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Inspiration

A Personal Note to All of You Elitist Photographers – From the Desk of Pye

By Pye Jirsa on October 4th 2013

personal-note

NOTE: I am going to start this article off by saying that it isn’t my intent to be “preachy” although it may come off that way. My single thought and highly idealistic goal is simply to hopefully foster a more open minded photography community. If not in our industry, at least here on SLR Lounge.

Introduction

I am always amazed at how strong of opinions people have in regards to photography. Now, when I say “people” let me be clear that what I really mean is other photographers. Most non-photographer people will simply like or dislike an image for what it is. Let’s be honest, when was the last time any of your non-photographer friends said “That would have been a great photo, but unfortunately they used studio lighting”? I think the safe answer is never. Non-photographers like or dislike an image for its artistic and aesthetic value, period. However, the photographer makes up arbitrary criteria for what makes an image “good.”

Photographers will choose to dislike an image because it has a vintage fade or filmic effect that makes it look like “Instagram garbage.” Photographers will dislike an image because it uses non-natural light. Photographers will dislike an image because it has been manipulated or composited in Photoshop. Some photographers will dislike images due to a lack of technical perfection. Extreme “purists” will even choose to dislike an image because it has been edited outside of the camera.

In this article, I am going to address each of these arguments and tell you why in general this contagious and pervasive “elitist” mentality is not only ridiculously unjustified, it is also completely detrimental to one’s own growth as a photographer.

Trying to Dam River with a Twig

Regardless of the argument, elitists in whatever form are simply attempting to limit photography as an art form. To me, this is not only silly it is also incredibly pointless and utterly impossible. Would you try damming a river by using a twig? How about filling an ocean with one bucket of water at a time? No, why? Because it is a endless and purposeless exercise.

Regardless, people do it and will continue to do it despite the futility. In addition, I have generally found that most elitists tear down and attempt to devalue the works of others for 4 common reasons:

1. Dogmatic Beliefs – Unjustified concrete beliefs in subject matters that are highly debatable, unproven and/or subjective.
2. Ignorance (most common) – The individual doesn’t understand the techniques employed by the photographer.
3. Jealousy or Spite – The individual is jealous of either the image or the photographer’s abilities, or perhaps just dislikes the individual.
4. To be Different – The individual refuses to acknowledge something is good, simply because too many other people like it as well.

Regardless of the reason behind the hater’s misdirected hate, I want to address each of the most common arguments I frequently hear.

The Dogmatic Purists

The Purist is the individual that for some unjustified reason believes that photography is bound by some sort of higher power. Whatever doesn’t conform to their dogmatic belief in what photography “should be” is simply declassified as photography. I find this argument the most puzzling as I often wonder how these opinions/mindsets are developed in the first place.

A commonly dogmatic purist argument comes from those that use historic photographers as icons and role models when it comes to photography must be devoid of ANY digital manipulation.

The hilarious part of this argument are the photographers who proudly shoot JPEG and claim their images are non-manipulated and pure since they are SOOC (Straight Out Of the Camera). These photographers completely dismiss the fact that any non-RAW image is already digitally processed from within the camera!

ansel-adams-purist

Often times I hear the purist defer to other photography greats as sort of a “higher power.” On that note, if there was one single historic photographer whose name I have heard more than any other in this idiotic argument, it would be poor’ol Ansel Adams.

Ansel Adam’s namesake has been used and abused by purists around the world attempting to make a successful purist argument that an image should never be digitally manipulated in any form. Unfortunately, most of these individuals probably never have studied the life or work of Ansel Adams. Instead, they just pull quotes and attempt to state that this great photographer would never touch Photoshop were he shooting in our age and time.

This argument is so ungrounded that I find myself feeling a little silly for even bringing it up. But, let’s give it a moment worth of thought and look into his work briefly.

Ansel Adams was born in 1902 and began his career in a time where photography was in its infancy. Constantly trying to push the boundaries of what he could capture in his images, he developed the Zone System for determining the optimal film exposure and development. He used lens filters when shooting his landscapes to modify colors and exposure. He extensively post processed his images and even wrote several technical books including “The Negative: Exposure and Development.”

Hmmm… Seems like he didn’t mind manipulating his images so far. What about Ansel Adam’s beliefs in photography? Did he have any of these dogmatic beliefs in what made up a true photograph? Well, let’s take a few looks at some quotes that aren’t generally used in the purist argument.

There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.

No rules for good photographs? Interesting, tell me more Ansel.

“Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.” – Ansel Adams

You offend me Sir Ansel, how dare you say God made mistakes in anything?

“The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance.” – Ansel Adams

Wait a minute, are you saying that a negative isn’t necessarily a finished image? That it actually should be processed? Preposterous!

“Some photographers take reality… and impose the domination of their own thought and spirit. Others come before reality more tenderly and a photograph to them is an instrument of love and revelation.” – Ansel Adams

There is room for artistic expression in photography? Ansel, you are really stretching on this one. Seriously.

