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Author Topic: The evolution of professional photography  (Read 9689 times)
Pete Ferling
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« Reply #40 on: March 20, 2010, 01:28:12 AM »
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Quote from: Schewe
Technology is neither...it just is, what it is. The fact that clients, in this day and age and under these economic times perceive the costs to have gone down and the difficulty to have gone down are simply unwilling–in general–to pay what they used to pay willingly.

And when I said "Photoshop" is what has changed the industry, I wasn't kidding. The craft of photography is now digital and shots are assembled and retouched either by a photographer or retoucher and the skills required to "get the shot" in a single exposure are no longer valuable...

That's not to say this isn't a great time in photography, it is...and Photoshop has been very, very good to me...but to be a working commercial photographer these days ain't much fun as it relates to the commerce (of which there ain't much).

And none of this has anything to do with how good images are now or were years ago...there are great images being made all the time. And it really has nothing to do with talented amateurs or weekend warriors...what it has absolutely everything to do is current nature of the business for working pros.

I hear you Jeff, and whether or not technology is blessing or menace if of ones own perception (I find it to be a blessing).  

This isn't just photography, it's video, animation, the whole damn thing.  To do the basics once require expensive equipment and know how...  Clients then were also educated in that and so they understood the high prices those skills commanded, otherwise it simply couldn't be done.  

Today's clients simply don't have the time or care... let me put this way: a few years ago we'd all go down to the studio and spend the entire day messing around with the shoot.  Everyone had a part, and it was like a party of sorts.  It meant something... you don't need that anymore.  My last photo-session was scheduled in outlook for 2pm today.  I spend ten minutes setting up and logging into a desktop sharing application.  My clients, two designers, were four states away watching their screens.  They directed me over a speaker phone, and while I set the next shot, they went about working on other projects.  I'd shoot, then call their attention.  They would suggest a change, ten minutes later I had another shot.  We went back and fourth over the course of an hour until we got the shot.  That was it.  Job done.   It's very hard to justify $2500-$4000 for that kind of work.

I remember doing the math when they first hired me as the inside guy, how much money I save them in the course of a single year.  Five years ago a photo-shoot was $2500/day, a thirty minute training video was $35,000, an interactive CD/DVD was $50,000, and three minutes of 3D animation would run as high as $90,000 (As a medical device company, we're commanded some pretty high fees).  So, it's not too surprising that I averaged a savings of 1/4 to 1/2 mil by bringing this in-house, and all thanks to digital technology making it cheap.  I still have fellow employees wondering why I get my own studio, three workstations and all those 'toys'.  They don't get it, that it's all paid for.  More importantly, I'm happy, I get to make a living doing what I love.  I still do side work, and it helps, but no way do I see myself doing this full time on my own.  I still get calls from friends doing freelance work, needing me to shoot side jobs, and these corporations are only willing to front $200 or so for the work.  I laugh.  It's true, tightwads all of them.  Not because they're broke, but because they'll find a sucker hungry enough to bite, and then beat them up over it.  There's no glory or respect in that.  One of my ex-coworkers, Mike, tried freelance, and he's very good and always busy, but was living hand to mouth.  Fortunately he was able to land a job as the inside designer for another corporation, and couldn't be happier.

Weddings are different, from what I've seen, that's a tight group and fees are competitive.  Too risky to allow an amateur or 'Uncle Joe' ruin a one chance in a lifetime moment.  So, of course it's easy to justify the cost.

This was a great question, and a good discussion.  I'm not the expert, even after twenty-five years, and only the last eight of them professionally. But this is how I see it. I'd be curious to know if others have a similar story.
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fredjeang
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« Reply #41 on: March 20, 2010, 04:46:43 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
... the point is being respected and paid properly for what you do as a professional ...
Rob C

I think that Rob's resumed here a recurrent point that has also been said many times in this thread.

