View Full Version : LF Made Up Of Pro's Or Amateurs?
I have a debate going on, I am having a problem on any real info. that would set tle this debate. Is the field of LF shooters, is it made up of more pro's or am utures? I guess some say is how you derermine what a pro is. Just thought I w ould ask here if anyone has info or thought on this matter, just a stupid debate , but it has been interesting.
I don't make my living from photography but it certainly a significant source of income. Thr true origin of amatuer is someone who LOVES their craft. kw
Quang is running a survey at www.pub15.bravenet.com/vote/stats.php. According to this, 53% of respondents derive 10% or less of their income from LF revenues. There are other results there as well.
I realize that one of the beauties of a forum like this is that it can serve as a quick and dirty exchange of information, but isn't there some virtue in taking the care to shape something like proper sentences with properly spelled words?
David A. Goldfarb
Anyone see this recent magazine ad:
A man with a salt-and-pepper beard looking at a large spread of B&W fiber-based prints on the floor of a studio, a few prints and MF contact sheets tacked to the wall, MF camera in the background and a woman in a doorframe in the back of the room, an 8x10" wood field camera mounted on a wooden tripod is prominent in the foreground. The plane of focus runs clearly from the front-right of the frame to the rear-left, so the 8x10" camera, the photographer, and the main window light are in focus, and the woman and MF camera are out of focus (so whoever shot the ad, at least, is using a camera with movements).
Caption: "Jack's second career may not be as profitable as his first. A fact which Jack's money is prepared for." Then later: "Contact a Merril Lynch Financial Advisor...."
There was also an ad for Chase Financial Services some months back, maybe on television, showing a man with his son on a grassy hill with a 4x5" wooden field camera--clearly a leisure-time activity.
The answer is probably (certainly based on this forum -- which I think is terrific) that more LF cameras are sold to amateurs and much more LF film is sold to professionals.
When I was doing my apprenticeship, the professional I was working for advised that it was pointless to buy new Hasselblad gear as there were plenty of doctors and lawyers who would buy a blad and then after a year or two of never using it, be happy to sell it at a substantial discount. I've found the same to be true for LF cameras and equipment as well.
I make my living shooting weddings and some portraits. That pays the bills and I love the the life it affords me and it supports my 8x10 sheet film habit. But if someone refered to me as a professional photographer I think I'd crack up. "Pro" like "Fine Art" are words that are so over used that they tend to lose their value. Regardless, I very sincerly love this craft in most of it's shapes and forms.
apologeeeeez for marginal sentence structure or speeling.
My perception has always been that there is no difference in the skill level between an Advanced Amateur and a Professional. A Professional IMHO is paid to do what he already loves doing anyway, or for doing a project for a client the way the client wants it done.
I don't see how you could be either one without having a great love for photography, although I know people who unlike Edward, do weddings and events with everything on automatic just for the money.
I think Advanced Amateurs and Professionals should be grouped together, and in terms of your question it would be interesting to know how how many beginners and hobbyists, are into LF along with the Pros and Advanced Amateurs.
A lot of people call themselves Fine Art Photographers, and they are like the folks in Graphic Art who call themselves "creatives", they label themselves as 'Hey I'm Great!'. That's a bit silly. Labels aside IMHO there's just people who love Photography.
I think the major distinction between pro and amateur is the pro's ability to produce consistent results upon demand.
James, If you take photographs then you are a photographer. Simple as that. If you get paid for your images then you are a professional. But I've seen some pretty dreadful "professional" photographs and some incredible work by those who take photographs simply for enjoyment. As for LF use, most "pros" seem to have gone down the digital route - after all time is money! Traditional LF will probably become the domain of the person who shoots for pleasure rather than profit. All these labels (pro, semi-pro, amateur, advanced amateur) just help the manufacturers to sell gear! I for one consider myself a photographer. Whether I sell my work or use "pro" kit is irrelevant. I am able to shoot what I like, when I like, with no deadlines to meet! That suits me fine! Regards Paul
At work, I make 360 pictures on 35mm film in one second. At play I make one picture on 8X10 film in 360++ seconds. It's all perception.
