Photographer stereotypes – a satire

Advanced warning: you will think this post is either humorous or insulting, depending on which camp you fall into…

Studio/ commercial photographers
Live inside white cubes with huge soft boxes suspended from rails; have one or two assistants to act as fluffers for various products – ‘Yes, oil up that bottle a bit more. Really work it. Niiiiice…’ Cannot function without a tripod and look down on anything less than medium format digital and a full set of Profotos. Almost always shoot tethered, and employ a separate retouching department to make everything look perfect afterwards. Are thought to have the uncanny ability to position things exactly in the same orientation time after time, but really rely on photoshop composites and duct tape to mark cues on the floor. Considers ISO 200 ‘a bit high’. Wistfully remembers the day when technical cameras were de rigeur and 8×10″ sheet film was chargeable to the client.

Wedding photographers
Now with video! Run around the world putting couples-to-be in increasingly odd locations and positions, with completely unrealistic settings and makeup – those are the good ones. The ensuing (retouched) images look nothing like the couple at all; the less they look like the couple, the better the wedding photographer. ‘Wedding photojournalism’ as a genre doesn’t work by definition, because retouching is the antithesis of every photojournalist, and every bride expects to look like a Vogue model even if they have skin like the surface of the moon and ‘freestyle’ teeth. Increasingly employing wide-angle lenses for portraiture, with either the bride a minor footnote in an expansive, dramatic landscape or with enormous manga eyes and tiny feet. Possibly the only paid photography market that’s expanding, with couples often paying thousands of dollars for pre-wedding location shoots where the intention is to pretend-fairytale that they met and fell in love in Paris, when the reality is that the photographer has booked six other couples back-to-back for that trip and will make exactly the same pictures seven times.

Event photographers
Rove in uniformly black-garbed packs; if they’re well-equipped, they’ll have two bodies and huge flashes. If your event organizer ran out of budget after spending too much on the meet and greet ‘talent’, then you’ll see somebody with an entry-level DSLR, kit zoom and pop-up flash continually chimping their screen trying to figure out why their images look horrible. They are probably students who just happened to agree to work for US$50 for the entire evening, and supply their own equipment. Regardless of expertise, will be cajoling random groups of non-associated strangers together for group shots against sponsor walls all night long. Doesn’t like raw files – have you ever tried to deliver a thousand edited raw images the next day? I thought so. The really good event photographers operate like good photojournalists – you don’t see them, but you see intimate moments (both involvingly touching and involving touching) well-captured afterwards.

Fashion photographers – editorial/ advertising
Employ armies of assistants, make up artists, wardrobe coordinators, location managers, stylists, art directors and general minions; all they have to do is hold the camera (and sometimes not even that) and push the button while shouting wildly and acting like a bit of a diva. A generally glamorous lifestyle that involves private jets both as transport, and later on, as props. Sometimes also lions, tigers and other wild beasts. Photographers also known to turn into wild beasts when informed of budget cuts by their clients.

Food photographers
Live pampered lives, eating their way from assignment to assignment, with Michelin-starred chefs on speed dial; that is, providing they haven’t covered their food in oil first and replaced all of the ice cream with mashed potatoes. Or gotten sick from the undercooked (but oh-so-juicy-looking) chicken. Known to obsess over the placement of a fork, or go in surgically with tweezers and surgical forceps to move around a leaf or two to the perfectly right position. Keeps a spritzer handy in their lighting bag just in case something needs to be made fresher, wetter, or shinier.

Fashion photographers – catwalk
Spend their working lives cooped up in a pit at the end of a runway with a hundred other photographers, trying to produce something different (if they’re freelancing) or cookie-cutteringly perfect (if they’re shooting for a magazine or agency). Standard equipment is a monopod and stepladder, or better yet, a monopod built into a stepladder. Must occupy a zen-like mental plane in order to work effectively; shoot like crazy during the fifteen minute shows, then spend the intervals running to the toilet and pressroom to upload the images to the agency server whilst their assistant guards their territory in the pit against possible intruders.