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” – Ansel Adams

Said the Nikon user, Canon cameras take amazing photographs SOOC!

“Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.” – Ansel Adams

I would continue, but I think all of you are probably tired of reading my sarcastic commentary.

No matter, I think you should all be getting the point by now. It is impossible to assume what Ansel Adams would say or do were he alive today. But, in looking into his body of work, his advances to the science of photography, his broad range of educational material and his personality and believes in the craft, it is my belief that Ansel Adams would be absolutely thrilled by the potential with current technology and digital image manipulation. “RAW files, Lightroom, Photoshop? YES PLEASE!”

The bottom line is that Ansel Adams is known for being one of the most chemically manipulative photographer in the dark room. We would even probably be safe in saying that Ansel Adam’s is the father of present day HDR processing methodology. Would Ansel Adam’s use every tool today to achieve his vision? Most likely.

That being said, while we can make educated guesses, we aren’t going to ever have an answer to this hypothetical question. On top of that, why does it even matter? Why in the world should someone else’s beliefs in photography impact our vision and thoughts towards the art form?

The Ignorant Elitist

The next group of elitists that I want to address are the “Ignorant Elitists.” These are the photographers that claim to be “natural light photographers” simply because they don’t know how to use flash or other types of artificial lighting. They are the photographers that refuse to edit or manipulate their images digitally because they lack the post production skills to do so.

Instead of working towards expanding their craft, they seek to pull others down to their level by internally eliminating them as “true photography.”

My suggestion as always, use the best tool for the job. Want a natural light look, use natural light. Want an edgy editorial look, bust out the studio strobes. If after learning each tool you decide that one specific style of photography is all you want to do, then more power to you. But, at least understand the different tools available before making that decision.

This is probably the most common type of “elitist” that we run into, and frankly it is the most detrimental to the photographer’s success. This mentality forces the photographer to stick within their comfort zone, which is the antithesis of promoting personal growth.

Bottom line is, show me an innovative photographer that is on their way to being one of the next “greats,” and I will show you a photographer who is constantly working outside of their comfort zone.

The Jealous Elitist – “Damn that Annie Leibovitz”

annie-leibovitz-good

Similar to Ansel Adam’s, Annie Leibovitz is another name constantly targeted and ridiculed by photographers, but simply for a different reason. Photographer’s look towards Annie Leibovitz success and name within the photography industry and find every occasion to tear her down simply to placate their own jealous rage.

“Annie’s work isn’t that great”, “I could have done better, are you serious?”, “I can’t believe she is considered a professional!” I could go on and on, but I don’t think it is necessary. As people and really a society in general, one of our greatest and most unusual habits is in attempting to justify one’s own failures by tearing down the works of others. I suppose it is simply easier to look outwards with failure rather than into the mirror.

First thought, Annie is one of the most published photographers in the world. Maybe you think her latest shoot isn’t “all that special.” But, having the ability to create amazing and professional photographs, on any set, with any budget, day-in and day-out makes her the consummate professional.

Second thought: Tearing down others’ work will never really help you improve your own craft. Invest your energy on supporting the people you love, ignore the people you don’t, and focus your energy and efforts on your craft!”

The Anti-Pop Culture Elitist – “That’s Instagram Garbage”

instagramThe last most common reason I see for the elitist to casually dismiss a photograph is simply because it is enjoyed by too many other people. For the Anti-Pop Culture Elitist, there is a tipping scale of enjoyment. It is okay to enjoy something so long as most people stand on the other side of the scale. Once the scale has been tipped too far, and you stand on the side of the majority, it is time to move to the other side, if for no other reason than to simply be different.

These are the elitist photographers who claim to “only shoot film” when most others use digital. They despise Instagram and iPhones because now “everyone claims to be a photographer.” When introducing themselves to other photographers they append the type of camera they use in their images; “My name is Sam, I am a medium format professional photographer.”

These photographers stand on the opposite side of the spectrum, simply to stand on the opposite side of the spectrum. They will refuse to shoot digital, despite of its obvious advantages over film in many situations. They will avoid purchasing an iPhone, or using Instagram to take photos, because they don’t want to be grouped into that same class of photographer. They will claim to shoot only medium format, rather than admitting that a camera is simply a tool for their work.

I will fully admit that there is value in differentiating yourself and your work from others in the marketplace. There is also nothing wrong with nostalgic appreciation for classic cameras and techniques. If you have fun shooting film, great!

However, being different for simply the purpose of being different, is a pointless undertaking. Not to mention the fact that in doing so, you are potentially robbing yourself of creating a better overall image and product were you to simply use the best tool for the given job.

Conclusion

Many of you are probably wondering “When will Pye come down off of his high horse?” I’ll admit, that I have even annoyed myself with the length and amount of time that I have put into this article which was supposed to be a 10-minute undertaking.

