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Saturday, 18 September 2010


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No doubt these are the same people who will only accept a "300dpi image". Oy.

Come to NYC.

Every tourist and his brother has a 5000 dollar camera and a 70-200/2.8 VR/IS of some kind.

I saw one guy with a pair of DX3s, a 14-24 on one of them and a 70-200 on the other.

He was pointing them up in the air and taking photos of skyscrapers, without flash, at Noon.

Having owned (still do) and used Sinar Ps, Hasselblads, RZIIs, Contax 645AFs, Nikons, et al for 25 years of advertising shooting, today I use a Canon 5D II for almost everything, despite also owning the $8k Canon as well. Though many of my A.D.s may own this or an even more expensive camera themselves, the good ones recognize that it's what we do with our equipment that makes them come to us, not the brand or body that we use...

Lallans is considered by some to be more than a dialect, rather its own language. It is as old as English and has evolved in parallel.


Does anyone else think that the young man pictured with the two Nikons greatly resembles the Diane Arbus photograph of the exasperated young boy with the toy hand grenade playing in Central Park?

I did. Made me laugh when I saw it.

(Not AT the kid, mind you, just because of the resemblance to that Arbus.)


Having rented a Hasselblad X-PAN for a day, I was stopped over 5 times in ~6 h in Seattle, and congratulated! This might say more about Seattle than about Hasselblad, because a similar occurrence did not happen in San Diego...(or maybe the statement is about San Diego)

It's just a variation on 'the clothes make the man.'

We live in a world where it is easier than ever to take competent pictures. That's a good thing, but also bad news for people (photographers) who want or aspire to something more.

Professionals face increasing competition from beginners who undercut them. Can a professional survive maintaining a storefront, advertising, equipment and training when the new competition works for cash, has no overhead other than the initial investment of a DSLR and kit lens? How does the market distinguish a pro from a wanna be?

By having requirements that are beyond what an entry-level worker might have. Really, it's a form of discrimination.

Think about a wedding photographer. He has to have his gear, plus backups and deliver a finished product on schedule. I've seem people advertising on the net to do the same job at a fraction of the cost of a pro, and also with a fraction of the gear and experience. Not to say good work isn't avaiable, but I can envison people saying the equlivent of 'get Bobby to take the pictures, he's got a good camera!) There's that discrimination! Because we all know that it's the camera that takes good pictures.

Maybe that's a little tongue in cheek, but without raising the bar in requirements, how do you keep potential applicants/submissions down to a reasonable level?

I would like to see a full frame 8 MP CCD with perfect files at high ISO, I do corporate work almost always for the web so really 4 MP is all i need.

Not my line of work, of course, so I can only see things from an outsider's perspective.

I can sort of understand art directors preferring certain lens brands, but bodies and backs? Once the body has achieved the primary purposes of being light-tight and presenting the film flat and consistently, what on earth did the Art Directors care? Not mentioned in the post above, but film characteristics and grain play a bigger part in the overall image quality than film bodies and backs, surely? Did ADs routinely specify the filmstock, or let the pro choose depending on the nature of the commission?

In the digital age, there may be more of an argument for wanting extra megapixels: you can do a little more with a 20 MP image than with a 12MP image, although "a little" is not "twice as much as", despite the 20MP+ cameras costing a lot more than twice as much as the lower resolution cameras. I suppose pro photographers all know that, and just recycle the additional cost of the high end camera through higher booking fees.

As a Nikon shooter, I think this is exactly the kind of outfit that is required for schoolyard photography nowadays.

