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Monday, 29 August 2016


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Those are two very interesting and informative posts, Mike, and I stand in awe of the dedication and passion of the photographers concerned.

They're the perfect example of why chose to remain a Happy Snapper after I retired. I had been using that old canard ("I don't have the time now to do this seriously, but one day I will!") to justify why I wasn't a dedicated to photographer. Once I had the time, however, I realised that actually I didn't have the passion for photography to commit that much effort and dedication to it. So, as I've said before, I remain a happy snapper, but (as I've also said before) I deeply respect those who are, or who are trying to be, more than happy snappers.

(You might ask, if photography isn't my passion, what is? I'm beginning to think it's writing. When I'm writing one or the other of my blogs - or even comments to TOP - I'm very happy. I've reached the stage where I choose my holidays on the basis of how good they will be as source material for my travel blog....)

You mean spending 3 grand on the latest Canikon every 3 years is not enough?
That's it, I'm going back to film!

I personally see no need for certification for either photographers or graphic artists. Being able to do the work is enough of a filter. I don't do school well, but I have good eyes, an artistic sense, and am a good problem solver. I was able to work for 20 years as a successful photographer and graphic artist, and I did good work, which I would never have done if a degree was required. The certification people just are mad they spent all that money. I see nothing that Darlene talks about that a degree helps. All that is needed is talent and drive. Drive in all caps.

[I think the issue is not what you have, but how potential clients find out what you have. You might have talent and drive and experience and do good work, but the average wedding client can't tell you apart from a competitor who is unskilled and breaks promises and just got into the business. --Mike]

Where is the little edit pencil up in the top right corner. This subject gets me hot and I should have finessed my response a bit more, or some.
I like the quote "talent and 10,000 hours of practice. I also should add I was an assistant for seven years.

Two awesome comments that in their own way give me hope.

One thing though, photography feels more and more like a "lone wolf" profession. The kitchen table may sound inviting, but if you like working with peers, sharing ideas and seeing through projects with a team, perhaps photography and the visual arts in general is not the best career path.

I enjoyed both these both comments. Brings into front the reality vs phantasy the perceptions of professional career. S.Wolter comment about 10,000 hours practice to be comment. This number has come up in several times about what brings up competency. For instead Cartier Bresson-Cartiers famous quote “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” Another one is 10,00 repetitions of physical repetitions achieves a level of the type of competence when is it natural habitual vs thinking of it. If you drive a car, hit a golf ball, throw a football, you will be pretty competence at all of these sort of functions. You can after about 10,000 photos you will be reasonable be able to take a competence level of photos without a lot of decisions in the way, you just instinctively make the moves and controls and shoot. I'm assuming with 10,000 hours of photography you will achieve a level of competence, but it is the genius is takes also the gift.

Comment on Darlene Almeda's post:

I certainly don't want to knock any end of professional photography, it demeans all of us, BUT, when people say they think photography is so simple anyone can do it, I ask them if they have the "chops" to shoot high-end food photographs, with subjective lighting for it, and interacting with food stylists to get the timing right so the food is perfect! I also ask them if they think they can shoot a Rolex watch looking like it does in the Vanity Fair magazine ads. Do they own the "bag of tricks" they've put together for years with tiny mirrors on little weighted stands smudged just perfectly to cut the reflection off a little?

And here comes the unintended demeaning part, when it comes to wedding photography, the bar is set the lowest I've ever seen it in my life. Every frustrated "shutter mom" (not my slur), who wants to get their "art" on; fancies themselves a wedding photographer. My quaint little town outside of a metropolitan area, is literally inundated with people shooting family photos, kids, seniors, and engagement photography, every single night; so many, that I can't help but trip over multiple ones in the same evening when I'm trying to get walk in!

Truth is, for what the general public is accepting from people as professional photography in the wedding industry, it wouldn't take too much to train an interested amateur to do it. I'm not knocking high-end professional wedding photography, but even in the day, I thought they were skilled, but not as skilled as a high-end advertising photographer; so where do you want to draw the line?

Who makes up the certifications? Who judges a persons ability in an industry based mostly on taste? For most of us who started in portrait studios but jumped immediately to working for ad people, all those weird photo groups and their little CCP certifications have been a big joke for over 40 years to us. Not another "salty old man with a pipe" photo!