The other Rob's point about reliability, or guarantee is to take into consideration IMO, even if we do not want or like the rules.
There is no way that the wave of the 200 cash works made by people who live in their parent's house and have no idea of the cost of living and of course do not provide any kind of guarantee is not going to change. Averageness is not going to disapear tomorrow.
But maybe it is up to the professional then to make an accurate communication in order to justify that this does not cost 200 but 20000.

Well, when reading Pete's story above, I can tell that it is the story I hear very often now over and over again, regardless of generations, talent etc...
I confirm that it also happen exactly the same way in advertising and design.
I could have written exactly the same words, just changing few names.

Many years ago in Paris, I used to live in a little street and there were 3 jazz clubs. After awhile, they started to work with musicians ready to play for free in order to gain experience etc...this had been said in this thread. They just provide then the beers.
Well, the professional musicians that used to play here where indignated. But what happened to these clubs that wanted to make more money at the expense of the artists, or save whatever could be saved is that they ended close very fast after applying this politic, the 3.
Because then, they could not justify any more the expensive entrance and the audience started to change for broken people who did not consume drinks at the bar...they did a very bad calculation.

So I guess the client end to know who is doing a good job at the end. Or it is just a wish  

Fred.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2010, 04:53:48 AM by fredjeang » Logged
Rob C
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« Reply #42 on: March 20, 2010, 05:06:43 AM »
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Quote from: Pete Ferling
This was a great question, and a good discussion.  I'm not the expert, even after twenty-five years, and only the last eight of them professionally. But this is how I see it. I'd be curious to know if others have a similar story.




Absolutely right, Pete, and why I suggested that the OP's request for pro opinion be respected. Without that, what's the point, it just becomes another hand in the pants and looking in from the outside situation where the topic gets swamped by imaginary scenarios writ large in ignorance of reality.

I quoted a South American entrepreneur saying one should never fall in love with one's business. I think he was right. The problem when you do that with photography is you stop looking at the thing in an overall manner and allow yourself to become drowned, bemused, confused or otherwise messed up with what often becomes the conflict between making a good living and satisfying your ego. The sad truth is forgotten: you can still enjoy photography as an amateur unless you happen to fall in love with fashion or something very cliquey like that where it is impossible to work in your own vacuum. You like still-life? Go right ahead and shoot what you like; landscape your passion? well what's stopping you? The thing is, if you have skills enough to earn a good living in something else, why remain in photography unless you are able to crack the top ranks of it? Your life can become one of frustration because even getting to the top does not guarantee you will be able to remain there and tasting something you then lose is worse than not knowing what's gone for ever. That's what's wrong with falling in love with your photographic business.

I will never forget my father-in-law once speaking to me on this very matter; he ran a surveying business very successfully and his jewel quotation to me was this: I don't care if I have to measure a shithouse or a palace - I get well paid either way. At the time I was shocked because my own view on photography was the opposite. I was young, enthusiastic and full of dreams of the highlife. I went out on my own and for a while I did anything I thought would pay the rent: passports, a few weddings, and then came the day when I found myself standing on a miserable church step, in the drizzle, waiting for a couple to arrive. I had this vision of David Bailey drive past the scene in his Rolls, smile and drive on. It was the last wedding I accepted - thank God - and I went on to dedicate the rest of the time not to working in order to keep working, but to doing the work I craved, regardles of where it led. Fortunately, it did take off and we led a fairly good life, but I will not say that the financial returns bettered anything I would have managed to earn had I worked in something related to school results, had I followed the normal career patterns, in other words.

So you sometimes have to make the call on whether you want the Merc or the good-time. You can sometimes have both, but don't build your dreams on it.

Rob C
« Last Edit: March 20, 2010, 05:09:00 AM by Rob C » Logged

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« Reply #43 on: March 20, 2010, 05:47:36 AM »
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I won't excuse myself for dipping my amateur toes in this discussion, but feel free to skip to next post.