Sport photographers
Consider 8fps slow, and 300mm a short lens. Live for the moment, literally; it’s like being a wildlife photographer except you know the life is going to be wild and happening in front of you in neat 45-minute halves, ostensibly with rules but nothing that prevents a creative or curious photographer from being taken out by a ball, club, boot, bicycle or sometimes high-speed flying tyre. Like catwalk shooters, spend time between action running to the toilet, media center to upload stuff, and having their assistants defend their turf against other agencies – just go the media areas of any race circuit or stadium around the world, and you’ll see bits of tape or crash barriers marked with ‘AP F1 2005′ or similar marking territory. Also known to have very itchy trigger fingers, because moments are rare, worth a fortune if you get the right one, and never presented again for a do-over. Would probably make bad policemen or snipers because of this, despite likely possessing excellent marksmanship due the similar breath-control skills required for good long telephoto work.

Paparazzi
A curious hybrid of sports photographer and catwalk fashion photographer with a singularly voyeuristic bent. Any photography of the target is a good one. Ready to shoot a picture at the very hint of a wardrobe malfunction, and pathologically unable to release the shutter or move away until attacked by bodyguards – just in case that image is the one. Also likes to get close – both for more unflattering detail, and to block out competitors. Know all the latest celebrity hangouts by memory, and sometimes try to make friends with the bouncers, but it never works because they’re always below celebrities in the pecking order. But might cultivate inside sources amongst the lowly-paid entourage with a grudge. Uses a moped to get around quickly, outrun celebrity motorcades and arrive at places before they do. Flashes with high voltage fast-cycle battery packs are a must. Disavowed by camera companies as being proper photographers, but secretly loved at the same time because they have the highest turnover for cameras out of any type of photographer – perhaps the camera companies have some bouncers and bodyguards in their employ, whose sole purpose is to ensure that any dropped or broken cameras are total loss incidents. Also known to use long lenses,

Underwater photographers
Use housings more expensive than their cameras; have constant nightmares about grains of sand in o-rings and flooding. Like seeing fish through the viewfinder, but not in the viewfinder. Always the first to buy the widest lenses possible to minimize the amount of water (and floating crap) between them and their subjects. Carry their strobes on arms; known for their sensitivity towards their subjects – most of the time. Those who are not have no qualms about picking up or poking rare endangered species to provoke a photographically favorable reaction. Always think of the camera as an impervious defense shield from attack by anything; won’t dare to swim with sharks and no cage, but would think nothing of poking their housing right up at the nose of an electric eel.

Photojournalists – the serious kind
Have a jumpy, taciturn attitude and a nervous tic that comes from being around one too many live explosives that have actually gone off; will often bear the scars to prove it, too. Tote around a pair of incredibly beaten-up cameras and a wide-angle lens; needs straps that will work comfortably with a flak jacket. Capable of sleeping anywhere, anytime, and surviving for weeks on end with nothing but coffee; no wonder images are almost always motion blurred (never mind the extreme lighting conditions they almost always work under). At the same time, also capable of waking up to the drop of a pin; it can mean the difference between receiving a World Press Photo Award in person or posthumously. Often gets themselves into locations that secret agents would envy. (Why hasn’t anybody made an action movie about the photojournalist who discovers something secret that he has to diffuse/ deactivate/ fix/ expose before the world all goes to hell?) The stuff that legends are made of, however most of the time it’s about luck, timing, and having the balls to raise one’s camera and shoot some pictures instead of crapping one’s pants in fear. Also known to strut like gunslingers or drink like fish (never the former after the latter) after returning to civilization.

Photojournalists – the average newspaper kind
Rove in packs to press conferences or outside courtrooms, aiming standard-issue 24-70s or 70-200s at their subjects from inside the media cordon or outside the police line. Doesn’t have to do much beyond capturing a useable image that allows subjects to be identified; they’re not paid enough or trained to do more than that (at least not in this part of the world). Has never heard of raw or bounce flash. Usually attached to a reporter.

