The Wedding Photography Industry: A Rebuttal

This is a guest post by Don Giannatti, a photographer and teacher based in Phoenix, Arizona. The opinions expressed in this post are his alone and I am only providing him this space to hear his perspective on a rather tempestuous blog post by Gary Fong, also a photographer and now entrepreneur.

I am not a wedding photographer, but I flirted with it a bit from 2005- 2008. It didn’t end up being my cup-o-tea. So understand where I am coming from – a commercial photography background of 35 years. I teach lighting workshops now, and mentor photographers wanting to get into the world of commercial photography. I am not the one to come to for wedding photography information, but this post by a celebrated wedding photographer kinda got me thinkin’. And that can be a scary thing sometimes.

1] “Prices are low because photographers are terrified of being asked the question – “how much do you charge?” Because you’re afraid of rejection, (and you want to get hired) you either a) publish a artificially high price, then let the client negotiate you down (this is a snowball of trouble) or b) find out what the competition is charging, and charge less, and throw in a free engagement session.”

Well, not always. Sometimes markets change. I know several high-end shooters who are doing well… because they are damn good at what they do. Perhaps the clients are getting more savvy in what they want and maybe they don’t want to spend $5K on a wedding photographer who isn’t worth it. The recent downturn in the economy has hit upper-middle class people the hardest in many ways, and finding a way to lessen the cost of an already rediculously expensive party is not something that is only borne out in photographers. Offering free engagements is marketing 1.0. By maximizing the value to the client without incurring much out of pocket is a time honored tradition of marketers in all kinds of genres. We got a fee printer and an iPod Touch last year when we bought my daughter’s MacBook. To the point of being terrified of the “how much do you charge” question, it is a matter of personal fortitude. Personal comfort. If one is confident in one’s price, there is no terror. Walk into a Ferrari dealer and ask how much the red one is. They do not feel terrified at all. Confidence in one’s work will take one past the terror and into the garden of being paid what one wants to be paid. By the way, I paid $2400 for my first Macintosh (1986). In today’s money, that is about $10K. Why? Competition, cost of entry, supply and demand… so many reasons. Or – even more terrifying… maybe the work isn’t worth the price being quoted. Yeah. Tough nut to swallow, but if no one is buying the price is too high for the value perceived. Simple.

2] “Photographers do so much post-processing, they don’t work hard to obtain the PRICELESS moment.”

This seems non-sequitur to me, but I think I know what you mean. A photographer who shoots shit and just believes it is fine – “I’ll fix it in Photoshop” may be dealing a lot with your first point (see above)… ya know.

3] “I remember when I started photography, “filters” were all the rage. Shooting a beach? (Half Tobacco filter). Shooting a unity candle lighting ceremony? (star filter). Shooting a portrait? (Don’t forget your vignetting filter). Photographers went out of their way to find situations where they could use their filters! This is what happens when you take your bride and groom into an alley and make them wear sunglasses and jump in the air. Barf.”

So if your client asks for that shot (agreed – stupid) what would you say? As a vendor to a client who is presumably paying you a lot for your time and art?

4] “Jumping in the alley? My God, you two bumpkins are so lame? Such a stupid idea for a shot… I mean, really… gotta barf now.”

OK. I think I would try to lead them to another shot, but in the end, they are the client.

5] “You know what happened to those images? They’re laughed at today because they’re as outdated as orange shag carpet. Same thing with Photoshop actions. If you process your actions with photoshop-heavy gimmicks (I especially am befuddled by the aged-film action, this is so fake looking) then someday the grandkids will point to your silly over-processed, over-saturated, over-sharpened, barbie-doll skinned looking face images and giggle, and go gramps, your wedding photos are silly. Face it. They are.”

Avocado Green appliances.?
Mullets
Fu-Manchu mustaches
Big Hair?
Wide Belts on poofy skirts?
Hot Pants?
Smoking
?Hose with seams up the back
Leisure Suits ?
Velour “Jogging” wear?
Real Fur

Your point? Things and styles change. What is cool now may not be cool then. Shooting for the clients needs means following some trends the client wants. If you are shooting and showing a more traditional style of photography and getting the gigs you need, then what does it matter? If you are shooting and manipulating the hell out of the images and getting the gigs you need, what does it matter? Point is that there are all kinds of things that go in and out of style. Just a facet of time that catches up with all of us. I have been married for nearly 30 years. My kids howl at the wedding photos… not because of the cheesy photography (and it sucks big time) but because of the way we looked and what we wore.

I don’t remember the hairdressers or the tux folks worrying about what that would look like in 20 years back then. Only what looked good on the ‘special day’ that was planned. It would be great to be able to look into a crystal ball and make all the necessary changes in today to fit tomorrow’s needs, but… well, that is not part of our world right now.

6] “And photographers who know they’re going to sit on Photoshop for three weeks gimmicking up their images with cartoonish looking effects typically rely too much on the processing and not trying really hard to let the impact of the moment sell. THIS by the way is what rich people want.”

Then I hope to hell it is in the portfolio of the photographer looking for someone to shoot their rich people’s wedding. Whatever a photographer does, it must be in the portfolio that they show. If you are a bumpkin on Pshop and do most of your work there, with only ‘fodder’ from the camera, and people like what you are doing, then you are – well, good to go. Right?

I will no way believe that ‘rich people’ are stupid enough to hire someone who they haven’t reviewed. They know what you do, and how you do it before you get to come over to the ‘rich people’ house and shoot the ‘rich people’ wedding with all the ‘rich people’ guests. They look at your book. They see other weddings you have done. They make decisions.

They’re ‘rich people’ not ‘stupid people.’

7] “In case you’re wondering. Rich clients don’t want a photo of them holding hands over a train track or standing in front of a graffiti wall. Rich clients do not want their wedding photos to look like a senior high school portrait session. Rich clients do not want their wedding photos to look like a modeling portfolio. They want to say to you – “how the hell did you capture that moment?” For that, they’ll pay dearly.”