I never heard anyone call himself a "creative" (!) but "fine art" is not an affectation, it's a label that some of us have to choose when filling out a survey or grant application (or answering small-talk questions at dinner parties). The choices often include equally vague designations such as "Commercial" or "Photojournalist." I think it's fair to say that a photographer, whether she makes any money at it or not, should call herself "fine art" if the end product is the print for exhibition. The vast majority of "fine art photographers" have to make their living another way. Some bring in money with their "commercial" work, others teach or work entirely outside of photography. The terms you asked about, amateur and professional, don't quite cover all the possibilities. If I tell people I am a professional, they want me to do their wedding; if I say I am an amateur, I would never get another teaching job.
Language does matter.
The term 'Creative' is used plenty on the digital and graphic arts end. I still disagree with you about anyone calling themselves a Fine Art Photographer. Photojournalists produce fine art, portrait, people, and street scene photographers produce fine art, still life photographers produce fine art. Landscape photographers produce fine art.
These are labels but at least they give an indication of what you do, not what you produce. It's up to someone else to trumpet your product as fine art. What about the individual who calls him or herself a 'Fine Art Photographer' whose work is lousy? Calling yourself a fine art photograhper doesn't make your work great but that's what that label implies, there's no getting around that.
If somebody comes up to me and asks me what I do, I tell them I'm a Photographer, and if the discussion gets involved then I don't mind telling them I'm portrait and people photograhper. Saying you're a fine art photograhper doesn't say anything about what you actually do, but it is a kind of backdoor comment on how great you think your stuff is.
I never heard of anyone calling themselves a fine art photographer until a few years ago, I've heard of fine art exhibitions featuring somebodies work sure, but that label in front of the term photograhper presumes too much.
Nice try, Christopher. I don't think anybody noticed but us! Just a [bad] sign of the times <sigh>.
I especially like one of Paul Owen's comments about "pro kit." Some people/clients seem to have more confidence in you if you have a nice Nikon F5, Hassy, or some impressive-looking piece of LF gear. However, I can't tell the difference between the shots I've taken with my hand-made Bender and my Calumet.
In response to David Goldfarb, there was also a TV ad for some asset management company showing a guy carrying his 8x10 monorail into the field to take some portraits for his second career. I thought of this forum when I saw it.
I agree with Ellis Vener's comment about talking about/buying gear vs. getting out and shooting. As someone in medicine who doesn't get out to shoot as much as I'd like, I find myself talking more about gear than the photographic process. Call me an amateur.
Love the forum, everyone. --Tony
Jonathan, You're still missing the point. "Fine art" as used as a modifier for "photography" carries no implication of quality or anyone's self- aggrandizement. The way it's used in the "fine art" world of galleries and academia is a matter of intention and function of the image. It means it's not being produced for a client or to sell a product or to illustrate an article, but to be exhibited or sold as a discrete product all its own. There is plenty of bad "fine art" just as there is plenty of great "commercial" work, and vice versa. Of course you're right to say that photojournalism can be fine art... if the photographer chooses to exhibit in a gallery or museum the prints of the images she's originally produced for a periodical, for example. Salgado and Mark are examples of that kind of crossover.
There are many levels of competency within all the worlds of photography whether amature or pro. Some specialize in the techniques or craft of it while others fly higher into the world of real art.No matter how good the technique is... if the person has nothing to say and no deep perception... it wont be art...but it will be a technical demonstation.
All of us who love doing this, want at some time or another at least some of our work to be considered for a Gallery show. We're all fine artists in that sense who are attempting something that exudes craft, craftmanship, artisty, a sense of something well thought out and perfectly executed.
There's no such thing as 'bad' fine art. If it's lousy, it's lousy, it's not fine, and it isn't art. You mention that your images are intended for the Gallery or for exhibition, if they're well executed images done with imagination and perhaps panache, there is a chance they will end up in a gallery, but that goes for everybody.
You make some kind of distinction between your work and other folks work which may be for hire. There's really no distinction, you're for hire the same as they are, only yours may end up in a gallery. Because you want or intend your images to go directly to a gallery doesn't change the fact that the images have to be of something and then we go back to whether it's a people shot, portrait, landscape and so on. My point is that there is no such thing as 'crossover'.