Ridiculous but so so true, many clients look at the size of the camera, it´s there way of judging if you are a real pro or not, and of course if carry with you one of those white Canon zooms then any other shadow of doubt finally evaporates. At least this is the case where I live, I use a Canon 1dsII and I´ve got a friend who borrows it to meet new clients just to impress them and then he uses a 5dII to do the work.
"And paid a fortune for annual maintenance on his five bodies, 15 backs, and so forth."
I´ve had 4 Hasseblad 503´s and they are the only camera make/model which has consistently let me down when I was working with film. I´ve got friends who worked with them also and agree with my complaints and so did my local camera repairer.
I´ve owned most medium format cameras except for Rollei and Bronica, I used all those other medium format cameras for my personal stuff, I love medium format in general so I kept buying different medium format cameras out of curiosity and I used those other makes a hell of a lot and probably treated them much more harshly than the Hasselblads and they never let me down once. I kept the 503´s for clients work just to impress clients, but I got so burnt out with the Hasselblads I finally ended up working with the other cameras and kept the Hasselblads just for show. I purchased about a year ago my fourth and final Hasselblad to shoot some B/W landscape because I really love the square format, thinking it was always a little bit of bad luck my experience with the Hasselblads..... Stupid error it´s already waiting to be fixed.
I had an M6 I took EVERYWHERE with me in all kinds of working and weather conditions with a 50mm and 35mm lens, bought brand new in 2001 and sold a week before you suggested your Leica for a year and it never ever let me down. That´s another camera make which also really impresses people just by pulling it out.
I dropped my Canon EOS 1VHS in 12 feet of sea water, it stayed under the water as long as it took me to pull off my clothes and dive after it. Pulled it out of the sea kept working with it straight away and here it is sitting next to me, working perfectly never rinsed it off or anything, 6 years later!

IMNSHO a working pro (weddings, portraits, events, etc) needs a big camera. Not only is it most likely a fine machine but it gets the job done visually as well.

Sure you could probably shoot a wedding with a D5000 and do a decent job but it would be like entering a bodybuilding contest and showing off undeveloped noodle arms. You are not going to impress the judges with low end equipment.

With my clients (mostly families, not ADs), it's the lenses that seem to impress more than the camera. I've gravitated towards using my big zooms rather than my small primes for events - it makes a better statement about who the hired photographer is, and who's the uncle with a dlsr.

What's a "client?"

You can't out gun the amateurs any more. I shoot a 1D Mk. IV at high school football games and there are always several parents on the sidelines with even more expensive rigs than mine. Nobody is impressed by cameras anymore. Not around here, anyway.

You have wandered into one of the minefields left over from 700 odd years of on and off conflict between Scotland and England. I'm not sure if Scots is a separate language or not but when I, aged 9 moved from Scotland to Southern England my speech was met with incomprehension, I may as well have been speaking a separate language!


This is mostly Internet folklore, Mike. I have, however, heard such "silliness" stories when an insecure young a.d. is hiring a cut-rate unknown to shoot an on-the-line-but-petty-cash-budget assignment. Nobody would say boo if a renowned, hard-to-hire-cost-a-fortune shooter showed up with a Canon Powershot S90.

Photography business is as most other about psychology -
normally I enjoy shooting with my 5D mk2 , but with new customers I always try to use my Hassy H2 with P65+ - and i would even let them push the button for a couple of shots .....
Just to get them on my hook :-)

When I got my window into the business, admittedly a long time ago, it was all about the image...like a real estate agent driving a Cadillac to project the message "I'm good." It really had nothing to do with IQ.

One guy I knew told a story about a client who insisted on shooting catalog shots of wristwatches on 8x10 chrome film...for catalog illustrations in print that ended up being an inch or two across. Now, I'm sure there was actually some good reason for this somewhere in the chain...maybe the agency's client loved to see the chromes on the lightbox. Something like that.


"IMNSHO a working pro (weddings, portraits, events, etc) needs a big camera. Not only is it most likely a fine machine but it gets the job done visually as well."

The original (well, the original modern) Mamiya 6 was envisioned as a camera for wedding photographers. That's why it was was square and had lenses with leaf shutters. Mamiya was somewhat taken by surprise when wedding shooters didn't really take to it but art photographers did. All the earliest ads show the camera being used at weddings.


"What's a 'client?'"

A nearly extinct species that used to roam the Earth in astonishing numbers.


Gavin (and Ben),
When I went to Britain at age 11, strangely I could barely understand the Scottish accent. I could do a pretty good imitation of an Irish accent, but I'd stand there and stare at the Scots people like they were speaking Gaelic.

Funny story--I was stopped once on a later trip in the moors of west Ireland by a sheep farmer who wanted a ride. When I spoke to him with my normal accent, he could not comprehend a word, but when I mimicked the Irish brogue as broadly as I possibly could he understood me just fine. [g]


I recall photographing a photographer who spent some time making his Canon up with a huge bracket and flash and P' extender lens as he proudly told me that "real professional photographers needed the bigest camera". But he could not take his eyes off my diminutive Panasonic LC1 and old Vivitar 285 flash on a Nikon sync cable.