Let me be honest. I don’t say any of this with the intent to preach or put myself above anyone else. In fact, it is the last thing on my mind nor do I remotely believe I am above anyone of my peers. I say this because frankly in looking at our industry and peers, I often find myself quite depressed.

I am depressed at the fact that we all embarked on this journey into photography to explore our creative vision, yet we seek to limit that creativity for unknown and irrational reasons. I am depressed at how often we seek to tear down others, in an attempt to flatter our own failures. I am depressed that we refuse to acknowledge greatness, because we may not currently see it within ourselves. Most of all, it depresses me that we refuse to acknowledge the success found in failure, because it discourages ones desire to continue trying.

I’ll admit that I am an idealist. It’s probably what makes me so happy as a wedding photographer. My focus in photography has always allowed me to focus on capturing ideal moments in people’s lives. But, while I am an idealist, I am not self-delusional to think that my opinion or thoughts are important enough to make much of an impact on our industry. But, I do believe that if enough people agree with what was said here, you all can make the difference.

A more open and supportive photography industry may be a idealistic and ultimately unrealistic goal, but who in their right minds ever set out to attain a less than ideal goal in the first place?

As always, your comments, critique, and thoughts are welcome below.

About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Flor Varela

    Thank you Mr Pye! I found someone wgo understands my feelings ;-). Each and everytime I encounter people who always try to put me down on my form of art. I’m not schooled in it and Im learning as I go, but people who think that bashing others in the industry makes them better are wrong. I believe that for someone to get better the help of others in the same field or with knowledge of can help empower them to become even better at whatever it is they are trying to achieve

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  2. Paul Empson

    One reason I do like the site is the forums… they are, almost always, friendly and helpful with lots of honest advice and lacking arguments disguised as opinion…

    One little mantra I perceive to be correct: there are no good or bad photos just images to like or dislike…

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  3. robert garfinkle

    Better late than never, right?

    Pye, thank you – admittedly you categorized me as the “The Ignorant Elitist,” which best describes me…

    How I landed a response so late after the post – well, after submitting an image for critique on 3/19/2015 ( thereabouts ), and on of the critiquer’s handed me my ass basically – suggesting I checkout one of your posts regarding Native ISO (to which I still have questions), I ran across this post, read it, and honestly Pye, I am not offended, I actually sit here laughing because you, to a tee, describe the exact problem…

    HUMILTY – I absolutely do not know what I am doing what so ever PERIOD!!! And thus I copped an attitude early on (with my camera in hand), and landed myself in the naturalist bucket, trapped, thinking post production is for those people who don’t know how to take pictures, when in fact it’s the exact opposite – not only do I not know how to take a picture, I do not know the first thing about post production… enough said about that…

    Yet the main reason I attached myself to this forum – thank you by the way, for SLR Lounge, is to learn, and I continually learn what I do not know… it’s ok…

    in a recent submission for critique, and writing Hanssie about it too, this one – https://www.slrlounge.com/critique/bending-light-with-your-bare-camera-2/ where you can definitely spot the attitude of “The Ignorant Elitist” (thinkin’ I’m all that…) as well as other issues to which the critiquer’s point out…

    So, humbly, again, here to learn, and will absolutely say to you a big thanks, and to others in this forum, for taking the time to point out where I fall short – which is everywhere…

    The only experience I have is throwing money down for equipment – that I can say for certain, that’s it…

    I do have a passion for photography, and think I do have “ability” not just because I own a camera – I find it enjoyable, that is, after I get “over myself” and get out of my own way…

    So, you may have feelings about having posted this article, granted, I’d have the same feelings too – yet no different than I walking around with this attitude I need to shed…

    I often tell people my little story about piano lessons when I was a kid – to which I had one lesson, that’s all the teacher could take, of me… :)

    Point being – hopefully I’ll get it, some day… If I be in “learning mode”, always, I may stand a good chance of forging this untapped passion…

    Thanks Again…
    Rob

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  4. Jonny

    Well said Pye…really loved it. I hear so much of this and, being a positve person in general, it often bothers me. I am failry new and sometimes hear more criticism than constructives. However I have a good friend that I started this wonderful journey with and we support and encourage each other to grow…this has been without a doubt the biggest motivator that I could have.

    Thanks for the great speach!

    Jonny

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  5. Richard

    For those who doubt that Adams manipulated images I recommend a YouTube search for a tour of Adams’ home and darkroom with his son in which he shows the evolution of the famous Moonrise Hernandez New Mexico.

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  6. Patrick O’Malley

    Nicely written, Pye. Having one been privileged to stroll through a gallery collection of Ansel Adams’ original work, there was no doubt he’d used filters to darken the sky, plus, dodged and burned, etc. in the darkroom. Using a phrase from my home state of Texas (relating to the above-referenced elitists)…”An empty wagon makes the most noise…”

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  7. J Gregg

    Hi!
    My name is Jeremy, and I take pictures…
    Great article
    I have always encouraged people to pick up a camera, and take pictures of what they think looks good.
    Spreading the joy of photography, is what I do. What does that make me ???

