Crowd-Funded Gear: Photographer Seeks $6,500 for D4s

Stephen Yanni, Orlando  photographer started a GoFundMe campaign on Saturday to raise money to buy a Nikon D4s. Jared Polin of Fro Knows Photo made a YouTube video this evening talking about this unusual move. The video also has phone interview between Jared and the photographer. [Update: Yanni's GoFundMe was removed 03/05/2014].

Yanni explains why he elected to use this "alternative marketing method" citing taking over 100k images a year, requiring an upgrade every two years, and having limited ability to pick up extra events to cover the new gear.

Yanni has set up 6 tiers of rewards as detailed on his GoFundMe:


As written on GoFundMe:

Buying a new camera every two years is an expense that Pro-Photographers have to take on to keep up. (No they don't take any better pictures, but when you take 100,000 images a year they do wear out)

Help us get the latest and greatest and to maintain our edge in the Orlando Market.

We are not asking for a handout, the products listed all have value - (Save maybe our "Gratefulness").

Just last year, The Fro helped Jaleel King, another photographer raise over $9,000 towards purchasing a new wheelchair (as reported here).

While we've seen books, lenses, accessories, even apps (Shootset will be awesome whenever it comes out) funded on crowdsource sites like GoFundMe and KickStarter this campaign is the first to my knowledge to try to get equipment for an individual. As of the time of publication Yanni's GoFundMe is still yet to raise any money.

Where do you stand on Yanni seeking to crowdsource what is, in essence, a business expense?

[Via Fro Knows Photo]

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Well, After having a ton of equipment stolen, my former partner crowdsourced (successfully and then some) to have lenses replaced/upgraded by the dance community. I'm not sure I could do this personally, but I understand it...kinda.

Noam Galai's picture

I personally love when the community comes to help a fellow photog in need. When someone loses all his equipment for fire/theft/accident/whatever - it could be a huge toll, and it's nice to help in those cases.
Here it's a little different - he's not a photographer in need, and nothing really happened. He just wants the cool new camera and dont really want to spend $6,500.

yeah that's how i feel about it. especially since he's doing it himself. mind you my partner's crowdsource wasn't even organized by him (and he debated accepting the money for a while) it was by one of the dance studio owners. Again Personally, I couldn't do this.

I agree to a certain extent. However, if something bad happens like a fire/theft/accident that photographer should have insurance. Unless something really bad happens like the insurance doesn't want to cover the loss for some reason.

I had a good colleague/mentor whose a really honest person have insurance a long time. Some of his gear got damaged/stolen and when he went to make a claim, they canceled his policy which was in perfect standing!!! that's horrible. Anyhow, those are my 2 cents.

I personally don't see why you would need the most expensive camera on the

market to run a wedding photography business, especially if the gear wears out so quickly. But I'm not a wedding photographer, so I can't judge on his reasons.

Only people will decide if he deserves to be supported. I feel fewer people will connect with the idea of someone asking for a gear upgrade, as opposed to someone asking for "real" help. Whatever the definition of "real" is. Even a pro photographer losing all or part of his gear would still be doing pretty well compared to someone losing his entire property in a natural disaster.

Noam Galai's picture

Here are few things I think about this:
1. There is a big difference in asking for help if something bad happens (for example: if a person lost everything he owns to a fire, or whatever) - to asking people to 'help' in something that is something you should do as a pro. Work... you know...

2. I agree it's expensive to keep up with all the new technology - but no one makes you get the most expensive camera in the market. Get the equipment you can afford. If you shoot things that really deserve the D4s - you'll most likely make enough money to cover it.

3. If you think the D4s is what will make your business succeed - see it as an investment and pay for it. If you're right - the business will pay for it pretty fast.

4. Some of the most amazing photogs out there shoot with cheaper cameras than this one.

5. I want the D4s. Just FYI... in case you have some spare money and stuff... kidding. OK not really...

Point 2 and Point 3 is totally Apt. No one could put it better than that.