I told him "I prefer to earn my subjects cooperation and not intimidate them like a dentist". But he retorted, "what if your subject is intimidating like Mrs Thatcher the Iron Lady?" "Smile" I said "and explain what you want to achieve, she like to understand and it worked for me".

He was not convinced and will continue to use the camera that delivers the pictures not the one that looks macho.

Even in my limited exposure to wannabe models, they look at your camera body and lens(es). It's like they remember what they've seen the high-fashion guys use on television and in the movies and can't figure what you hope to achieve with your little Rebel Xsi and 50mm f1.8.

Then they see the pictures...

I think Kirk Tuck (that's me) wrote something about this when he changed camera systems back in May. From Olympus to Canon:


Just sayin'

There is also the famous (possibly even true) story of Terry Richardson, who has shot most of Gucci's advertising over the past decade. He is credited with Jurgen Teller with creating the "snapshot" aesthetic in fashion.

It was the early 90's and he was just starting out. He was supposed to shoot a 10-page spread for Vogue on some remote island. He was at the airport at the location when he realized that he had forgotten his camera -- ANY camera. (Anyone who knows the debauched legend of Terry Richardson knows that this is not quite as implausible as it sounds, but bear with me here.)

So he bought out the Trinidad airport drugstore's entire supply of Kodak disposable cameras and showed up at the shoot with a suitcase full of them. Ready to go.

The client saw this and gasps were heard all around. A grim moment of silence.

Then, as one, the Vogue photo editors decided it was a stroke of genius.

A legend was born.

Now, of course, Terry didn't "forget" his camera. No matter what drugs he'd taken the night before, a photographer doesn't "forget" his camera. The whole thing was intentional.

So you see, there's more than one way to impress a client.


I strongly suspect the Irish man was winding you up. Over the years I've heard a multitude of attempted Irish brogues and none come close. The accent of the Connemara Irish man is different from the Galway man just down the road and utterly unlike that of the Cork man.

Most attempts at an Irish accent mix up all these regional variations to groans and laughter from Irish listeners.

I originate from Northern Ireland and when in England am often taken as a Scots man much to my chagrin. After all, whats a Scots man but an Irish man who has learned to swim.

Apart from all of this the REAL camera for weddings in my day was a Mamiya C220. With a 135mm lens on it made all those Rolleis look like toys. Impressed the hell out of the customers.

Paul Mc Cann


I strongly suspect the Irish man was winding you up. Over the years I've heard a multitude of attempted Irish brogues and none come close. The accent of the Connemara Irish man is different from the Galway man just down the road and utterly unlike that of the Cork man.

Most attempts at an Irish accent mix up all these regional variations to groans and laughter from Irish listeners.

I originate from Northern Ireland and when in England am often taken as a Scots man much to my chagrin. After all, whats a Scots man but an Irish man who has learned to swim.

Apart from all of this the REAL camera for weddings in my day was a Mamiya C220. With a 135mm lens on it made all those Rolleis look like toys. Impressed the hell out of the customers.

Paul Mc Cann

catalog shots of wristwatches on 8x10 chrome film...for catalog illustrations in print that ended up being an inch or two across. Now, I'm sure there was actually some good reason for this somewhere in the chain...maybe the agency's client loved to see the chromes on the lightbox. Something like that.
Sometimes this has it's origins in weird mis-communications along the way. If the ad budget is anemic, but catalog shots come out of a different department, the fellow who hired the photographer might be doing his buddy in the ad department a favor by giving him a bunch of free stock photos. Or maybe the ad director had gotten burned by 400 iso aps snaps by some cost-cutting do-gooder from accounting, and spec'd the highest quality input he could think of based on the photography magazines he'd been reading for the last dozen years. You know, just to make the problem go away without ever having to think about it again.

(Or maybe the CEO really, really, loved looking at them on the lightbox. You know, given that it's a watch company, the guy in charge might very well be a very finicky, detail oriented sort who wanted one copy of each and every variation that they ever made. The very sort of fellow who might have a compulsion to collect the gold-plated anniversary Leica's or Nikon SP's.)

I'm a little sad to hear you've gone over to the N/C dark side*. I didn't know. You were always my favorite example of the Oly E-shooting pro....



*Just being facetious, N/C fans, don't be offended now....

Mike, Being one to never make a final decision.....I now have both. And a bunch of the Pen stuff thrown in for good measure. Some for me, some for the client, some for the "art".....

To the first comment, if who and what you are shooting for needs the file to go to a four color press, then 300dpi is essential, as it is the eqivalent of the old 120-150 line screen, and that's where most real pros are working now. Weddings and protraits? A D1 should do it.

When I was shooting film, for pay, I used Hasselblad because I like them and the results they give with fair ease of use. My repairman says he never saw any trouble from them except with certain photographers who inexplicably were hard on any camera. They do require regular maintainence. Bronicas were another thing for him.

When shooting fo rpay, I have three choices: a D3, a D700 and an M9. If its a situation where I feel I will need something to take things up a notch or two, the D3 is number one. It is big and intimidating, like the Hasselblad never was. Heavier, too.

Other photographers, however, always notice the Leica.

You know what they say, "The bigger the camera, the more micro the stock."

OK, no one ever said that until just now.

When I was a young pup, just starting out and shooting high school football games, I got a Konica TC, a Sunpak potato masher flash and a Hexanon 80-200 zoom lens (with separate focus and zoom rings, natch), with the idea that the gravity of my rig would make up for my lack of stature and experience. I don't know if that ginormous (for the time) rig got me more work, but I can tell, looking at old contact sheets, that as I shot more frames, the quality of the shots went down. I think that's because I was getting tired lugging all that purchased gravitas around.

Gravity is best earned, not bought.

This is nothing new. Guys all over the world buy cool cars because they think it will attract babes.

Somebody ought to mock up a full-bodied Canikon behemoth with the innards of a 2002-era 4 mpix digicam inside. Since most pics end up on computer screens and very few get printed, who would ever know?

Funny post Mike.

I was shooting a wedding once with a couple of Canon 10D's (with battery pack to bulk them up, you know) and a wedding guest came up to me. He took a quick look, rolled his eyes and said: "Oh, you use THOSE." Then he walked off with his 5D around his neck.

Now I don't care. I regularly get outgunned at weddings by the guests. Thing is, I know I'm a considerably better photographer than they are.

At least, I'd better be. I charge enough ;-)


Regarding the picture of the boy reminding us of Arbus' boy with grenade:
It actually isn't that similar, but the fame and power of her photo has ingrained itself and will always be there when there is a boy staring at the camera. I had a similar experience with the Burberry ad in the current (Sept 20, page 23) issue of the New Yorker: by no means an exact match, but surely inspired by Diane Arbus' picture of the young New York couple dressed up with black coats looking vulnerable. I'll bet the photographer for the Burberry ad had it in mind. You are skillful and lucky enough to make a truly memorable image and it'll last and last.

I've actually made a selling point of not using a big honking DSLR like all the other guys.

The best camera is a paid-off credit card.

Well, IMNSHO, if you're willing to bend over that much to a client, allowing him to choose what tools to use for your job, you already lost.

I'm much more interested in the image projected on my sensor than the image my camera + car + hairstyle projects in the world.

No one is gonna hire you because you own a D3x. If you love your G10, go ahead and use it on your paid job. it may very well end up being your hallmark.

First of all, your images will always look better when you know and love your camera. Second, clients love a gutsy pro. Nothing scares them more than insecurity, after all they are hiring a “Pro” to do something that, these days, anyone could potentially do. If they realize you're just a scary guy hiding behind a big camera, it's a huge fall.

My point is, if you work a lot, like most people do, you better make sure you're doing what you love, otherwise life sucks.

A D90 with a vertical grip will do the trick!

This reminds of the regular at a pricey NYC restaurant who would get preferential treatment from the maitre d. That came to an abrupt end one morning when said maitre d boarded the same subway train- after the customer boarded on a previous station. The maitre d lived closer to Manhattan and therefore officially outranked him.

That kid in the picture is going to have serious back problems before he's out of high school.

And my Irish friends' 8-year-old is fretting about losing her Dublin accent after living in Tipp for the past three years...