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  8. Roberto

    Many replies on this article means that it was a long but interesting point of view, i always have seen that kind of elitism which beyong right or wrong it is a “vice” that doesnt let us learn from others, teach what we know to others and let free our creativity. I agree with the argue that technologies are tools and we have to make the most of them. The result is what always have really matter.
    Thanks for this Pye

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  9. Lance King

    Preach it! ;-) I fully agree with the sentiment behind your post. I’ve been shooting for about 25 years now, but don’t necessarily consider myself a great photographer (and even if I did, it would be immodest to state as much publicly). The whole film vs digital thing grabbed my attention because although I was an early and eager adopter of digital in the mid-to-late 90s, I’ve added film back into my repertoire over the past few years.

    Really, it doesn’t matter what tools you use to get where you want to go. I shoot film because I enjoy doing so, not because it’s “better” in any meaningful way than digital. And there are plenty of occasions where digital is easier and more suited for a particular scene. I frequently visit a certain film-centric web forum, where I’ve learned a lot about arcane film-related information. But one has to be wary of the crusty old Luddites there who will tear you from limb to limb if you dare even allude to d*g*t*l. Sadly, people like that probably drive away those who might otherwise be interested in exploring a different medium.

    I’ve taken great photos with a Holga and crappy photos with my DSLR. But in the end it’s all about the image. If film production stopped tomorrow, I’d keep on shooting with whatever I can get my hands on.

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  10. Tom Donald

    I do agree with the original post! It seems to me that photography is a two stage process, the capturing of a latent image followed by the creation of an output image from that latent image, because I was a keen printer back in the days of chemical photography, and I don’t see why digital photography should somehow have changed things to a single process. The idea that camera output should already be some kind of finished image is an odd one, I would always expect to choose appropriate brightnesses for a specific output device, just as I used to select a hard or soft paper to print a particular negative. Would those purists of whom you speak object to paper selection when printing??
    There are no rules except know enough to do what you do deliberately, otherwise, you can’t do it again!

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  11. Duskrider

    Just remember in all you do/read/see/reply to/get emotional about as a photographer reading photo websites, fellow site members are your peers, not your target audience. The only opinions that matter are those of your paying target audience.

    Honest critiques from your peers is potentially helpful, but so few of the comments are that, so you can and should discard 95% of what’s being said. The honest, no-agenda, helpful peer is easy to spot. The rest are just noise and should be treated as such.

    If somebody gets nasty in the comments without first being provoked, they aren’t even worth considering as a peer, just as a jerk. In real life if you encountered that, you would discount anything they said immediately, so why do we get so worked up when it’s in words on a forum or comments page?

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  12. Mau VC

    Great article, I know so many forums and website where you can go and preach this ! Please!

    I have just want “if”. most like a extension to what you said than a prerogative. In term of post production, how far can we go?

    Where is the balance point between the work of the photographer and the work of the post-producer, (because many times they are different people, and how that affects the overall quality of both. Let´s take any hypothetical shot that is technically and artistically great, you can have any of this scenarios:

    1. The photographer was so-so and the work was saved by the post-processing, yet the whole credit goes to the photographer. People is amazed by the photographer “talent” when the due credit must go to the post people.

    2. The photographer was really bad, the work is also save by the same photographer with post processing. Here we are giving due credit but just maybe to the incorrect talent ?

    3. The photographer was great and the work needs just minimum post. Notice that in this case, we are giving the same amount of credit to someone that did a great job at the time of the photography than the one in point 1 and 2 that were not as good at that particular moment.

    Somehow it feels like we might be praising people for the “wrong talent”, taking a particular photography could be an art itself (set up everything at the precise moment of time and freeze the light perfectly) while doing a great post could also be an art by itself but with a completely different set of skills. However the final product is called the same and the credit is usually to the one that did the first part. I bit unfair I say.

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  13. Eli Ormsby

    I’m an intermediate amateur photographer. I’ve only been shooting for about 3 years, and I have to say that when I first started, I was extremely intimidated by the “elitists” that I came in contact with. It made it very difficult to actually learn a whole lot. I’ve since hardened myself with idea that “I’ll shoot the things I want to, whether you like it or not. My perspective is not yours.”

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  14. Jo Rodrigues

    I just wanted to say I agree with a lot of what you said. I do write myself and people are criticising you on things that don’t even pertain to what you have written. The reason why I enjoyed what you wrote is that I have said and written similar things myself.

    I think the point that a lot of people have missed is that no one cares what you believe in or ignorance to the truth. The simple point I get (from your article) is that there are too many know-nothing-at-all people who have a few rule photography vocabulary. Generally these are what I call poor technicians with little eye for the art of photography.

    A good photograph is a good photograph even if shot with Instant ©rap. A bad photograph shot with the best primes out of camera (that does everything for you so you don’t have to anything more than press the shutter) is still rubbish.