What I find surprising is how many view the needs of the client as a peripheral matter, and that the (pro) photographer knows better. I wouldn't go as far as describing it entitlement, but there's certainly implied ignorance of the needs of the client in some posts.

The customer is king, just like in every other business. Much can (and should, in fairness) be said about art, but by and large photography as a paid profession is a craft where marketing and general business acumen play a huge part. If the customer doesn't care about appropriate composition or accurate colors, they shouldn't be forced to pay for it. As much as it pains me (again, an amateur) to see poor quality work in magazines and even ads, if the AD doesn't care or even notice, I can assure you the unwashed masses won't.

A good example is wedding photography. A friend of mine was planning a wedding and dragged me along to assess the quality of a potential photographer's portfolio. They were looking for someone young and eager with a strong vision - and we found one. He wasn't dirt cheap, but he didn't cost five figures, either (this was in DC area 5 years ago). There are other couples who want the dirt cheap photographer because they just want a record of the wedding with mostly correctly exposed shots. Then there are others who want artistic rendition of a fairy-tale wedding, shot by a big name, framing a signed canvas print in their den.

Competition is good for the customer, and industries should try to meet the customers' needs better. Having fly-by-night photographers building a portfolio for gas money, and high-end fine art pros not getting out of their bed for less than five figures, and everything in between is a Good Thing. Gone are the days when the price of entry to photography was so high that there were only a few pros out there to fill all those needs. Now there are different guys meeting the requirements, which means smaller piece of the pie, but customers get more opportunities to get their needs met. This is not a unique feature of the photography business as it has happened in many others as well.

Adapt or perish.
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fredjeang
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« Reply #44 on: March 20, 2010, 08:55:37 AM »
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Quote from: feppe
I won't excuse myself for dipping my amateur toes in this discussion, but feel free to skip to next post.

What I find surprising is how many view the needs of the client as a peripheral matter, and that the (pro) photographer knows better. I wouldn't go as far as describing it entitlement, but there's certainly implied ignorance of the needs of the client in some posts.

The customer is king, just like in every other business. Much can (and should, in fairness) be said about art, but by and large photography as a paid profession is a craft where marketing and general business acumen play a huge part. If the customer doesn't care about appropriate composition or accurate colors, they shouldn't be forced to pay for it. As much as it pains me (again, an amateur) to see poor quality work in magazines and even ads, if the AD doesn't care or even notice, I can assure you the unwashed masses won't.

A good example is wedding photography. A friend of mine was planning a wedding and dragged me along to assess the quality of a potential photographer's portfolio. They were looking for someone young and eager with a strong vision - and we found one. He wasn't dirt cheap, but he didn't cost five figures, either (this was in DC area 5 years ago). There are other couples who want the dirt cheap photographer because they just want a record of the wedding with mostly correctly exposed shots. Then there are others who want artistic rendition of a fairy-tale wedding, shot by a big name, framing a signed canvas print in their den.

Competition is good for the customer, and industries should try to meet the customers' needs better. Having fly-by-night photographers building a portfolio for gas money, and high-end fine art pros not getting out of their bed for less than five figures, and everything in between is a Good Thing. Gone are the days when the price of entry to photography was so high that there were only a few pros out there to fill all those needs. Now there are different guys meeting the requirements, which means smaller piece of the pie, but customers get more opportunities to get their needs met. This is not a unique feature of the photography business as it has happened in many others as well.

Adapt or perish.
I joined some Feppe arguments also. I have to admit that if there is a pauperization of the classic professional photography nowdays, I think it is also fair to say that in the "golden age", many pros where truly living like kings, with outrageous incomes and a very kind of star life style. I know a few here and they were truly having fun, lot of nightlife, expensive hotels etc...like rock stars. Now they still earn money but much less, this time is gone or only reserved to a very few on the very top.
Now there are more people that have access to the profession, ridiculous incomes compared to the "golden days" and as Feppe pointed, also the client has more choice. Yes, there are certainly many abuses from that situation but I guess it also depends a lot from wich point of view we look at the reality.

Now, "adapt or perish" is certainly a rude concept that I'm against, in general not only in photography. Feppe, you never know if tomorrow you will not be on the side of "difficulties in adapting yourself". Nobody knows and if it just means "you are now useless", "just perish". Well...this is a war mentality that forget that older and experienced people are here to teach us things when it's time for them to slow down. Just a precision I wanted to add.

Fred.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2010, 09:27:31 AM by fredjeang » Logged
Dick Roadnight
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« Reply #45 on: March 20, 2010, 09:18:20 AM »
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Quote from: Jeremy Payne
... and I bet you had to walk uphill to school in both directions, too.

Come on, Dick ... get real ... there are plenty of talented photographers shooting weddings every day ...

... and they don't need view cameras, the couples want and expect video, too ... and they aren't interested in 4 foot prints ... welcome to the 21st century.
In the 21st century we now have the tools to produce 4 foot prints better than the classic four foot family portraits of the 16th century... most couples look their best on their wedding day, so, why should photographers with 60Mpx cameras not offer portraits as part of the "wedding" deal?
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fredjeang
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« Reply #46 on: March 20, 2010, 11:24:41 AM »
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Do you think that Magnum will survive the changes?

Fred.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2010, 11:24:57 AM by fredjeang » Logged
Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #47 on: March 20, 2010, 01:14:09 PM »
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Amatuer status in photography is not a slur on photographic skills but it does not necessarily entitle respect in a discussion among pro's about the nature of the business of photography which has little to do with the art form of photography. If members are not interested in the comments of amatuers who have never run a photographic business about their business strategy and the nature of the specific business side of things in this day and age then I can respect that.
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« Reply #48 on: March 20, 2010, 01:47:14 PM »
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Quote from: fredjeang
Now, "adapt or perish" is certainly a rude concept that I'm against, in general not only in photography. Feppe, you never know if tomorrow you will not be on the side of "difficulties in adapting yourself". Nobody knows and if it just means "you are now useless", "just perish". Well...this is a war mentality that forget that older and experienced people are here to teach us things when it's time for them to slow down. Just a precision I wanted to add.

Adapt or perish is a concept which drives business - it applies more to companies, but it is also relevant to individuals. The way I use the phrase is not meant to be rude and was not meant to contain a value judgment, but it is more of statement describing how the world is. It is harsh and unforgiving, but those who refuse to adapt will perish: their revenue streams dwindle and clientele thins.

Not sure how well it applies to photography business, but from what I've read here and elsewhere it seems like it is just as applicable there. That's why so many successful working photographers do workshops to augment their income, for example.
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« Reply #49 on: March 20, 2010, 01:49:31 PM »
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Quote from: fredjeang
... Now, "adapt or perish" is certainly a rude concept that I'm against, in general not only in photography. Feppe, you never know if tomorrow you will not be on the side of "difficulties in adapting yourself". Nobody knows and if it just means "you are now useless", "just perish". Well...this is a war mentality that forget that older and experienced people are here to teach us things when it's time for them to slow down...
Fred, it is like saying the concept of gravity is rude and that you are against it. You might as well be (against it), but it won't change the fact itself. Now, is it fair that "older and experienced people" are often facing "you are now useless", "just perish"? No, it is not fair, especially from the standpoint of "older and experienced people"... but life is not fair, and we all knew that, right? But fairness shall be addressed via different means (e.g. social safety net), not by denying the inevitable, i.e., "adapt or perish".
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« Reply #50 on: March 20, 2010, 04:25:58 PM »
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Quote from: Slobodan Blagojevic
Fred, it is like saying the concept of gravity is rude and that you are against it. You might as well be (against it), but it won't change the fact itself. Now, is it fair that "older and experienced people" are often facing "you are now useless", "just perish"? No, it is not fair, especially from the standpoint of "older and experienced people"... but life is not fair, and we all knew that, right? But fairness shall be addressed via different means (e.g. social safety net), not by denying the inevitable, i.e., "adapt or perish".
Yes, I fully agree with you Slobodan and also Feppe's precisions. No doubt. I have expressed myself in this point too faintly.
Of course I'm just "against"  on a phylosophical level but I do not forget the nature of life is on that aspect.
The point you make here is, according to me, very important: that fairness has to be adressed by social safety. But the evolution brings really new challenges on that point, if we agree that craft can not be taken now with the same parameters, specially because of the shortest life of knowledge and skills-experience, then we will have people out of the race each time youngers, and the "useless" amount of people that will have to be taken care by society each time increasing, with active professions less and less remunerated. That is indeed a first concern.
Coming back to photography as a profession, where all these changes lead? IMO, That the pressure of constant instability and need of permanent recycling is going to be really a clew part of the play. But that the rewarding (in terms of professional incomes) of all these efforts is going to be extremely lower.
On the other hand, we also might see a lot of creativity and new proposals.