He says in the video he bought it already

I agree on those points, but the way this person is doing it is rather strange. They aren't just asking for money, each of those levels offers a service. He is basically paying for the camera by offering services to people, which he would do normally. It's just kind of a weird way to get clients. Not sure I'd want to hire someone to do my wedding just because they want a camera, let alone a $6,700 camera that is essentially made for sports.

Grant Beachy's picture

Bands do crowdsourcing all the time for records where they basically pre-sell copies of the record they will produce. You are selling future services to raise money for an immediate need. My friend sold future donuts as a way to raise money for her donut shop. Pretty much anyone who wants to bring an idea to market has used it in the same way. I'm just not sure why this is a surprise to anyone. It's hard work to manage a crowd funding campaign, and it takes a toll in personal capital. It's generally not free money, and nobody is holding a gun to anyone's head. I'm surprised though, with as many photographers doing as much random marketing as they can, that this hasn't happened before.

Something that is crowdsourced really only works if you have a unifying idea or concept. A band who is independent will crowdsource a record because fans want a new one and they can't afford it. You get a photographer a wheel chair because people can come together behind an idea like that. Buying a photographer a camera that he probably doesn't need in any sort of way is something people probably won't do, especially a bride. Just the title screams "I don't have the gear to shoot your wedding so please hire me so I can pay for it", which isn't the case but as Jared said, perception makes a huge difference.

Grant Beachy's picture

Right, and he clearly failed at the unifying concept, and maybe marketing in general (although look at how many people know his name now). The thing I don't get is the vitriol from other photographers. Ah well, it's a cautionary tale if nothing else.

The Nikon D4s is not just made for sports. It's primary function is that is produces the cleanest images in low light. If you want to work without a flash, indoors, and like me, as a concert photographer, you'll know that the Nikon D4s is the best choice for clean images.

If he shoots so much and can't afford a new body every 2 years, there's something wrong with his pricing or business model.

In the video and to strobist he admits he bout it already ...

Jozef Povazan's picture

This is just my opinion but I think this photographer wanted to get noticed and the whole D4s crowd-funding campaign was used to support it because it is a new flagship from Nikon and it get's lots of traffic in searches. Another strange thing to me is if he claims he has a D4 and D3s with only 50K and 18K actuations on them, how come his gear wears out so quickly? Mentioning he shoots 100K images a year, this is very hard for me to believe, specially if you look at his images on website and blog. Yervant can shoot 100K wedding images a year easy, because he covers 60 weddings a year... Do your math., there is something fishy about this :) But Jared handled it really great as usually. Fro Knows :)

He seems to be just playing around hoping most people won't read minute details and give him cash. His main goal seems to be collecting whatever he can. Even if 10 people Donate 100$ each, he has a 1000$ for no reason.

Maybe read the article? He is offering a service. If someone chooses to donate without getting a package, who are any of us to criticize?

He addressed that in Jared's interview. Those were only 2 of several bodies his team uses, and he referenced making a business decision to rotate in new gear. (We all like our toys!) To your other point, I think you are spot on about the D4s visibility. The putz at the Strobist that touched off the twitter shaming probably would never have come across the GoFundMe page if there was no D4s mention in the title.

That said, this story is on multiple photog sites right now. I have a feeling this is going to be a big win for a local pro, while the guy from the Strobist looks like a clown in how he handled himself.

I think he'd be better off learning how to use his current camera before he tries to buy a new one.

Maybe try reading all of the content instead of responding to a narrow headline.

Maybe try not being an argumentative troll, and look at his work. It's not very good.

They had the website link wrong this morning, did you refresh and look at the right website even?

Don´t know what to think about this. But if you look at his pictures on his page I think upgrading to a D4s would´t have any impact on the quality of his photography. Some of his pictures are composition wise way off, not to be harsh. But those tilted wedding photos....

I agree! He'd be better off studying and learning from others, than rushing out to buy the latest piece of gear

Looks like it goes somewhere different now... Odd

Are you the photographer from this stupid stunt? Your facebook link leads to his page...which leads me to believe your him secretly posting on this thread trying to defend yourself without actually revealing who you are? What are you afraid of?

Not him, But I do know him personally.

They had his website wrong this morning...refresh and go back.

I'd really love to see your photos.