    The reality is that what is of consequence is not how you create an artwork but the artwork itself. I find most people who fall into the categories you have mentioned really don’t know much more than what they have heard repeatedly and anything beyond that is threatening. These are often the people talking about primes and using your feet as a zoom when you are standing on the rocks and you are trying to photograph a whale out in the bay… start walking my friend… start… erm… swimming!

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  15. Ken Hall

    Photography is painting pictures with light. As there are many different schools of art – realist, abstract, cubist, renaissance, etc. – there are many ways to develop our end product … the image.
    As you so correctly point out, there is no ‘correct way’ to make a photograph and the aim is to produce an image that we believe is aesthetically pleasing and which we are personally happy with.
    To this end, there is no end to our variety of subject, selection of camera settings and choice of manipulation of either film or digital image.
    Thank you for a very full, intelligent and interesting article.

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  16. K.B. Kellas

    Pye, brovo! You hit the nail on the head. I have heard all of the same comments and excuses from other elitist photographers, and I believe we all have at one time or another. And here is my perspective on it. I am 52 years old. I began learning photography from my father in 1969 when we were moving from California to Alaska. My father I think, would have been an film camera only elitist, were he alive today. But I learned from him and became very interested in photography. Throughout the years, I have worked in the darkroom processing film and loved it. It was so interesting, but so labor-intensive, not to mention the fact that I still believe today that I am not as smart as most people because of all the chemical fumes I breathed in, I know I must have killed several million brain-cells. I have used twin-lens reflex, large format cameras up through the years. I wasn’t until about 2005/2006 that I finally made the jump to digital. For me, it was the right move. Personally, I find that I am free to imagine my vision and and work to my fullest potential. The cost of film processing, and film itself was a constant financial burden that at times, I couldn’t afford, and I found myself limiting what I would try to shoot. I guess I think about it in somewhat the same way you do. If a photographer only wants to work in a film medium, more power to them! But to make an argument that one photographer or another isn’t really a photographer because the work in a digital format, or processes their photos in Lightroom or Photoshop, is simply nonsense! What photographers have been doing for years in the darkroom, is no different than what we do today in Lightroom or Photoshop. I see no reason in putting someone else’s work down because they choose a different method of producing an image than I do. If it’s a great image, it’s a great image! If I don’t like an image that I see, I always have the choice of steering my eyes somewhere else. Imagine that! One of your comments above pointed out that, in their day, many artists like Piccso, Leanardo or Rembrandt often displayed their works much to the displeasure of other artist “purists” of the time. Today, those men are considered the “Masters”. It seems to be the same with any artisian, past or present. We hear the same arguments today that those artists did back then. It just all seems so pointless. Photography is a visual art. We all are going to see images that we like, and ones we don’t. But just because we don’t like one image or another doesn’t devalue it. It only closes us off from artistic expression, and that is a sad thing. I don’t believe you came across as preachy; I think you said what has needed to be said for some time. Those people you mentioned do exsist and they probably always will. But it doesn’t mean we have to bye into their way of thinking. Open and honest conversation needs to be had about this subject occasionally needs to be had. And maybe, just maybe, someone will change their way of thinking about what a photograph is. It’s a means of communication that we all share, and we must all respect. Finally, I would suggest, like you Pye, that some of these photographer “elitists” that use icons like Ansel Adams as their “purist” example. I have watched many of his interviews, documentaries, and read many of his books, articles and educational materials. Ansel Adams was far from the “purist” some would like him out to be. He was well known to manipulate, reprocess, and even create composit images in the darkroom. Some of his quotes that you listed in your piece are words to live by. Do I think Ansel would be using Lightroom and Photoshop if he was still alive today? I don’t know. But what I do know is that he so loved photography, his motivation to produce the best image he could would have, at least, had him him experimenting with these two programs. And if he discovered that it expanded his artistic freedom and potential to produce better images, then yes, I absolutely believe he would be using some of the same methods we use today. I believe he loved photography that much. So, in closing, I will say this; great article Pye!

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  17. Brook

    This sentence ” Most non-photographer people will simply like or dislike an image for what it is” I think sits quite well next to the quote “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.”

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  18. ADITYA WADHWA

    I have been reading and following SLR lounge for quite a while now, and was always nervous to comment on anything since I am a new kid on the block. I am based out of New Delhi, India and have recently started wedding photography. I got a few in my pocket for now to showcase what I can do with those who might keep faith in me. I feel like taking fully processed images out of the camera coz i get confused with what to do with an image in Photoshop… so many tools, so many perspectives. I keep trying different effects… B&W, lens flair, filters, noise etc. and then come back to the original image.
    This article somehow supports my perspective of how I want to publish my work and not copy what people do with Photoshop.. I believe it starts from the shutter and that should be visible in the image as my perspective while capturing the moment and not what I could do with Photoshop. I thank you for writing this article which definitely boosted some positivity and confidence in beginners.