People talking about certifying and codifying art and taste based businesses have something else going on, not the appreciation of talent. What they've got going on is the "I had to do this, so to compete with me, you have to do this too". Sorry, there are a lot of taste and creative based businesses where a brilliant person walks in with no training and knocks 'em dead. That's just the nature of the biz...

This all painfully familiar. The graphic design field has been grappling with it for years.

In Ontario we have the Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD).

From the RDG site:

RGD was created by an Act of the Ontario Legislature (Bill Pr 56) and is the only graphic design association in North America to have this type of legislation. Bill Pr 56 "enables the Association to govern and discipline its members," and also states, "Every member of the Association who meets the qualifications and conditions as set out in the by-laws of the Association may use the designations 'Registered Graphic Designer' and 'RGD'."

I've been working in the field for 14 years and while I do admire the work the RGD does I am not a member. And I would venture the designation is almost meaningless. It is unheard of for a job in the field to require the designation (I've seen it once) and no client I've ever encountered would have any clue what it means.

At the end of the day, the "creative fields" have a substantial subjective component and, frankly, do not require a rigorous education standard. It's just the truth of it whether we want to admit it or not. This is a field of hustle. Get good. Stay good. Outrun the competition. There is no other way and a certificate/professional designation process isn't going to "fix" that.

I worked as a photographer for years until I found something else to pay the bills. It paid better.
Now, my daughter is trying to earn her keep doing photography.
She also attended a four year school learning the advertising business.would you believe that courses teaching the advertising business contain no courses on how to actually run a business!
Nothing about self promotion, or book keeping, or anything else about the day to day part of business.
No wonder There is such a high failure rate among small business or conversely why some less talented people make it while talent sits around underused.

Mike points out, in reply to Ken, that the purpose of certification is to assure potential clients that you're as capable as you say. I get that, but in my view, the issue isn't that people are getting shafted by incompetent photographers; rather that people are creating demand for incompetent photographers by being so cheap. (I'm not sure certification would solve anything in that regard; they would still price shop and ignore the lack of certification). As some have said, this issue predates digital. I recall a friend who hired a relative (at the urging of her parents) who "does photography on weekends". He shot many rolls of Kodak Max film which he had processed at a local one hour lab. And due to a gear failure, she got a dozen envelopes full of strips of black negatives. She was happy to have my photos, but they weren't much to speak of, because I purposely steered clear or the paid photographer.
Ultimately, buyers have to beware. Do a little research. You have the same issue with any small business. Is the florist going to deliver the flowers on time - will they be fresh ? Will the cake be there on time, fully cooked, but not overcooked and will it look like what you saw in the picture ? The caterers ? If people can figure out how to hire competent small businesses for other purposes, they ought to be able to find a competent photographers without needing a certificate. (Problem is, they get sticker shock and settle for Uncle Joe who has a nice camera).

When I was younger and an "active" environmentalist, I also had a few clients (land owners mostly) who had their properties either mismanaged or damaged from adjacent operations like logging. I was hired to portray these impacts for court proceedings. So I became adept at documenting "destruction" but it never became profitable. I didn't work hard enough at it is my take. Now I just take "pretty" pictures and sell them at a couple locations for fun.

Just reading Darlene's description of a week's work has me dripping in sweat! I can understand her call for certification. However, I find it difficult to see how my "environmental" work I did years ago could be approached in the same way.

I've done low-end food photography, and I was barely adequate for that. It's one of the wildest bits of professional photography. (Another one is jewelry, not really a recognized sub-specialty, but small stuff that's nearly always curved, reflective, and refractive poses kind of a lighting challenge plus a challenge displaying the scale accurately while showing the work well at the same time.)

I'm deeply doubtful about the utility of certification for photographers, just as I am for programmers. The programming field is getting certifications in some entry-level areas and even some seriously-advanced areas (but the advanced ones are usually brand-specific; Cisco, Oracle, maybe Microsoft) but I'm not at all sure it's a good idea. Everything is still changing too fast, and the field is too broad.

The subject of perceived "gatekeepers" seems to promote the polarization of opinions.