Wildlife photographers
Covered from head to toe in camouflage gear, including their lenses and tripods. If they stood still against a bush, you wouldn’t see them taking a photo of you from three feet away, which of course they’d never do, because everybody knows that near focus limits of a 600mm lens are about two meters, even with extension tubes. Happy to spend days in a swamp being blood donors to an entire family of mosquitoes just to get that one shot of the rare lesser-spotted mangrove warbler, or something similar. Will use monopods and beanbags in a pinch, but much happier with those enormous 3-m tall Gitzo systematics and gimbal heads that look as though they could support a .50-caliber machine gun.

Street photographers
Black-Leica toting, hyperfocal-shooting; sometimes with flashes. Often spring up like flashers with camera at the ready and speed light firing into their startled subject’s face; have mastered the art of disappearing down a dark alleyway fast enough to prevent angry subjects from turning their beloved M9s into expensive paperweights. Alternatively, extremely stealthy like ninjas; shoot from the hip without looking at subject or finder. The smoothness of their shooting technique is counterbalanced by the incredibly chaotic nature of their photographs – just look at any of the modern Japanese work. Always eating ramen because they can’t afford both proper cameras and proper food; street photography is not a commercial occupation.

Bloggers
I include this category as an afterthought because most of them are either not photographers, or if they are, they’re covered by one of the other categories. (I think ISO 200 is a bit high’, so that should give you a hint.) Always carrying the latest equipment, sometimes lots of it as they’ve got many reviews to write; photograph anything and everything, so long as it makes a useable sample shot, or can be executed at ISO 104,000. Tend to classify themselves as street photographers, but this is a bit of a dangerous catch all term for people who just take random photographs when outside their homes. If engaged in conversation, they will wax lyrical about features they’ve never used or don’t understand, but be very shy about showing their photographs to anybody in person – yet be happy to let it all hang out on the internet. Is on first name terms with their referral account manager at B&H or Amazon.

If there’s anybody I haven’t managed to insult yet, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to get around to it. MT

____________

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Comments

  1. This is classic. I would add Product/Macro photographers?

  2. CARS photographers require their own category. Please do not bother with porn.

  3. That’s fantastic Ming so true as well :) Can you please add location Portrait photographers

  4. did you forget the macro guys? or they can’t be seen on normal mode 8)

  5. Ooh, anyone got a good one for HDR photographer?

    • Thinks the entire frame should be of uniform brightness, sees deep shadows and highlights as his personal scourge, never shoots without a tripod and reminisces wistfully about their acid trips and how the world should be more colorful…

  6. What about lifestyle photographers, momtographers, photography students, and weekend warriors? :)

  7. What about mom-tographers? That criticized group of Kelly Moore carrying children and back lit family portrait artists…
    I could go on b/c I am one… But studying hard so one day I can fit into one of the other categories and get ragged on for other reasons!
    It’s all good though, funny article.

  8. I would say another good one is “The Freelancer: photojournalism/editorial.” They (me) are a goofy, hybrid group that falls between your two Photojournalist categories. The starving (if not dedicated) artists of the photography world.

    Oh and maybe Concert/Live Music/Festival photographers… an eclectic bunch!

  9. What about Fine Art photographers. You know, those artsy-fartsy photos :)

  10. James de Penning says:

    My wife had some input on the matter that Ming thought I should share, enjoy:

    “Married photographer

    Bases most trips and family holidays around specific locations they want to shoot. Insists on doing all the packing for said trip to ensure even distribution of equipment between bags incase of a bag getting lost, I am of course talking about the less minor bits of kit, filters etc……will also insist on having 2 big bags to themselves for carry on baggage full of cameras, lenses, laptop etc and leaves wife and child to make do with one. Happy for wife to lug heavy photographers rucksack, bag, and tripod following a meter behind whilst carrying only a single camera to be ready for the perfect shot. Prepared to take photo of wife or child at any given moment however inconvenient the timing and will risk being screamed at to do so. Will protect camera above all else in any situation (wife falling over, it’s about saving the equipment, not the person). Spends all free time editing photos….a new baby must not distract from this vital and time consuming task. Spends weeks deliberating over the latest piece of kit to purchase and will ‘discuss’ with wife at length always resulting in a very expensive purchase of the must have item. Similar to weekend photographer but believes this is their full time occupation and calling in life….however wife puts up with him because it makes him happy and he’s actually rather good at it.

