A story is making the rounds on photography sites and Facebook about a Tumblr blog dedicated to outing photographers blatantly lifting, no stealing, other photographer’s work and portraying it as their own via their websites. The cases portrayed are not “mistakenly” forgetting to link an image posted to a blog, or shooting a photograph exactly the same as someone else. These photographers are actively claiming credit for work they did not do. It is more than a story about copyright infringement, though this is a blatant one, but photographers stealing images to sell their services to a client. In my way of thinking, this is exponentially worse than plagiarism. It is fraud and should be prosecuted as such.
Here is the underlying problem in “professional” photography as it stands today: the illusion that equipment equal competence. Modern digital photography has created a subset of people who believe their purchase of a “professional” camera makes them “photographers. Further, a larger subset of people who believe if a person owns a “professional” camera they must be a “professional”. So, when Jane Shutterbug (the use of the feminine here is entirely irrelevant) buys her Canon XTi and a kit lens, she learns just enough to flip the switches in the auto mode to portrait, her family says “Oh, those are beautiful, you should do this for a living!” and she believes it.
Now, Jane puts up a website, either using a packaged template or hires a designer to build one. (Trust me, there are just as many “professional” web designers out there using off the shelf software to slap a up website.) The photographer and/or the designer both confer and decide to use all that “free” content out there to make the website look as “professional” as possible, one bad decision leads to another and a fraud is born.
Now, imagine you are a bride on a budget. You are scouring the web looking for a photographer. On one hand, you find a photographer with a beautiful portfolio, scads of customer recommendations and a stellar reputation. This photographer charges five thousand dollars to shoot your wedding. Searching further, you find another photographer with the similar beautiful photographs, but this photographer only charges five HUNDRED dollars. The photos look very similar, and while there are no recommendations, just look at the beautiful photos! You meet with Jane Shutterbug, she has a “professional” camera, and what do you know about photography, you use a cellphone? Which photographer are you going to hire?
When you finally get your wedding photos, they are digital shit. If the $500.00 photographer had posted her own photos instead of a $5,000 photographer’s from another state, you never would’ve spoken to her, much less hired her.
When I meet with a perspective client, I bring a printed portfolio of my work. While not foolproof, someone who takes the time to print a photograph rather than just slap it on a webpage is usually the actual photographer. My prints are high quality photographic printer paper, they are in a portfolio binder with details on the photograph on the facing page. I cannot stress how important this is when shopping for a photographer. Don’t accept a DVD on a laptop, don’t accept a website portfolio, for love of humanity if they show up with it printed on regular copy paper kick them in the crotch!
A professional photographer isn’t about they camera one owns. It isn’t about the prices one sets and while the photographs are vital, true professionalism it is a standard one adheres to. A professional is honest, open and sincere in their dealings with clients. They do not make promises they are incapable of keeping. A professional owns the product they are offering. A professional will tell you something you may not wish to here because it is the truth, not sell you a lie because they want the job.
There is a place in the world for a photographer just dipping their feet into the business. Honestly, I am one such photographer. I charge far less than an experienced photographer, more importantly: I know my limits. I would no more photograph a wedding than I would attempt to photograph a war zone! Even more importantly, I respect my integrity and that of other photographers. Not every bride can afford thousands of dollars for their wedding photographer, but don’t be sold by what you see on the web!
GHTime Code(s): nc nc