Momtographers , Newbies and the jealousy of Photographers...

I've been meaning to write this post for awhile now. I visit a few photo forums, Facebook groups dedicated to photographers, etc. If I see one recurring theme over and over it's photographers complaining about how "everyone with a camera now thinks they're a photographer." The statement arises from (mostly wedding & portrait Photographers) losing jobs to newbie photographers who last month were a barista or working at Best Buy. I understand the frustration of an ever-growing and crowded photo market, but many of these people feel it's ok for them to go from being a cashier to a photographer, but not for anyone else to do it.

Time and time again I've defended new photographers entering the market. You can't blame someone for falling in love with photography and realizing they can actually make a living off of it. But in the midst of this conversation one term comes up a lot that really bothers me. That term is "Momtographer." A Momtographer is a word used almost always in a derogatory way to mean someone who is "just a mom" but who "fancys themselves a "real photographer."

I read things like "I lost that wedding to a momtographer who probably doesn't even know how to use her camera on anything but auto mode." Or I cant believe they went with that lady; she's just a mom with a camera." The assumption is clear; if someone is a full-time, stay at home mom then they lack the experience, skill or talent to become a real photographer and should leave it to the "pro's"

There's a couple points I'd like to make. First of all I've always said that I'd rather have the eye and instincts of a great photographer than all the technical knowledge in the world. To have both is ideal, but creativity and fearlessness trumps perfection every time. Many of these Moms have yet to perfect the technical, but can blow away some of the more seasoned people with their amazing ability to capture beautiful moments. They've been shooting photos of their kids for several years before they get the opportunity to actually make money doing it.

The second point is the obvious (or maybe not) sexism in the word momtographer. I've never ever heard a guy being called a "dadtographer. If a father suddenly decides to make a life change and become a photographer he's just a new photographer. It's always struck me as odd, the lopsided ratio of male to females in the world of commercial photography. I've seen some women with such an amazing eye and instincts that it puts a lot of guys to shame. I believe women many times see things differently than men and bring their own set of strengths to the table that a man doesn't have. I also believe men do the same in our own way.

I've heard story after story about women who walk into camera stores and get treated like second class citizens or idiots by men working There. I have a theory as to why this is. In my opinion you have guys who have spent years trying to learn everything there is about cameras and all things technical related to photography and they've yet to realize their dream of being a professional photographer. So in walks a mom with her kids in tow looking to buy the newest $5,000 camera. The guy behind the counter says to himself "I can't believe this mom thinks she's a photographer; she didn't even know the difference between a CMOS and CCD sensor. So because she's a working photographer, has a few questions that he of course knows all the answers to, but he's woking retail for $10 an hour, he instantly becomes bitter and treats her with contempt.

Thirdly; what does being a mom have to do with any of this? How is a single, childless woman who leaves a job to become a photographer different than a woman who finally after her 2 kids start school decides to become one. This woman with kids has done a very hard and demanding job ensuring the safety, feeding, discipline and nurturing of live human beings. To me that qualifies someone to run the set on a large advertising shoot from top to bottom.

So let's leave the word momtographer behind, at least in the derogatory sense and give these women the respect they deserve. I guarantee any woman with even one child works harder than you, no matter what job you have. And many of the skills she's acquired doing so make her perfect for a photographer, especially for people's life events.



Photographers, Photo Schools and What Makes a Photo

I've been a full-time photographer for over 10 years now. Due to me basically throwing away the first 21 years of my life, I never went to college. So when I became a photographer I had to teach myself everything. Back then there's were little in the way of online tutorials or blogs that walked you through the process of becoming a photographer. Not wanting to be a hack; I would sit on the floor of book stores in Nashville and learn all I could about the art and craft of photography. Fast forward to today and as many people are fond of saying "everyone is a photographer now." The field of photo making has definitely become very crowded with people buying their first camera and then literally the next week being paid to do a shoot. Due to the sudden influx of these new photographers many older, established professionals look down on, make fun and fear these "newbies." They act like the old guy telling the young kids to get off his lawn. They bemoan about how these young people are destroying the culture and business of photography with $500 photo shoots. I personally welcome any new/young photographer into the field. We all had to start somewhere; none of us entered the scene knowing half of what we should have.

But what does make me sad is the way photography is being understood by so many new shooters. As well as talking to photographers in Nashville, I belong to several photo groups on Facebook, Google + and others. These are places where new photographers post work to be seen and critiqued by others in the community. What I've seen for the last few years is a heavy emphasis on gear and lighting. Someone will post a great photo and all anyone wants to know is "what lens did you use?" Which brand of lighting was it" What camera did you shoot it with", "What f/Stop did you use?", etc. I never see anyone ask "how did you get the person to smile like that?" "What's the story you were trying to tell?" etc.

In these groups if a photo is even the slightest bit soft, out of focus or shadowy it gets berated as a bad photo. Meanwhile any photo, no matter how boring, stale or hum-drum it is gets raves upon raves if the lighting is "technically perfect" or there's a "nice bokeh." Basically, someone will post a photo of a girl standing with a bland pose, no emotion, nothing to draw a person in, but the background has pretty, blurry bokeh and people will say it's the greatest photo they've seen all day.

They are not seeing the humanity behind the photo, only the machine. My fear is that we are raising up a generation of photographers that don't understand that what makes a photo great is not the technical as much as it is the human connection. Some of the greatest photos have been; blurry, poorly lit, grainy, etc. but the one thing they all have in common is that they have captured a moment that evokes an emotion from the viewer. This is especially important for commercial photography, as the photo needs to prompt the viewer to take an action (buy a product or service, donate money, etc.)

I've never been a big fan of photo schools because A) I never went to one B) I've heard a lot of people talk about how much they focus on fine art and not on commercial photography. But I'm recently changing my mind on the subject. I know see that without a proper education in the history and fundamentals of photography a person can easily think it's all about what brand of gear you use or how technically perfect you can light a shot.

A photo school won't teach you everything you need to know to become successful, but the foundations are essential to the story telling that is photography. For those who can't go for one reason or another; do what I did and park yourself on the floor of a book store and learn all you can.