What Is Your Unpopular Photography Opinion? Here Are 29 From Industry Pros

What Is Your Unpopular Photography Opinion? Here Are 29 From Industry Pros

I asked people in the industry what their unpopular photograph opinions are, and I got a lot of interesting answers. And some controversial ones.

First thing's first, what is an "unpopular" photography opinion? All I mean by this is I want you to share an opinion you have on something related to photography, videography, or the industry that you think if expressed publicly, wouldn't go down well. That is, a lot of people would disagree with you. By the very nature of the question, you need to be prepared for backlash. In fact, ironically, the more people who tell you "you're wrong", the more successful you've been at the task. So make sure after you've read 29 from people who are currently working in the industry, leave some of your own in the comments, and prepare to defend them. Similarly, if you think any of the 29 are patently incorrect, let us know why they are.

Numbered below — so you can call them out specifically in the comments —  are what some fellow industry professionals told me. I have kept them anonymous, which was my call. Most (if not all) of the people who answered were comfortable with having their name put to their opinion, but I don't want that to muddy the waters of discussion. It would just incite ad hominem attacks when I really want people to engage with the statement and disprove or support it. Those people who contributed are welcome to claim their opinion in the comments.

Unpopular Opinions From Current Industry Professionals

  1. 99% of photography schools and degrees are a rip off.
  2. Medium format cameras are completely over-hyped. You’ll almost always produce better quality images with full frame with the right lenses.
  3. Shooting film in the digital age is photographic masturbation. It may be self-gratifying, but it doesn’t do anything for anyone else.
  4. Those artist signatures people pay for are overpriced squiggles and they all look the same. Use a pen, make a nice signature, and scan it. If you scribble like an infant then that's just the mark you get to make on the world.
  5. Most photographers call it "fashion" when the subject is wearing clothes. Any clothes.
  6. Doing well on social media doesn't mean you're a good photographer.
  7. 99% of what people call "fine art photography" has absolutely nothing to do with fine art.
  8. The vast majority of photographers have a massively overblown sense of self importance. You are a monkey pushing a button on an expensive box, not the reincarnation of Jesus.
  9. Just because it's bright and shot at f/1.4 doesn't make it a good picture.
  10. If you want to be an environmental landscape photographer you ought to use your bicycle more than the plane or car.
  11. Hair and make-up is not something to cheap out on.
  12. Photojournalism isn't the greatest form of photography known to mankind and doesn't deserve to win the majority of prestigious photography awards.
  13. Death to VSCO! Orange skin and gray greens. I am so sick of it.
  14. A photographer's obsession with gear is inversely proportional to the quality of their photography.
  15. If you have "photo", "photographer", or "photography" in your social media handle or in your domain then I instantly think you're less of a photographer or lack the imagination to come up with a better name. 
  16. Photoshop is the most valuable talent of a modern photographer.
  17. If you can't create consistently high quality work, you're not a good photographer.
  18. Photographers obsess over corner performance and micro-contrast on lenses, shot on 36mp+ bodies, only to upload a heavily compressed 1080p image to Instagram.
  19. A pro photographer is about making money. Being a "pro" is not directly related to talent, but to business and commercial skills.
  20. Gear matters. Yes, I could cross the country with a Ford T, but I prefer to do it in a BMW.
  21. Claiming to be a natural light only photographer is almost always just a cover for being unwilling or unable to work with artificial light.
  22. Canon sensor tech is outdated (other manufacturers buy Sony sensors, not Canon).
  23.  Shooting IG "influencers" who have a ton of followers for exposure is a waste of time because their audience couldn't care less about the photographer and is never your target market.
  24. Colors from Sony cameras are horrible.
  25. Work should only be judged on the quality of the final image. The process is a means to an end but using an artificially difficult process to produce a sub-par image doesn't make you better.
  26. Leica is a status brand for rich hipsters.
  27. The best camera isn't the one with you, it's your best camera, so make sure that's the one with you.
  28. Not using post-processing such as Photoshop is not a high ground. It is a choice to sacrifice your quality because you are lazy.
  29. Photography Kickstarters are a quick way to waste money.

What Are Yours?

