LeightonD, Photographer

LeightonD's Photographic life.

Be ELITE not an ELITIST….

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Some of my "amateur" work from some years back according to some togs.

I want to start out as positive as possible, because I never want to come across as a whiner to friends, clients, and colleagues.  So I will try to spin this post in a positive light.

I have had the pleasure of meeting and communicating with some of the photography industry’s BEST.  Names like Gary Fong, Doug Gordon, Bruce Dorn, and others, and as brief as our encounters may have been, and while THEY might not even remember me, I always walked away with one thing. THESE GUYS ARE NORMAL!  They are blue jeans and t-shirt kind of guys.  Most are opinionated, and will be quick to say that their way is not the best or only way, but their way WORKS!  Their tone has always been about education, making other photographers better, because “a rising tide lifts all boats.” They understand that they started at the bottom and worked their way up.

So why is it that certain photographers nowadays think that THEIR WORD is gospel?  I was listening to a well revered Florida Photographer, who refered to other photographers who were doing business the wrong way(illegal) as amateurs.  It is THAT term that really burned me.

WHAT is an Amateur Photographer?

“Growing up” in the industry, I learned that there are three types of photographers.  Hobbyists, Enthusiasts, and Professionals.  The differences being that hobbyists are probably 90 percent of all those who own a camera. They have it just to capture memories and moments. They have never even thought of being on the cover of TIME, or LIFE magazines. If the word Amateur is going to its Latin roots to mean “lover of…” or someone who does it for free. This will be the true hobbyist. The enthusiast, which probably makes up about another 4-7 percent.  These are those who LOVE photography, and are good at the visual image.  They would not mind doing it as a profession, but have other jobs. If they can sell an image, they will be glad to, but they aren’t leaving their day job anytime soon.  The rest are your PROFESSIONALS, they do it day in, and day out. This is how they make their living.  Often there are a lot of growing pains, because there are little “valuable” resources available to them as far as the industry is concerned.  The best resource is often OTHERS in your industry that are doing what you want to do. But when we as photographers, look down on those entering our industry, do we really help our industry?

Before we pass judgement on the ignorant, let’s try to educate.  I hear so many ramblings about the “Craig’s List”  Wedding Photographer, but the reality is that while we share a market, do you really share a client? Do I really want a client who is investing $15,000 of their hard-earned money, but is going to trust that to a $400 photographer, OR is it my duty to educate the customer on the pros and cons of BOTH decisions and let the client realize that price and quality go hand in hand?  Our duty is to educate new photographers, not criticize them.

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About Leighton DaCosta, Photographer

International Wedding, Portrait, and Fashion photographer based in Miramar, Florida. Also a Pilot and a LEAN technician.

8 comments on “Be ELITE not an ELITIST….

  1. Trudy
    October 2, 2010

    It’s a two way street…photographers can’t think their word is gospel and that they are gods, nor should newbie photographers treat their word as gospel and worship them as gods. Some simply started their journey before others.

    Now everyone cackles about Craigslist now and again and it does hurt when you get a bid for thousands of dollars of work and the person wants to pay $125, that actually happened to me recently and I responded to the email politely. But you made a good point about educating the consumer. So I took that opportunity to do so in a polite way.

    As far as educating each other as photographers–true. I think everyone has something to share. I will admit that the burden and expectations that are placed on one photographer to educate another can get to a point of immense stress if the newer photographer has an unrealistic view of who the teaching photographer is. Not everyone is an expert but everyone has something to share. Because photography is emotional labor emotions can go awry. But it’s important to stay on track.

    Again, lovely post. I enjoyed it.

  2. Trudy
    October 2, 2010

    Oh and your “amateur” photograph is nice.

    • LDPhotography
      October 2, 2010

      Thank you… I know you like a lil eye candy! lol

      • Trudy
        October 2, 2010

        You need to quit…that “eye candy” is way too young LOL. I was commenting on your photographic prowess at the time for being new to the craft.

  3. Cassi
    October 2, 2010

    Well…. price doesn’t always go with quality because some people charge excessive amounts and aren’t at the level to do so. And some enthusiasts do it for the love, so the dollar figure isn’t a huge factor. For instance, some celebrity photographers who have been published in national entertainment magazines and are highly sought after don’t charge an arm and a leg for their services depending on the event/session, but they give great work. But i feel where you are coming from when you say people in the industry shouldn’t look down on those entering, as once upon a time, they too, had to enter the same way. Nice blog!

    • LDPhotography
      October 2, 2010

      I understand how you feel Cassi. I used to feel the same way to. While there are people who do pro-bono, the reality is that those people can COMMAND a higher rate for their work. Annie Lebovitz commands a $100K day fee, but she has been known to come down to $50K a day. The reality is this though. Price and Quality DO go hand in hand. For while you can spend a lot of money and get an inferior good, rarely would you get a superior good for a little amount. A Mercedes and a Rolls Royce will break down just like a Kia or a Ford, but there is a certain level of Luxury that you get at the Rolls and Merc Price points that you will not get at the Kia’s.

      One thing that I have found is that it is often better to pay a little more and get a whole lot more, than pay a little less and get a whole lot less, wouldn’t you agree? For the bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of a low price has been forgotten.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. W James Hunter
    October 2, 2010

    Once again an excellent train of thought. Very good point about what a professional is “what you do for a living” it does not mean that you are the sum total of knowledge or that you know everything about what you are doing. Reminds me of the time I was working for a First Class Petty Officer who was promoted to his level of incompetence. In short I decided to do all I could to first support him by being the best number two I could be and then I did all I could be make 1st Class and took his job. P.S. I told him I would be the supervisor.

    LD is correct if you are a professional and really do have a passion for photography it is your responsibility and duty to help other photographer learn more about the art and science of Photography.

    Looking down on someone without attempting to give a helping hand is no more than “occupational prejudice” a: preconceived judgment or opinion nothing more than an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.

    Although I do not have the time to educate everyone that would like to be by my side and get some hands on experience as a professional feel I must have someone in whom I have share a part of what I know.

    People are always amazed at how quick I am to share what I know without making them feel as if they are below me. Before I was a Photography I am a Trainer.

    In my opinion LD has a spirit about him that is for the industry of Photography. He is a teacher and motivator and it is a treat to have him around…

    • LDPhotography
      October 2, 2010

      Thanks MJ,

      I was fortunate to be around great photographers and business people to show me things that I needed to know. Instead of bringing down the new photographer, or the different photographer, why not educate them and bring them up. If you are a Master Photographer or CPP, are you using it as a perch, or are you trying to get the industry up to your level? Are you making those around you better?

      Another MJ in history is considered the best in his industry. He made others around him better. As such, he won 6 titles with the Chicago Bulls. He isn’t personally the most likeable person, but his intent is to win!

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