    P.S. I got confident and could enter wedding photography when I saw Gene Higa’s interview on SLR lounge:-)

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  19. Mirley Graf

    Thank you for this article. I have had questions about this subject myself. I am just starting my photography career, so I’m a total ammeter and I’ve had questions about photographers like Peter Lik who has a few gallery and one in Hawaii. I know he edits and I asked the lady at the museum of editing was cheating and she took it offensively. I was asking an honest question. Your article helped answer an honest question of mine and I really appreciate it. Editing is just enhancing a picture…like make-up on a woman.

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  20. Warren Saltz

    Pye, this is a bold piece that has further elevated by impression of you and your website. It’s inevitable that some people will misunderstand some of the points you made. And, unfortunately, it’s inevitable that some people will be offended. In fact, I have to confess that I’m not immune to this type of “elitist” thinking when observing other photographers, sometimes without even seeing the images they create. But your article prompts me to step back on look at myself … the things I say, and the things I don’t say. And, in doing so, it becomes very clear that that’s not how I want to think, it’s not who I want to be. Thanks for pointing me in a better direction. Warren

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  21. Lisa

    Oooooh. Does everyone that goes beyond “snapshots” have to have this conversation??? Even my own husband pointed out to me that when he used to take pictures with his 35mm, his pictures came out just fine. He didn’t have to do anything to them. Thank you dear for pointing out that I must be a really bad photographer and/or have really bad equipment if I am having to “Photoshop” them! I waited a few seconds until the urge to smack him very hard on the back of the head mostly passed and then “explained” to him that he didn’t know what the heck he was talking about. First, when people curl up their lip and say “Photoshopped”, they generally are referring to manipulations like making a pet dog look like it is seven foot tall or a shark jumping out of the water to snatch helicopter flying over out of the air. So get that straight before you say I Photoshopped my pictures! Second, yes, I could turn on those handy Scene selection options on my camera, shoot in jpeg mode and let my camera make all the decisions on how to manipulate my photo, because one way or another the photo is going to be manipulated, if I wanted but I don’t want to. Good or bad, I want to make those decisions. And as for that awesome 35mm camera that took perfect SOOC shots, the same thing was going on in darkrooms that is now going on in Lightroom! It is just a matter of who is going to get to make the decision of what the end result looks like. And, as you also pointed out, who gives a heck one way or another. In the end, it does not matter what type of equipment you have or how you post process your photos that is going to make you good, bad, professional or a hack. I have expensive equipment and software. I read articles and buy books and take lots of pictures. I take a lot of good ones but what I lack is creativity. I have a 16 year old friend that takes pictures with a point & shoot that blow my pictures out of the water because of her creativeness. And if people don’t recognize this and feel better about themselves by snubbing how someone else does thing then they already have issues and we should just let them have their ideas. I guess they need them.

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  22. Jeff

    Well said. I try to be as open minded as I can and just like the pictures for what they are. 95% of the time that works out. My problem is that because my friends know me as the “photographer” they are always asking the questions, “How does this look” “What should I have done” “How do I get this to do X” and I FEEL like I’m coming off as an elitist when in reality they are just trying to learn, as we all did. I have to admit, however, that I dislike the Instagram-y filter looks. I can enjoy the pictures the people have taken without a problem, I’m just not a filter guy I guess. However, I don’t condescend to others about my dislike.

    P.S. I bought the Couples Photography DVD a few weeks ago, did a photo shoot a week after and the results were amazing. Thanks for teaching!

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  23. Jay Lee

    Obviously you’re not a real writer as this wasn’t typed on an Olivetti Lettera 32

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    • Pye

      lol, just saw this. Literally laughed out loud in a coffee shop. Now people think I am crazy, thanks for that :p

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  24. Topher Kelly

    Big Ups, Pye. I understand that you think you were being a bit preachy in this article, but I think anyone who has read SLR for a while or has any idea of the passion you have for photography understands your strong words. I think we are all happy you decided to publish it.

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  25. brady

    Great post Pye, good to keep open minded and don’t want to be one of the old grumpy photographer guys. i agree with all you statements, you got a new fan. i only want to feedback if its going to make a better photo or make me a better person. all i want to do is make great images and have fun doing them. aloha! :) have a great week!

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  26. ShadowFX

    I am an “elitist” and proud of it… There is only one way to make an image, and that is “My Way”… works for me, maybe you all should try it… ;-) As we seem to be quoting Ansel Adams “Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.”
    I bring to the photography table, a philosophy I learned from my father, who for decades made images with a twin lens reflex and no light meter; “I am not always right, but I am never wrong.”

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  27. Bob Coates

    If you check out Ansel’s autobiography, published in 1984, he said, (little paraphrase here cause I don’t have time to look it up) “I wish I could be around in 20 years to see what people could get from my negatives via electronic means. It won’t be the electronics, it will be the person running the electronics. While I don’t think they will create images exactly like mine I believe they may be able to get more out of the negative than I can with current means.”

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  28. Bob

    I like your write up and sentiment. I would be interested to know what you think of Ken Rockwell and his work.