Then by all means if you want to be a ‘rich people’ photographer do not do the shots in front of a graffiti wall with caution tape and train tracks and stripper heels… oh wait, that’s Model Mayhem. Sorry.
And if ‘rich people’ will pay dearly for ‘that’, then why are they buying the cheesy stuff… and if they aren’t buying the cheesy stuff, what was the point?

How the heck does someone speak for rich people who haven’t spoken for themselves. And what rich people are getting the graffiti images and the caution tape and the jumping in the alley shots – hating them – and then breathlessly calling their friends to tell them how wonderful the photographer is. Seems like a Straw Man argument to me.

8] “For your silly look-like-everybody fake punchy Photoshop filter, the simple-minded client will find the cheapest person who looks like you do.”

Well, that is a good point. Mediocre is mediocre and that means NO ability to stand out from the crowd. I totally agree. Want better clients? Shoot better images. A lot better images. Is that hard? You bet your ass it is. That is why there is so much mediocrity killing mediocrity in the worlds of photography. No secret there.

I will address this though … the thing that rubs me wrong about so much of what is discussed in forums and online. The point of ‘rich people’ being the only clients worth servicing. And the notion that people of smaller means are ‘simple-minded’ just knocks the breath out of me. I cannot even describe the sadness that something so elitist would be said about good, hard working people who may not have the disposable income to present a $45K wedding to their daughter. My oh my.

I am not an elitist, but I do have my price point. And no, when I did shoot weddings it was mid-stream in my town (around $3500 per with no addons). I don’t shoot $750 weddings and give people the images on CD. Never did, never will.

But I truly hope the young people who are trying to bootstrap a wedding for only a couple of thousand get a good shooter who will. I don’t want them to not have pictures because they are not ‘rich people.’ I don’t want the industry to turn into some sort of elitist entity that exists totally for the Tony Class who have the ‘big bucks” – the ‘rich people.’ That thought sorta makes me want to – well – barf.

9] “Your signature look should be the fantastic moment. Like this series below taken by our awesome wedding photographer Jessica Claire:”

OK.

10] “I am just waiting for the day when I see a bride and groom sitting in a white high-key background leaning on the numbers 2010. I’m sure somebody has already done it.”

And that means what to you? That the photographer is lame and stupid? That the couple is lame and stupid for doing that? Why does everybody want to impose their notion of what is good on other people? What makes it anyone elses business what kind of work the bride and groom want and get… as long as they are happy. Who gives a shit if the 2010 is pink? If I had a nickel for every lame ass photograph out there, I wouldn’t have time to do this. I would be speeding around the world on my own jet trying to find the perfect vinyl copy of “A Love Supreme” for my $5M stereo system. Stupid shot idea? You bet. My business? Nope.

If it sucks, and the clients hate it, and he gets no clients…well – “Hello, Welcome to WalMart”…

Will the destruction of the photographer bring you great joy? Will it make the industry better? Will his/her demise be something to cheer? Maybe for Judge Joe “I Gotta Pelican Case” Brown, but not for me.

Instead of laughing… help. Instead of condescending humiliation, offer guidance and mentorship.

11] “Shoot-to-burn DVD’s – standard going rate around L.A. is about $750 for a DVD of high – res images.”

For some people, that may be the limit of their expenses. Is that a problem for anyone? “Fkn cheap ass poor people…”

Do prospective brides from Beverly Hills and Santa Monica (where, you know, the ‘rich people’ live) shop Craigslist for their photographer? Is Denis Regie feeling the heat from $750 wedding shooters?

12] “Photographers say they shoot over 3,500 images. That’s 20 cents an image. Why not charge that instead? Why not tell the client – “I charge 20 cents an image – and you get to keep the original file!” Are you freaking kidding me? How about be the photographer that works hard, anticipates the moment, IS PERCEPTIVE, captures the mood and the story and gives the image unmodified? I’ve seen many of your images. I’d pay 20 cents for them, and not a penny more. That’s how bad some of you suck. Sorry.”

Well … there you have it. Work for poor people and provide a service to them and you ‘suck’. If you are in East LA and are a wedding shooter who does a great job for your neighbors who can barely afford $5K for their entire wedding – you ‘suck.’
Now, unless I am not understanding the way things work, most people look for people who are like them, or provide something to them that they need. I see this so much on the forums… “cheap CL shooters are ruining the business”.

Bullshit.

Lexus dealers are not sitting around worrying about the Hyundai dealer down the road. People who sell $2500 wedding dresses are not sweating the cheaper stores or online. Bakeries are not vying for a chance at the bottom of the pile… I know, I was just involved in finding a cake with a client. Damn!

I must say that last time I was in LA there were several people driving Kia’s and Focuses… you must suck too. Sorry.

13] “Do you know what I think of your silly Photoshop action-look? It reminds me of one of those Hyundai Sonatas that have been lowered with neon lights in the undercarriage, a big ass subwoofer booming, spinning wheels and sparkle paint. Yes, someone had to say it, and I’m saying it. To a person of taste, if you overgoof your photos, that’s what your images look like.”

Well, not everyone has the same taste level. Sinatra/Kanye – Spring Strings/Philadelphia Strings – banjo music/jazz.
And where I may – or may not – agree with your assessment of that kind of imagery, I have little desire to humiliate those that like that stuff.

14] “Negotiating your fees – this is big. Photographers put up a fake “big number” so they can look ultra-cool in front of their peers. “My packages start at $5,000″ No they don’t. You start at $3,500 and will put on a suit and charge your batteries for less if it’s “off-season”. Or you will book your associate shooter and promise the client that you will come as well.”

I have nothing to say about that. I have no idea what you are talking about, so I have no comment. Have heard of negotiations though. There’s even a book or two on the subject. Maybe.

15] “Dude, a few years ago, I know of someone who said, “I didn’t start doing well until I raised my fees to $20,000″ Oh really? Do you think that would work in today’s market?”

What? Not enough ‘rich people’ I guess. And now I am confused. Prices too low? Prices too high… it is all going round and round for me.

