for a $100 job that will take all day? Certainly not.

    But that's just like the pro photogs won't get out of bed for $100 while there are amateurs (e.g., momtographers) who will. And there's the small army of people who think that wanting to be paid a livable wage (hint, it's way more than $1000 to shot a 12 hour wedding day, cull and edit all the photos and layout the book) is an outrageous demand.

    Every professional doesn't like the idea that their work product is being cheapened and no one wins a race to the bottom (see, Apple excepting, the home PC industry).

    However, it's easy to tell the first web developer from the second and one could argue that the first web developer isn't losing any business to the second. Anyone who couldn't afford his rates simply wouldn't have a website and now, thanks to the second web developer (or, more accurately, people like the first developer who have made things like WordPress, Drupal, Squarespace), they can.

    But what about photographers? It's "art" so it's all subjective and a blah blah blah ... But I'm sure there are people who look for a photographer and think "I've got $100 to get portraits done, what will that get me" and they may like what they get. They may not see anything wrong with them, compared to the photos that would be taken by a photographer who cost $1000 for an afternoon's worth of photography and a night's worth of post-processing. In fact, the client may prefer the $100 photos for one reason or another.

    And that's the biggest problem. Most reasonable people will understand that a pro photog will have insurance (needed to do event photography since no venue will let one in without a copy of their policy rider), redundant equipment, a half dozen contingency plans and will do things like show up on time (after all, a livelihood's reputation is on the line). And they'll understand having to pay more for the pro photog.

    But when none of those things matter, then they'll go with the $100 portrait package hands down. They just don't see $900 worth of better image.

    The law of diminishing returns (in thanks, largely to the accessibility introduced with digital photography) is biting the pro photogs in the ass.
    posted by Brian Puccio at 4:22 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


    "However most small photographers refuse to deal with the amateur, not only because he is setting up in a sort of unfair competition, but even more because he is jeopardizing the specificity of their activity."
    -- Pierre Bourdieu; Photography: A Middle-brow Art (1965)

    Every time I have cause to dig out that book, I realise how little photographers have changed over the years, even if their medium has; not a bad thing :D
    posted by titus-g at 4:46 PM on March 9, 2013


    I've been a full time pro since 1976.

    I have zero problems with this.

    When the umpteenbazillion amateur photographers end up being paid for some of their work, and file IRS 1040 Schedule C forms, this could be just the thing to lift the USA out of our problems with the deficit.
    posted by imjustsaying at 4:49 PM on March 9, 2013


    My family owned and operated a successful photography studio for the better part of four generations. The digital revolution more or less destroyed our business however. With no one really willing to pay thousands for a wedding shoot done by lifelong pros, touched up by artists with thousands of hours experience using real airbrushes and such, framed in a magnificent piece carved by a third generation framer, etc etc etc. I have more than a bit of a hate for digital photography as a whole as a result.

    This sucks, but photography stopped being an pros game long ago.
    posted by mediocre at 10:56 PM on March 9, 2013


    Jimbob - not sure what you mean..
    Are you having a dig at me because I chose photography as a career?
    posted by a non e mouse at 1:31 AM on March 10, 2013


    I think this is a great resource for people who are being driven crazy by professional photographers.

    I am someone who /would/ pay for professional photography, but would /prefer/ to use a service like that. And maybe that's a good thing - maybe it will knock professional photographers down a notch, and that is a /good thing/.

    Why? Because I'm looking for a professional photographer right now to photograph my wedding, and it's incredibly frustrating. I want to pay someone to come to the wedding, take a vast multitude of pictures, process a small handful of them, and then give me all of the digital images. Maybe I want to put them up online, maybe I want to keep them and do something with them later. I don't want a wedding book. I don't want prints right away. I want to give people my money, but they don't want it. No photographer that I can find offers that - it's all about how many prints you want. Or they don't list prices or what they will do at all. I am willing to pay thousands for what I want, but I am not willing to pay thousands for not-what-I-want. I would rather have what I want shot by a slightly lower quality photographer, than have to deal with someone who is too good to give me what I want - copies of the photos.

    So professional photographers, maybe you need to look at what the demand is for and alter your services accordingly. Not everyone wants a third-generation-carved frame for wedding pictures. Some people want and love the digital.
    posted by corb at 6:56 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


    But that's just like the pro photogs won't get out of bed for $100 while there are amateurs (e.g., momtographers)

    What ia a "momtographer," exactly? Because surely being a woman and a mother is not what determines whether someone is a professional or amateur photographer.
    posted by hazyjane at 9:27 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


    I don't mean to put words in your mouth but I'd like to assume you meant "would have necessarily required professional-grade equipment" instead of talent.