If you weren't for hire, then you'd shoot your stuff and enjoy it for it own sake, admire it, and that would be enough. I stand on what I said, I've missed no point, there's no getting around it, calling yourself a fine art photographer is a backdoor way of say you're great. Everybody wants to be in a Gallery, wanting to be in a Gallery isn't a justification for calling your work fine art, that's for someone else to say.
Galleries are boring....so are museums for that matter...way too much paint by the numbers. I like coffee houses...libraries...events centers where many kinds people gather. Having said that I'm still glad museums and galleries exist...aside from the politics and the commercialism masqueraiding as fine art...occationally something good slips in.
Most people I know who are truly artists don't go around calling themselves "fine artists" or the work they produce "fine art". They have enough sensibility or sensitivity to know that intelligent people can figure that out for themselves and are dismissive of hype foisted upon them by hypesters.
Last week I checked out a book on Renaissance sculpture from the library. If the photographers who did the illustrations for that book want to call themselves Fine Art photographers, they would be right.
Come on, folks, these attacks are really getting tiresome. Ellis, I hope you're not calling me a "hypester" because that is offensive. Again, "Fine art" is a useful MODIFIER for the word "photography" and it does have a specific meaning in the right context. You can redefine it all you want, but you would be using it incorrectly.
"Fine" does not mean "good"; it makes a distinction between itself and "applied" arts. "Art" does not mean "good" either.
Hundreds of curators and historians and photographers (including commercial photographers who also show their personal work in a fine art context) use this term without meaning that they think "fine art photography" is better than any other kind. As I said before, this term shows up on surveys all the time and it carries no implication of quality.
A painter, sculptor, or printmaker does not generally have to use such a modifier, beacuse they are assumed to be working in the fine art realm most of the time, but photography encompasses so many different ways of working that we have to find some way to differentiate. All our categories are problematic, because many of us work across categories or don't fit into any of them at all, but they do have their traditional meanings.
Since I have worked almost exclusively in the "fine art" and "academic" context as a painter, printmaker, photographer, and teacher for over 30 years, I do know how the term is used. I would never presume to argue with someone in another field about how they should use their terminology!
It is interesting that at my school and many others, a student can major in Fine Arts. However, photography majors are in the Media Arts department (along with film and animation), except for Non-Silver Processes, which are in the Printmaking department. At some art schools you can major in painting or other Fine Arts but cannot major in photography at all. I say this to point out that there is still a lot of ambivalence about accepting photography as one of the fine arts. It seems that a lot of people on this forum share that ambivalence, which is quite surprising.
Elis is not attacking you, he's giving you his honest opinion as I am, if you take these comments as honest opinions instead of an attact on you then you wouldn't be so fatigued.
What use is this forum if everything agreed on everything? If you had valid points that would cause me to change my mind about what you're saying, I would be the first to say so, but you haven't, I believe calling yourself a fine art photographer is hype. Sorry but that's the way I feel, I hope you don't take offense, but even if you do, I going to express my honest opinion.
Anything can be rationalized into confirming to a point of view, it doesn't mean that that point of view is correct. You've pointed out things that you seem to feel back up the rightness of your position, the truth is you've got the right to call yourself whatever, I just don't agree with you. You put down Photographer on your grant app and that explains just as much to anybody as 'Fine Art Photographer'.
How is Photojournalist, portrait, landscape, still life, and so forth vague, and fine art specific? It isn't. You say fine Art and then explain that that's where you want your images to go, and how you want people to consider them, AND IT DOESN'T SAY ONE WIT ABOUT YOUR IMAGES OR WHAT'S IN THEM.
You can put the cart before the horse if it gets you jobs and recognition and exposure but IMHO it hype!