The underlying argument in the Malcolm Gladwell reference is that there really isn't any such thing as talent; you only need the ten thousand hours of "deliberate practice." (As well as some fundamentals which don't really add up to "talent" -- the intelligence to do the work, or the physical genetics to be able to meet the requirements of the sport. But without the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, the intelligence or genetics won't help.) The underlying research tends to suggest that there isn't any specific thing as "talent."

"talent and 10,000 hours of practice" is a self-contradiction.

The mangling of the original "anti-talent" idea of Anders Ericsson for expert performance


into an pro-self help position i.e. you don't need talkent -- all you need is 10,000 hours practice you can learn to do whatever task you want.

Not even Anders Ericsson believes this. He points out that 10,000 hours was not actually a number of hours reached but an average of the time elites spent practicing.


Even Gladwell (as the argument was taken from Outliers) has clarified his position to be closer to Anders Ericsson (even though he did say “Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness” which doesn't have many qualifiers in it).


But there isn't and never was any evidence for the Internet meme of 10,000 hours and you can "get good at" anything.

But there also seems to be little evidence that Deliberate Practice accounts for all the variation in skills that's claimed for it.

e.g. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/09/malcolm_gladwell_s_10_000_hour_rule_for_deliberate_practice_is_wrong_genes.html

You know the 80 / 20 rule..... well in creative endeavors it's the 95 / 5 rule. Certifications don't really help. Fields like Photography, Design, & Music have higher concentrations of practitioners who do it mostly for love but aspire to be 'professionals'---- as though that appellation carries with it some legitimacy or entitlement.
But to make a good living in those fields requires far more than being talented and competent . As has been pointed out, people overlook the grueling demands of the business side the marketing side the promotion side, the competition side, the bill collecting side and all of the other unglamorous sides of a successful business.
If you can be successful at a creative business, you are self certified. No one cares that a dues paying organization anointed you, they care that you can deliver professional work, on time, Every time.
Photography is the 'Guitar' of the expressive arts. Anyone can pick up a guitar and in ten minutes make some pleasant sounds, in ten weeks you can play a few songs But play like Segovia, or BB or Barney Kessel--- for most of us not even in a lifetime--- and those guys didn't get certified.

Many Very Serious Photo Enthusiasts will still be creating dreck, after One Million Photographs. Practice Doesn't-Make-Perfect if you have-less-than-no-talent.

Some professional photographers are control freaks. They have to do everything themselves, because they believe that if you want it done right, you have to do it your self.

But on a lot of high-end work you need to collaborate with others. Food photography requires food stylists and cooks. Fashion/Glamor requires stylists, hair and make up, plus various assistants—Steven Klein, and others, hire motion picture gaffers to do their lighting. I almost always have an assistant for product shots, and I always use a professional PhotoShop Artist. Therefore control freaks have a hard time moving-up-the-ladder.

Between the anal retentive PPA, and the lone-wolfisness of many still photographers, you will never see a professional certificate program.

Certification will not help. Oh, it might protect encumbents a little bit, or make a public stink, or get politicians digging in your pocket, but it will not necessarily help with the market. (Oh, and there are lots of markets where the high end buyers routinely ignore credentials, and such small matters as the first amendment would make it nearly impossible to effectively regulate photographers.)

Consider pilots - certified (at substantial expense and effort) by the FAA for decades. The ones at the top make pretty good money, most don't. Why do you read about pilot shortages? Because the basic economic value of the job is finite (low) and the number of people willing to stick it out to be a major airline captain is ever falling.

Spinning it around, a real problem a lot of folks in "artistic" fields don't quite get is that most of the world wouldn't notice at all if we all disappeared tomorrow. In this day and age wedding guests can build up a set of facebook style wedding photos that are more in line with what at least some couples want to begin with. And in any case, simple economics mean that the vast majority of couples cannot afford big money, nor the overhead that would come with 'certification'. (And yes, I shot some weddings for hire in my youth. I was even stupider then than I am now.)

(Perini's last sentence sums it up well)

I've actually been in the inverse situation more than once. My friend invited me to his daughter's outdoor wedding reception to follow under canvas - and asked me to take pictures to complement the official photographer. It was great fun, especially since I had no responsibility to produce any particular shots. Since I like to take mild-to-moderate telephoto candid pictures, I could just wander around observing how people interacted until I could start finding good positions and light, and started to be able to predict when a good shot would emerge.

