Warning: Stereotypes will be propagated in this post.

We had a lot of problems with our wedding photographer. A lot of problems.

And the more I talk to others trying to get their wedding logistics in place, it seems like we’re not alone. Whether it’s taking forever getting prints back, showing up late to shoots–or even the wedding itself, or just being terrible with correspondence, photographers continually make people’s lives much worse than when they started out.

It’s a travesty because photography is such a fascinating, unique art form. Sure, it’s been altered (some would say diminished) a bit by the digital revolution, but the results are the same in the sense that end results are a single, still image. Movies have CGI and photography has Photoshop, but even in that sense, photography just seems to capture so much more of a story and can speak truths so much deeper than any film can. A movie about a horse can tell me how great a horse is, or about the lives the horse affected, but an single photograph of a horse can emote tranquility or ferocity or true beauty or one of any other type of truth of feeling because it requires the audience to interact with it and put some of themselves into it.

The problem with photography today is that it’s corrupt. It’s been maligned with third-party paraphernalia. It’s no longer about the photo interacting with the viewer, but more so about, well…just about everything else.

Photography has been corrupted by pretentious hipsters thinking that they’re experts because they picked up a camera from the ’60s and bought some film for $36 and are snapping photos of daisies next to the city skyline. It’s been corrupted by hipstamatic, instagram, and every other app that feigns enhancement to photos while merely adding more and more walls of distraction between the artist and the audience. It’s been corrupted by digital SLRs being found in seemingly every shelf, store and home in the country.

I’m not against photography, and I’m definitely not against everyone being able to take photos (good or bad) and share with me what they think is beautiful or expressive or vibrant or true. What I’m against is the elitism of those who take photos think that just because they hit a button that turns a normal photograph into a lomographic rendition of the same image they’re somehow better than anyone else. This also works in reverse in the sense that anyone who takes beautiful photographs with an old school film camera can be just as pointlessly pretentious in thinking that they are any better than someone who turns a photo of a sunset into an even more beautiful photo of a sunset with the use of digital technology. (However, less is usually more.)

I struggle with an inner conflict of wondering whether we should all have cameras and have the ability to capture every moment of our lives or less of us should have the ability to capture moments in time and we should focus more on living life to the fullest and worry less about getting the right aperture or uploading thousands of photos onto our laptops. It’s obviously not one or the other, but I just feel that we spend a bit too much time smiling in front of monuments when the monument itself was design to be a depiction of something great and you and your friends smiling in front of it whilst giving thumbs ups isn’t adding to the grandeur of the art.

But I digress…

Back to the point: Photographers suck.

I won’t even get into the arbitrary profession that is photography (Btw, this photograph recently sold for $4.3 million…wtf?!¹), but it’s getting a bit ridiculous just how much photographers demand of others’ time, money and sacrifice. If you know Hannah or I well, then over the past 8 months I’m sure you’ve heard our tale of woe about how unprofessional our photographer was before, after and during our wedding. It was terrible. (Luckily, one of my best friends, Sean Marshall Thompson of Tag That Photography, was able to help us out and did a great job with our newlywed shoot. Thanks again, man!)

But the problem with the whole thing, the part that she knew and took advantage of, was that we needed her. Even aside from the fact that she was paid in full 6 months before our wedding, we needed her because she’s a great photographer and we desperately wanted her to take our wedding photos. Hannah and I spent hours looking at her website dreaming of having our wedding photos look even half as good as any of the weddings she’d done in the past. Each one of her photos was unique, had that hipstery look (the kind with feathers and lens flares), and just looked like it came from the perfect wedding.

You see, good photographers can afford to be dicks. They get paid, can treat you like crap, show up and take some great photos, then take however long they please to get them back to you. And what can you do about it? Nothing.²

They’re “good” and that’s why it’s so infuriating. We (lay people) need them. And what makes it worse: if I were that good at photography, it would probably be less frustrating.

I stumbled upon this quote the other day (to the right). It’s from NPR’s Ira Glass. He’s a boss. Rarely do quotes grab me and not let me go for weeks on end as much as this quote. It’s epic. It’s poignant. It’s truer than most things I’ve ever read. The .jpg file of this quote has been on my desktop for over a month now and I don’t know where to put it on my computer. Under photos? Under documents? No idea. Point being, it’s a great quote and I want to be reminded of it every single day.