"He was pointing them up in the air and taking photos of skyscrapers, without flash, at Noon."

I'm not sure I want to be anywhere near a flash that was capable of illuminating the entire Empire State at noon.

I don't know, those full size DSLRs don't seem all THAT big, I just wish they made them powered by a big spring instead of those heavy batteries DSC03915 Speaking of making some sort of impression with your gear, using the Graflex was the equivalent of taking pictures with a two headed singing pig with a lens poking out of its side. One time I used it at a concert and the performer stopped between sings to ask me about the camera. Best camera I've ever used, wish someone still made film for it.

Frankly dealing with clients such as those mentioned, who are clearly lacking in any real concept of what it takes to make a great image would likely turn me off having anything to do with them. If their only criteria is the gear one has then it is going to be hard to compete with all the "would be photographer moneybags" who have little skill and way too much disposable money from their real jobs.

Virtually every week I have someone in one of my workshops who has mega-dollar gear and the desire to get paid to use it but lack the actual skill or real talent. I certainly try to help them with that of course.

I must say though it is very very rare that anyone asks me what gear I own when making enquires, but I had a funny one the other day. An older fellow who was interested in doing one of my digital camera workshops, but proceeded to to tell me he had no digital camera and wasn't going to buy one because film was so much better.

He then went on to tell me that he had a great camera, a Leica M2 and it was so much better than any of these new digital things. Finally he says to me "and what camera do you own?" I thought about that, no point telling him about the digital gear, so I told him I had a Nikon F5, Canon EOS 1, a Rolleiflex and about 40 other film cameras, I then said I have to go and I prayed real hard he didn't book into the workshop.

On a contrary note I had a guy in a class with great Nikon gear, we were discussing the concept that any camera can take great photos and I sent a heap of my iPhoneography pics around, after having a good look he said straight up "I think I need an iPhone"....nice.

It may seem odd but over 15 years of teaching photography I have found a common theme in respect to gear, often those with the best gear take less photos and the worst pics in an artistic/creative sense while often I find folk with really basic gear just go out and take lots of great shots and couldn't care less about what gear they are using.

I remember many years ago as a technician at an 'art college' at the end of each summer vacation being handed several rolls of 120 film by the head of the department (her holiday pictures) for processing, all shot on a 'blad, result - rubbish! It aint the camera that makes the picture.

I think I came across that kid on Nikonians once...

Funny how people hubristically decide that "if a client has parameters the client shouldn't have to follow them". Such a stunningly narrow view of the business end of all this.

Commercial photographers DO depend on the willing and happy participation of their clients. Not all clients are technical idiots. I have a sticky note on my desk. It says, "What if the other guy is right?"

A reminder to me to be mentally flexible. Even when it comes to camera selection. Sometimes things change faster than I do and it's a blessing to have a bright client push you from time to time. It's just that we resent the push.

No matter what side of the fence you are on, BIGGER is always better. Except when you present your bill..
Lived this nightmare, every day of the 35 years I was in the commercial business.

My parents, never lost their Irish accents. I recall my friends nodding as my Da spoke to them and lughing when he asked "What did I just say?" It's a trick he played a lot when he'd had a few drinks in him. My uncle was over last year and he was forever stopping mid-sentence and saying to his son "They can't understand me".

I was in the British Museum in London with my 1Ds mk lll when a fella spotted it in my hand and said to his partner "Did you see the size of that camera!"

Back in my film days I had a client question my choice of cameras on a shoot. He asserted that "all the pros he knows use Canon." He was not impressed by my old, Swedish camera: Hasselblad 500c/m. :)

I don't think it's just clients. I took a workshop last year shortly after I got a Panasonic GF-1. The "model" and the assistant were both photographic "artists". I got snide looks and sarcastic comments from the onset from the pair. "How dare I come to a workshop with a point and shoot camera".

The only camera I miss from the "good ole film daze" is my Hasselblads. I made a ton 'o cash from 4x5 and a fair amount from the Hassy but made very little using 35mm. Having gone digital that's all changed as I shoot primarily with two 5D's these days. As for any digital medium format system I haven't seen one worth the trouble let alone the $. Recently, while using an H3 it just stopped working after 4 hours saying that there was no lens on the body. It was there for 4 hours and then suddenly didn't exist. We only had 4 hours booked for the location but it took 5 to complete the job mostly due to the camera not working. Thanks, but for that kinda $ I'd rather not.