My friend was *very* happy with the results. I've done that a few other times (at large parties if not weddings), and it's always been wonderful.

No stress, no need to earn a living, a chance please a friend or relative and get some interesting shots. What could be better!

"Photography is the 'Guitar' of the expressive arts."

Google Carol Kaye, she was a session player, and AFM member. She was one of the most prolific and widely heard bass guitarists, playing on an estimated 10,000 recordings in a career spanning over 50 years. BTW she always used a pick to play bass :)

She and many other session musicians replaced the Rock 'n Roll Stars on their recordings https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UqNvMOdhGU

I cannot see licensing for a creative profession such as photography, though I can sympathize with newlyweds who fall victim to incompetent photographers.

Who would set the standards or guard the gates? A bunch of old guys sitting around a table at PP of A? I know a few photographers who are "certified" or called "master" by various groups, and while most of them are technically competent none I know personally are exactly creative giants. They are the types who rant about the "rule of thirds" and argue about what is or is not "Rembrandt lighting."

As to the 10,000 hours, I think that is overstated for photography. It does take a good deal of practice and experience to consistently produce top quality work, but in many areas of photography a person who comes to the craft with a good visual sense (through either talent, background or a combination) can pick up the technique with a few months of study. In my teaching days I saw people who became pretty darn good photographers in 1,000 hours or so and others who worked for years and never caught on.

I think the best analogy is the food industry. Most people can learn to cook well but that does not make them professional chefs. There is a story about a well known and popular food critic in Melbourne who went a bit too far in reviewing a restaurant by saying that, although the food was all very good, it was too simple. Anyone, he said - even he - could cook as well. Challenged by the chef, the critic held a dinner party for a dozen of well known local chefs to show them that what they did was not so hard. He put on a terrific meal and was well complimented for it. The critic then said, "See it's not so hard". The chef relied, "You're right. Now, please repeat each course 60 times in the next four hours".

I remember reading somewhere that the 10,000 hours idea originally came from the work in a standard apprenticeship - 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year for 5 years.

And it just made you competent at the job, not necessarily brilliant at it.

What I am finding is that, simply put, people are not willing to pay for professionalism on certain areas. It is a very long discussion I have, and a pet one, with my brother in law.

I do think, sadly, that he is right on a point: marketable skills.

However, I do think I am right in saying that his profession is becoming "redundant", as photography, design, .... [insert liberal art speciality]. He is a coder and coding manager [if that is even a position].

He doesn´t like to be reminded that I am not willing to pay for something I can get free on "ze internets": which are app and big data science crunching coding libraries.

I am sorry, Almeda's super wedding photographer is [exaggerated]. One person is doing all that stuff alone? Including running the accounts on Quickbooks? But might call "one of the part-time assistants" to help with PP -- the day before delivery of hundreds of images?

And then is going to do a couple of portraits before the next weekend, when two (count them, 1, 2) weddings are booked?

Come off the grass!

In any case, that kind of wedding is one in thousands, not an everyday event for 99% of professional photographers.

I would also suggest it is not a base price $2,500 wedding.

AND then we come of the crux of the matter: certification. Not one word of the fantasy work description demonstrates the need for certification. Not one word.

What is going to be certified?

GIS is traditionally geographic information science, or the newer, trendier geospatial information science. My son just got a certification in this as part of his Master's degree in environmental management. It generally includes computer modeling and mapping, an understanding of how to integrate satellite imaging and GPS data into larger data sets, and lots of ancillary skills. Fascinating stuff.

I have worked in IT for 30 years, and there is no recognised professional certification that could reasonably apply in such a wide field. There are just too many specialist niches and contrary skill-sets that are required to run a single project, let alone and IT department. Any such certification would therefore be too general to be useful.

However, there are many individual certifications that IT professionals can earn, each of which apply to a specific skill-set. These may include IT project management, software engineering, service quality management, or specific platforms such as SAP or Windows. Not all are globally accepted, and a good CV will compensate to some extent (depending on client), but they are better than nothing, given that a general certification would be pointless anyway.