    The word photographer in the title can also be interchanged with fisherman…”

    • You know, I think a lot of my friends would agree with you. My wife just shakes her head and has pretty much given up, I think.

    • So true coming from a fanatical married photographer!

      You can add macro photographer…
      1, Carries gear that takes up the size a small camera bag (think camera, flash, rig to hold flash, lonng macro, bellows) all pointing down to a spot that tot the average observer is nothing
      2. sneers at anyone who suggest they use the macro setting on their zoom lens
      3. spends hours removing dust bunnies
      4. spends hours ensuring bug eyes are free from detris
      5. Thinks stacking requires a minimum of 10 shots
      6. Thinks a keep rate 1 in 50 is normal
      7. Annoys anyone who goes with a walk with them, as they pause regularly and stare at anything to see if its good taking up close
      8. Thinks wife/kids screaming about a spider/insect in their room is a photo opportunity

  11. Funny stuff! The wedding, blogger, and runway photog bits are very accurate. If you feel so inspired, concert photogs, baby photogs, boudoir photogs, HDR photogs, stock shooters, and fine art photogs all sound like fun targets of your satire

  12. Simo Vilhunen says:

    I would like to add a couple niche segments (my point of view being a 26 yo snowboarding finn).

    Finnish art photographers: uses medium or large format film in order to separate from the norm. Does everything “against the book” and shoots everything melancholic, miserable, dark, lonely and strange. Thinks the shot needs to have blur, off-focus subjects, grain and film errors to look right. Also likes to get naked in front of the camera (if male) and writes cryptic poetry to compliment the images. (ps. not everyone, there are some really good ones too imo)

    Party photographer. Fisheye and max power second curtain flash. 800 images uploaded in a gallery by the next evening.

    Urban snowboard photog. Canon dslr, pocketwizard radio triggers + 4-6 strobes (2 with colour gel to light up a bridge drum or a tree. Freezing his fingers and ass off through the night at -20 celsius. Asks himself why after each session. Never turns down another. Max effort, min profits.

  13. what about the pixel peepers – a fast growing mob!

  14. Very good Ming, very good indeed. Thanks for including me at various points (mostly the end…) :)

  15. Great read, made my day!

    And how about the lomograph? Pinholes and plastics for the win!

  16. Reblogged this on James de Penning Photography and commented:
    Hilarious article by Malaysian professional photographer Ming Thein. Check out his blog, one of the very best online.

  17. James de Penning says:

    Hilarious Ming, great read!!

  18. ISOs go down to 200? Serious?

  19. Me, i’m not a photographer, just a guy who likes to take snapshots.

  20. The comments are as entertaining as the article! :D

  21. You nailed it, nice article!

    I’m the “ninja” type of photographer, BTW :P

  22. Don’t forget the I-only-shoot-using-natural-light (i.e., I don’t use off/on camera light because I don’t understand light) photographer.

  23. Very funny article! But what about the Cell Phone Photographer, the almost extinct Point ‘n Shooter, or even the Advanced Instagrammer? ;-)

  24. nickolas m. says:

    how about.
    1. stock photographers
    2. instagramers

    • Pah, those aren’t photographers. Especially not the second category. They’re just wannabes with a smartphone and delusions…

      • neither are the papparazzi. I can think of a lot of more accurate descriptions for them than photographer.

        Plus I agree with stock photographers. Iknow of at least a couple who feed their families from only stock although it gets harder every year.

