Hold My Beer, I Can Do Better Than This Professional Photographer

Hold My Beer, I Can Do Better Than This Professional Photographer

There's nothing wrong with saying your opinion when it has sound arguments. It is normal to have different preferences when it comes to photography style, lighting, gear, and post processing. However, many times people don't put themselves in the shoes of the author and don't know if there was a pebble during the photoshoot.

"That's the best this photographer can do?", "What a mediocre picture!", "I can take better pictures with my phone!", "Even a student photographer can do better!", "I wish I only had this budget, so I could take better pictures!", "This is just with one light! Why didn't they hire me instead?!", "As soon they get a name, they start to take absolutely mediocre photographs and are praised as gods.", and many more.

Many camera owners think professional photographers live in a perfect world where it's easy to make great imagery. It is wrongly assumed that in such a fairy tale universe for photographers:

  • Access to interesting subjects and locations is not an issue. They can go wherever they want and photograph for as long as they want. You can always see a line of celebrities in front of their studios slightly longer than an Apple store queue for the latest iPhone.
  • Logistics never cause headaches to photographers. They do not have to bother making a media pass with a famous signature on it. They can have any amount of gear at no additional cost delivered even in the deep jungle.

The Great Shopping

The Great Shopping

  • Subjects that are hard to work with do not exist in their world. Celebrities are patient and always ready for a reshoot. Celebrities are glad to watch the photographer fiddling with their camera controls, nimble as ninjas, searching for that "Cover of a Magazine" shoot mode.
  • Budget is never an issue. These photographers are free to ask for any budget because they have a name. Every morning they randomly press a letter on their keyboard and decide to shoot for the big company or a celebrity starting with that letter. "/" works too. They take vacations only when they happen to hit "Esc".

Stock market dealer

Stock market dealer

  • Time constraints are impossible. A celebrity has a live interview in two minutes? Interviews can wait. Newlyweds gladly skip their first night, because their professional photographer wants them to sit and watch the stars for a six hour pitch black long night exposure.
  • Space constraints are never present. The rooms are always big enough. They frequently shoot full length portraits with a 600mm in landscape format in a bathroom. Why 600? Because 50 looks small and cheap. They are professionals after all.
  • Weather conditions never bother their photoshoots. The sun doesn't set until the masterpiece is produced. Storms never interrupt a photoshoot. Wind stops blowing once a softbox is put up. Sun rises at 11:00 am, just in time for a lazy professional photographer.

Guys being chased by a tornado

Guys being chased by a tornado

  • Gear can do miracles, especially when it's black and expensive. They can even shoot Annie Leibovitz' whole portfolio with a smart phone at noon. One light is for amateurs. Pros use 11 key lights at least. They are always using the "M"-asterpiece shooting mode.
  • Gear problems never happen. Batteries are ever charged. Cameras never fail. Radio triggers always work. Lights never skip a pop. Hard drives are always half-empty.
  • External lights are heavily used mostly by Canon camera owners because their professional level cameras do not have a built-in flash.
  • Fixing it in post is a must. There's a professional grade Photoshop action for anything, especially for bad expressions. That's the secret why professionals always have great images at the end.
  • Art directors are there only to bow before the photographer. They never take the lead. The photographer always knows what's best for the client.

In a perfect world everything is so easy and it's a shame not to produce masterpieces that please the audience every single time.

Hey, but what about the client in the perfect world?

Well, the client is holding the beer, keeping it cold.

Keeping the beer cold in the fridge



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Jeff McCollough's picture

Best article in a while hahahahahaha

Larry McNiff's picture

Great article and I can identify with some of the issues you mention. On the other side, there ARE professionals (at least in name) that put out crap that could be improved by a passer by with an iPhone! We get to enjoy the fruits of their labor as well! (lol)

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

One of the good things about commercial photography is it is commercial, a good source of profit. The bad thing is sometimes there are people who interfere with the work of the photographer and the final images are quite ugly.

Example 1: An art director who doesn't know anything about good styling decides it will be great if the photographer shoots underexposed just because "it's different".

Example 2: A great photographer and retoucher usually does his own retouching but this time a company retouches his photos and they look very mediocre. At the question "Who shot these?", they answer "The professional photographer <Big name>". :) And then we write an article how <Big name> started to produce average results.

The best commercial project is where the photographer has control over the quality of the ideas, the photography execution and retouching.

Ken Flanagan's picture

The hardest lesson I have ever had to learn as a professional is that Client's don't pay me to do what I want to do...