    Yes and no. Digital photography does not just make taking pictures easier from a technical perspective, but it allows shooting and experimenting a lot for a minimal price. With film, this kind of experimentation was only possible (and affordable) for rich amateurs and professionals, which was extremely frustrating for anyone who was neither rich or a professional. Today, anyone with a point and shoot and an interest in photography can acquire skills much more quickly, and learn to create good images much faster than it would have been possible 20 years ago, when one had to burn through rolls and rolls of film and have them developed in expensive labs to get anywhere. 100 vs 200 ISO? You needed two cameras! For a training perspective, the instant feedback alone is just wonderful. I remember that unfinished rolls could stay in the camera for months because I would not waste the remaining shots...
    posted by elgilito at 10:37 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


    What ia a "momtographer," exactly?
    posted by hazyjane


    Here and here.
    posted by blaneyphoto at 2:00 PM on March 10, 2013


    Photography & videography, in comparison to other event services -- catering, officiating, music provision, decor, ceremonial garb purchase or rental, space and furniture rental, hair and makeup and nail styling, publicity and invitations, and childcare -- are basically the only bits where the payoff doesn't come until after the event. As a person who did not purchase professional photography services for her ten-minute wedding -- the attendees took turns taking snapshots on our consumer-grade digital cameras -- I appreciate the professional photographers in this thread explaining the features I would enjoy if I went the luxury route and hired pros for future events. People with strong aesthetic senses would enjoy the photos more, I might get my photos faster, and certain risks would be mitigated. One benefit no one here has mentioned is that I may have better recourse if a paid freelance photographer acts badly (for instance, inappropriately following around an attendee and harassing her under the guise of taking photos) than if it's someone within my organization or friend circle doing so. So I'll remember that the next time I'm planning a personal event. But amateurish smartphone photos seem good enough for me and my purposes, most of the time, so the deciding factor will be: are there people affected who will specifically dislike amateurish photography enough, or need the photos fast enough, that they will find the difference to be worth me spending hundreds of dollars? I see more promise in paying for videography because I care more about the difference between what I can do and what a skilled practitioner can do.
    I've already seen the bottom of the market fall out for graphic design and writing, and it worries me to see the same happening with photography. For design it's arguable it didn't help produce any finer quality work, if anything there's just a lot more really bad design out there in the world despite the massive increases in technology and knowledge available to create better design.
    What I see is more stuff being made, which is a good thing. Unless it's actively causing harm, more functionality and more websites and more prose and more frippery is good, even if a lot of it high-caliber. My obsolete, hard-to-navigate website is better than me not having a website. The fact that I can have zero-marginal-cost amateur photos of birthday parties and sacred string ceremonies and hackathons and unconferences and barbecues and one-woman shows and funerals and book launches is a great gift, one that my parents did not have, and I'm grateful.
    posted by brainwane at 3:23 PM on March 10, 2013


    "For a training perspective, the instant feedback alone is just wonderful. I remember that unfinished rolls could stay in the camera for months because I would not waste the remaining shots..."

    Yeah, though I'll say that the ease of digital and the AI that it has does mean that the process of learning is more "This is what a good photo looks like" than "These are the steps to get a good photo," and that means that a lot of people don't get past the stuff that you can get from auto and a decent lens. Not better or worse, but it is one of the reasons that I still shoot film, because it's less of an instant reaction and more of a conscious process.

    "So professional photographers, maybe you need to look at what the demand is for and alter your services accordingly. Not everyone wants a third-generation-carved frame for wedding pictures. Some people want and love the digital."

    I'm sorry that you're having trouble getting what you want where you live, but many, many, many photographers will give you exactly what you want. (If you lived near Southeast Michigan I could give you recommendations for a bunch.) The only caveats are that they may hold on to the hi-res shots and just give you 72 dpi stuff, or they may leave a watermark on it, just because a lot of folks that do primarily digital event/wedding photography can be really stressed about their IP rights. And some charge more to do digital packages because they realize that they're not going to get that residual business of everyone in the family buying prints, which helps support the overhead. (A decent analogy might be buying a cell phone — you can get ones with no plan, but they usually cost a few hundred bucks more than having the plan subsidize the price.)
    posted by klangklangston at 3:34 PM on March 10, 2013


    elgilito: Yes and no. Digital photography does not just make taking pictures easier from a technical perspective, but it allows shooting and experimenting a lot for a minimal price. With film, this kind of experimentation was only possible (and affordable) for rich amateurs and professionals, which was extremely frustrating for anyone who was neither rich or a professional. Today, anyone with a point and shoot and an interest in photography can acquire skills much more quickly, and learn to create good images much faster than it would have been possible 20 years ago

    Okay, I absolutely get what you're saying there and I agree with the idea. I myself never would have become a photographer without digital because I didn't have the patience and finances to burn through roll after roll of film. Still, I don't think this addresses your original quote of:

    Fact: many good enough images that would have necessarily required professional talent a few years ago can be done with a point and shoot today

    I believe I understand what you mean to say, which is something like "digital photography grants more people access to the path of becoming a photographer because it's cheap and easy to use" but I do not agree with the idea that a point-and-shoot can somehow replace talent.

    I've seen pictures taken with a disposable camera that blow my mind, and I've seen (far far too many) pictures taken with expensive gear that look no better than what Joe Average could do with a cell phone. Talent for photography transcends equipment. Yes, a point-and-shoot may help someone recognize that they have talent, but it can't generate it.
    posted by komara at 7:24 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


    Amen to that, Komara.
    posted by a non e mouse at 12:17 AM on March 12, 2013


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