Nor do I think it would work for photographers either, but I do think a professional association would be useful for commercial photographers.

Such association would have guidelines governing the treatment of clients and general professional conduct. Clients would have recourse to appeal to a professional body if they were let down in any way, and dues paid to that body would cover insurance claims against grievances.

Photographers who clearly didn't meet the required standards would be de-listed, making it harder for them to operate.

Mr. Heard you and I are very different photographers and/or business people.

I always do/did work with assistants on shoots and in the day-to-day business; I could never have done it alone. On an occasion, I did three weddings a weekend, (Friday night second weddings; Saturday traditional Southern church weddings, Sunday Jewish weddings usually in a hotel), and studio shoots during the week.

I had a very successful studio business that I retired from in 2000. I was getting $2,500 weddings before I retired. I photographed some famous people and many wealthy families. My plan from the start was to climb the ladder to the carriage trade, and I did. You cannot make money unless you are working for wealthy people that appreciate your work, or in a profession that pays well. I did not want to be a doctor or lawyer, so I banked on my talent in art and business. My goal was to retire out of the special event business by age 40 and I did it at 42. It took three years to complete contracts and sell the studio.

Before I ran my own studio, I worked in advertising and after I retired from the studio, I relocated to my retirement destination and opened up another set of businesses that I run today (online inventory sales) and I also teach commercial photography full time for a public vocational school. I was not looking for the teaching job, someone the school contacted, contacted me and suggested I give it a try.

I have two university degrees in education that qualify me to teach at the vocational school along with my visual arts education, plus the other requirement that disqualifies a lot of photographers from teaching at vocational school is being able to *prove* to the school board the 20+ years experience they require as a successful commercial photographer which was easily proven through my tax returns. I hold a state public school teaching certificate and a commercial photography vocational teaching certificate. I have worked hard to get where I am at, but I went for it because I wanted to. No fantasy here, real stuff that I deposited in the bank and paid taxes on (and still do).

The only exaggeration in my post is I changed film to digital to update the wedding shoot process. I am very quick with Photoshop and Lightroom and can post-process 100s of files in a few hours via Lightroom. I have used Photoshop since using a Mac 512k and MacPro and I was a beta tester for Lightroom since it began. If you cannot post-process 100s of files in a day, you are using the wrong program or you need training. Photoshop is for the heavy lifting and not for general post-processing. I have seen students that started with Photoshop never learn Lightroom and this is the first thing I teach them about running a business -- it is all about time management. You must charge appropriately for your time or you will be on a race to the bottom.

I still run QuickBooks today and have been since I left Peachtree Accounting behind back in the early 90s. I have used the services of a CPA since 1985 and do the invoicing, inventory, and sales tax returns. I have QuickBooks prepare Trial Balances that are then dropped off to my CPA for tax preparation. I would never run a business without a CPA.

I have always felt I am a business woman with a camera, or a classroom, or a room full of inventory, and I started my small life as an artist, but math has also been my thing. I was raised by a single mom with four kids and learned how to work hard and stay organized from her. Even though I have a lot of formal education, it is my mother I credit for teaching me tenacity, hard work and compassion for people.

I have always had a lot of energy and a gusto for people and life. I am now 58 years-old, but I still get excited when I hold a camera that fits just right in my hands and when I see the passion in a young photographer. You may not believe me, but like my tax returns, my paper trail says it all.

All the best to you!

That sounds nice, but that sounds nice for someone having a desk job on a larger company.

Unfortunately, the process you are mentioning is not even a reality for professions where the professional is required by law to have a civil liability insurance, or the law requires that profession to be the only one able to perform certain assets or projects [ie: architecture in Spain, which legally is the only profession/professional skillset to do city planning, transport planning, spatial planning, housing -engineers/builders/ea can not design or plan any type of housing, not even the restroom for a workshop-].

Harsh reality commeth: that is not even sufficient to do so. Everybody knows somebody who is an architect or seems to say so. We call it the "brother in law syndrome". He who knows best.

What I mean is that not even legally bounded certifications are usually enough to grant the quality/intrusism on a profession.

Not even for doctors/general practitioners.

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