16] “Get real. Have reasonable prices and do NOT let your client bargain you down. That’s the beginning of a nightmare for both you and the client. The minute you say, “OK, I’ll give you a reduced rate” your credibility goes down. How would you feel if your brain surgeon said – well, since it’s you, I’ll take 20% off, or – throw in a tattoo at no charge.”

Well, I am agreeing with you there. Creating a sensible price structure and holding to it is a very important part of finding out where you are, and where you belong. If you can’t get what you charge, then maybe you aren’t worth what you charge. Simple simple.
Idea for tattoo: “I wanna be a ‘rich person’ so I am getting this tattoo.” Or, “Look at My Cool Tattoo, I Must Seem Like A “Rich Person” to you.” I dunno, I kinda suck at making tattoo statements cause I friggin’ hate tattoos. Don’t care at all if you get one or love them… just don’t mean anything to me.

17] “Proclaiming Jesus in your work – any ethnic group bargains itself down. I’m serious. I grew up with Koreans. They are the worst. Oh I know a good KOREAN dentist and they will do your braces for a deal. Oh I know KOREAN movers, let’s use them to save money. Same with mormons, jews kill each other with deal-making. But the Christians as a group – (I’m burping my ribs as I type this) use this to try to sway people in a cheap way to get jobs. Grow some gonads and ditch the Jesus thing in business. Just shut up about it. Seriously, shut up. You will lose all non-believers and your fellow church-goers who say “God is so good”. Oh just shut up. Do business. Get great images. Book weddings because of your STRONG IMAGES and not your proclaimed faith. Be neutral. Can you imagine what a wreck my Lightsphere business would be if I put a Christian fish on every box? Picture it. Would I sell a half million of these things? Hell no. The Europeans would fall off their chairs laughing at me. The Japanese would look at it and make the face a dog does when it doesn’t understand the sound you just made. And for those I did sell, would my fellow Christians go – ooh! I want to buy this because he’s CHRISTIAN. Please. Shut up. OK just shut up.”

Ummm… I got nothin’.

18] “Workshop Bullshit – I honestly have never seen such a carnival circus of posers in my life trying to pitch “education” on business success. These people don’t earn jack at photography. The ones who do earn – shoot. They’re too busy to stop what they’re doing and write an outline and create the class materials to give a good class. Next photo event you go to – PLEASE. ASK THE SPEAKER WHAT THEY EARNED IN PHOTOGRAPHY.”

Agreed… there are some pretty bad ‘workshops’ out there. And there are some pretty good ones out there. The ability for the workshop to be successful has very little to do with the income generated by their work. It has more to do with preparation, hierarchal information, skills with people, a devotion to the wonderful art of teaching and a real connection to those they are teaching. Even ‘rich people’ who do occasionally take a workshop when not polishing their Rolls.

Ask the professors in your University how much money they made in Astro Physics before they taught it? Ask your music teacher at the University how much money they made composing before they decided to teach it.

Teaching is an art in itself. And there are damn great teachers out there who pride themselves in being a teacher. When did teachers become so low on the priority list of some people?

Man – some people are just totally hung up on money – ‘rich people’ and I get that. But denigrating people with that time-worn BULLSHIT phrase about ‘those that can do and those that can’t teach” is such a total slam at the people who work hard to make other people better. I hate that phrase and I believe that people who repeat it are more bitter and small than the ones they are demeaning.

19] “Do it right there in front of everybody. Watch that person squirm because they talk about business success, and they’ve never achieved it. Doing great in the business of photography is very very tough, but it’s totally possible. You HAVE to be the person who NAILS the unforgettable moment, tells the true story, helps people relive memories.”

And one who “NAILS the unforgettable moment, tells the true story, helps people relive memories”… cannot teach?

Really?
Really really?

20] “It is not going to be easy to be successful if you try to copy somebody’s blog images by buying a set of Photoshop actions and copying poses. This is not the stuff that memories are made of (oh we will never forget how we sat on that park bench back-to-back). It’s the memory-making photographer that will get the loyal following and earn the high income, which I believe, is still possible (but it will never again be like the hey-day, not with digital cameras getting more advanced every year). But if you can be a master of the moment, people will beg to hire you – at your fee structure.”

Hokey Dokey.

Offend, denigrate, humiliate, insult – and inspire. Sort of.

21] “This is not the stuff that memories are made of (oh we will never forget how we sat on that park bench back-to-back). It’s the memory-making photographer that will get the loyal following and earn the high income …”

It is the photographer who delivers superior work, listens to the clients, leads by example, and builds a strong, steady business will succeed. Digital has opened a lot of what we do to people who were not trained as we were trained. And some of them suck, and some of them are kicking our asses. The ones that suck, well – they suck, so who cares.

The ones that are kicking asses need to be listened to, and push those of us who are getting our asses kicked into a new place. Happens all the time. Makes hanging a shingle out after buying a ‘Blad and a Norman system and being ‘in business’ seem a little lame. I agree… we will not be going back there. Ever.

But I harbor no resentment to those who are entering and kicking ass. They are the beginnings of a new order. And that is what it is.
BTW… “and earn the high income” may not be the reason I would ever suggest for someone getting into the photography business.

From Seshu: Care to comment? I would value your perspective in the comments section below.

  • http://fotogenesis.in/ almostinfamous

    needless to say, i agree with Don more than Gary. that post was a bit too high and mighty for my taste, and that whole thing about Jesus/Christians was so off-base, i dont know where to start. Kudos to Don for even trying to write a response.

  • picseshu

    Hey Aditya – Thanks for your comment. I agree, even though I am not a Christian, I found his whole “shut-up” routine to be very abrasive (and unnecessarily so).

  • http://twitter.com/willwohler Will Wohler

    Wow, I couldn't even finish reading Gary's post because it upset me. I am one of those “emerging” photographers and am reading posts like his and just get completely pissed off. It makes me want to go out there and prove them wrong and make it. I am also doing it as a side job to my teaching career; music teaching at that, which is the first to be cut when times are tough. I have worked very hard to get where I am now and don't plan to change where I am headed. I am glad there are those like Don who are empathizing with us emerging photographers and providing a wealth of information for us to relate to and use. Great post!

