Wednesday, February 16, 2011


This isn't a piece aimed at people trying their hand at photography, learning photography or giving it a go. This is aimed at the current trend of people picking up a camera in Argos and calling themselves photographers a week later. Its become far too easy for someone to setup a facebook or blog page "Joe Blogs Photography". A quick search on facebook for photography brings back a depressingly large amount of shockingly bad "photographers" who wouldn't know their aperture from their ass and far too many people charging (weddings, christenings, etc.) stupid amounts to take no better than snapshots for the persons special day. Anyone with a compact in their pocket can do as good and better.

So, I had to vent and I will probably come off seeming like a total cock, but fuck it, its pissing me off and I have to say something!

I've been taking photos on and off for 28 years, 22 of them using film, something I keep meaning to go back to more, waiting days to see your photo was a very different thing. But I wouldn't dream of calling myself a photographer, I just takes photos, I love taking photos, people, gigs, street, long exposure, whatever, I just love taking photos. I don't know if they are good and don't care because I am not charging for it, I enjoy it, I experiment, I learn, I look at scores of other photographers work on flickr, deviant, facebook, everywhere! I wait with eager anticipation every year to see the results of competitions like World Press Photo - which this year has some cracking winners, including Seamus Murphy (who has been in the awards for a number of years), and a few other Irish photographers too.

I know how to use my gear, I know what button does what, I know the technicalities of the buttons, I know when to best use flash but more importantly, that in most situations its better avoided unless you can absolutely nail it. I know how to pick a selection of photos that represent a theme or event. I do photography, but I would not call myself a photographer. There's a difference between showing your shots as "Joe Blogs Photography" and passing yourself off as "Joe Blogs Photography" the photographer.

One example I came across recently was a young lad. He picked up a camera around the New Year, and is now charging fairly substantial amounts for a shoot. I thought fair play to you, doing something you love and earning a living from it in these hard times. How foolish I could have been, a quick look through his work showed no style, no knowledge of lighting, of framing a shot, of editing a shot, of lighting a shot, of presenting a shot, really of even taking a shot. Now theres nothing wrong that if you are learning and starting out, but don't start calling yourself a photographer and charging people for muck long before you are capable of taking a photo that is worthy to be hung somewhere. In fact there was not one single photo in his entire (albeit very small) portfolio that was anything more than a snapshot and a bad one at that. Now I may be being very critical, but this person is charging fairly large amounts for shoots.

Pop-up flash is not flash. On camera flash is not really flash. Get that flash off the fuckin camera, in fact if you can, get rid of the flash and use the ambient light, get that aperture wide open and bump up that ISO. But again there lies the problem, "whats aperture, whats ISO". What? Oh yes, AUTO is where its at. A quick look at EXIF confirms that. "Photographers" lack of knowledge of photography and their cameras is actually shocking. It doesn't take much more than a bit of effort to learn it, theres isn't actually that much to it.

Another example, I can see is focusing, some prime examples being well established photographers taking photos without a glimpse of sharpness and I'm not talking about sports or gig shots here, but well lit, flash shots, no excuse for substandard sharpness if you are handed the perfect environment. Over editing or lack of editing for that matter is so prevalent its depressing, do these people not take pride in what they photograph?

One of the areas I love is long exposure photography. LONG EXPOSURE. That means people give me advice saying things like "if you raised your ISO" (ok, some people do understand ISO, or the concept of it anyway), you could take that photo a lot quicker". ehhhhh, no. "The clouds look a bit blurry, and the sea looks funny, you should shoot a faster speed". ehhhhh, no.

Or the other one, "putting a photo through Photoshop isn't photography, photography is taking the raw file as is, because if you were any good you wouldn't need to put it through photoshop" (not that they shoot in RAW or know what it is) . Having an image ready for use straight off the camera is a great feeling, but not often achieved. But, how long have you being taking photos? "3 years" Film or digital? "Digital of course, film is archaic". OK, so you haven't spent hours in the darkroom getting your print the exact way you want it then. Get fucked and get yourself an education, Photoshop used right is not wrong.

Then when someone comes to you and asks for advice. You give them constructive criticism, tell them how the photo might have been better, and they turn around and tell you you're an idiot and don't have a clue. Then don't fucking ask me for advice, I've better things to be doing than helping out a sap that is looking for an ego boost rather than a little advice that has been asked for.

Of course theres the other side, theres some great photographers in Ireland, to name a few; Anouska, Becca Naen, the use these girls have of natural lighting would make the sun sick! Richie Buttle is one of the best strobist's around, and openly gives advice and shows setups on how he achieves his shots, invaluable information. Upcoming photographers like Ian Keegan bring great diversity to their portfolios, like Deirdre O'Sullivan who is constantly out there snapping and not just picking up their Argos special when some poor unsuspecting customer fronts some money. Janer for gigs and portraits, Al Higgins particularly for his film stuff, Humberklog for film and stitching, David O'Shea for adorable portraits of his daughter, Hugh Chandler for portraits, loads more I've forgot. A photographer should stick out in your mind for something. Look them up, get on photography forums, flickr, deviant art, pix, study their stuff, learn from them, be inspired.

OK, enough of a rant, my main point being, don't dare even think about charging someone for taking a photo or calling yourself a photographer until you know your equipment, know how to use it, and know how to take a photo.


  1. Waow!! That was not only a scream but was well said... I just wonder which category you would put me in... Don't say... Mmmmm

    Damien, aka Skooal.

  2. Hi Shay,

    I know nothing about photography but from looking at your work for the past year i would love to learn. I have a camera that has all the buttons for ISO etc but have no clue what they mean, i simply use auto because it was bought for taking pictures with the family or special occassions. I have no intention of being a photography but i would like to learn how to use the camera to take a better picture.

    Any advice?

  3. Sorry lads, apparently blogger doesn't notify on comments!

    Dont worry Damien, not aimed at you at all at all!

    Hi Derek, Auto is fine for family occasions, prob best as you're not messing about testing settings, and you can just relax and shoot - but when a "pro" is charging and shooting Auto its a bit of a joke.

    To get into photography more, the best advise (how i learned) is just to shoot shoot shoot, you'll soon get the hang of it all, and while experimenting you'll get some great unexpected shots.

    Also, try and always have a camera nearby, a lot of my shots are just opportunistic and I've rarely been somewhere without a cam of some descriotion!. Flickr and deviantart are great places for ideas and inspiration.

  4. "Or the other one, "putting a photo through Photoshop isn't photography, photography is taking the raw file as is, because if you were any good you wouldn't need to put it through photoshop" .... OK, so you haven't spent hours in the darkroom getting your print the exact way you want it then. Get fucked and get yourself an education, Photoshop used right is not wrong."

    Quoted for truth! I shot film for about fifteen years myself and worked in a darkroom for about seven. Rarely did I have a shot that was 100%, all-over perfect for exposure. Even some of my very, very best shots needed a little dodging and burning here and there.

    Found this through the You are Not a Photographer FB page. Love your rant. :)

  5. Cheers for the mention Shay :)