10 Common Myths about PhotographersOctober 31, 2016
As a photographer, you’re probably aware that there are many misconceptions about your career floating around out there. Some people might not take your work seriously, while others may have bizarre and totally unfounded ideas about what makes a photographer a ‘professional’.
Whether these untruths make you laugh or curl up your fists in a rage, fear not! Today we’re going to look at the 10 most common myths about photographers – and dispel them while we’re at it!
Anyone can be a professional photographer:
We’ll start with probably the most commonly heard falsehood to be uttered about photographers – ‘anyone can become a photographer, and a professional one at that’. Before you start swinging your tripod in the air, you’ll be pleased to know that this statement is a complete lie and it couldn’t be further from the truth!
While anyone can own or pick-up a camera and press a few buttons to capture an image, it takes true talent and perseverance to become a professional photographer. Not only do you need to have an extremely creative mind, but your eye for detail and composition must also be leaps and bounds above those of the average person. Some photographers are born with these talents, while others are willing to put in the hard work and long hours of practice to achieve these traits. Either way, this is something that every photographer should be proud of – it really is an incredible feat to be able to capture images which speak a thousand words (as the popular saying goes!).
You are only considered a “real” photographer if you work in a studio
Have you ever told someone that you’re a photographer, only to have them ask you where your studio is located? While this is a reasonable question for those who actually own a photography studio, many photographers will be left scratching their heads – especially if they’re a travel, landscape, action, or nature photographer (just to name a few).
Photographer Nicole S Young also recently discussed this myth, stating:
Instead of working out of a studio with clients, I make my living in other ways, primarily selling books and other tools via my online store. Why pay for the overhead if you don’t need to? Working in a photography studio is not a requirement towards being a real (or even a good) photographer. And, if you ask me, it’s silly to think otherwise.
It probably goes without saying, but you do not have to own or work in a studio in order to be considered a professional photographer. Many photographers’ work involves attending events (such as weddings or engagements), as well as various locations. While some photographers might purely do studio work, or even dabble in it from time-to-time, other photographers might not even require the use of such a space in order to go about their full-time photography job.
You’re not a real photographer if you don’t make a living with your photography
This one probably grinds your gears, but it’s certainly another myth about photographers which must be debunked – once and for all! There could be many reasons as to why a photographer might do some work on an unpaid basis. Perhaps they are a college student and need to complete an internship or volunteer work in their photographic field. Or maybe a photographer wants to provide their services for free as it is a not-for-profit organization that they want to support and assist in any way possible.
No one should be judged for the income they make, especially when it comes to the pursuit of their dreams. Photography can be a tough business, but a photographer’s talent or professionalism should not be based on their pay checks.
Professional photographer Nicole S Young recently discussed this myth and we think she sums it up perfectly when she states:
If you create photos with passion, you are a photographer. Don’t let the lack of a paycheck fool you into thinking that you’re not.
Only photographers with expensive cameras take incredible photos
As the famous Ansel Adams quote goes, “there’s nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” It doesn’t matter how expensive, large or ‘top-pf-the-range’ a photographer’s equipment is – if they don’t have the creative expertise that comes from within, then their work won’t be as impressive.
Some of my most favorite images have been taken with kitschy toy cameras, while a number of my favorite photographers capture their incredible work with modest, mid-range DSLRs. Many photographers will begin with affordable equipment, only to build-up their range as they become more and more experienced. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this!
Professional photographer Don Smith further debunks this myth when he explains:
Equipment is important, but vision is more important. Vision is a life-long study of light, design, perspective, art and composition. Vision must be developed over the years.
Photographers have to post-process their images with Photoshop to make them better
I’m sure many photographers will take the time to post-process their images with editing software such as Photoshop, Lightroom etc., but it’s hardly a compulsory requirement to being a successful photographer!
Sure, post-processing your work can transform it to a whole new level, especially if your expertise lies in genres such as surreal or ethereal photo shoots or even fashion editorial photography. However, how many incredible photographers do you know of who prefer to capture dreamy (and unedited) photographs on 35mm film?
On the other hand, some photographers are admired for their ability to create mesmerizing polaroids, again, without post-processing these images.
This really comes back to the point that every photographer is as different as the work they produce, so the fact that they choose to post-process or not post-process their photography does not affect their level of professionalism at all; nor is it always a requirement of the industry.
Being a photographer is an easy, laid-back, and glamorous career option
Fact: some people like to envisage a photographer’s career as snapping a few photos here and there, attending glamorous events with a camera in hand, and being whisked away to exotic and faraway places to capture some quick and easy shots of breath-taking landscapes. If only it was that easy, eh?
While I’m sure some photographers do get to attend glamorous events or travel for their job, one thing is for certain: they would have worked their butts off to get to that position!
Being a photographer is a tough but incredibly rewarding job and like most industries, you have to work your way up from the bottom first. Anyone who thinks otherwise might need to come back down to reality!
Photographers don’t have to concentrate on marketing and other business-related tasks
Although I’m sure many photographers wish this was true, the unfortunate fact is that it isn’t. Photographers, just like many other professions, must also concentrate on their marketing efforts and other business-related tasks if they are to run a successful business.
This extends to both online and offline marketing, as well managing their online presence such as websites and social media, plus keeping track of their invoices, contracts, and tax-related information. Sounds exhausting, right?
While taking photographs with their camera might seem like the main part of a photographer’s job, these other tasks can easily take up half of a photographer’s day! Professional photographer Don Smith further explains:
I’m usually in my office by 5:30 am and the first three hours of my day are spent on marketing my business: answering emails, writing blogs, posting Facebook images, etc. Then, I usually edit for another 4-hour block…then more correspondence or working on other business aspects: returning phone calls, planning trips, planning workshops, etc.
For further reading about marketing tips for photographers, you can check out any of our articles below:
Photographers don’t ‘own’ their images, clients do
The law states that works are the sole property of the creator (in this case, the photographer) unless otherwise specified in a contract. Therefore, when a photographer clicks the shutter button, he or she actually owns that image.
This does get a little tricky though when it comes to dealing with contracts. Sarah Matista from Webs.com explains:
If [clients] want blanket ownership protection over all the images created during an assignment, [they’ll] need to have the photographer sign a Work Made For Hire (W.M.F.H.) agreement. Be aware that this is a less common type of agreement…be tactful and up-front about asking a photographer to sign it.
For further reading, check out this article.
You have to study photography at college / university level to become successful
While formal education in photography will never be a bad thing, it’s important for people to understand that you can still be a photographer (and a pretty successful one at that) simply from teaching yourself or attending workshops, watching tutorials, etc. In a creative profession such as photography, you don’t necessarily need a piece of paper in order to be able to capture thought-provoking and stunning imagery.
Additionally, the majority of clients probably couldn’t care less if you graduated from tertiary education specializing in photography – they just care that you can create amazing photography and be professional about your job.
It’s important to note that formal educational qualifications in photography will be required when applying to some positions within this industry, however we’re simply stating that many self-taught photographers have gone on to become very successful indeed!
You get to travel a lot as a photographer
Sure, photography requires you to actually get out there and photograph things, people, places, etc, but some photographers might only travel as far as the next city or state for their work!
This really depends on what genre of photography you specialize in – for example, if you’re a travel or nature photographer, then chances are you might travel extensively for your job. This also applies to event or wedding photographers. Photographers in some fields of photography, however, may find that jobs which require them to travel far and wide hardly come their way.
There you have it! We hope we’ve been able to debunk and address the ten most common myths about photographers. Often, myths and untruths arise from a lack of education, so feel free to point anyone in the direction of this article if you feel as though they need to brush-up on their knowledge about photographers 😉