        Gordon

  25. Reblogged this on Bo Photography and commented:
    A very fun read! :-)

  26. Excellent article! Really fun to read :-)

  27. Great! Now, I don’t know where I stand myself…

  28. Forgot the landscape photographer who takes wife along (she’s bored at the hotel). She takes one shot with backup camera set on auto . . . .

    • …which turns out to be the best one of the trip, because the actual landscape photographer has some technical malfunctions to contend with because of the heat or dust or cold or something else.

      • Although I don’t count myself as any particular type of photographer, this has actually happened to me whilst taking some landscape photographs. I had the camera, the tripod, the filters, the cable release… whilst my other half had her Canon G10. It certainly showed me that a point & shoot can deliver the goods! :-)
        And the reason why hers worked an mine didn’t? I was using a wide angle where as she decided to go full zoom, compress the hell out of the image and bring everything beautifully together. I really must save up for that RX100! :-D

      • :-)
        Indeed, it’s not so much what she used but that she a) saw it and b) tried it whereas I was all blinkered up in landscape wide angle mode. It certainly taught me to look at things in different ways, although I find It difficult enough to find the shot I want in just one way! Of course that should tell me that perhaps the shot isn’t there in the way I expect it to be, if that makes sense! I find experiences like these invaluable and always educational.

  29. You forgot the “time-lapse” photographer, visiting some of the most beautiful places on earth with a dolly, will spent countless days taking millions of photos and then spending countless months to edit them….

  30. Another Visitor says:

    What about the mythical Concert Photogs who are able to feed their families thanks to their rewarding occupation.

  31. What about the sub-species of blogger: the photo forum professional? Only uses his cameras in the context of arguing over their theoretical merits against people who don’t agree with him. Also always male.

  32. Jorge Balarin says:

    You forgot the “candid amateur photographer with completely irrealistic dreams” : )

  33. The landscape photographer

    Maniac about sharpness and field of depth. Still regrets they don’t make lenses with f/64 any more. Discards an image because it fails to includes all zones. Spends days on the computer on a single image and still thinks there could be some improvement to be done. Carries several lenses but ends up using only a wide angle – probably a 16-35mm lens.

    • Haha, good one! Don’t forget ‘tries to add a bellows to everything to have full movements, disappointed by the Lensbaby because it doesn’t have calibrated and geared adjustment knobs.

    • The landscape photographer, part 2

      Stands up at 4 am in the morning. Drives to a remote location. Climbs up a hill with tons of high-res gear. Sits for hours in the cold wind and waits for the sunset. Sadly, no good clouds and the light was mediocre. Comes back the next day. And the next day. And so on. When the trip is over, he maybe has one single good shot. Proudly presents it on 500px and gets two comments. One says “nice colors” and the other says “nice composition”.
      Decides to come back to the location next time, hopes that there will be finally the killer light. Meanwhile he spends his time buying better gear und reading lens reviews…

  34. Being a “stock image” photographer I feel I’m none of the above, although I do all of the above. My problem is that I shoot everything from bird-droppings on the pavement (and kid myself that the image represents “wabi-sabi”) to snooping on weddings at the church opposite my window. Being hopeful I think everything and anything can sell… it usually doesn’t as often as I hope, but eventually, and surprisingly does when I least and for whom I least expect it to… which adds to the edgy-adventure of stock photography… because there’s no accounting for taste!

    • David Babsky says:

      Ed..? Is that you? ..You still alive? ..You were sending us pictures back in ’79 when I worked on “Practical Photography”..!

      • Yup… that’s me! Actually, I was sending images to “PP” back in the ’60s, but what’s a decade between friends. Been living and working in central France since the Millennium… couldn’t take any more Welsh rain and snowdrifts ;~)

      • David Babsky says:

        Yes, I remember reading your features in the back issues when I arrived in ’79. Striking, solid black’n’white; fierce, stark and bold – as most images were in the sixties!