In all honesty, it was difficult at times not to openly disagree with the person telling me theirs. For me, in that 29 there were an even spread of opinions I agreed with, was on the fence about, and vehemently disagreed with. My stand-out favorite (and it wasn't mine) was without question number 5: "Most photographers call it "fashion" when the subject is wearing clothes. Any clothes." 500px was the original source of my hatred for this irritating misnomer, where images that were closer to glamour would populate the highest rated fashion image category. At first I thought I was being petty, but now whether I am or not, I'm comfortable in my disdain for it.

In a similar vein, it's difficult not to agree with the opinion on fine art photography from number 7. Then again — and this might be unpopular opinion number 30 for this article — I can't imagine having the level of arrogance to call your own work "fine art" unless you have some serious evidence to call upon. There are too many grainy, heavy on the contrast, black and white images of indistinguishable subjects by self-anointed artists of allegedly highly intellectual, creative content.

So let's have it, what are your unpopular opinions on photography and photographers?

Lead image courtesy of Snapwire.

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229 Comments

Previous comments
Joe Black's picture

Please post your favourites!

Mine “A photographer's obsession with gear is inversely proportional to the quality of their photography.”

😂😂😂😂

Alex Yakimov's picture

I love gear :-)

This thing about big number, small aperture: WRONG, definitely WRONG!
The numbers are fractions, they are written as fractions. eg F/16. A half (F/2) is bigger than a sixteenth (F/16) Therefore F/2 is BIGGER than F/16!!!!
See, I’m right! No longer confusing for beginners!

Pat McEntee's picture

But, but, BIG numbers.

Alex Reiff's picture

It's simple once you understand it, especially when you realize that f is focal length, and the fraction represents aperture diameter. The reason people get confused is because the fact that it's a fraction isn't always immediately obvious.

Christopher Eaton's picture

The best of the list ...

3. Shooting film in the digital age is photographic masturbation. It may be self-gratifying, but it doesn’t do anything for anyone else.

Same for listening to vinyl... the difference you hear is all in your head and your ears have nothing to do with it.

user-206807's picture

Not agree… When you listen to vinyls you have all the sounds of crackles that remind you of the sound of a log burning in the fireplace.
It is definitely a warmer sound !!!

Pascal Photographos's picture

Air was coming out of my nose at a slightly faster pace than usual after reading your comment.

{{ passing Pascal a tissue }}

Christopher Eaton's picture

Errant noise is not warmth.

A log burning in a fireplace is quite warm.

So is vinyl burning in said fireplace.

Jordan McChesney's picture

Sorry, as an avid vinyl collector, I have to disagree. If you’re talking about newly produced vinyl, you have a case, they do sound the same, at least in my experience. However, I regret to inform you that if your mp3 files sound the same as my Beatles vinyl made in the 1960s, you need to ask for a refund, because they are hilariously low quality sounding.

Christopher Eaton's picture

Audiophile magazine analyzed the sound coming out of a pair quality speaker for a digital and vinyl version of various songs and found that the air movement is identical.

I am not talking about low grade MP3s, I am talking about uncompressed or CD quality sound.

Joe Black's picture

hahahahahahah. Loved that one too. Even though I am an ever film masterbator 😂😂

Ryan Davis's picture

I don’t agree. I think it keeps your skills sharp to occasionally don the hair shirt (digital cameras are so good that they enable laziness). I also like to shoot film sometimes because I like the film look. Digital is better than film in every single way except one- film is better at looking like film.

Christopher Eaton's picture

Completely reproducible look digitally without the waste of natural resources and the harsh chemicals.

Ryan Davis's picture

No human algorithm can reproduce a stochastic process. Also, it's fun.

I still shoot and love film. I work on computers every day and those days can run 32 hours or more straight. The last thing I want to do is get on a computer to work on photos which is supposed to be enjoyable. I actually can barely stand being on this machine right now but there is a certain amount of enjoyment looking through Joe Edelmans work and tips which led me here. I have been cruising around trying to get some inspiration. All the computer work and day to day hum drum activities has me feeling anything but creative so hopefully I'll be back at it shooting images with my cruddy old film and the occasional digital session. You would hate to be here at my home. I still have all my old vinyl, 8-tracks, and reel to reel. Reel to reel and clean vinyl played on good gear sounds wonderful, 8-track not so much but I have some very rare ones that I enjoy listening to. The 35mm, medium format, and large format cameras from the early to late 20th century would probably induce a stroke not to mention the darkroom if you were to stop by.....

Pete Tapang's picture

agree! It's like saying "I use a sun dial instead of a watch because it's more natural and legit."