I aim to become a legitimate photographer someday. Not to make the big bucks or to screw people over and live life on my own terms and destroy the lives and schedules of lesser people, but in order to portray beauty in ways never seen before, but still universally relatable in ways that are so specific and individualistic that everyone relates can connect in a personal way. But while I’m definitely proud of some of the photos I’ve taken in my life, I’m sure as hell not ready to call myself a photographer. That’s the “gap” that Ira’s taking about. I’m not there. Not yet.

So all I can do is put in the time and work, give myself deadlines and fight to make my work as good as my ambitions. It’s going to take awhile.

But hey, it’s normal to take awhile.



¹ Just try and tell me that I’ve never taken a picture that good…or that you haven’t.

² Unless you’re like me, then you can suppress it for years until it comes out in a fit of anger in a mean tennis game against either Rich or Tyler.

3 thoughts on “Why Photographers Suck

  1. D H says:

    My wedding photographer did the same thing. Michael was essentially a local celebrity because of the quality of his work. We paid him $6,000 in advance, over $1,500 more than the rest of our entire wedding, reception, etc.. He was expensive, but my wife and I had a special reason for picking him. My wife and I were not around each other for 4 years and all I had were four pictures of her that he had taken. I prized those picture and kept them with me in my journal the entire time I could not be with her. When we were finally together again it was a no-brainer, pick Michael, because he was the best photographer, with the best reputation, and I lived by those photos for 4 years.
    Michael was great, until the point he had to produce what we paid for. We got nothing because he and his wife/business partner decided to get divorced because of massive debt from living an unrealistic lifestyle of excess. He became an awful, awful human being towards my wife and I, and two separate sets of friends who got married and used him as well.
    I took Michael to court, which about destroyed me. He was mean, spiteful and lied constantly under oath. I had so much evidence in the form of receipts, e-mails, and witnesses that the judge was on my side from the get-go and kept pointing out his lies to him! He had no evidence at all, but he still tried to counter my $6,000 lawsuit against him with a $55,000 countersuit for supposedly violating his copyright. The judge actually laughed at him! My wife and I won our lawsuit, but can’t get the money from him. His house was supposed to pay his debt to us (as per the laws of Oregon), but he had ten other lawsuits he had lost to banks, credit cards, and business lenders which proceeded our lawsuit (he has 11 judgements against him total), and the first name on the list (a bank that lent him $75,000) got everything when he was foreclosed on. The bank got theirs and my wife and I got nothing but bad memories and pain. We do not talk about our wedding at all because of the pain that stirs, and we do not want to try and produce what we do have for this reason.
    The money means nothing to us. Even if we would receive the money it’s like a band-aid on a pointblank gunshot wound to the heart. Nearly the same exact scenario happened to my brother and his wife too (they didn’t sue because their wedding photographer did it to 10’s of couples), and now my parents will never have wedding pictures from either of their sons. My Grandpa died never getting to see a picture of my wedding, and mine was the only wedding he didn’t attend out of 18 grandkids. He really wanted to see it too.
    Your sentiment about photographers matches mine. Thank you for letting me share.

  2. DFG says:

    What do you expect. When I went to school for photography wedding photography was a well respected craft. The photographers that did weddings that I knew tried their utmost to make good images. Now some images in a wedding are just basically straight up on camera flash shots. A pro however would often use a bracket to raise the level of the light or change the angle to get a little better lighting than what just an on camera strobe would provide. In my case I always position a second light if I can to make a better image.

    Now days however the software does it all. Either in the camera or in on their computer. They fiddle with color and saturation and even change the lighting but none of this makes up for a lack of basic talent or an unprofessional attitude. Photography no longer requires any craft just an ability to use software. Where before you had hard working business/craftsman now you have someone that picked up a camera last week at Costco offering their services and often they have no idea how to light or pose anyone so they spend hours trying to fix their mistakes using Photoshop. I have even heard some of them try to excuse their inability to make a simple portrait by saying that they are using a photojournalist like style translation I haven’t got a clue so unlike an actual photojournalist who has spent years or even decades developing their instincts to be able to catch the decisive moment they just bang away and hope for the best.

    But in all this I blame consumers. They turned away from traditional photographers driving most out of business in favor of people with a DSLR whose only talent is clicking the button. If you want better photography hire better photographers. Do the research take look at the greats and see why they were great. Maybe then wedding photography can be reborn as a craft and not just bunch of badly done serial snapshots. Because honestly most the stuff I see even by professionals is just terrible mainly because an uneducated public has no idea what’s good and what’s bad.

  3. you are correct says:

    If you pitted the majority of wedding photographers against an HD security camera that captured frame by frame, the security camera would take comparable photos, instantly email them to you, and have a much better personality

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *