I ADMIT IT!…i AM UNPROFESSIONAL!

blog unprofressional

It seems that any legitimate photographer, model, and even make up artist, cannot do, say, or post anything online without being labelled as ‘unprofessional’.
In fact it rolls trippingly off so many tongues and so often, akin to the use of it’s linguistic cousins, un-Oshtray-yun, and unna-Merican, that if it did once have some actual meaning, it has now lost all confrontational power: lost all devastational effect from the mouths of simple minded bullies: lost any semblance of insult to the meaningless murk of degraded words inhabited by ‘bugger’, ‘bum’, or ‘you silly, naughty person’
No, come to think of it, legitimate or not doesn’t matter,  as ‘unprofessional’ is the first go to accusation that fauxpros, pretenders, and other fraudsters are willing to make in public, even to each other, before rushing to their secret facebook hate groups to defame and vilify anyone who dares to say anything other than fatuous, sycophantic praise, albeit completely innocuous, about their ‘work’, their ‘passion’, their ‘art’.
Well if being unprofessional is what it is to expose, criticize, ridicule, unmask and satirize  the nonsense,the stupidity, the buffoonery, the con, the fraud, the honey trap, the manipulation, the exploitation and the abuse which epitomises the fauxpro photography ‘industry’ as it is today, and the manner in which it has called all decent photographers and photography as a whole into disrepute and total disorder, well I intend to remain one very active and extremely happy ‘unprofessional’.
I am even planning to describe myself as ‘UNPERFESHNAL TOG’ on my next order of business cards.

And besides they are always good for a laugh: if not for just their arrogance in thinking that they can somehow insult or bully their ‘competition’ into thinking that they are superior, not just to you but to everyone.

A serious case in point. It is but a few months since an amateur model I know well, posted on her facebook page that she would no longer consider shooting with ‘photographers’ unless they at least had an idea or theme for their shoot, and were willing at some stage to organize a time and location to work towards.

This attempt to rid herself of the constant annoyance of time wasters, pick up merchants, pretenders and wankers who think they have a right to monopolize the time of any girl who appears the least bit attractive, let alone announce herself as a model, resulted, to her astonishment for this quite reasonable, but possibly naive request, she was immediately bombarded with postings, messages and emails decrying her as extremely unprofessional, amongst other things to lewd to mention, and the subject of vilification and defamatory statements in multiple ‘photography groups’.

Those personally shredding her included complete strangers, and those who she had never even heard of; but unfortunately many were people she had previously regarded as more than mere photographers, or acquaintances, but as friends. She now will only model for legitimate photographers whom she not only knows very well, but trusts implicitly.

And who would blame her?

The most insulting and laughable example recently was an email from someone who was once genuine photographer, but whose apparent inability to adapt to the rapidly changing markets, as well as limited originality has turned him into a hack, basically living on the almost forgotten glory of a bygone career, who accused me of being unprofessional, not a real ‘professional photographer’ anyway because my phone number isn’t in the yellow pages (???), and that I was trying to  ‘live(vicariously) in the reflection of his professional standing”.

Why? I had simply agreed with an opinion he offered on a photography forum somewhere.

He seemed to have forgotten, or was blissfully unaware, or indeed had chosen to ignore, that it had been me, while editing a now long defunct print magazine, who had negotiated one of his first published photo essays, when he was merely a nerdy young lad with a shiny new camera, and stars in his eyes.

But it is apparently not the only the province of fauxpro photographers to drop the ‘unprofessional’ bomb.

I recently received an email from a photo agent, who I had sacked (fired, dismissed, given the heave-ho) many years ago due to his megalomaniac tendencies (why is it that so many photo agents seem to harbour latent megalomania, or is it part of the job description from the beginning?)
Yes, although it may sometimes appear to the contrary, you actually employ an agent to work for you, and your best interests.

This email extolled the virtues of a job which being an Australian photographer, living in Australia, was ‘right up my alley’ – no need to tell that this agent was resident overseas, and probably doesn’t know the difference between Austria and Australia.