  • CMcG Photography

    I think you misunderstand what gary's saying about teaching photography. No, there is no requirement that you get rich of photography in order to teach photography. He's slamming the conmen like David Jay and Dane Sanders, who claim to have gotten rich off photography (when they haven't) in order to sell their products and workshops as a get rich quick scheme to new photographers.

    Getting rich off photography then teaching photography – OK.
    Not getting rich off photography and then teaching photography while being honest about your background – OK
    Lying about how rich and successful you are because of photography to sucker people into lame workshops – Not OK.

    Make sense now?

  • http://www.photographyconcentrate.com Lauren

    Really great response! I just can't understand why some people assume there is a “right” and “wrong” when it comes to photography. Mind boggling. If you enjoy creating art in one style, JUST DO IT! If you're passionate about it, believe in it, and treat the people you work with well, you will probably find some demand for it. People care more about your passion for what you do than exactly how you do it.

    And I 100% agree with you regarding workshops. There are absolutely ones out there that are a waste of money, and are taking advantage of those who are trying to learn. But to paint them all with that brush is just ridiculous. Those who take the time, and love to teach should be respected, not beat down like they so often are. If it weren't for teachers, how on earth would anyone (Mr. Fong included) ever learn photography? Even those who spend their time posting on forums can be considered teachers. A workshop simply would be more organized, well researched, and well presented.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write this, Don, and to Seshu for posting it. We need to remember that there are a lot of unique people in this business, and to assume that we will all do things the exact same way is just silly! Let's embrace our differences!

  • http://www.rashmipappu.com Rashmi

    Great rebuttal. Thanks for taking the time to post a response Don.

  • picseshu

    Hi there. Wish I knew your name or had a link to check out your work. While I appreciate the time you gave to respond to this post, I am curious about this comment:

    “He's slamming the conmen like David Jay and Dane Sanders, who claim to have gotten rich off photography (when they haven't) in order to sell their products and workshops as a get rich quick scheme to new photographers.”

    What makes you think that Gary is calling David or Dane conmen? Is that a feeling you got after attending one of their workshops or bought their products (that by the way help photographers grow their business)? Do tell.

    I just attended Dane's workshop in Boston and loved it. It was (and is) transformational. But then you would've had to actually attend one to feel that way. Perhaps you have, but I can't tell. I look forward to hearing from you again.

  • http://irmalou.com maura kate moore

    i commented briefly on this topic recently, so i'll summarize the thoughts i've shared elsewhere.

    sadly, so much of the recent discussion (including gary fong's tirade) about “the state of photography” or “truth about the industry” is coming from a place of argument. us v. them. right v. wrong. good v. suck. i’ve been a relatively silent observer, but frankly, i find myself disappointed – even disgusted – with many of the players in this game.

    first, there’s big difference between ‘criticism’ and ‘hate’ – unfortunately, much of the recent chatter has been posturing, generalization, and just vile personal attacks.

    i’m all for feedback. criticism can be productive when there’s an open dialogue between parties. want to know a great way to ruin any chance at an honest, civil conversation? start by offering your criticism out in the open – with a pack of taunting onlookers foaming at the mouth – with only a 140 characters to make your point – a la twitter. stir in half a dozen fake usernames – some foul-mouthed wannabe comedians – and add a heaping helping of religion – and you’ve got a circus, not a discussion.

    and let’s get a grip. honestly. this call for truth at any cost, like we’re arming for a revolution, is frankly, silly, and reeks of the smug self-importance that so many claim to disdain.

    we’re photographers for pete’s sake – we’re not storming the friggin’ bastille.

    am i put off by people being disingenuous and bringing down the level of craftsmanship and artistry in our industry? definitely. do i believe that people need a forum where they feel safe to voice their opinion about workshops and tools of our trade without fear of being ostracized? absolutely. there are a wide range of individuals with a wide range of experience and opinion, and the mob mentality unleashed on some folks has been in large part unfair, unfocused, unproductive, and in lots of cases, completely untrue.

    so where does that leave us? how about we go out and make some pretty pictures? how about if we have a problem with someone, we address it directly with that individual, like an adult, like a human being, and not like a gladiator in a colosseum? is that such a shocking concept?

    leaders inspire. they don't berate. so sorry, gary fong. i'll take my cues about the state of the industry from someone less cocky and crass.

    thanks for the opportunity to discuss this, seshu.

  • CMcG Photography

    Hi Seshu,

    I'm saying that Dane is a conman because I've read his book. His book is a field guide on being a conman. He dismisses people who go to art school, learn their craft and pay their dues, and instead tells people to sell their personalities. Now, if you're doing poor work (like Dane's) and using your charisma to convince someone to pay high prices for something of little of no value…isn't that what a conman is?

    Since that doesn't work in the long run in photography (or anything, really…eventually people get wise to your game) he's moved on to selling the song and dance to photographers. Dane is a beginner when it comes to the art of photography. His “work” is very technically poor. He has not and does not run a successful photography business, as he only shoots 4 or 5 weddings a year. He is only successful at convincing people that he's successful.

    I'm sure that he's a very nice guy. Conmen are supposed to be nice guys…few successful cons begin by punching someone in the face and calling them names.

    Dane misrepresents himself as a successful photographer, manipulating people through their desire for wealth and popularity and even through their religion to sell them products he endorses and bad advice in books and seminars — advice that will likely lead to wasted years of life and an unsuccessful career. That's why he's a conman.

