August 18, 2013

Photography Snobs

Settle in with a beverage of your choice. I’m getting on a soapbox today, and serving up a generous dose of common sense, mixed in with a little bit of humor! The subject is photography snobs.

Merriam-Webster definition of a “snob”
    • One who blatantly imitates, fawningly admires, or vulgarly seeks association with those regarded as social superiors.
    • One who tends to rebuff, avoid, or ignore those regarded as inferior.
    • One who has an offensive air of superiority in matters of knowledge or taste.

Snobbery is not an endearing personality trait. We’ve all known snobs in our everyday lives. I try to avoid them at all costs. But every now and then, I’ve been on the receiving end of some preaching by a photography snob. You have probably experienced it as well. Bullies with cameras can be especially annoying. You know the type – it’s my way or the highway. And I’m not talking about those folks who offer helpful tips to solve a particular problem, maker things easier, or improve my results. I am "all ears" when it comes to photography tips! I’m talking about the know-it-alls who spout off that your images aren’t authentic or legitimate because you don’t follow their personal set of rules.

Do I hear an “amen?”

Over the years, I’ve heard various folks run off their mouths about how one must do their photography in order to be a “real” photographer. Here is a sampling:
  • You must shoot only film.
  • You must shoot only digital.
  • Post-processing is cheating.
  • Post-processing is essential.
  • Every shot must be planned.
  • Every shot must be spontaneous.
  • A tripod must be used.
  • A tripod is unnecessary.
  • You must shoot in jpeg.
  • You must shoot in Raw.
  • Big, expensive camera equipment is best.
  • Small, inexpensive camera equipment is best.
  • The latest version for Photoshop is best for post-processing.
  • Free, online editing programs are best.
  • Use only natural light.
  • You must control your light.
  • Nikon cameras are better.
  • Canon cameras are better.
  • [Insert the brand] cameras are better.
  • High dynamic range (HDR) images look more like real life.
  • All HDR images look fake.
  • You must compose in the camera.
  • You always crop in post-processing.

Do any of these commandments sound familiar? It’s a given that everybody has their preferences. No problem there. The problem is when a photography snob decides that everyone else should categorically agree with his or her preferences.

I have my personal preferences, and they have evolved quite a bit over time. I love the creativity in the digital medium. I used to shoot jpeg, but now I only shoot Raw to maximize the amount of digital information in each file. I own and use Nikon single lens reflex cameras (with interchangeable lenses). One has a cropped sensor and one has a full-framed sensor. I also own and use a Nikon point-and-shoot. Each camera has its place and purpose. Over 99 percent of my photos are created with zoom lenses. Sometimes I use a tripod, but most of the time I shoot handheld. I don’t understand artificial lighting, so I do all of my shooting with natural light.

I always post-process my images (a requirement for Raw format). I use the latest version of Photoshop, but I also occasionally use free, online programs for quick, special effects. I will readily clone out blemishes during the editing process. (Who wants to see a thousand mosquitoes buzzing around a grizzly bear's head or a half-dozen globs in a sky because of dust spots on my camera's sensor? Not me!) I compose in the camera, but sometimes I will crop during post-processing. As a travel photographer (primarily), most of my shots are not planned and they are taken in whatever weather and lighting conditions that Mother Nature dishes out. However, I will occasionally set up shots that I have mentally pictured. The vast majority of my images are not HDR. But I have presented a few of them here on my blog and plan to do more. (And I dare you to figure out which ones.)

You may go about your photography in an entirely different way.  Does that mean you should abandon your techniques and adopt mine? No, absolutely not! Personal preferences are defined by a myriad of different factors, such as knowledge base, interest level, subject matter, time, physical limitations, budget, and comfort. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa.

Here’s the bottom line to this rambling post. Ask yourself if you are happy with your images.  If you are, that’s all that matters! If not, then you can choose to establish and follow a learning path to grow your skills.

And, the next time you get ambushed by a photography snob, tune the offender out.  (Their lips move, but you hear no sound.) Don’t allow others to define what specific photography techniques you must use to achieve your art. There is no glory or virtue in adhering to a set approach. And there is no ultimate authority that can rightfully declare whether your adopted processes are legitimate or not.

The level of confidence in your skills significantly impacts your ability to tune out the bullies. There have been many times that I’ve watch a photography snob try to ensnare my husband (a retired professional photographer) in their chosen doctrine. Mister Jim has been known to laugh in their faces when they start to spout off. He doesn’t argue with them.  He merely finds it humorous and walks away. As I have built my skills and decided what techniques work best for me, I’ve learned to chuckle too whenever a photography snob commences to preach from their bully pulpit. Their ignorance is my bliss.

Photography is a creative pursuit that can provide rich, personal enjoyment and satisfaction. Focus on the final results that speak to your heart and soul. And remember that the photography snobs out there can't steal your joy unless you give them permission! 


  1. Yikes! I didn't realize a photographers work could be so scrutinized. I look at your images and enjoy them and think WOW! I like your husbands smiling/laughing response. :)

  2. i liked this post! i am light years behind you on skill - both holding the camera and commanding it as well as in post-processing, but loved your use of the horse's a$$ as your spokesmodel. :)

  3. ROFL! Love it! I consider myself the mini-mini-mini-mini-mini you and since I am trying to do better (even if I have recently returned to AUTO setting)I want to fix things so they present better. I never leave someone's pimple on the face or broccoli in the teeth. I believe in best foot forward in much the same way as I shampoo my hair and put on my perfume. That's all any of this is — the best foot forward. Just my opinion. I have seen a lot of truly rotten photography online and some of it has been mine! LOL! To each his or her own!