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

I've tried the other way: If I work with a client, I work because they see me as a product (photographer with a certain style they want), not as a service (photographer who owns a black camera and can do the job at a comfortable for them price).

That's why I'm rarely being paid to do what the client wants, but I sync their opinion with mine before taking the project (if I agree to take it).

The pros: working on projects which you like and where you can take a certain lead applying your style and vision.

The cons: you can't get rich so quick as you decline projects sometimes.

Stephen Yen Chong's picture

Gosh i had this done to me. I'm not a pro but i do photography as a side job and I did a shoot of some models. When i delivered them the lady posted them with all kinds of filters and black and whites that looked horrible in my opinion.

Ben Perrin's picture

Yes, there are things that mess professionals around on shoot. We tend to forget that when we are looking at the work of other artists. That's why photography is about problem solving, especially something like low budget wedding photography. I think what you've missed though is that it's often not the talent of the photographer but their business acumen which see them land dream jobs. Many photographers think that it's only about their talent.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Exactly. In the commercial world it's rarely a one man show but it's always the photographer to blame for a bad end result :)

Ken Flanagan's picture

I could have written a way better article than this. It's so easy to sit on your pedestal and judge our comments. It must be so easy just to sit around and think of articles all day. If FStoppers would just hire me people would see what a true article looks like.

Arun Hegden's picture

Well that escalated quickly, Sarcasm at its peak..:D
I would want to do a video, annoying things clients ask photographer to fix, including the one u said,' Hey, can you change my expression is Photoshop,'..:D

Ingemar Kenyatta's picture

Hard drives are always half empty :-D :-D :-D

Raymond Craig's picture

I think it all comes down to ego. The more fragile the ego of the photographer, the more they have to belittle other people's work to feel better about where they are. Everyone can improve, so rather than pointing out mistakes or saying 'I could do that better,' we should just keep pushing ourselves and let the work do the talking. I find clients respond better when you don't have an elitist attitude as well.

Ivo Ivanov's picture

Тихомир ги размаза... яко!

Yeah, those poor rockstar photographers got it so bad. Maybe we should start a charity for them. Really, my heart bleeds.

user-128543's picture

Most of my work is in publishing, mostly for motorcycle magazines. It's easy to look through the mags and think you could do better but what most people don't realise is that the photographer has shot multiple features that day, sometimes 3, 4, 5 or more!

Gary Chapman's picture

Not sure why it posted as that user name... was logged in as me :-)

Eric Lefebvre's picture

That tornado shot ... that's such a piece of crap picture. I could have shot that with a potato with a cardboard tube for a lens!!!


Dennis Murphy's picture

This whole article sounds very defensive to me. So what if someone makes a comment that they could take a better photo with their iPhone etc? I think you lose a bit of credibility as a 'Professional' if you have to catalog all the myriad of things that could have stopped you nailing the kind of photo that would have supposedly impressed everyone to the point of garnering only praise for your skills.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Eric, by the way you are right. And it's not in the perfect universe :) It's some of the first composites I've ever did.

Eric Lefebvre's picture

I hope you realize I was kidding and being sarcastic. The shot is awesome and better than anything I've ever done.

I've just heard this crap so often it;s hard not to be snippy and sarcastic.

Here in Ottawa in 2010, a local studio ended up charging the City of Ottawa like 13,000$ for portraits of city council members and the mayor. The main reason for that was that they asked him to be on location with his staff for 3 days because they couldn't clear their schedules or travel to his studio just a few blocks away from City Hall.


People comment at the time were basically:

"13,000$ I can shoot those with my cellphone for 50$"

Some people were saying he shouldn't be paid at all ...

If city council had gotten it's S#i7 together and booked him for just one afternoon it would have been much cheaper instead of having him on standy by on location for 3 days. That's 3 days of him and one or two assistants, 3 days of traveling to the location and setting up, 3 days where he isn't working on anything else...

He even said that he could have done this in his studio for less than 3000$ ... his studio is a couple of blocks away from city hall.

I've had the same bull done to me ... business looking for corporate head shots on location. I send them a quote ... "Oh, I only have 25$ budgeted for this. Why is it so expensive? It's just a couple of pictures!"

Or with weddings: "I wish I was paid 250$ an hour to go to a party and get a free 5 course meal"

Same with video. "Yeah, we want to shoot a 3 minute music video ... shouldn't take more than an 30 to do ... " says the man who has never shot a video in his life and then balks when you try to pay yourself more than minimum wage.

Sorry #triggered

*Gets off soapbox*

Best FStoppers article EVER!!!!! This needed to be written.....

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

:) I'm glad you got it.