This is one of the most interesting threads I have seen, and gives one a glimpse into the minds of many on this board. Some comments have been provocative and some pretty funny... like the comment that 'advanced amateurs and professionals' should be lumped together. Other comments are pretty well on target, and probably posted by true professionals. Some time honored truths I have learned as a long time professional are as follows. 1. Amateurs 'take' photographs....professionals 'make' photographs. Nomatter if the subject matter is the desert southwest or a studio shot of a new model automobile. 2. Professionals produce consistant quality imagery on demand, day or night, under incredible deadline pressures. Client art directors don't give a damn about your lack of equipment, or if you are having a bad day. 3. A professional is only as good as his/her last shoot. 4. Professionals don't give a damn about what make or format equipment you use, unless it is unsuitable for what the client wants. 5. Professionals know that what really counts is the quality of the finished product you place in your clients hands...not if you missed 'zone V' or whatever. 6. Professionals know that if you screw up a job that you can 'kiss the client' goodbye...and your income and reputation. 7. Professionals know that when the mail comes and you open the clients letter and find a large five-figure check...($1500 a day plus expenses) you don't find the need to argue about who is a professional or not.
Been there, done that! Now, I can continue to make the photos I always wanted too, but never had the time, because I was busing my ass shooting for Fortune 500 companies. Now it's time for me...and my personal work. Good professionals will always take issue with anyone who whould call 'advanced amateurs' and professionals...one in the same. NOT A CHANCE! Dave Muench (my old classmate) can shoot as good a studio product photography set, as he can a sunrise over the Grand Canyon. That is what a professional is all about. Wise up!
I am certainly not attacking you. But notice that there is a difference between someone else saying "So-and-So" is a "great photographer" and that "So-and-So" calling themselves the same thing. that is my point.
I think you are a fine photographer.
Maybe its really just about talent and love of the medium...which any of the above catagories may have to a greater to lesser degree. The pro works as a highly skilled monetarily motivated employee of the client....the serious amateur works as a highly skilled self motivated employee(if you will) of themselves....I think there is much to learn between the amateurs and the full time pros points of view.Somehow....I think that its important to pay the bills of course and ...really rare(in this world) and fulfilling to do that in a professional way in your chosen field.... but the photos you will be most proud of at the end of your life will probably not be the ones taken for someone elses ad campaign(camera pain?)no matter how good.
You've never met me, you don't know me, and if you've never seen my work then you can't make the idiotic statement of declaring me not to be a true professional because you find it funny what I've said here. I've got a thick enough skin to withstand laughter and even contempt for what I say in this forum, but you make the bullshit jump from your opinion of what I said to a trashing of my whole career Portrait Photographer.
Do you have any concrete facts, specifics, or personal knowledge, of me or my skill level to back up your remarks, I wish you'd state them in a reasoned scrutiny of my work before you open your mouth about what I'm not. I've also had a glimpse of your mind and maybe there isn't enough of it to do that.
There are some very gifted Advanced Amateurs out there who have every bit of the problem solving ability and skill level of the best professionals. Professionals differ in that they have to go and and prove themselves on every shoot, they have to produce, but nobody put a gun to your head to choose to do that.
If you want to diminish my career as a Photographer do it with facts, specifics, and with sound reasoning.
By the way where do you think Professionals come from? They come from a pool of a Advanced Amateurs. You were an Advanced Amateur until you decided to want to be paid for you work. Were you dum them and gifted now because you are now a Pro shooter?
Where do you get off looking down your nose at Advance Amateurs versus Professionals when one comes from the other? The only real difference between one and the other is the ability to produce under pressure, but that's BS to think that puts you in another class.
I defy you to be able to look at the best work of Advanced Amateurs and Professionals mixed in together and point out every image done for its own sake as opposed to the ones done for a fee. You cannot do it, and if there's no difference in the images there's no difference in the skill level of the individuals taking them.
You even refer to your personal work, are those images different because you're no longer under pressure to produce, or as good or better than the images you were paid to do.
You were a gifted enough Advanced Amateur that you could turn pro and make money at it. Suppose you had never decided to turn pro, does that diminish the gift you have? Of course not, you just took another road in life. Operating under pressures as a pro and being paid for your work doesn't valitdate you work as being better that someone who's good at photography and does becauses he or she loves it.
If you cannot admit that, then the truths not in you.
