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!