    Love your model! (And I did notice the stinkpile.)

  4. Thank you so much for your thoughts, I don't compare myself to anyone, I take pictures simply to remember, even if it's the brocolli in my sisters teeth (notice I said my sister not mine) he! he!. Heck I didn't even start to take pictures until I stumbled upon your blog, so I'm O.K. with what comes out. I love the horse.

  5. Love this post, Donna. Said with humor and grace. I love taking photos and try to improve the quality, both of the SOOC image and the processed image. So much to learn. Sometimes I go backwards and just shoot for fun, not worrying about settings. Can be very freeing. And I know I've improved when I look back at some of the photos I took several years ago.

    There are so many ways to do things - humans are intensely creative. Let's celebrate that!

  6. Great post, Donna...I consider photography to be personal artwork, so I think it appeals to different people in different ways. If we get the result we were seeking, then it is just right! Thanks so much for stopping by my apples post!

  7. Great post, Donna---and you are right. It's all about our personal preferences... It's also about interest. My hubby is more like you in that he uses raw --and really works hard on each photo. I just enjoy taking pictures, but am not quite as 'picky' or intense as he is... It's just about personal choices. I do like to edit my photos at times --and definitely get rid of blemishes, power lines, people, cars, etc.... Zapping those things out is FUN to me!!!!! I also like the photo to look as natural as possible --and not fake (like so many look like today)... SO--again, it's all about what we like and what we enjoy doing!!!! Thanks for a great blog.
    P.S. Canon is the BEST... ha ha ha (not really)

  8. I don't understand the machinations of photography...I just have an artist's eye. I tend to approach a shot with "I'd love to paint this, but I only have two seconds, so I'm taking a picture!" I rarely do more than try to get it in focus and adjust for proper lighting IF I'm using the kind of camera at the time that I can do those things with. Usually I use a pretty automatic point and shoot. Many times I am disappointed. But, if I wanted better photos, I would learn how to do it properly...right? :-)

  9. I believe there are snobs in all walks of life and I just don't let them bother me or try to intimidate. As for photography, I consider myself hobby level and must say how much I appreciate your guidance personally and on your blog. With anything, we have to absorb the information and then use what we're comfortable with.
    Somehow I missed your last post overview from Bloglovin but will continue to think of your husband and can only imagine how exciting it must be for you to have better eyesight now.

  10. I can't believe that anyone would critique your photo's, and being snobbish by trying to tell you what's right or wrong. All of your work is done so carefully and beautifully.

    For me it is enjoyment, especially documenting the girls as they grow. And, who knew that I actually figured out how to get those photo's from the camera to the computer! :)

    Great post, my sweet friend!

  11. What a Wonderful post Donna! I use to get SO uptight, wondering if my photos were Ever going to be "good enough"!
    I'm SO Over that!Hahaaa...
    I do the best I can...that's all I can do. Snobs don't like it? Move On...
    Thanks for this post Donna!

  12. Yep... I have nowhere near the technical knowledge or skill you have no matter what camera, setting etc is used. I have fun with my camera. I have fun posting less than perfect pictures on my blog. Do I aspire to be better? Yes, but let the snobs beware. I will do it my way.
    Good for you Donna... Well said!

  13. You know, this is just like anything else. There are always the know-it-alls. What I know about photography can be inscribed on the head of a pin with room left over for the Gettysburg Address, but I don't let that keep me from taking pictures. Taking pictures is a passion, not some cold exercise full of rules. I inwardly cringe at some of my early photos but I refuse to let that deter me from learning (at my own pace) and growing as a photographer. Like my beloved Uncle Dodie -- a stellar artist and photographer in his own right -- says, it is ART. And as such, it is subject to individual interpretation. I'm all for technical expertise but not at the expense of heart and emotion -- and vice versa. The shutter-bullies are so funny to me because although I may not know enough (unlike Mr. Jim) to argue with them technically, I do know enough to know that photography is personal and the only limitations are the boundaries of one's own inclination to learn and develop (pardon the expression) your individual skill set. We all can't do everything. It's all good. Thanks for sharing some great insights and by the way, I love your photography horse. He rools.

  14. I have to agree! I won't even tell anybody how I shoot, they would laugh. And yet I really like my photos, so does my family, and other people too. And I'm learning so much about what translates to a good photo and what doesn't, by simply shooting the same scene over again on different days. It's really a nice way to learn how to "see". :)

    Your photos have been amazing forever so keep those ears closed to critics.


  15. Thank you for this post! I hear all kinds of photography snobs and sometimes it's hard to tune them out - but I know what I like and I do best if I stick to it! I use what I have and learn from those whose work I admire (as you know!). Thanks for all the help you give me, my friend. I appreciate your willingness to share with us.

  16. Donna, You can't imagine how much this post speaks to me! I'm a rank beginner in the dslr photography world, and all the "advice" makes my head spin! I always thought there was nothing difficult to taking a picture--just point and shoot! But now I have started to be able to distinguish between the qualities of photos and am looking forward to learning more. I'm hoping to join one of the personal photo challenges soon. Linda


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