Mr. Brewer: With respect Sir....I don't know how you read my post as some kind of personal attack upon you. It was not. I was challenging your ideas, not you the person. Can we be clear on that? I will just assume that you a really nice guy and a fine photographer, but that does not mean I must agree with your ideas.
Are my images different? Perhaps in sjubject content, but the same quality I hope. I'll bet most professionals will tell you that now they can take their time making a shot and smiling all through the process, rather than sweating bullets and developing ulcers to support a large studio and a family. Most "Advanced Amateurs" try it and bail out because they cant stand the pressure of consistant performance and meeting deadlines....if they do it full time.
With regard to "Advanced Amateur".....what exactily is that? What does "Advanced" mean, and compared to who or what?
You imply that I was some kind of an advanced amateur and life just lead me down some random path into being a professional. Nope! Two years of college as a graphic arts design major, military service as an aerial photographer, and then four college years, a BFA and a year of grad school in photography...and one of the best colleges in the world. Cost me a fortune, but worth every penny. I chose my path and persued it....intensely. My career path was no accident. I chose it, and very glad I did. No regrets, but lets get out of this ivory tower stuff and back into the world of reality, deadlines, art-directors and very heavy competition, among the sharks of the world of professional photography. If no one can tell the difference, then it is easy to see that the person has never been a part of that world. Easy to talk about,...harder to do it...and even harder to do it well and survive. Praise God, I've been lucky and blessed, but I also paid a lot more in my "dues" that most on this board would ever guess. No regrets, glad I did it...it was exciting but it was not an easy journey. Best regards.
I want to thank all for your thoughts. I have to say it seems as though it got a little more on the old debate, Pro Vs Amuteur. I was just wondering what makes up the majority of the shooters. Is there more Pros or Am's shooting with large format cameras? I for one count pros as those who make a living at photography, there just is not that many. I want to thank everyone for your thoughts. James
Thank you for the clarification. I've looked at the work of some Professionals and remarked to myself 'it doesn't get any better'. I've driven down the street and saw images that were on billboards that I would throw in the trash if I had done them.
There's the whole gamut from somebody with your qualifications to a Professional who's self taught. There's the whole gamut which runs from the commericial photographer to the photographer who make a decent living shooting weddings.
Photography isn't a team sport, it's an individual thing execution wise, and pretty much one individual, one vision. My point is that there's really no way to tell what the terms 'Professional' or 'Advanced Amateur' mean, or what they refer to except on an individual, case by case basis. The terms in and of themselves are generalizations.
If I look at the work of someone that shows that individual to be gifted in terms of imagination, or creativity, or inspiration and so forth when it comes to their images and I come to understand that that individual did that image for its own sake I consider that to be the work of an Advanced Amateur.
Actually notwithstanding the current dialogue, I like a term which is inclusive of all of us, which is the term 'personal work'. You asked me a question which I will answer by asking you a question, what do you think of your personal work? Understand this is by definition work done under no deadline and no pressure except that which you would impose on yourself, so whats going to come through is your talent and personal vision.
Granted this work may be better as you gain experience as you have honed your skills to a high degree, because of your professional discipline, but you had that potential before you turned Professional.
You may be farther down the road than many Advanced Amateurs but they are are on the same road whether they are ahead of you or behind you, at least to me.
Good photographers, pretty good photographers, great photographers, gifted photographers with a lot of potential, gifted photographers who refined their skills through the pursuit of a professinal career, all of them, to me, belong in the same room, or on on the same road.
I have 'sweated bullets' doing the portraits of people who prefaced the job with their disgust for the work of some pretty good photographers whom they felt 'loused up' their portraits. I won't do a portrait of people who have unrealistic expectations and that's not what I'm talking about. I have caressed short noses, flat noses, long noses, noses veering off the the left, noses veering off the the right, bulging eyes, sunken eyes, cross eyes, round faces, angular faces, lopsided faces, with every lighting scheme know to man, along with every trick I know; believe me I know about pressure.
I am a better and a more refined photographer than I was several years ago, because of the discipline I've developed doing portraits. It simply makes you better having to think things through. I just don't think its a good idea to separate myself from somebody who is on the same road as I am, but who is just a little bit behind me. I don't think it necessary to make that distinction.