  35. I was put out because you didn’t insult me but now I see you’ve covered me under weekend photographers. I have the latest pro DSLR which I use mostly for photographing my kids, with a good selection of primes suitable for different rooms of the house. I have the new tele, it’s great, the reviews say its sharp and its pro build makes it ideal for the rigours of life in and out of my sock drawer to shoot in the neighbours windows. I have a macro, it’s sharp! This weekend I got some amazing pictures of a spider near the front door. Last weekend I got some pictures of the same spider. Now I just need a wide angle, please tell me which is best!

  36. Damn. That was accurate. Love it. Though perhaps a little romantic about street photography. You missed out art photographers, or artists who photograph their work.

  37. bertram eiche says:

    the lecturer (art school, workshop, party, blog).
    knows everything and more.
    owns the most expensive but unused gear ever.
    mostly talks about to make it big one day.

  38. wahyudi tan says:

    how about weekend photographer? :D

  39. Perfect zingers, and right on target with every single one of them.

  40. The following person might qualify:

    A web search on “Photographer captures amazing images of lions after submerging himself in watering hole for three months” will find the story and pictures.

    The defiant photographer had endured a year of failed attempts at getting the right picture after building hides and digging trenches near the animals’ drinking spot

    Mr du Toit was also diagnosed with deadly malaria twice after contracting it through mosquitoes breeding in the pool.

    Green and feeling sick from his ordeal, the South African visited doctors who were shocked at seeing the worst test results they had ever recorded.

    ‘The doctors panicked when they noticed that my red blood platelet count was sky high,’ Mr du Toit said.

    ‘The first real symptom was blood in my urine, which is when I went for blood tests. The blood test confirmed that I had Bilharzia.

    ‘It’s caused by a type of flatworm which had spent part of its life in water snails and the other part in my liver. It left me weak and in bed for weeks.’

    He added: ‘The high red blood platelet count signalled that I was carrying a lot of parasites. This included numerous species of internal worm parasites and a particularly nasty external worm parasite known as Hook Worm.

    ‘This worm was actually visible under the skin of my foot and would move at night. It became a game to find the worm in my foot each morning.’

  41. You forgot the architectural photographers, portraiteurs, and also landscape photogs :)

  42. Very humorous article, Which camp do you think you would fall into?

  43. Freakin’ awesome! Love it.

  44. jeffreysklan says:

    Yep, sounded very familiar. An idea for the follow up: (a) the ‘photo editors’ at the magazine / fashion newspaper/ clothing designer who always want ‘the same thing as last time but only different’…’fresh’, and/or ‘retro’ which means blown out shots directly facing into the sun with visible parallax and wind blown hair… and the beat goes on

  45. Another comical group is the small world of bug shooters whose quest is to conquer zero DOF with exhaustive lens combinations and stacking software.

  46. Small world, hahaha! One wonders if they tranquilize the bugs to stop them from moving while they stack, too.

  47. no true bug photographers take their photographs in the wild. it would be cheating any other way.

  48. They do. The usual technique is the freeze them.

  49. Seriously?

  50. Maybe some do, but most go out in the wild. Check out this guy: http://thomasshahan.com. Quote below is from his FAQ

    How do you get bugs to sit still for your photographs?
    I don’t “get” the bugs to do anything. The vast majority of arthropods I try to photograph vanish before I can even get a single shot! The two keys to successful macro photography are in understanding the behavior of different arthropods and taking an incredibly large amount of shots (with a considerable emphasis on the latter).

  51. Aw damn! And here I was marvelling their ability to get close, take multiple shots AND not have the bug move…

  52. Sounds like most wildlife photography, then!

  53. exactly. ;)

  54. Or my grandchildren.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Advanced warning: you will think this post is either humorous or insulting, depending on which camp you fall into… Studio/ commercial photographers Live inside white cubes with huge soft boxe…  [...]

  2. [...] For more insults – err – satires on sport, food, event, and other breeds of photographers visit Ming’s blog here. [...]

  3. [...] Advanced warning: you will think this post is either humorous or insulting, depending on which camp you fall into…  [...]

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