Sunday, August 13, 2006

Photography: Are you a professional?

Check out this great diatribe on photography's vanishing middle-class on The Strobist. It reminded me of a short story I heard. All true.

A "professional" (sarcastic quotes justified at the end of the story) "photographer" (heh) visits a professional camera shop. She talks about a problem with her pictures that she cannot figure out the cause of and needs help. The consultant asks if she has her pictures with her. She pulls out a Wal-Mart envelope (making the consultant cringe a little) and fans out the pictures.

Thoughts go to a flash sync problem, or something blocking the flash. Shadows cast on the subjects as if she was standing in front of the flash. Was there a hood on the lens? No. Didn't look like a strap. Well, let's take a look at the camera and double check the settings, see if something got bumped off. She reaches in her small purse (uh oh) and pulls out a tiny Pentax Optio digital camera! This is someone who represented herself as a professional wedding photographer to the poor people who hired her!

The solution to her problems? Stop taking pictures as a professional. Now, if she had a portfolio showing some creative work she's done with her 'toy' digital camera, terrific. I would love to see those pictures, and there are people who would hire her in order to achieve that look.

In my previous post (yes, it's been awhile) I talked about how the chase of equipment stalls your creativity. But when you represent yourself as a professional photographer for hire, you need at least the minimum amount of equipment to achieve what your clients are looking for. Some photographers can use the bare minimum. Check out Callie Lipkin's Holga weddings. She's achieving the look that her clients expect, and doing it with the bare minimum requirement for her look: a $25 toy camera.

The lesson? A friend had a great observation that just because you can print your own business cards that say "Photographer" on them, does not make you a professional. It's how you represent yourself.

Do you have any horror stories derived from "professional" photographers?

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