It's just a process, a different process, a traditional process. Sure, you are probably not going to do it for a commercial shoot, but if its something you enjoy personally then why not?

Christopher Eaton's picture

Isn't that exactly what the original words say, just a bit more snarkily than yours?

Michael Holst's picture

3. Shooting film in the digital age is photographic masturbation. It may be self-gratifying, but it doesn’t do anything for anyone else.

What's wrong with a little masterbation? lol I LOVE shooting on film.

Terry Waggoner's picture

The only real photographers are over 60 years old..............

I like this but it should be over 50! I shot film 5 years before charging a dime because it took that long to really learn how to shoot...and my style was defined by lighting-composition-exposure..film choice...processing film by hand...printing my prints by hand. Not...push a button then look at a screen then fix whatever is wrong with software then make that look even better with software. Sure I do that now...but thats NOT how those of us over 50 learned to shoot! Right?

michaeljin's picture

1) 99% of photography schools and degrees are a rip off.
AGREE.

2) Medium format cameras are completely over-hyped. You’ll almost always produce better quality images with full frame with the right lenses.
Digital? AGREE. Film? It depends.

3) Shooting film in the digital age is photographic masturbation. It may be self-gratifying, but it doesn’t do anything for anyone else.
DISAGREE. Just like a something hand-drawn and hand-painted on paper or canvas is different from digital art, film is different from digital photography. The difference is far more subtle, but it's there. Watch the Star Wars prequel movies vs. the newer ones and you immediately see that difference translated to screen as a viewer. Obviously, content is king in the end, but the artistic process is just as much about the little decisions as it is the big ones.

4)Those artist signatures people pay for are overpriced squiggles and they all look the same. Use a pen, make a nice signature, and scan it. If you scribble like an infant then that's just the mark you get to make on the world.
AGREE. Coming from someone who scribbles like an infant.

5) Most photographers call it "fashion" when the subject is wearing clothes. Any clothes.
AGREE, but most photographers (like most people when it comes to anything) probably don't know WTF they're talking about.

6) Doing well on social media doesn't mean you're a good photographer.
AGREE

7) 99% of what people call "fine art photography" has absolutely nothing to do with fine art.
I'm still not entirely sure what "fine art" is, so I don't have an opinion on this one.

8) The vast majority of photographers have a massively overblown sense of self importance. You are a monkey pushing a button on an expensive box, not the reincarnation of Jesus.
DISAGREE? No, I am not the "reincarnation of Jesus", but I am pretty sure that I am a bit more than "a monkey pushing a button on an expensive box". I feel like there's definitely a middle-ground between those two.

9) Just because it's bright and shot at f/1.4 doesn't make it a good picture.
AGREE

10) If you want to be an environmental landscape photographer you ought to use your bicycle more than the plane or car.
DISAGREE. It depends what kind of environment you're specifically looking for.

11) Hair and make-up is not something to cheap out on.
AGREE.

12) Photojournalism isn't the greatest form of photography known to mankind and doesn't deserve to win the majority of prestigious photography awards.
SOMEWHAT DISAGREE. How do you define "the greatest form of photography"? While I don't think that photojournalism is any more or less difficult than really good portraiture, I would certainly argue that in terms of importance, photojournalism is probably the most important genre of photography to mankind as a whole. As for the whole thing about awards, aren't awards generally specific to genre anyway? And who cares about awards?

13) Death to VSCO! Orange skin and gray greens. I am so sick of it.
AGREE

14) A photographer's obsession with gear is inversely proportional to the quality of their photography.
SOMEWHAT DISAGREE. People say this, but it's a bit funny how then you look at a lot of the greatest photographers and they just happen to be using some of the best gear available. Sure, there are tons of factors likely involved, but stuff like this either seems like jealousy or hypocrisy when it's usually said.

15) If you have "photo", "photographer", or "photography" in your social media handle or in your domain then I instantly think you're less of a photographer or lack the imagination to come up with a better name.
DISAGREE. While it certainly lacks "imagination", there's something to be said about just being straightforward and descriptive rather than attempting to be clever at every opportunity with some vague reference.

16) Photoshop is the most valuable talent of a modern photographer.
DISAGREE. Photoshop is a related, but entirely different skill set. Furthermore, all of the Photoshop skills in the world are just about worthless if there isn't any actual substance in the base image just like all of the darkroom skills in the world are worthless if you don't have the fundamental material on the negative to work from. Content is king. Photoshop is the flourish to bring the most out of the base content.

