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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230 Comments

Previous comments
Errick Jackson's picture

I honestly don't know of anyone who actually edits in the color space. AdobeRGB has always been the go-to for every pro I'm familiar with.

Thanks for your reply! We occasionally see ProPotoRGB files come into the print studio. We hear everything from "I like the idea of using a color space that includes colors we can't see" to "I'm hoping for the day that color printers support ProPhotoRGB" . Then you get the users who convert down to output profiles using RelCol and wonder why their channels clip! Ummmm maybe because 75% of your file is out of gamut? Just sayin'

James Morris's picture

Yea AdobeRGB is the go to, ProPhotoRGB would probably only apply to the most demanding of colour prints. But what really gets me is people using sRGB only monitors (most consumer monitors) for editing pro level images instead of AdobeRGB capable monitors and/or setting brightness too high, it makes such a difference.

Thanks for your reply! sRGB has its place. It's a wonderful space for portrait work or any image that needs to maintain subtle color transitions like skin-tones would. A larger space will increase color value separations and could lead to over saturation where it's not wanted - more problematic with 8-bit workflows. Working with a monitor that matches your working space is not a bad thing as it can improve predictability with a near 1:1 match rather than mapping from a larger space. Bigger is not always better - just use the right space for the image and your desired outcome. They all have their benefits and their issues IMHO.

bill bynum's picture

so much hate for photographers. doesn't make sense because most artist are of a similar vein.

and Instagram has hurt photography imo - it has cheapened the art of it because any tom dick or harry with a cell phone thinks they are a photographer. then those same people don't value and don't understand what goes into real photography. if you are not controlling the light, the subject, the environment and the composition I wouldn't really call it art. if you are not in control of all of those things then it's sort of a snapshot and yah, a monkey can push a button. but even still I have seen time again how the "monkeys" come away with garbage even though all they control is the button. but yet think they doing something great because they getting 1000 likes on insta. smh

bill bynum's picture

and reading the comments in here, why the hell are most of you even on this forum. doesn't appear to be many photographers on there, mostly haters. and prob haters with cell phones and instagram accounts that think they know all about photography. just like the point I made in my first post. Instagram is destroying the world of photography just like most socail media is unraveling the fabric of whatever industry it's in.

Joe Healey's picture

#30. Labeling everything with added noise and grain on the face is not always 'high end retouching".
Sometimes it's just noise and grain.

Errick Jackson's picture

I disagree here. Software-based grain addition is generally a monochromatic pixel-level luminosity variation and really helps blend tones at the micro level that may have a harsh transition and create a base texture uniformity for the image. Generally speaking, it should be largely unnoticeable zoomed out. But it's something I finish off every final image with after retouching.

Joyce Ertner's picture

Over saturated to the point of halos is not a pretty thing. As a matter of fact over saturation period hurts all images.

Yes but sadly, it often increases sales.

Jordan McChesney's picture

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

That’s being a little harsh on masturbation. A quick search on some parts of the internet will show that lots of people find watching other people masturbating gratifying.

The man has a point XD

Kim Bentsen's picture

Pro photographers are not real photographers as they shoot for money and not love, and only spend 10% of their time taking pictures, and the rest doing marketing and running a business.

Vaidotas Darulis's picture

I shoot architecture out of love and people pay me money to do that. What should I do :(

Sounds like you either need therapy or you need to learn to hate what you do.

Leads one to wonder what is officially a "real photographer". Asking for a friend.

Kim Bentsen's picture

Portraits using shallow depth of field where one eye is in focus and the other eye, nose tip, and ears are out of focus looks terrible.

Kim Bentsen's picture

To become an international renowned photojournalist you must win awards on your portraits of poor or desperate people in desaturated colors or preferably black and white.

Vaidotas Darulis's picture

Maybe with more saturation they wouldn't look as poor :D

Maybe they couldn't afford more saturation.

If you can make a good photo on digital but not on film, you're a computer operator, not a photographer.

Errick Jackson's picture

Say it with me: film has never been a photographic process devoid of post-processing. People were processing and retouching photos long before personal computers became a widespread thing.
This is the kind of film purist/elitism BS that annoys people.

Film stock selection, zone based exposures, developer choices, time, temp, agitation type and frequency, paper choices, multi-grade or fixed grade papers, more developer choices, print process times, temps, massaging, two-step developers, burning and dodging, contrast masking, litho masks and assemblies, toners, reducers, intensifiers, negative retouching, print retouching, double exposures, on-camera filters, printing filters, color packs, solarizing, paper negs, pre-flashing, cross processing... what have I missed?

EVF's are overrated! I love the lighter profile of a mirrorless body but looking into an EVF — no matter what the dot pitch — doesn't inform my eye as to what's really going on. Only an optical viewfinder can convey true light, REAL light.

The opinions photographers makes are in the photographs they take.