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    • M. Saville

      Bob, interesting that you should mention Ken. To be honest, we like that he speaks his mind. The internet can always use more straight talk…

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  29. Paul

    I wouldn’t consider myself to be an elitist but I do believe there is a right way and a wrong way of doing things. There are so many variations of photography that the article you reference to cannot apply to all areas of photography. In portraiture there are certain rules that should be followed in order to make a good portrait. Proper lighting and posing are paramount to a good portrait.
    What makes a good sport action photograph? What makes a good product or food photograph? What makes a good landscape photograph? My point is, there are rules in photography that should be followed and yes sometimes the rules should be bent or even broken. The author of that article in question is advocating an acceptance of a hodge podge approach to photography sort of an anything goes, do as you please type of photography. This is something I could never agree with due to the fact that almost everyone you see today has some kind of camera with them wherever they go. This has devalued the profession of photography a great deal. The camera manufacturers have also contributed to this trend by making it far too easy for people to think they can make a good photograph when in fact they have no clue as to how to use the camera outside of the fully automatic mode. It is my opinion that we as professionals need to adhere to a higher standard for if we do not we will all perhaps be working outside of the profession we so love and enjoy.

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    • Pye

      I am curious where you thought I said anything to the fact that I am “advocating an acceptance of a hodge podge approach to photography sort of an anything goes, do as you please type of photography.”

      This article says nothing of the sort. In fact, it says the opposite. It says to decide whether you like a photo based on the photo’s merits, not based on who shot it, how it was shot, what camera it was shot on, how it was edited, etc.

      If it is a great image, it should be great regardless of these facts. If it isn’t a great image, then it isn’t. But make that decision based on the photo itself.

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    • Mike

      You are an elitist in denial. I would even dare to say that your post borders on dictatorship. In your first paragraph you use the word “proper”to define posing and lighting rules. Define the word. Proper is a very subjective word when it comes to art. There are no rules in art and there should never be. You might like a particular technique and use it to express yourself and find that another technique simply doesn’t work for you. Use what works and share it with others. Let other photographers do what they like to do. If they think they are good when really they aren’t, what’s it to you ?

      I think more and more people use photography to elevate or flatter their ego and social status more than they use it as a means of expression. Pye’s article is a reality check for me. Stay modest, be open and not just critical. If you need or want to criticize, do it in a positive and constructive way or don’t do it at all. That’s what his article tells me and it hit home big time.

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  30. Frank McKenna

    I really enjoyed this. I found it very we’ll written and all of the points you made were spot on. You clarified a lot of things for me in terms of negativity that I see out there with different types of photography. Thanks for sharing this.

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  31. Rick

    Well stated. I’ve always held that an image that tells me a story or evokes emotion or makes me ask a question is a great one. Shot with whatever the photog had at hand at the moment. Save those who aspire to create images from the negativity of the “elite.”

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  32. Win

    Where does the “sensor size is everything, full frame is the ONLY way to go” people fall? Especially those that bash Micro Four Thirds and even some APS-C cameras for the sole reason that they don’t have a full-frame sensor….

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  33. Richard

    “He doesnt like it, because he can’t do it!”

    Never been a big fan of that philosophy

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  34. Alan Cruickshank

    I have enjoyed being an amateur “toggy” as we say in Scotland, for two years now, one of the things people tell learners like me is “join photography clubs, go out with other photographers etc. etc” and this is of course is correct advice and i have learned a lot……not all good though! the elitists you talk about seem to be everywhere, even with my short couple of years experience i have done enough homework to know that Ansel Adams was a master in the darkroom, i also know that JPEG is already processed, i know also know that “elitist photographers” are narrow minded cretins that do not deserve my attention and time other than to confirm what type of person and photographer i DO NOT want to become! should i or any of my friends find that i am becoming that type of “Toggy” i hope someone will have the decency to take my camera and smash it over my head. Great article and much love and respect to you for writing it.

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  35. Bret Scovill

    I agree. I photograph to satisfy my soul. It is like listening to music. I like some music, some I do not like.

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  36. Felipe Zabala

    Ok… I don’t know where to start, I guess I can say that “I agree with what is said here” but I also think it’s quite pointless. I mean, have you even read what you wrote? Take a look a this particular line here:

    “Invest your energy on supporting the people you love, ignore the people you don’t, and focus your energy and efforts on your craft”

    I think that if you would’ve written that line first, then this whole article would’ve been much shorter.

    Imagine a Bible school teacher having a conversation with a Paleontologist… what would happen if the bible school teacher told the paleontologist that evolution is a lie and tried to convince him that god created the whole world as it is today. Then the paleontologist would probably start to talk about Darwin and the evolution of the species and it all becomes a tedious argument between two sides which clearly don’t want to give in.

    Now… what would happen if the paleontologist would just glance at the bible school teacher, smile, pat him in the back and say: Believe whatever you want.