1.)James: the word is spelled: A-M-A-T-E-U-R ! If you learn nothing else from this thread...
2.)"Photography isn't a team sport, it's an individual thing execution wise, and pretty much one individual, one vision." I hate to pop your bubble butprofessional commercial photography, like filmmaking, is definitely a team effort. The role of a professional photographer in a professional setting is more akin to that of a film director or a director of photography on a movie set than iit is to the lone painter in some chilly Parisian attic. This is true as much for Richard Avedon and Irving Penn and Annie Leibovitz and David Meunch or Ansel Adams as it is for some kid fresh out of an apprenticeship or art school. We are there to express our vision in the best of circumstances, or bring to creative life a client's skrtch in the usual circumstances, but it is always a team effort. This is true even in many self assigned projects as well.
So, what is this about again???
James, I hesitated to repsond to your question because this thread has gone all over the place. In the end, I don't think it matters who uses what, but in regards to large format, let's just hope enough of one group (or both) keeps on buying sheet film so the manufacturers keep it in production...FWIW, I make my living in professional photography, although some of what I do I'm sure you all would find pretty boring. I use a 4x5 more on the job, than off, although I have my own large format gear.
Jonathan, not that I want to get you riled up any more, but I agree with Ellis as well on the team-thing statement...unless you're in some one-man operation, professional photography IS very much a team effort...from my own experience at work, probably 50% of the shots or more are a "team effort" in some manner.
My definiton of a professional is simple, deriving your income from the work you do. As for art, just go out and do your thing, let somebody else label it whatever they want....it hardly matters what anyone else thinks of it, as long as you're comfortable with your own work.
Mr. Brewer: I appreciate your post. In the early 80's I got a contract to shoot a national ad for Borg Warner the manufacturer of Cycolac, (sp) that ultra tough plastic. The art director arrived at the Denver Stapleton Airport, the night before. We talked and agreed to meet at the SE Marriott hotel lobby at 3:00 AM. The model, a male, was to be there too. We met and drove to the top of Vail Pass, and met the two engineers from Arctic Cat Snowmobiles. at 5:00 AM. We got on the snowmobiles, with photo gear and two snow trailers, and headed up to the top of Shrine Pass, above Vail, at near 13,000'. The model was taught how to drive the Arctic Cat...and it wasn't working out picture wise. I asked the New York art director what he was illustrating. He replied, the 'belly-pan' underneath the engine of the snowmobile. I took a broken twig, and helped him art direct the shot in the frozen snow...with the technical help of the chief engineer from Arctic Cat. We decided that the snowmobile would decend down a deep valley and he would race up the hill at full speed, breaking a snow cornice on top of the ridge where I would be dug in at ground level (with my army surplus GI shovel)...and shoot the snowmobile in mid air, with belly pan exposed, against the sunrise over the Ten Mile Range. After two tries, I could see that the Nikon motor drives could not cope with such fast action. (Client specified 35mm Kodachrome). I also decided that I had to shoot with a 20mm wide angle on my Nikons (4)...and shot semi-auto. After the sun broke the horizon we started and made 26 runs. Each time the snowmobile would explode through the snow cornice an be airborne and land on my right arm and knock the Nikon out of my right hand and pin my parka into the snow. I had to be that close and under the snowmobile. Out of all those runs, we got two great shots, which ran, 'double-truck' in TIME, NEWSWEEK and many other magazines. Sounds great, right? Mr. Brewer, Portrait Photographer, (and sounding like a good one).....you have a much harder job than I did on that sunrise shot on Shrine Pass. Dealing with the personal egos in portrait photography is a much harder job and you have my admiration and respect. Richard Boulware - Denver. P.S. Got the New York AD back to Denver and on a noon plane to return to NYC. Went out and had a late lunch, and a few beers. Dropped the film off at the lab and went home for a long nap. Just another day in the life of a professional shooter. (:-)
My bubble pops easily. I can certainly appreciate the team effort required for the complexity of some of the above mentioned shots. Some of them sound like torture.
I was talking more along the lines of my operation but I can see where that doesn't apply to the types of shots some of you are doing.
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