  • http://irmalou.com maura kate moore

    ignorance and misconception continue to fuel the hate. it's a real challenge to have a discussion when the parties are operating on false information, like you're doing CMcG.

    by your opening comment it's clear that you've not read dane's book. at least not critically. the book in no way “…dismisses people who go to art school, learn their craft and pay their dues […]” in fact he's insistent (both in his book and in person) that you must know your craft and constantly push yourself to learn in order to provide an exceptional product to your clients. the example of the art student in the fast track photographer book was only used to show a progression of how an individual can embrace negativity and be driven by it.

    what the book challenges is the idea that technical skill ALONE can make you successful and happy in an industry where relationships are critical. it's the combination of product and PROCESS that fulfills both client and photographer.

    also, let's address this notion that dane sanders is some mind-control cult leader conman. it's silly. lunacy, really.

    speaking for myself, i'm a pragmatist. i'm thoroughly uninterested in popularity. i need only enough wealth to live my current, suburban lifestyle with my family. (that's not to say i don't charge a premium for my services/products and enjoy nice things, but i have no illusions that i'll be shooting 5 weddings a year, dripping in diamonds and swimming in a scrooge mcduck pool of cash.) i grew up going through the motions of catholicism and don't practice now (we call that “recovering catholic”) but if someone wants to celebrate their religion in their personal or professional life, who am i to judge?

    and skill? i've been shooting since 1992. i have an undergrad and a masters degree. i had a successful career in a non-art field then *gasp* i went to photography school. i study the masters and continue to learn every single day. i'm the biggest critic of my own work. the fast track photographer book and philosophy is just another instrument in my tool box. applying some of the concepts dane teaches enabled me to get clear on my vision for my business and how to best leverage my unique talents and attributes to reach my ideal clients. no manipulation. no deception. just concrete strategies that allow my to cut through the crap of my business and continue to learn and improve and please the hell out my clients.

    and with very few exceptions, the community of photographers i've connected with through FTP share my passion and determination, and are committed not only to their own success, but to advancing the industry and the art form. i'm not sure i've met many hapless rubes ready to shave their heads and open their wallets to the temple of dane.

    as in my first post, to anyone who has enough concern over someone's business practices or character to call him a crook or a conman in a public forum, i suggest that you reach out and let that person know. directly. open yourself to conversation instead of spewing insults and rhetoric. otherwise, you're just blowing hot air and contributing to the problem you claim to object to so profoundly.

  • rahm0277

    Gary's post is very typical of celebrity status photogs (present company excluded – and I really don't know if he is that good) that I've had experiences with – they like to belittle and bemuse everybody, including people who charge little or nothing for shooting and claiming that they are ruining the industry.

    As a so-called 'emerging' photographer myself, I've been conflicted for a long time about how to balance this 'charge too little ruin the industry' vs 'charge little so you can win the business’. On one hand, I agree with most pros in that nowadays, anybody with little photographic experience with an slr thinks they are a ‘pro’ and that they can earn some money on the side by doing a wedding here and there. These guys really don’t care what they charge, as anything they get is just gravy on top. Pros are threatened by this, because they believe they will lose the business to an un-informed client, who will just see this as a good deal, and in the end, they will get sub-par product and service but will be too late to fix it.

    On the other hand, I think its BS that pros in the industry are threatened by low charging people with SLRs. As Don stated, photogs confident in what they will deliver know exactly what they should charge, and face no terror in stating their price, because they know the value of what they are delivering. If someone as good and talented arnold newman and bresson wants to give their work away for free, who are we to stop them? Are we going to go picketing outside their house demand that they charge something because its ruining the industry for the rest of us? No, we would have to dig deep and try to find a value that we can provide that this free guy cannot. This is an extreme example, because nobody as good as newman and bresson would actually give their work away for free, but I personally know many extremely talented photogs that charge very little to give away untouched CDs of the high-res images. The issue is that they really don’t know the value of their work, and are not confident enough that someone will actually pay them what they feel for their work is worth. The solution is not to insult them and ridicule them for destroying an industry, but instead try to teach them to have faith in their work (if its good, that is ?) and be confident that their work is worth it, so in turn they will feel better about charging what they should have in the first place.

    I firmly believe that if you produce quality work, it will be recognized by clients. As Don stated, when you show your book, it will be evident that you work is good. Clients will see it, and decide for themselves. If they like your work, you will win the business. If they think you are charging too much, they will know why. Unfortunately, if you are charging way more than the part-time amateur, and his/her work is better than yours, well – you got a problem. In this case, instead of blaming the part-timer for undercutting you will get you nowhere. Instead, just concentrate on your own work, and for a lack of better term “be the best that you can be” ?

    As far as the other stuff that Gary stated – well, I agree with some of his points, but his delivery is awful – maybe he should learn the phrase “you can catch more bees with honey” – if he really IS interested in trying to improve the thought process of the people in the industry, as opposed to just ranting and yelling. Besides, Don has put forth a rebuttal much more eloquently than I ever could.

  • CMcG Photography

    No, you, Maura, read Dane's words superficially. You read the words and took them at face value, instead of thinking more deeply about what his words actually meant. For instance, one of the premises of his book is the line “And professionalism is no longer defined as time served or dues paid. It’s measured by the value you create and the wealth you produce.” That sounds good on the surface, but think about what the words really mean.

    In the real world, what gives your work value is it's quality. You can measure quality in different ways, sure, but ultimately good work is the foundation of career success. And creating quality work requires one to learn their craft. That means spending time working and learning. “Paying ones dues.” If you do those things and create good work, you will earn profits (“generate wealth.”) In non-conman land, wealth in the reward for the professional work resultant from dues paid and time spent. Pay dues -> become pro -> earn profit.

    In Dane's world, though, the craft doesn't matter. You're not a “pro” because you've learned your craft…you're a pro because you've found a way to “create value” and “produce wealth.” The way Dane says to “create value” is to sell your personality instead of the work. To pretend to be an expert, when you are not. Thereby getting money from people and “producing wealth.” That's what the “fast track” is. What makes the fast track shorter than the long track I outlined above? It's faster because you skip the part where you spend time to learn your craft. In Dane's world, you pick up a camera, put up a website, market your personality, use your charisma to get money from people, and fake it 'til you make it. Talk fast -> get profit -> assume that means you're a pro.