    To me, thats the best way to end this argument, lets not become creationists and evolutionist fighting over what came first, let’s just accept the fact that THERE ARE PURISTS and they CAN say whatever the hell they want about photography and we should just laugh it off and MOVE ON.

    By writing this long article, which I see only as an outlet for your frustration with this type of photographers, you are not focusing yourself on the people you love and ignoring those you don’t… au contraire, you are featuring those who bother you and writing a whole lot of text about them. And what for? The way I see it, photographers are very complicated amongst each other, today I was reviewing which of my Facebook friends gave me a “Like” in my Facebook page and I was amused by noticing that the ones who didn’t where almost all colleagues, and you know what? I don’t give a damn! Because I’m not interested on them as market, they are not going to hire me, they are not my audience and their opinion on MY material is probably going to be partial to their own aesthetics. So why bother with what “the industry” thinks about you, it’s not other photographers that make you who you are, it’s your work and also your clients, and I believe Annie Leibovitz can vouch for that.

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    • Pye

      Haha, I actually didn’t write that. One of our writers wrote that additional line which I thought was worth including =)

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    • Pye

      I get your point though. Normally, I would just go about my day and not care just as you mentioned. But, I can’t do that when we are trying to create and foster a positive environment in SLR Lounge. We have a lot of negativity here that we want to cut through, that is all we are trying to do with the article.

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    • M. Saville

      Felipe, the reason that we post content such as this, is not so much an outlet for frustration, but an encouragement for others to think more positively as well.

      If we thought that all of this would have no effect on “the industry”, or other photographers in general, then we wouldn’t have bothered to post it.

      Our hope, of course, is that someone who reads this will find themselves being a little more open-minded in the future, focusing on their craft while caring less what elitists or haters have to say.

      You’re right, in a sense it’s none of our business and maybe we should take our own advice and ignore everything. But then again, that would go against why we made a career out of photography education in the first place… ;-)

      =Matt=

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  37. Charlie

    There are three things that bother me the most:

    1. When older or most more established photographers put down younger or newer photographers. Are we forgetting that at some point you were a new photographer and the older or more established photographers at that point in time were probably thinking the same of you?

    2. Age or years of experience does not make you “better” or more skilled it is how well you do it that counts. For instance someone can take crappy photographs for 10 years, meanwhile someone could be taking photographs for 2 years and be absolutely brilliant.

    3. Photographers or art elitists that don’t agree with where photography is going!L Let us not also forget that when Pablo Picasso, Édouard Manet or Gustav Klimt displayed their works they were met with disagreement and disgust by their peers or ” people already in the game” because they were experimenting with something new. Now they are massively celebrated as some of the greatest artists ever! Its just absurd people are ridiculous and it just goes to show us how much peoples mentalities have evolved over hundreds of years. (obviously not that much).

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  38. Facundo Luzardo

    CLAP, CLAP, CLAP! Well done Sr!

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  39. Joshua

    3.14159….. is Pi.

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  40. Drew Pluta

    TRUTH

    Clients and viewers generally don’t care about your process, they just want the results. These days there are a lot of ways to be awesome at what you do. Why would you want to inhibit your own ability to move freely?

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  41. Philip Sharpe

    Pye,
    Thank you for your thoughtful commentary. I agree that elitist criticism as you call it can not improve a photographer’s work. However, I reject the argument that criticism should be withheld and that being open and supportive to “Instagram garbage” will better the industry. Criticism is, indeed, what takes us from where we are to where we should be. It either broadens our perspective or more deeply entrenches us in our beliefs.

    For instance, to a true artist HDR too quickly becomes an abomination to the “art” of photography and just because some immature, wanna-be professional hack without years of refined experience thinks it’s acceptable and worthy of praise doesn’t give me the right to withhold the scolding he/she so richly deserves. Withholding the criticism makes me an elitist, not making the criticism.

    Yes, we should all become more giving!

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    • Pye

      Don’t get me wrong, I think that constructive criticism is the only way for us to grow as photographers. That’s why we have an active CC forum. But, while there is a lot of junk on Instagram, there are also a lot of great pictures that shouldn’t be dismissed just because it is an Instagram photo. That’s kinda all I am trying to get at. Critique something on its merit, not on who or how it was achieved.

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  42. Kevin Galbreath

    I think you made a lot of good points that will help me with my arguments with other local photographers who fit the bill of elitists (to my view anyway).

    Cool article. The quotes from Ansel inspire for sure.

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  43. gerry suchy

    Well written. Perhaps a bit preachy but sometimes things just need to be said regardless of how they are perceived. This article , in my opinion is one of those things.

    Just as an aside, really informative and illuminating info regarding Ansel Adams. Some quotes to live by.

    Thanks for posting this.

    Gerry

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    • Pye

      Yeah, like I said, I truly annoyed myself with the article when I was done with it. It sat in the drafts for quite a while, wasn’t sure if I even wanted to publish it. But, figured it should be said, at least for our community here. Thanks Gerry for the comment.

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