This opportunity of a lifetime required me to:

  • -be in Esperance, W.A., the next day: from Sydney, (nearest airport to where I live) it is merely a 3,418 km trip, one way, and at my own expense…
  • -meet an unnamed middle eastern gentleman and his entourage, who in the agent’s words, was a ‘very, very, important celebrity’, that he (the agent) could vouch for, (a suspicion raising utterance in itself) and therefore would be ‘great exposure for my burgeoning career’…in typical weasel speak he actually said: great exposure for developing my ‘brand’…
  • -hire a car (luxury model of course), again at my own expense, and chauffeur said gentleman wherever in W.A. he wanted to go…
    photographically record all this gentleman’s travels and whims…
  • -surrender immediately at the end of the week, any and all of an undetermined number of photographs documenting the entire week’s activities, completely processed and edited, to the said gentleman’s entourage, including all rights and copyrights…
  • -keep this gentleman’s identity, and the purpose of his visit, secret not only during the trip, but for ever after…

Well so far so (ridiculously) good, until I inquired as how I would recognise this person I was supposed to meet, and yes, you guessed it, what remuneration I was to receive.

  • Then the ‘unprofessional’ word!
    Delivered curtly, and emphatically!
    How dare I suggest that to go to Esperance was too far based on such little detail!
  • I lived in Australia didn’t I, it can’t possibly be that far or that difficult to get to!
  • How dare I call myself a Professional! (well actually I don’t, only amateurs and pretenders call themselves ‘Professional’ Photographers)
  • Obviously I wasn’t serious about developing my career! (after 40 years in the freelance business?)
  • And I certainly wasn’t worthy of having an agent, let alone one with such a distinguished record as himself… (well I don’t have an agent, I don’t want an ‘agent’, and I did tell him in no uncertain terms to pull his head in, and bugger off many years ago)

Oh, and the remuneration for a week’s work as photographer / chauffeur,  including signing away all my rights to any and all photographs taken: (not even considering the unredeemable costs of transport across a continent, and hire of a luxury car) …

$AU 162.

No, not an hour, not a day, …

IN TOTAL!

Well maybe it was a mistake to write about this after all…the ultimate unprofessionalism if you will, for I have a nagging feeling that in the distance I can just hear the rumble of thousands of ‘professional’ photographers’ feet, as they scramble to pack their gear, and clamour to board the plane which will fly them to this ‘awesome opportunity’ to not only gain some very welcome ‘exposure’, but which will also be ‘great for their folios’, and ‘develop their brands’.

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To market, to market, to buy a fat pig…

This blog is a little different, as it is primarily to commend the blog of a colleague, and to expand on to a point Selina Fenech makes in respect to marketing your work, and self education in particular.

plan

Firstly though I want to make it known that although Selina and I were classmates in a university course a few years back, which was the beginning of a very successful career for her; that I am twice her age, and have over forty years experience in the same general field as a freelancer…in  photography, writing and illustrating with varying degrees of success. As any long term freelancer knows, and anyone contemplating the freelance life needs to know…you can be outrageously successful one day, and scraping up coins to buy instant noodles the next.

As a strong advocate of lifetime self education, I have read widely and attended courses on, not only my branches of the arts, but on art in general, as well as marketing, management and running a business; I also learn a lot from colleagues, art practitioners, and others through personal interaction (schmoozing and networking if you like), following peoples careers and reading their blogs. Selina is one person I follow with genuine interest, and learn a great deal from.

Apparently now, most people access their self education through the internet, predominantly via blogs, forums, YouTube and similar tutorials, and online courses. I have studied all these avenues, and as a result must sound a note of caution…none of these should be taken at face value, and no assumptions made of them being useful, so be wary before you start quoting them as gospel, as the greatest experience you have ever had, or plonking your money down before careful evaluation.

And needless to say, those ever-growing numbers of ‘photographers’ especially, who actually trumpet loudly to anyone who will listen (does anyone?) that even reading their camera manual is too much knowledge and will lead inevitably to them selling out their creativity and their ‘art’….well …there is nothing to see here, move along, please.

