When Photographers Attack: The 7 Most Controversial Issues in Photography Today

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One of the absolute minefields for new folks entering the photography space is that they don't have any background to the multitude of “industry issues” that get debated on an almost daily basis. We put this quick list together as a bit of a primer so that they're not caught off-guard when they accidentally offend someone.

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Believe it or not, the wonderful pastime that we spend our days partaking in can be home to some very vigorous arguments. While many topics elicit emotional responses, photography has more than its fair share. Here are a few that really get people's blood boiling… for some reason.

Micro Stock Photography – A lot of folks look at it as a way to make a few extra bucks. Some early adopter photographers actually do quite well off it. Many other professional photographers look at it as the pinnacle of a self-destructing industry that is cannibalising its own prices and forcing itself to accept poverty-level income. Whichever way you fall, the reality is that it is here to stay and that calling it a “good thing” in certain company is a fine way to get punched in the nose.

Copyright – There are a lot of strong opinions on how a photographer should license their own work. Some photographers can see no benefit in any of the recent licensing options that have come out of the creative commons movement and stick rigidly to All Rights Reserved. Others embrace the openness of the CC movement and use their images as marketing collateral to promote their other goods and services. Middle ground is practically unheard of in this licensing death-match. Anybody who takes a different licensing model to the one you use is simply asking for abuse, so why not serve it up hot and thick?

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RAW vs JPG – Choosing which file format you shoot is as an important decision as naming a child, choosing a college or declaring war on a small third world nation. Well at least you could be forgiven for thinking that if you were to go by some of the online conversations on this exact topic. The crux is that shooting .jpg will save you space on your memory card and shooting RAW will get you more information to manipulate in post-production. Be careful which you choose as some people may send you anthrax in the mail if you make the wrong decision!

HDR – It's bright, it's shiny and it gets up some people's noses like cracked pepper. While it's true that some HDR shooters over-use the effect, it's also true that many over-use the saturation slider in Photoshop or the vignette tool or the black slider etc etc etc. Just like anything in a visual medium, it's personal taste that dictates what is… well… tasteful. Unless it's YOU that finds it distasteful in which case you have carte-blanch to wish death on the photographer. Make sure you insult their children for good measure.

Photoshop – This amazing program has basically replaced the darkroom as the modern way in which photographers tweak their imagery. Either it is the greatest thing to happen to photography ever or it is Satan. Many photographers (and others) will decry its use in the same terms reserved for damning Idi Armin and Saddam Husein, while thousands of others will protest its irreplaceable nature in a photography workflow. Most sane people fall somewhere between the two extremes and are happy to make minor tweaks to their well-shot photographs, just as they would have in a traditional darkroom. But, as you are probably guessing by now, there is no room for sanity when these arguments happen!

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Work for Exposure – A lot of people, companies, magazines, websites and others will sometimes ask a photographer for use of an image in a certain project in return for “exposure.” This is a pet hate of many photographers while many others couldn't care less and will simply politely decline. But whatever you do, don't underestimate the amount of snark you will be subjected to if you try this on the wrong photographer. These guys will roast their marshmallows on the bridges they burn with you if you ever dare venture down this dark dark road. And if another photographer dare give away a photograph? Phew, wouldn't want to be that poor soul!

Amateurs Undercutting Pros – Make no mistake, photography is a competitive industry in which to stake your claim for a living wage. With the take-up of digital cameras and the internet there are a lot more amateurs entering the industry on a daily basis. Some of them are perhaps entering the field of professionalism before their skills have caught up whereas others have remarkably good skills developed over time as an avid amateur. Either way, they are part of the god damned problem if you ask a certain segment of photographers! Be very very careful about who you tell that you allowed Getty to license your Flickr images – you might just be in for an earful.

It's a Minefield Out There!

As you can probably guess, we wrote this article a little tongue-in-cheek. The fact is though that many people in the photography industry get quite irate about one or more of the topics above (and to be fair, many of them have far-reaching consequences in our industry). We love the vast majority of people in photography. They are creative, friendly, reasonable and positive.



For the rest, we recommend Prozac.

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I'm Rob, the editor of Light Stalking. I try to keep this ship on course.

11 thoughts on “When Photographers Attack: The 7 Most Controversial Issues in Photography Today

    1. Alex J Baranyi

      Oh my goodness. This one really hurt.

      The best picture of my wife and I was taken by a Seattle friend who has no idea what ISO means. He took it with his phone. I immediately cropped it and sent it to “the relatives”

      I am depressed!

  1. Leslie

    How about discussing trends? What’s in, what’s out, and never the twain shall meet. I’ve seen people absolutely torn to shreds for posting photos that are considered a passe trend.

  2. Dwaine Gipe

    Twenty photographers cover an action point image from the same point in a sporting event. One shows up in Sports Afield and sixty others fly at various places in the world of shows or print sales. Which photographer has the rights and if offended what would be the legal charge? Standing to close to another professional? Could anyone afford to press any rights charges.

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