The Problem With the Internet and Photography

The internet is a great resource. It allows us to find an answer to anything in an instance. It is rare that I can't find what I am looking for during day to day searches. However, there is a huge negative to this too.

When I started photography in around 2009, the internet was well established. It was a far more high brow setting than perhaps it is now. Those who published tended to be those who had some authority in the field. It was a bit like being an author of a book, and not everyone felt up to the challenge. Since then, times have certainly changed. After a while I felt I was up to the task of publishing my knowledge online (I wasn't) and I think at around that time (2011 ish) more and more people felt comfortable with sharing their knowledge too. 

And here came the birth of the internet photographer. Of which I was certainly one of them. One of those who had more to say than they had achieved. Who would argue a point based on nothing more than something I heard someone else say. Facts started to be muddied and finding good and correct information on even the basics became more difficult. Add to this the profession of being an internet photographer, influencer, YouTube presenter, and general photography personalities, and you can quickly see how finding any useful business advice or information on pursuing careers in commercial photography or any form of advertisement work can become near impossible. Which is the pitfall I both fell into and then dug a little deeper in.

In this video I discuss the issues surrounding this as well as offering advice on how to find good quality information online in 2020. 

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13 Comments

Mark Richardson's picture

This is so refreshingly true. I've finally progressed to the point in my photography career where my team is getting large gigs and we have a thriving business. Advice from most internet photographers has become useless, and now in retrospect, it's quite easy to see that most of the images/methods that get popular on the internet have very little merit in the real commercial photography world. So many amateurs that feel qualified to critique other people's work but have never made any substantial money from their own.

Jonas Karlsson's picture

The population who hold workshops are almost entirely made up of people who cant sustain themselves from their profession alone. Ask yourself if these are people you want to learn from.

Ryan Cooper's picture

It really depends on the nature of the workshop. There are plenty of very talented photographers who are not good at or don't like the business side. Teaching is a way for them to engage in their passion without having to be a commercial service. You don't need to be a commercial pro to master the craft of photography. (That said, if that is you, you better not be teaching the business of photography)

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I agree with you somewhat. Not having a commercial service experience is also lacking on the productive end which is where you are forced to show any skill and rapidity of execution and, the big guy - improvisation - in front of clients, sometimes a group of 10 or more people. Of course you can acquire the necessary confidence with time, but no online video suggest any sign of efficiency. Instead it's do this, do this and voila. So I see a lot of pre packaged recipes guaranteed to make the author a hero but not teach that much.

William Faucher's picture

That is a bit of a blanket statement. Sure there are SOME who didn't make it as commercial photographers, but Photography is about so much more than that. Not to mention there are so, so many excellent photographers who hold workshops. Do I want to learn from them? Uh heck yes.

Do I care whether or not they are commercial photographers? Not really, especially not if their work is good.

Martin Peterdamm's picture

and the workshops from people who are successful are not often and if there is one it is expensive otherwise there would be no incentive to give one.

Pete Whittaker's picture

I agree Jonas, there is a very predatory element within the photography industry. Unfortunately, it's not just limited to "internet photographers" or those who don't know business as Ryan suggests.

I went to a (very expensive) seminar last year with a successful commercial photographer and it became clear that he was holding the seminar as a way to subsidize his commercial work. The first day of the seminar the attendees were asked to sign over copyright to any images taken during the seminar and forbidden from posting any images from the seminar - because the photographer running things wanted to be able to license his images (or those of seminar attendees) to his commercial clients. This transfer of copyright was not something discussed before the seminar began and the extent to which the seminar focused on creating commercial images came as a surprise.

Ian Goss's picture

“Incidence”?

Robert Edwardes's picture

The problem is content no photographer has enough content to do a youtube once of week for more then 18 months.Just look at your channel you have stopped any camera advance/tutorials because you could teach your self out of a job and now sound like a post on reddit.

Scott Choucino's picture

I live in a place called Leicester in the UK and we have been in lockdown since March, more so than the rest of the UK so I haven't been able to film anything like that due to risks for parties involved. Sadly it looks like thins will stay this way until early next year and I don't have the skill set to film and produce the bigger videos by myself as my video skills are pretty limited haha.

Robert Edwardes's picture

It's not just you it's a larger problem with youtube photography if you look at longer running channels they all relies on gear and news to create content every week because it's what youtube rewards. Also you weren't doing any of the deep dive tutorial so people could mimic your work in the year you where doing youtube before lock down

Scott Choucino's picture

yeah I don't think a weekly how to deep dive tutorial is sustainable for anyone but a full time youtuber.

I've done the occasional bts on small test shoots where I go through the what and why of my personal work, but they are a lot of work on top of already shooting so I can't do them all that often. These were all pre lockdown and gave exact set ups of my shoots including one where I discussed exactly how I plan them too.Which I feel is a really good amount of information for free and also different to what else is out there in my genre of photography.

The problem with youtube is that if you don't post 2-3 times a week, when you do put out a big video, no one sees it. In order for the more in depth videos to be seen you have to do higher volume. So its' a bit of a catch 22 in that sense, but we all have the play the game I guess.

Pete Myers's picture

Yes, thanks---refreshing comments on the state of information flow on photography via the internet. It is a subject that should be discussed, and you did a great job of getting the ball rolling.

I use to write for photo magazines back in the day. It did not pay particularly well, but at least it paid (not so today.) The editors that I worked with had integrity and actually cared about their authors. At a certain point, it just came to a grinding halt.

You get what you pay for.

Also, a lot of readers stopped listening. As a writer, there is no intent to persuade readers so much as to encourage them to gain their own perspective. But when commentary posts were added below articles on the internet publications, I often had responses from readers that exceeded the length of the original article. Not good. And when the publications do not back up their authors, there is something wrong.