I have observed that their are several styles of providers of knowledge or education on the Internet: 

1. the provider who actually has knowledge and experience, and has researched widely, and who writes to communicate it to others ethically, and accurately through lucid, well developed and structured arguments, points and illustrations.

(this is the only form which is not only useful, but also valuable…those that follow below…well?, and those I have left out, are not mentioned for a reason you can surmise)

2. the I’ve just found this out, and am desperate to pass it on...prominent on the YouTube circuit…usually poorly researched, arrogantly, and falteringly presented, superficial, and of next to no use.

3. simplistic regurgitation of other people’s work, and increasingly based on second, third, fourth and even more hand versions of a long passed original, which many times is out-dated, forgotten as inconsequential, or worse still the rebirth of refuted inaccuracies or ‘off the wall’ theories…for example many writers on photography seem to believe that the mere mention of the name Ansel Adams will add credibility to what they are saying, and like many artists of the past (Leonardo da Vinci springs to mind) have been credited for a great deal that frankly never entered their minds, and also much they wouldn’t want to be associated with…basically useless.

4. written and presented by a person who merely wants to add credibility to his life, or to achieve some kind of recognition or reputation in his chosen field…particularly strong amongst the writers of self published eBooks, which while being an extension of number three above, are usually even more oversimplified, and difficult to read due to the largely patronising and condescending styles of writing, and the apparent lack of any grasp on the use of any form of lucid argument, indeed of language, grammar, spelling, sentence structure or punctuation….useless.

5. this deals specifically with marketing and business practices…written by an ‘expert’ who presents a very much simplified précis of a very overpriced ‘must have’ course he is offering…usually from absolutely no experience in the arts he claims his course will benefit, and very often no practical experience in his discipline, quite often making his money from selling the course, rather than doing the work he professes to be an expert in…the old adage ‘if he has all the answers to getting rich, why is he telling everyone else, instead of practising what he preaches’ is very true in this case…and therefore all these gurus can be lumped in with astrologers, crystal worshipers, ghost hunters, and scam artists and are totally useless.

6. anyone who claims that you can develop a thriving business, become wealthy beyond your wildest dreams, support yourself in the lifestyle you so richly deserve based solely on developing a Facebook business page, or a ‘you beaut’ website,( build it and they will come); buying into a pyramid scheme; contributing your art to microstock picture libraries, where you can earn about .22c per picture sale (but you one picture can be bought hundreds of time…yeah right, try it and see); writing articles for ‘off the rack’ distribution websites which on closer examination offer the princely sum of $3 per 1000 words, (completed from research to finished, publishable work in less than three hours of course); these are simply laughable, and many should be done for false advertising…but still people fall for their shtick!

7. all those who simply rehash the ‘Internet mantra of marketing, i.e. effective website, contribute to forums, Facebook presence, lots of testimonials etc…same old same old….proven to be far out-dated, ineffective even when it was new, and now rendered virtually useless, stale, unimaginative, and ignored by the majority you may be trying to reach due to being identical to what every man and his dog are doing, and have done, time immemorial ( well since Internet time began at least) 

Check out Selina Fenech’s blog:

Become a Successful Author in 4 Easy Steps

at: http://storyqueens.com.au/2016/09/13/become-a-successful-author-in-4-easy-steps/

 

©Copyright: Stephen Bennett, MMXVI

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Micro-stock Misadventures

Recently Pond5, a micro-stock agency, successful in the past due to good luck, and good contributors, and despite naive and chaotic management, engaged a new policy, beginning an apparent nosedive towards the gutter, leaving all its competitors in the race to bottom of the micro-stock murk in its wake, and long time contributors in a state of bewilderment.

In light of this, I have been working on a couple of blog posts relevant to the micro-stock industry, exploring the ideas:

  • that it is not, and never has been a place for professional photography, but absolutely set up for the exploitation of know-nothing fauxpros, and star struck amateurs:

  • that its overall premise and ever varying, snake oil salesman like business model is essentially flawed and destructive…to the overall photography market, the image and reputation of photography, and to both the contributors, and buyers through the ever decreasing cost of images.