    There's no spewing of insults or rhetoric here. The only name I called Dane is a “conman,” because he meets the definition of one. A con man is a person who uses his charm and charisma to defraud a victim out of money. Dane uses different words, but the idea is no different. Dane's book is about using your charm (“personal brand”) to convince people the work of a brand new, uneducated and inexperienced photographer is worth a lot of money. That's a con. In the end it doesn't work, because you can't fool all the people all the time, which is why followers of the Fast Track system rarely become successful businesses, unless they're really good con artists themselves. Usually they wind up booking out half a season for two or three years before giving up because they skipped over the part about becoming a good photographer. So, Dane's advice doesn't work either, which makes his seminars and book sales a con, too. Once again, using his charm and charisma to sell worthless advice to gullible young photographers.

    Calling a con man a con man isn't an insult. It's just the truth.

  • Raquita

    I've read Danes book and met him – although I've never gone to his seminar.. And I just want to say – I don't believe that CMcG has the gist of Danes position down.

    He's not telling you that you don't need to be technically sound. He specifically says there are others who can teach you to be technically sound but thats not the lesson his book or perhaps his seminar his designed to address. I have twenty books that tell me how to learn better technical skills – Danes book is about learning to believe in and understand how to market the skills you create.

    So that being said it sort of throws the rest of your argument on its ear a bit.. in my opinion.

    I don't know how many weddings Dane has shot in 2010- I suspect its less than he would like to admit. Although all of these people tell you to aim to shoot less and earn more – so maybe its right where he wants it to be. I personally am not a fan of David Jay, And don't think hes shooting more than 15 weddings a year but I don't know so hey… But I know Gary Fong isn't shooting weddings he's living on the original Snake oil to photographers – The Fong Dong. He's been honest about that for a while.. So isn't that the pot calling the kettle black? Seems to me Gary more pissed that hes not the flavor of the month anymore, which is the way of Rockstars, and other one hit wonders..

  • http://twitter.com/aj_wood A.J. Wood

    I hear these arguments all the time, and do not foresee them going away any time soon. As a teacher, I take offense that because I choose to teach it reflects some lack of ability to do otherwise. I could rant about the misplaced ideology of celebrities & athletes but that's for another time.

    IF those that are successful in the industry feel threatened by those that “cheapen” their craft, they would do better by educating these folks that have discovered a passion for photography than insulting them.

    At Photoshop World this past March, Zack Arias in the closing ceremony said what no “professional” wanted to hear. The $300 wedding photographer is not destroying the industry. If you need to put food on the table, then that's what you do. Don't worry about the pros. They can suck it up like everyone else. (I'm paraphrasing)

    Bottom line is the person who wants to spend $300 for a wedding is no less important, nor should the photographs they receive be deemed less, than someone who can spend $45k for such an event.

    Frankly, education IS the key. If the celebrity photographers want to help the industry that they feel is being ruined by amateurs let's see them run some workshops of their own at a reasonable price.

    Let's educate, not alienate the next generation of artists & artisans.

  • http://www.naiduphotography.com Hemant J. Naidu

    I am an emerging photographer and wrote this post on Tiffinbox a few weeks ago: http://tiffinbox.org/confessions-of-an-emerging-professional-photographer/

    I personally found Gary’s post to be a bit insulting not only to new photographers trying to honestly enter the business, but to clients who are not willing to spend an average year’s salary on a wedding. Nearly every industry has various levels of “quality”, and I’m not sure why photography should be treated any differently. If the industry is going through a transformation it is up to all players who want to survive (photography, or whatever) to adapt and set themselves apart from the competition. It’s how business works – only the strong survive (unless you’re a big bank…oh, let’s not get into that :P)

    I love how Don’s rebuttal addressed each of Gary’s points with an honest, and realistic answer. I do have to admit that attitudes like Gary’s are always on the back of my mind and have been a huge reason why I have been trying very hard to enter the industry in a responsible manner. While I’m not worried about pandering or cowering to the elite in the industry, I do want to cooperate with those who want to help me, teach me, and see me as that emerging pro that they once were.

  • Not WizWowed

    Don's workshop was one of the biggest wastes of money I've regretfully made. So I take all of his “insight” with a grain of salt the size of Mt. Rushmore. I can see how a lot of “photographers” who make all of their income preying on unsuspecting actual photographers could be extremely scared by the new movement of photographers sick of being used as pawns for the workshop or gadget of the week. They might actually have to go out and, oh, um, make a living from MAKING PHOTOGRAPHS. The horror!

  • http://twitter.com/christawatson Christa Watson

    I'm feeling a little thrown into the mix on this discussion, and should probably take the time to go back and read more before I comment, but in the end I'm not going to. Why? Because it's all just back and forth industry bickering. Truth be told, the people who make their living in photography, do just that… they don't worry about other photographers, they make their clients happy and do what they do in their style and at their prices. Case closed.

    As a photographer and just in general a human being, I find solace in posts that are positive and instructional, not high and mighty and putting down my peers.

  • http://twitter.com/thetrudz trushotsphotography

    I'm at the confidence level as a human being (despite not being anywhere near “rich” or even born rich…at all) to where I saw GF's post as rough humor. I am used to rough humor. I did not take offense to most of it because he doesn't speak for me or define me. I define who I am. I'm Trudy…and that is enough. Period.

    I think Don's response was a great response because it outlined some of the areas where GF's post was pulling at straws. GF's post seemed incredibly emotional moreso than logical so I simply process it as humor for the most part. Once you start slamming race and religion, I stop taking you seriously and start laughing or ignoring for the most part. That is what GF's post incited.

    At the end of the day, photographers have to make choices for themselves but still respect the industry that they are apart of. Whether we like it or not, there will always be ranges of prices, some even low. However, there is still a small line where it's too low for anyone and photographers shouldn't cross that methinks. How will they know the line? They can compare to other photographers in their area as well as the average cost for that area. Let's face it, some areas of the country the wedding average (about $2500 in '09 I believe) is still TOO HIGH. It is what it is.

    Also, I like the comment Don made regarding images being “outdated” over time. I thought that part was silly in GF's post because that IS A FACET OF TIME. Things change. Don illustrated that well in his example. All of the photography effects that GF doesn't like really doesn't matter at the end of the day. For example selective colouring is hated. But if the client hires and wants it and the photographer is willing to create it, that is their business. It is what it is.

