Bigtimers, or self proclaimed “Professional Photographers” are popping up everywhere you look these days. They tend to be on every social media and photo sharing website you can find; always busy trying to promote workshops and print sales. For those that don’t know, I got my first DSLR in 2006, and got hooked on photography right away. I don’t claim to be a “professional photographer” by any means. I’m completely self taught, haven’t taken any workshops, and learned everything I know from books, the internet, and simple trial and error. I’m still learning, and feel like I will always be learning something new in regards to photography.
Along the way, I have asked for help on a few forums where the “professionals” hang out, but I rarely get any valuable information. It seems that these “professional photographers” tend to be very competitive, and secretive about technique, and processing. They are usually busy trying to sell workshops and such, and very rarely will they offer you any of their secrets for free on the forums. That’s just how it is, and it’s probably not going to change any time soon. I get quite a few e-mails with photography questions, and even though it may take me awhile, I always respond in some way or another. Even if it’s just to pass on a link to something helpful; that usually takes me less than 30 seconds, and unless it’s something very hard to find on the internet, I sometimes wonder why people don’t just google the topic themselves.
Bigtimers – The self proclaimed “Professional Photographers”
This brings me to the title of this post; BIGTIMERS. Bigtimers are a certain breed of self appointed professional photographers that really get on my nerves these days. They are not true professionals in their field by any means. They sell a few prints here and there, have a fancy website, offer workshops, and carry around the latest $1500 tripod. These parking lot shooters don’t get out much, because they are too busy working their real jobs that actually pay the bills. The photos they do make are usually from one of their recent workshops, where they should have been teaching something instead of photographing. They spend their free time looking for attention on photo sharing sites such as flickr, instead of participating in critique forums where they can actually improve their craft. Sites like flickr help them to build up their false egos, and they would much rather get a pat on the back by some beginners, than have their photos ripped apart by professionals that know what they are talking about.
What is the definition of a professional photographer? Anyone can be a self titled professional photographer, and charge you for workshops and processing techniques, but that doesn’t automatically qualify them to teach anything. A professional photographer is a photographer who earns 100% of his income from photography. This is the definition required for entrance into the Nikon and Canon factory support organizations for example. 95% of these bigtimers don’t fall into this definition at all. These people think that just because they offer workshops, or have been photographing for 10-20 years, it automatically qualifies them to label themselves as a “professional photographer”. It doesn’t matter if they have been taking the same boring, crappy photos for 20 years, they somehow think the time spent entitles them to be labeled a “professional”. The term “professional photographer” gets thrown around so much these days that it’s hard to even take it serious. The term alone, certainly doesn’t define the quality of the images coming from a lot of these folks.
Just because someone has been painting for 20 years, does not mean that they are a professional painter. If they haven’t improved greatly over that 20 year period, then maybe they haven’t studied the art well enough? Maybe they shouldn’t teach painting either. With that said, I do realize that there are some people that are very natural at certain art forms, and that surely gives them a head start, but don’t think that these folks don’t also work to fine tune their work. Photographers like Ansel Adams, and Galen Rowel were gifted for sure, but that alone is not what got them to the levels they reached; they were also constantly fine tuning their techniques, and visions.
Photography has really blown up over the last 5 years, and these days it’s easy for one to learn quickly with the advances of digital cameras. The competition is stiff, and the folks that are making a living with photography, are not doing it with mediocre images. There are plenty of novice, amateur photographers doing workshops these days. Most of these folks are not even qualified in my opinion. The reason they are selling workshops? Because it’s the easiest way for them to make money as a photographer. Most of them can’t sell or license prints, because their work just simply isn’t good enough. There are REAL professionals out there that have waaaaay better images for sale. They can’t pitch their work to a professional marketing director, because these marketing guys are trained, and they can easily spot these bigtimers coming from a mile away. Every once in awhile one of these bigtimers will get lucky and score a deal by pricing their images way lower than they should be, not even realizing the affect it has on all the REAL professionals out there trying to make a living. They don’t mind giving their work away for little to nothing, because 95% of them don’t depend on photography for their income anyway.
You may be asking yourself why I even care about these bigtimers, and why they get on my nerves so much. I don’t compete with them for business, and I’m not a professional photographer. I know the old saying, “fake it till you make it”, and that’s exactly what these folks are doing. I simply can’t stand their false egos, and arrogance, when I run into them on the internet, or in the real world.
They remind me of a teacher I had in college. He was teaching a somewhat advanced course on computer server security and firewalls; a topic that I had studied on my own for quite some time, and considered myself fairly knowledgeable. To make a long story short, he shouldn’t have been teaching the course, and I felt like I was getting ripped off. To make matters worse for himself, instead of admitting when he didn’t know something, he would try to talk his way out of it. More of a communications expert than a computer security expert. I spent the whole term embarrassing him in front of the class, and I’m pretty sure that he will never forget me.
I’m generally very friendly with people while out photographing, and it amazes me how many of these arrogant bigtimers that I run into all over the place. Some of them will barely respond to a friendly greeting. Some of them never stop talking about gear and how professional they are. Some of them are eager to give you their business cards, and talk about their upcoming workshops. I could easily call out a few bigtimers as examples, but they are easy enough to spot for yourselves. I’ve learned to mostly just ignore them altogether these days, unless I’m bored and feel like pushing their buttons for some free entertainment. I felt like ranting though, and this one has been brewing for quite some time, so there you have it. Thanks for making it through my random, unorganized thoughts…