Hey, that's what my old K-M 7D would do too. It would just spontaneously decide it didn't have a lens mounted on it, and stop working. Despite having been perfectly happy with the lens that NEVER CAME OFF IT just moments before. Sometimes you could induce it to see the reality and begin working again, sometimes not. Obviously a fatal flaw in a camera.


(He asks, stopping cold mid-song), What the hell is that?!? Unless that's a Photoshop trick as a joke, I've never seen one of those before.


And... David Muench shoots with a Panasonic Lumix FZ50, or a Canon PowerShot G10.

Reference: http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/columns/natural-connections/stormlight.html

Mike, I'm glad you asked Hugh what that olive monster is. My only guess (which I know is off) is a converted aerial camera, but this is too small for that. By proportions it looks like it must shoot 4" film, but on a roll? My second guess is it is a non-functioning prop camera.


Brides don't ask me about pixels that often. Maybe once or twice a year. They did a few years ago, but not too often anymore.

I think there is greater acceptance of digital and couples trust that their wedding photographer will use what he needs.

Couples are far more interested in receiving the most personal and emotional photographs I can provide them.

'that camera' is a graflex combat graphic, takes 70mm rollfilm.
And people call the fuji 6x9's the texas leica?

jho: What's a "client?"

Quite right. This is just another post on pro-versus-amateur - well mostly on the `pro' scene.

I have - or will have back, when it's repaired - a Canon 550D. Nice enough sensor at one business-end and a damn good Tamron 17-50 lens on the other. The rest is up to me to make a good photo for my own enjoyment first and foremost.
I had an allergic reaction with submitting to stock-sites over this summer. That's me told: bugger the pro scene.

Me, n.1 commenter in Mike's synthesis, I am perfectly convinced that you have to deliver what clients ask for. What I wanted to point out is that those requests are not necessarily a real technical requirement.
As a free-lancer graphic designer and hobbyist photographer, I can't but confirm that 12 Mpx is more than enough for most uses. Of course you can't crop much... etcetera. I will not negate that having a bigger resolution comes handy. What I negate is that you can't make a fully professional job with those 12Mpx, despite what agencies define as a minimum standard.
BTW, I am also convinced that those "standards" are defined to make a pre-selection in the material they receive.
What is not working in this case is that single clients tend to obey at what big bosses say, asking for a resolution they actually don't need.

So, a substantial part of a professional's work becomes buying very expensive gear cause it gives a professional appearance. That is what is told here around, I see...

My friend the top pro tells me that he gets no demand for more than the twelve MP of his D3, since very little of the work is for print.

I checked on ebay and saw a complete combat graflex outfit is on auction right now, with a buy it now price of $2500. The item number is 350388627723. I have no connection to the auction or seller.


In fact, asking for "too much" quality at the agency level is likely a factor in the rise of micro-stock -- some clients understood that they didn't need that much quality, and would be happy to pay a lower price.

I think the digital standards were set terribly high initially partly to assuage anti-digital Luddism, too. Time to get past that; especially with more and more advertising online, where the resolution requirements are very modest.

That set on ebay is about the same as what I have except that I had mine overhauled by Marty Forscher and and made up a hot shoe adapter for my Vivitar 284.
(if you really want to attract attention, try using a #22 flashbulb in that flash the size of a frying pan)
I put gaffers tape over the window that prints a frame number in the corner of the image. Absolutely the best camera I've ever owned in terms of image quality.

I used to buy super cheap bulk 70mm aerial Pan-X and Super Double-X from Freestyle Photo in LA for that and for my Hassalblad.

Makes me think of that quote: "Appearances are evil, but they are necessary."

Personally, I've noted the assumption is that if you're a serious photographer, "you must be shooting Canon."

I sell, or better not sell, my photo's not myself.....buying a camera just to get accepted by idiots.....is being on in my humble opinion....my GF1, suits my way of working....light, small, and with interchangeble lenses....I could always edit my exif to give them nikon credit....anyway....but why....if people don't like my stuff they might as well bugger of!

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