    Thing is, it is all about delivery, when discussing photography. If you have the cure for the flu but you have to punch me in the face before I can have it, I might look for the cure elsewhere or stay sick. Photography discussion doesn't have to be about who can be the biggest asshole. I re-learned that from Don when he commented about the Judge Joe Brown fiasco. Though most of GF's post made me laugh, it did hurt a lot of people and I suspect that they really didn't learn a thing from it. Then again, I am not sure if GF's objective was for others to learn though so this might be a moot point.

    The only thing that kinda bothered me about GF's post was the emphasis on “rich.” I guess we still live in a country where “worth” is determined by wealth. How unfortunate.

  • http://blog.trushots.com Trudy

    I'm at the confidence level as a human being (despite not being anywhere near “rich” or even born rich…at all) to where I saw GF's post as rough humor. I am used to rough humor. I did not take offense to most of it because he doesn't speak for me or define me. I define who I am. I'm Trudy…and that is enough. Period.

    I think Don's response was a great response because it outlined some of the areas where GF's post was pulling at straws. GF's post seemed incredibly emotional moreso than logical so I simply process it as humor for the most part. Once you start slamming race and religion, I stop taking you seriously and start laughing or ignoring for the most part. That is what GF's post incited.

    At the end of the day, photographers have to make choices for themselves but still respect the industry that they are apart of. Whether we like it or not, there will always be ranges of prices, some even low. However, there is still a small line where it's too low for anyone and photographers shouldn't cross that methinks. How will they know the line? They can compare to other photographers in their area as well as the average cost for that area. Let's face it, some areas of the country the wedding average (about $2500 in '09 I believe) is still TOO HIGH. It is what it is.

    Also, I like the comment Don made regarding images being “outdated” over time. I thought that part was silly in GF's post because that IS A FACET OF TIME. Things change. Don illustrated that well in his example. All of the photography effects that GF doesn't like really doesn't matter at the end of the day. For example selective colouring is hated. But if the client hires and wants it and the photographer is willing to create it, that is their business. It is what it is.

    Thing is, it is all about delivery, when discussing photography. If you have the cure for the flu but you have to punch me in the face before I can have it, I might look for the cure elsewhere or stay sick. Photography discussion doesn't have to be about who can be the biggest asshole. I re-learned that from Don when he commented about the Judge Joe Brown fiasco. Though most of GF's post made me laugh, it did hurt a lot of people and I suspect that they really didn't learn a thing from it. Then again, I am not sure if GF's objective was for others to learn though so this might be a moot point.

    The only thing that kinda bothered me about GF's post was the emphasis on “rich.” I guess we still live in a country where “worth” is determined by wealth. How unfortunate.

    (Ok, this is off note but you know, I have never seen a single photograph of GFs work, like ever. Not saying his work has to be excellent in order to “qualify” to write what he writes but like, I'd still want to see one, just to see.)

  • wizwow

    I always ask for comments. Good comments and ones to help me make my workshop better. I have not received a negative comment from anyone this year. My workshop site is filled with people who DID get value from my workshop and it is something I strive for.

    But I may not reach every student. No one can.

    However, you make some incredible points that I feel must be rebutted.

    1. If you were so disappointed, why did you not tell me at the time. Was there something you were looking for that didn't get through to me? I have in most every workshop helped those looking for something specific.

    2. You imply that I do not make a living shooting photographs. So, you in fact didn't take my workshop. I am very comfortable with people knowing what I do and do not claim to be.

    Anonymous attacks are so terribly droll… They leave us with nothing but an attempt to surmise what was said… and by whom… and … and…

    Anonymous attacks are simply Bullshit. I sign every one of my posts. I back everything up with the full knowledge that I am able to defend every position.

    My name is Don.

  • picseshu

    “NotWizWowed” opinions are fair game but not at the expense of anonymity. If you have an opinion or a “fact” reveal yourself. Healthy dialogue is encouraged as long as the discourse is civil and in the open. If you insist on hiding, well, then, in my opinion at least, you are a coward. Your last sentence suggests that Don doesn't make a living from making photographs. Fact is he does. So, while you may have felt you got a raw deal out of his workshop (if you did indeed attend) – no two people are going to experience the same thing in the same way – I do ask that you do your homework before telling us what you think. Thank you!

  • Guest

    #20: I seem to recall the esteemed Fong selling sets of his photoshop actions a few years ago, then going after people who duplicated them claiming they were copyrighted (much like the current Lightroom Preset uproar).

    What changed Fong?
    Couldn't a lot of his arguments apply to the “photographers” that make most of their money selling cheap tupperware bowls at a large mark-up?

  • http://irmalou.com maura kate moore

    hm. i don't fall into the category of new, uneducated, or inexperienced.

    having completely ignored my post, it's clear you came into this discussion, not to have a conversation, but to make your (albeit uninformed) point with blinders on. there's no use pursuing conversation with a brick wall.

    i'll make just one more request, though, since you claim to be so knowledgeable on the subject of “fast track followers.” i'd love to see your empirical data or heck, even anecdotal information. you've come to some pretty hefty conclusions based on a book that was just published in 2008.

  • CMcG Photography

    I made my points, and you haven't refuted any of them. I'm criticizing the ideas of Dane Sanders, and in rebuttal you post about your college degrees, your religion and your business. What do details of your life have to do with Dane? Here's my points:

    1) Dane is not and has never been a commercially successful wedding photographer

    2) Dane is not and has never been an artistically successful wedding photographer

    3) Dane misrepresents himself a successful photographer in order to sell books, workshops, and products and services he endorses, like ShowIt.

    4) Dane's ideas about how to start and run a photography business (Fast Track Photographer) amount to con artistry, as outlined in my post above. And no, it is not a book just on the marketing of photography…it's a book presented as a guide to people who want to be photographers.