  • worse still, and either micro-stock management either doesn’t realise, or more likely doesn’t care, the business model is actually self destructive, evidenced through the complete closure of micro-stock agencies, (falling like flies of late,) where once failing agencies were bought out instead by those higher up the food chain.

7125935_f260

These circumstances, as with virtually anything that happens or is announced in the micro-stock industry has led inevitably to the latest round of looneys running round like chooks with their heads cut off wanting to form micro-stock agencies of their own, using of course the same business model, and a choice of being headed by a soon to be sociopathic autocrat, or by an unwieldy ‘cooperative’.

And the first port of call they make for information on how to make it succeed? The renowned home of misinformation, stupidity and trolling: the Internet forums of course!

Strange thing is these are more or less the same people who were not so long ago pleading with the same forums about having 5 billion holiday snaps, how do I go about selling them?

The same ones who show no evidence of having any idea of marketing, licensing images, or even of having anything more to do with photography than a Facebook page or a flickr account, and their only idea of necessary paperwork is from the intentionally confusing ‘misleading conduct’ of the micro-stock agencies themselves with their intentional conservatism and misinformation in regard to model and property releases, copyright, and contracts in general.

And of course they follow the currently in vogue, and really idiotic doctrine of “build it and they will come”, never even hinting for any information about how to attract customers, or buyers to their new, essentially ‘zombie’ business idea.

As the writers of The Copyright Zone website say in their disclaimer: ‘As Jack and Ed like to say, if you woke up with a big, oozing green growth on your neck, would you consult strangers on a website? Hopefully, you’d call a doctor. And if someone needs a professional photograph, don’t you think they should contact a professional photographer and not your Uncle Fred’s mechanic’s neighbour’s brother-in-law?”

Until I research more fully, and write these promised blogs, this article, written by Edward Greenberg and Jack Reznicki (The Copyright Zone) is a great article to be going on with…http://thecopyrightzone.com/?p=1626

Illustration from Pinterest

©Copyright: Stephen Bennett, MMXVI

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‘Welcome to the Planet of the Seven Suns, Captain Kirk.’

moon doll

I hope my wife isn’t reading this, for from where I sit to write, I can clearly see two framed photographs, prized because they show studio portraits of daughter, her husband and smiling grand-kids.

My problem with both these pictures however, is in a standard group portraiture set up such as this where a key light, a carefully placed shadowless fill, and maybe a rim light to separate the subjects from the background would have done the job not only adequately but quite competently, and have been aesthetically pleasing, that they also rather disconcertingly show not one, not even two, but seven distinct sets of hard edged shadows of even intensity from random, and to quote Mr Spock, illogical directions around the compass.

While the stark white background, and the outlines of the figures are completely blown out to give the illusion of a ghostly glow, the ‘photographer’, no doubt being a consummate professional, has obviously ‘fixed it in photoshop’ so that the identities of each individual can be made out through the gloomy, shadowy darkness of the almost totally unlit camera side of the subjects, and the resulting clods of digital noise resulting therefrom.

But maybe this particular ‘photographer’ followed the thinking that if it doesn’t quite look right yet, let’s add another light.

Or alternatively; I know I am totally incompetent, and this is a horrible mess I am creating, but at least I will impress these yobbos with the amount of expensive gear I have, and if I convert the photos to black and white, I can bullshit that I am a “creative artist”.

The viewing public has now become accustomed to the presence of multiple shadows, through the daily consumption of:

  • three point lighting schemes necessary to TV sitcoms and soap operas;

  • staging of music concerts, in which the presence of a multiple lightshow is so often used to disguise a lack of substance or musical talent

  • poor, unthinking photoshop compositing;

  • and the ubiquitous built in camera flash, which is used almost exclusively in the modern Gothic Horror genre known as ‘selfies’, as well as amateur and fauxpro ‘portraiture’.

Apparently the popular alternative to multi shadow lighting, amongst the fauxpro ranks at least, is ‘porn lighting’, which is completely shadowless, obliterating all form and modelling, giving more or less attractive models flat round featureless moon faces, and clothing the look of paper cut-outs affixed to cardboard dolls.

(Porn lighting was discussed recently in my blog entitled: Lip Service ? Or it Just Sux?)