Fred.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2010, 07:31:44 PM by fredjeang » Logged
Pete Ferling
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« Reply #51 on: March 20, 2010, 11:03:02 PM »
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"Adapt or perish"

I think it's best to sum this issue with this:  In the studio, I shoot what they want (products), and while out in the open I shoot what I want, (landscapes).  I get paid more shooting what others want than what I want.  My desire to exist, to feed my family and to remain in comfort depends on this mutual affair.  Should I become angry or resentful of this, then in turn that affects every facet of my profession, and I wind up shooting in a way that nobody wants.  Clients needs change, and so must I if I wish to continue being rewarded.  That my friend, is the sole definition of being "professional."
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Jeremy Payne
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« Reply #52 on: March 21, 2010, 06:50:59 AM »
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Quote from: Ben Rubinstein
business of photography which has little to do with the art form of photography.

And ... I'd hazard to guess that there are plenty of successful businessmen in the ranks of the 'amateurs' here that could give some of these 'professionals' a lot of good business advice ... But of course, only a photographer understands the business of photography.  



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fredjeang
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« Reply #53 on: March 21, 2010, 02:51:34 PM »
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I think the Michael's today links, about IPAD are bringing some good clews concerning this thread IMO.

Fred.
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Rob C
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« Reply #54 on: March 21, 2010, 03:30:25 PM »
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Quote from: Jeremy Payne
And ... I'd hazard to guess that there are plenty of successful businessmen in the ranks of the 'amateurs' here that could give some of these 'professionals' a lot of good business advice ... But of course, only a photographer understands the business of photography.




Hi Jeremy

I suspect you are having a light moment, but beneath it all, I do believe you are right.

And I think this to be the case because were photography like most other 'businesses' few of us would be in it or, more accurately, try to stay in it over a lifetime.

I watched again, this evening, a DVD that I have on Ansel Adams, and in it one of the speakers remarks that AA had a very good twenty-year spell of top-grade productivity, after which he fell away into teaching and lecturing and doing the circuit from the late wealth that came to him near the end of his time. For a man who lived until he was 82 or so, not bad. And therein I think the reason why photography is different: if you are lucky, you get a short time when you are very good and you also find the clients you need, but when it's over you can still never let go. If your bakery lost its way you would close it and do something else without breaking your heart; not so photography. Actually, Adams' twenty years is pretty high for photographers, considering all the variables; of those photographers I have known personally, I would put that good period closer to ten or twelve golded years at best.

Rob C
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« Reply #55 on: March 21, 2010, 05:34:01 PM »
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In Germany you need a license to shoot weddings and if I remember right you needed to qualify. Can't really fault them for that either, one in a lifetime chance to get it right every wedding you shoot, no different than passing an exam.

