Fsck the gatekeepers of photography.

WARNING: Colorful language ahead.

I’ve been a hobbyist photographer for over 10 years. I started out on little point and shoots, upgraded to a prosumer point and shoot (PowerShot G11, how I loved thee), and finally shifted over to a real deal DSLR with a Canon Rebel XS, and the rest was history.

I mostly went through this journey not knowing much about the world outside my little bubble. I took a photo class in college, and it was one of the more influential things I’ve done as far as my hobby goes. There were many people who ran the gamut in there, from people who had never touched a camera before, to more advanced people who had a fairly decent kit and were looking to bridge gaps in their knowledge. It was a very laid back environment and if I could repeat it with that very same instructor? You bet I would.

I remember one thing very clearly from the beginning of the class. Not a verbatim quote, but the instructor started out with saying: “If you are taking this class to learn photography to make money, I encourage you to drop this class right now. Because you are going to be disappointed.” 

Now I had never intended on going into pro-level photography, but this also served as a very clear reassurance that I was on the right path. That hey, maybe making money would be nice at some point, but that isn’t my primary drive in getting better at this.

And that’s what I did. For the years after that, I mostly experimented with my photography. Playing with long exposures, or loading images into Photoshop and just seeing what crazy good stuff I could make. In my eyes, the world was my canvas, and my camera was my brush. 

My camera went through a couple of revisions too, I eventually made the switch over to Nikon, with a D5100 (which sadly got sold when I had to move), then a Nikon 1 J1 (which was hot garbage), and finally settling back in the Canon camp with a Rebel T3i that cost me all of $200 on Craigslist. Me and that thing were best friends and it carried me all the way until I lucked into my current D7200.

During this time, too, I got to experience the…ugly underbelly of the whole hobby. I mentioned I had moved, and I moved to a place that was flush with professional photographers. The people who are in it to make tons of money. I was invited into a group, and at first? It was great! I got to share my work with people of like mind, and I got lots of compliments! I wasn’t used to this, and it was awesome.

As it happens, though…the pros started creeping in. They started posting their portfolios and all which isn’t a bad thing, but I began noticing that the hobbyists were getting drowned out by the pros. Humblebragging started happening. Pros claiming that their edits that would not look out of place in an issue of National Geographic were low effort and done quick. The people just there with their entry level cameras were getting drowned out, and the few people who continued to post fun stuff got little to know interaction, again being drowned out by all the professional work.

The sentiment that people should get with the times started creeping in. Didn’t blow a ton of money on your setup? You could feel the stare of the pros just…judging you for not being on their level. Sentiments like “if you really cared about photography, you’d upgrade to something that isn’t a potato” began really creeping in.

Finally, it all came to a head one day. One of these people posted a meme. The text of it read: “Good photography is not cheap, and cheap photography is not good.”

One of these elites even did so much as to take a shot at smartphone users, saying “Everyone with a smartphone thinks it is.”

With all due respect: fuck these people with Arizona’s finest, bluntest and longest cactus.

When I first began this journey, I followed a guy named Chase Jarvis, a guy who is arguably one of them, a pro. But he also beat a very important tenet of photography into you: the best camera is the one that’s with you. He very much backed this up by releasing a book of the same name…comprised of photos taken with his iPhone 2G. A camera that even by 2007 standards was a potato compared to even a basic point and shoot. (It really wasn’t until the iPhone 4 that mainstream smartphones began getting good enough to actually replace point and shoots, at least here in the US. I know Nokia had the N-series, but the iPhone really brought point and shoot-grade photos to the masses.)

(In fact, recalling this a couple weeks ago actually inspired me to take my own iPhone 2G out and take pictures with it! I was actually pretty impressed with it.)

The takeaway from all of that–to me at least–is that anyone, anyone can practice photography and become decently good at it. There’s something for everyone. Even with a toy camera you can still learn composition and how to really frame a subject to make a photo look really provocative. If you need something better? There’s absolutely no shame in buying a DSLR from 10 years ago for $100 with a 18-55mm kit lens. You should never, ever feel like you have to upgrade because some asshat who blew $$$$$$ on their rig is telling you that you’ll never make it in the field with your cheap equipment.

Phone photography has also improved leaps and bounds over the years and anyone saying phone photos are not real photos is simply lying to themselves and being a gatekeeping asshole.

Just because you couldn’t outlay thousands of bucks on your camera, or because your primary drive in photography isn’t to make money but to treat your camera as a paintbrush and the world as a canvas does not make you a lesser photographer. We’re all photographers. From the person just starting out with their first camera to the person with the professional-level equipment. 

Photography is supposed to be inclusive, and I say this as strongly as possible: fuck anyone who tries to shame others out of practicing photography. Be it for monetary reasons or otherwise.



, ,