It need not be said that his style of lighting is the worst imaginable, but is increasingly appearing in what fauxpros try to convince themselves is their ‘awesome’ attempt at ‘fashion’ photography, but is also found, and is equally unwelcome in glamour, makeover shots, and yes, you are way ahead of me, in ‘portraiture’ (?)

But with this daily exposure to a virtual galaxy of visual stimuli, with apparently naturally occurring and yet physically impossible lighting; coupled with an overwhelming amount of meaningless, uninspired, poorly conceived, exposed and processed crud masquerading as ‘professional’ photography, are we in danger of actually creating an alien culture of visual illiteracy?

The ramifications of this photo-diarrhoea overload may seem minor, and many may claim that I am simply being alarmist based on a petty non-issue, but when considered with the highly selective, edited, and manipulated pictures and video passed off as ‘factual’ in the mainstream press and television news and current affairs, not to mention the increasingly indiscriminate belief in online sources, ranging from the highly suspect to the downright fabrications of the so called ‘satire’ sites, there should at least be a worry.

Yes m’dear, naive Ensign Rand, don’t let it worry your pretty little head but, the camera always lies!

“…Aye Cap’ain she gonna blow any minute noo.”

The following illustration is a shadow map of an image picked at random from the daily spew of ‘awesome images’ that sully the pages of facebook. I should add that it was taken by a self proclaimed ‘facebook professional’ photographer with an ample following of fawning sycophants.

shadow map

(Derived under fair use provisions of the Copyright Act allowing exceptions for education, criticism or review)

To state the bleedin’ obvious…it is an ‘original artwork’, or to quote one of the sycophantic comments, ‘an inspired concept”, reminiscent of the century old, and done to death cliché of the ‘happy sailor glamour girl in the rigging’.

Who knows, in this funny old world of contemporary photography, maybe a copy from an inspiration of a theme from a copy of a derivative work based on a ‘mood board’ was used as the original (?) ‘inspo’.

The theme and composition seem to provoke little thought beyond ‘disembodied head next to ropes against a white background’.

Needless to say while there is a very distinct and no doubt ‘creative’ shadow of the ropes on the background, there is absolutely no corresponding shadow of the figure to match. Look closely and you will notice an extremely soft shadow of the girl, confusingly on the opposite, and seemingly impossible side of her.

And yet once you have seen this strange anomaly, you sense that there is still something not quite right, until you realise that the dominant light source projects shadows to the right, but the shadows on the face of the figure fall oddly to the left.

But needless to say the inspiring artwork still got more than it’s fair share of ‘great lighting’, ‘beautifully creative’ and ‘awesome capture’ comments.

In conclusion, to boldly stretch the Star Trek allusion beyond where no man has gone before:

“It’s photography Jim, but not as we know it!”

©Copyright: Stephen Bennett, MMXVI

Except as permitted by the copyright law applicable to you, you may not reproduce or communicate any of the content on this website, including any photographs and files down-loadable from this website, without the permission of the copyright owner.

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Lip Service? Or it just sux!

 

Jean Harlow by George Hurrell

The word ‘photography’, as just about every book or article written on the subject will tell you, translates as: writing, painting, or making graphic forms with light.

It is obvious that without light, photography would not exist, but it much more than that.

Many great photographers, sadly most of them from the past, maintain that the “art” of photography, a word bandied around far too much nowadays, is the study, and application of all the subtleties of light in its many forms and qualities to create an aesthetically pleasing composition.

The photo illustrating this blog post: Jean Harlow by George Hurrell, was recently posted on facebook by a genuine ‘student of the art’, as an example of ‘beautiful lighting’ worth at least commenting on, if not emulating.

The excellence of photographic lighting skills reached their pinnacle in the 1930’s/ 40’s with the emergence of the Film Noir movement in Germany and France, and in Hollywood with their sensual and almost erotic lighting of glamour starlets of the era, both on the soundstage and in the photographer’s studios.

Since then photographic and film lighting has of course developed, but basically the principles remain the same.