    5) Per your request, as evidence of the failure of 'fast track' ideas, I point you to the black hole that is the once-thriving community of Open Source Photo. OSP was founded by Dane and DJ (look up the whois info on opensourcephoto.com…Dane registered it back in 2003) to use as a way to market ShowIt products and Dane's seminars. The message is join OSP -> follow Fast Track advice -> use ShowIt products -> be successful. Instead, that once thriving forum is now all but dead. Why? Because people tried those ideas for 2-3 years and they failed and left OSP, because you can't skip the part where you have to learn your craft.

    If you would like to refute those points, go for it. Instead, in response to my posts you just tell me about your own life, which is completely irrelevant. I'm not attacking you. I'm not even attacking Dane. I'm attacking Dane's ideas. Not that it matters much…since all this has come out on the internet thanks to the True Photo Talk blog and Studio Ugly and all the fake twitter accounts, the wool as has been pulled off from people's eyes, Dane's book sales and seminars are in the toilet. His “escalate” thing is a bust, and Dane's will continue his slide into obscurity. Good thing, too, before more people waste their time and money to become failed photographers.

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  • picseshu

    You continue to spew lies without doing any fact checking. Plus, you aren't open to revealing yourself. Is anonymity your only defense? You do know that because you chose to remain anonymous, your credibility is zero. You do know that right? Any more posts from you here will be deleted. You've been warned. Reveal yourself and speak with veracity or be gone. Attacking people willy nilly here will not be tolerated. Capiche?

  • CMcG Photography

    Charles McGeary, Lake City, FL.

    Now, what lies have I told?

  • Raquita

    I think the problem here is that you simply don't know. We don't know how many weddings Dane has shot, or how much he's made shooting weddings, If hes shooting weddings then his clients are pleased enough with his work that its artistically viable. we don't know and your continued rants against him seem more personal than they do about substance. Since you don't know how successful Dance is as a photographer – less he sent you his financial info- then you can't say he's misrepresenting himself as a successful photographer. Thats a matter between He and the purchaser. There are tons of photographers who one would think are doing better than they probably are in every market. However Whoisits and google info doesn't give you enough info to back up your argument. And saying the the existence of OSP and the lack of activity there is evidence is really a pointless argument seeing how Dance has his own forum, no matter who started OSP.

    What you are missing is that its each individual who chooses to pick up his or anybody else book, From Joe bussink to Kenny Kim, no matter WHO it is it is up to the reader to decide how much weight they choose to place on the authors advice. Period. And if that is what Gary and you your self are trying to do – one would think there are more elegant ways to go about that.

    Character attacks simply make you look as bitter as Gary Fong.

  • http://irmalou.com maura kate moore

    my life and my business refute CMcG's points.

    the jabber and unsupported claims of internet trolls don't amount to fact.

    thank you again, seshu for the opportunity to discuss recent events. it's a shame that bitter, cowardly individuals have the internet as a platform for their nonsense. and how funny that a search for “Charles McGeary, Lake City, FL.” yields nothing…

  • http://chelophoto.com/blog Chelo

    Gary's post struck me as offensive and classist. And I say classist because there seems to be a trend of spewing vitriol at the lower end market. There is so much mud being slung around the wedding industry at the moment, do we really need more? The self-righteous attitude is unbecoming to say the least. How many of the people he spewed on about have purchased a fong dong and helped him maintain his fortune, I wonder?

    The rebuttal is interesting but I hate to give more attention to something so ridiculous. The only time I hear about Gary is when there is drama going on. I have to wonder if he is using these situations to his benefit. There had to be a better way for him to express his opinion.

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  • http://acmephotography.net AcmePhoto

    As a Christian, I want people to somehow wonder what might make me different, through my business practices or just make them wonder what might make me be the way I am….

    But, I'm not flying fish on my website, and I've read a TON of photographers websites with “blessed” as every 5th word. I am not ashamed of who I am or what I stand for put being Christian is not part of my marketing plan. Yes GF has gone off a few times on Christians and it's been too much, but I see where he's coming from and the reason behind his rant.

  • IlSarag

    I mentored with someone who believed you should market to the clients you want… Assuming that the only fiends worth having were the rich ones. I finally came to the realization that That was not the market I wanted to work in. Great Post. Thank you.

  • Mel7

    It is too bad I found this when I did. I really don’t do that much reading on different photographers views of the industry, so it is crazy that I came upon this having read GF’s article. I don’t know that I was insulted but more disappointed that someone who is known in the photography industry would give such an overly emotional, inaccurate assessment of it all. I’m not trying to fire back it just became so obvious about two paragraphs in that he is not all that familiar with the actual real job of efficiently photographing a wedding. The reasoning to support my thoughts, is his mention of Jessica Claire who I know is talented among many others and the comment of capturing the real moment and how people will pay dearly for it. He then posts three photographs she shot of a man clearly having an emotional moment and starting to cry. Fabulous work really. But if you have shot more than three weddings you would know that these moments DO NOT just happen at every wedding. They don’t. So I can be all saddled up to get that moment but it ain’t gonna happen. In that case you have to play a larger role in directing people into their own emotion. Sometimes, everywhere you turn there is something good going on, and sometimes that just isn’t the case. So lets be realistic, being a wedding photographer is a lot more than your fancy SLR, cases of shiny new equipment, high class entitled attitude, and an entourage of followers to support you. It is about actually knowing what type of people you are working with, psychology, flow of the day, instincts, and then your photography skills on top of all that. If a new photographer asks, I always tell them that this business is not as glamorous as it sounds or may look, and the only reason to get into this is pure passion. Just like any other business, you have to work hard and be willing to grow and change to provide what the current market demands. No way around it.

  • http://twitter.com/LionPhoto Gerard Lion

    It’s never been easy to make a living with photography and I don’t think it ever will…
    I must say that I have always been suspicious of all theses guys offering you workshops and seminars on how to be a successful Photographer. Like in the time of the “Gold Rush” the one making the money were the one selling tools to the Gold diggers…

  • http://www.girlgames365.com dress up games

    That includes political messages meant to make me feel warm and fuzzy about my dues going to people like Barack Obama, who are no more my ally than Scott Walker. When SCOTUS ruled that corporations are people and can give unlimited campaign money, …

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