Fine Art Photography doesn’t exist.

Neither does:
Fine Art Carpentry, Fine Art Masonry, Fine Art TV Technician, Fine Art Small Engine Repair, Fine Art Welder, Fine Art Drone Operator, Fine Art “machine operator”, etc.

A photographer is a technician who knows how to operate a machine called a camera.

An artist may use the process/format/medium of photography to present a message or theme.

“Fine Art Photography” is not an outdated description of a sub-genre of art because it should not have been coined in the first place.

I can’t tell a photographer from an artist. We need to kill this phrase & find a relevant classification for this sub-genre of art so a photographer and an artist can be differentiated by profile - and by shingle.

Tom Nelson's picture

#2 Medium format cameras are completely over-hyped. You’ll almost always produce better quality images with full frame with the right lenses. WRONG! There’s a 6x6 “look.” As far as quality, all those 8’ tall fashion posters in clothing store windows are shot on Leaf backs.

#3 Shooting film in the digital age is photographic masturbation. It may be self-gratifying, but it doesn’t do anything for anyone else. TRUE, BUT I shoot a lot of digital but I’m back processing film because it fits with my kallitype printing. Why should you care?

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

#14 A photographer's obsession with gear is inversely proportional to the quality of their photography.
#20 Gear matters. Yes, I could cross the country with a Ford T, but I prefer to do it in a BMW.
BOTH ARE TRUE We’re image makers, not collectors. The ones that want to talk gear aren’t the ones showing great pictures, On the other hand, some photos need certain gear. Go ahead and show me all the great wildlife photos you got with your nifty fifty.

#27 The best camera isn't the one with you, it's your best camera, so make sure that's the one with you. I LOVE THIS!

tee vee dee's picture

29 unpopular replies to 29 unpopular opinions

1. True-ish, though this is also probably true for most paid degrees and certifications.
2. Agreed, though the FF agenda is >MUCH< more overhyped. Choose your tool, know your tool, take good photos.
3. True-ish, but the same can be said for any artistic medium. Making art is intellectual masturbation. The viewer doesn't
care how you got there, they just want to see a pretty body on the canvas.
4. DINGDINGDING!!!!, We have a WINNER!!! But sadly, you failed to draw the correct conclusion that editions of more than
one amount to glorified, overpriced posters, regardless of signature.
5. Huh? I don't call my _Uncle on Beach with Swim Trunks_ "fashion". I do call it "thankful" I didn't have to title it
_Nude Uncle on Beach_.
6. True in that most obvious way, but doesn't imply the unspoken conclusion that popular social media accounts can't
consist of good photography.
7. Once again, fails to make the final conclusion that 99% of 'fine art photography' is nothing more than overpriced posters.
8. Very true
9. Yay, someone read their Kodak guide.
10. ??? Because cars are not a feature of the landscape, which is just another term for environment? Yes, I know what you're
trying to say but you flubbed it by leaving the conclusion too open ended.
11. Nor should grammar be ignored when considering an overpriced photography degree.
12. Awwwww, here's a tissue.
13. I genuinely had to look up VSCO. In the words of The Simpsons, 'Just don't look....' There, problem solved.
14. Can you prove that? Did you even think that answer through? I dare say the finger points back to every professional photographer
who believes their carefully considered rig of bodies, lenses, lighting, etc, offers better results than an I-phone.
15. If you think your name alone tells me you're an awesome photographer, I can assure you it doesn't.
16. Perversely honest!, though I would have assumed capturing a crappy shot to begin with would still be most important, then the
Photoshop magic can begin.
17. So true. Why then are so many professional phot...... Too easy.
18. Eighteen opinions in and I think we finally have a sensible one.
19. True. And to that end, there are a LOT of professional photographers who make money taking really bad photographs. See 17 above.
20. And you can't take a picture with a banana. So what's your point? I personally think BMWs are overpriced garbage and will happily
take a fleet of w123 chassis Mercs and their camera gear equivalents to the end of time.
21. Yes, and? I might say the same thing about a sports photographer's lack of ability in finding interesting, static subjects.
22. Perhaps. Technically, everything is outdated as soon as it's been made. Does it really matter? Nope. Canon sucks for
so many other reasons. Sony sucks for a whole slew of other reasons. Just choose your gear and go.
23. Huh? See 11. above.
24. Yep, but we are retreading here. See 22. above.
25. And who says photography isn't Zen?
26. Awwww, budget issues, have we?
27. Nope, that's not Zen at all. That's more like 'Strip mall new age shop pretending to be Zen' than actual Zen.
28. Another retread....., yawwwnnnnn, this really should have ended several opinions ago.
29. True-ish, but also ditto 28. above. Besides, far too generic and populist in sentiment to actually mean anything.

Oliver Kmia's picture

That's so good. Thanks for this ;)

Christian Lainesse's picture

It's perfectly ok to crop your photos.

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