It is only since the digital ‘everyone can be a photographer’ era of the last say, twenty years that lighting expertise seems to have significantly declined, and in many cases ignored completely.

It seems that nowadays getting an image, any image, captured is an “awesome accomplishment”, if it obeys the rule of thirds more or less, it is a “great composition”, and if you can see some details, and the colours are more or less ‘correct’, it is “well lit”.

The qualities of light which photographers should be aware of as the most influential aspects of creating a composition which has modelling of form, definition, mood, control of focus points, information and variation of visibility (the very things artistic photographs are made of) are:

  • quantity…how much, and how little, and where it falls

  • intensity…the strength of the light overall

  • colour…range from black to white, and degrees of saturation of all colours included

  • distribution…where the light falls, what it reveals, and more importantly where it hides or masks details

  • texture….the softness/ hardness of light definition, beams and pools of light, and the quality and depth of shadows

However the majority of photographs which are seen today, seemingly exploit none of these aspects: the majority of ‘professional’ photographs appearing on facebook, flickr etc, where the largest potential audiences for photography gather, and garner the most of the trite, meaningless comments of ‘awesome capture’ and ‘wonderful, unique lighting’, seem all uniformly and flatly lit from edge to edge, with totally detailed shadows, and far too often not only blown out highlights, but starkly white faces, and either a complete lack of modelling, or grossly inappropriate shadows.

What used to be known in the business as ‘porn lighting’: full field and full frontal detail everywhere, so that everything is visible no matter what, and without any form or finesse.

This can be the result of one, or all of three different styles of photography:

  1. totally disregarding the light altogether, or having no understanding of lighting

  2. harsh and unsoftened, on camera, or close to on camera flash

  3. ‘studios” which are set up this way either intentionally or unknowingly.

With the daily bombardment of ‘awesome captures’ on the internet, and the current career trajectories of photographers being as they are: (day one- buy a dslr, day two, turn professional, day three; open my very own studio) is there any hope of returning to photography which is about capturing the subtleties of light on a subject, rather than just aiming, pressing the button and hoping for the best?

The proliferation of hire ‘studios’ is also to blame to a certain degree. I have ventured into several of these studios – read: glorified barns for amateurs not good enough to join a photography club to have a “bit of fun” – recently and found that the most prevalent lighting set up is indeed ‘porn lighting’: two far two big, overpriced and powerful softboxes set two metres apart, about three to four metres from the subject, both set to the same output, and hope for the best.

One studio owner became visibly heated under the collar, when I actually had the audacity to move the lights into the traditional key/fill positions, and adjust the outputs, and another made it impossible to adjust or reposition anything because the lights were affixed immovably to the ceiling and accessing the adjustment panel meant the need for a ladder, with of course none in evidence.

Mention the words ‘lighting ratio’ to one of the new breed of photographers, and you are almost universally met with a puzzled expression.

Unfortunately it seems from the majority of evidence that quality of light, has given way dramatically to mere quantity…in parallel with that other necessity of modern digital photography: quantity of images, and fix the best of a bad lot in photoshop has completely eclipsed actually striving for fewer quality photographs.

Which strikes me as rather odd: over 80 years ago, when photographers had to battle with inefficient and notoriously cantankerous lighting apparatus, slow lenses, and even slower emulsions (films for the uninitiated) they could come up with excellently lit and beautifully processed work as the above illustration demonstrates.

And yet today, when lighting is efficient, varied, good quality and very cheap, and cameras almost all perform so well that they need little more than a candle to produce good quality images, there is so little regard for good, aesthetic, and dare I say artistically creative lighting.

©Copyright: Stephen Bennett, MMXVI

Except as permitted by the copyright law applicable to you, you may not reproduce or communicate any of the content on this website, including any photographs and files down-loadable from this website, without the permission of the copyright owner.

The Australian Copyright Act allows certain uses of content on the internet without the copyright owner’s permission. This includes uses by educational institutions for educational purposes, and by Commonwealth and State government departments for government purposes, provided fair payment is made. For more information, see www.copyright.com.au and www.copyright.org.au.

We may change these terms of use from time to time. Check before re-using any content from this website.

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