And who decides what qualifies?  Does that mean if a friend of mine asks me to shoot his wedding for a small fee, and I do so I'll get fined or arrested?  And if their friends see the resulting images and like them and start calling me, then I find myself getting more weddings as their friends see my work ... do I go to jail at some point if I refuse to quit?

Suppose I fail this test because someone has decided to put in some stuff that really isn't critical to creating consumer acceptable wedding images ... perhaps some very technical questions that maybe don't even apply to digital capture.  It appears it could be easily abused as a way for those who have succeeded to suppress competition, rather than allowing a free market to determine it.  Consumers can make a decision based on price point/quality etc. and photographers who don't offered a compelling product at whatever price point they choose won't be around very long ... the same with any other type of creative service.

In wedding photography the main thing that has changed is the quantity of new shooters.  Weekend warriors have been around forever ... in fact I'm not sure I know any wedding photographers who didn't start out that way.  Digital has just created a lot more of them because cost of entry, cost of learning and simplicity of product offerings has made it easier to try it out.  Most don't stay around long, but there are just more to take their place.
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« Reply #56 on: March 21, 2010, 09:05:47 PM »
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Quote from: fredjeang
In my OP, I used Professional in its narrowest sense: someone who's photography is his daily job. Regardless if talented, genious, or not, and I think that it is what Rob was meaning..

Cheers,

Fred.

And how do you suppose someone gets to make photgraphy there daily job?

The orignial poster asked this exact question.

It's Evolution baby, from young talented artist, amature to pro.
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Rob C
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« Reply #57 on: March 22, 2010, 04:21:05 AM »
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Quote from: BFoto
And how do you suppose someone gets to make photgraphy there daily job?

The orignial poster asked this exact question.

It's Evolution baby, from young talented artist, amature to pro.






Er, Fred WAS the original poster, so unless you think he has no memory, perhaps it's you who is slightly off base.

How do you become a pro photographer? By becoming an assistant, or by going to college after having spent some time messing around with the medium on your own. Why do you assume that you have to be a shamateur to start?

Whatever the route, the point is that at some early stage you put your balls where your voice is, stop fucking up the business for those who have the guts to go for it, and try to make your way. It is those who are forever shillying and shallying, messing around on the side, ruining any price structure mainly out of ignorance and/or fear who are those that I can't accept  have any legitimate place in this society.

Put up or shut up is where I see it. It has bugger all to do with fear of genuine competition; it has everything to do with distaste for pirates.

It is often said that a 'real' pro should have no fear of the amateur. Really? have you any idea what has happened to the professional stock industry now that every trucker, baker, chef, accountant, lawyer, shopgirl finds themselves making twenty cents a pop for the lucky holiday snap? It used to be big business for some pros - their livelihood. But what does that matter; maybe they should become part-time taxi drivers.

Rob C
« Last Edit: March 22, 2010, 09:51:56 AM by Rob C » Logged

Dick Roadnight
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« Reply #58 on: March 22, 2010, 05:09:49 AM »
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Quote from: Wayne Fox
And who decides what qualifies? ...

Suppose I fail this test because someone has decided to put in some stuff that really isn't critical to creating consumer acceptable wedding images ... perhaps some very technical questions that maybe don't even apply to digital capture.  It appears it could be easily abused as a way for those who have succeeded to suppress competition, rather than allowing a free market to determine it.
In the UK I think that the problem would be that the standard would be set so low that it would legitimatize the incompetent.
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« Reply #59 on: March 22, 2010, 09:51:07 AM »
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Quote from: Dick Roadnight
In the UK I think that the problem would be that the standard would be set so low that it would legitimatize the incompetent.





Just as in schools, then!

My daughter teaches there; she told me that one lad of around fifteen years of age said to her that he wished he could leave and be like his mate, an electrician, and earn a grand a week... As she said, how do you honestly answer a thought like that and promote the value of scholastic study?

Rob C
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