17) If you can't create consistently high quality work, you're not a good photographer.
AGREE.

18) Photographers obsess over corner performance and micro-contrast on lenses, shot on 36mp+ bodies, only to upload a heavily compressed 1080p image to Instagram.
AGREE.

19) A pro photographer is about making money. Being a "pro" is not directly related to talent, but to business and commercial skills.
AGREE.

20) Gear matters. Yes, I could cross the country with a Ford T, but I prefer to do it in a BMW.
AGREE, although I think the example given is a poor one. The BMW is an issue of preference. Without the right gear, there are straight up some shots that are unavailable to you.

21) Claiming to be a natural light only photographer is almost always just a cover for being unwilling or unable to work with artificial light.
AGREE.

22) Canon sensor tech is outdated (other manufacturers buy Sony sensors, not Canon).
AGREE.

23) Shooting IG "influencers" who have a ton of followers for exposure is a waste of time because their audience couldn't care less about the photographer and is never your target market.
AGREE in most instances, although some IG influencers are also genuine celebrities and we've seen plenty of instances throughout history of photographers launching their careers in earnest via celebrity photography.

24) Colors from Sony cameras are horrible.
AGREE, but I think colors from every camera are horrible. That's why we edit them.

25) Work should only be judged on the quality of the final image. The process is a means to an end but using an artificially difficult process to produce a sub-par image doesn't make you better.
AGREE.

26) Leica is a status brand for rich hipsters.
AGREE, but I still want a Leica M-A if for no other reason than because it's a mechanical 35mm film camera that isn't 50 years old.

27) The best camera isn't the one with you, it's your best camera, so make sure that's the one with you.
AGREE.

28) Not using post-processing such as Photoshop is not a high ground. It is a choice to sacrifice your quality because you are lazy.
DISAGREE. While I don't think that it's some sort of moral "high ground", I think that Photoshop is a completely different skillset and, like printing, better left (whenever practical) to professionals who dedicate their lives and careers to specifically that. I will never be as good at re-touching or editing as somebody who does it professionally for 8+ hours a day and if I invested that much time in that craft, I would never be as good at photography as someone who does it professionally for 8+ hours a day. Yes, you should have some rudimentary skills to produce an acceptable image in the end, but post-processing is NOT photography.

29) Photography Kickstarters are a quick way to waste money.
In all but a few cases, yes. Some well established brands just use Kickstarter to generate hype for a product that they already have waiting on shelves so that's little risk, but for just about everything where someone is actually trying to develop something, they are more often than not in way over their head without the knowledge required to develop a product and bring it to market commercially.

My Contribution: The most important skill for a professional photographer has nothing to do with actual photography. It is the ability to sell yourself.

Christopher Eaton's picture

3) Shooting film in the digital age is photographic masturbation. It may be self-gratifying, but it doesn’t do anything for anyone else.
DISAGREE. Just like a something hand-drawn and hand-painted on paper or canvas is different from digital art, film is different from digital photography. The difference is far more subtle, but it's there. Watch the Star Wars prequel movies vs. the newer ones and you immediately see that difference translated to screen as a viewer. Obviously, content is king in the end, but the artistic process is just as much about the little decisions as it is the big ones.

It's all in your head.

michaeljin's picture

It's really not, but feel free to believe what you want. Different people have different levels of sensitivities.

Pat McEntee's picture

- "Watch the Star Wars prequel movies vs. the newer ones and you immediately see that difference translated to screen as a viewer. Obviously, content is king in the end, but the artistic process is just as much about the little decisions as it is the big ones."

Strongly disagree. Just as the original Star Trek TV shows look so cheesy today, that is all because of special effects technology improving. Green screens and CGI have helped the movie and TV industry present such polished products. Can anyone contemplate the movie Avatar being done in the 1960s?

michaeljin's picture

To an extent, I agree with the fact that we are talking about immature digital technology, but you can also compare modern movies. Forget the cgi parts and focus on the way the live actors lookl when captured digitally vs. film.

Having said that, you can emulate film quite well now from a digital capture if you really want to. On a screen, you can make them nearly indistinguishable without close examination if you're good enough at it. In print, we've yet to really get there. Maybe in the next few years if anyone really cares to invest in developing the process better.

Not saying that it won't ever be indistinguishable. Betting against technological progress is stupid. I'm saying we're not there right now.

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