Value the Valueless

What is it, truly, that we have gained as photographers from this ever progressing digital age? We've gained convenience; no more waiting hours or days for film to be developed. Which, truthfully, is the major benefit of digital imagery. The other advantages follow because of this. For instance, we can see what our framing looks like immediately. If a shot would look better to the left, right, above, below, closer or further, we simply move. If our subject blinked while the shot was taken, we just delete it and take another. If a shot is over or under exposed, we know at once and can make the necessary adjustments to ensure a properly exposed image. But that only helps if the environment is controlled. If you are shooting action or anything out of your control, wellp, sorry Bucko, you blew it. Oh, oooooooooh. Hold onto your tail feathers. Maybe not. Maybe you didn't blow it. Maybe you are lucky enough to have some fancy editing software and can magically restore that blown out frame into a lovely, sellable, image. Maybe. Maybe not. But that's just another advantage to having megapixels over film: editing control. Back in the "old days", if you weren't a paid professional or a dark room tech, you had practically zero control over the color correction, saturation, cropping, etc., etc., of your images. Oh my how things have changed. Now, we decide what the image should look like and how it should be "developed". We decide wether or not to crop. We decide if the image should be a little desaturated or if it should be black and white. We are the developers. We, as photographers, harness all of the power. Awesome, huh? The answer is yes. It is awesome. There are a lot of things that are awesome about digital imagery. You want to know what sucks about it? The market is flooded. The field is competitive. There are too many "photographers". Why? Because you can do it. That's right. You there, in that little cubicle, reading this blog instead of working on your spreadsheet can go out, buy a camera, buy some lenses, buy the software, buy every little accessory you think you need and you can create breathtaking images. You can quit that job you hate and venture into the unknown and become a photographer. It's just that easy. There is one minor detail though. You probably won't get paid, at least not right off the bat. Maybe not for the first few years even. Why? Because you and everybody else can do it. You can take great images. And you will show people. You will send a remarkable image to somebody and that person will forward it to their friends and that person to theirs and so on and so forth until your beautiful, publishable, image is just a chain letter circulating the globe via email. Valueless. Worthless. Profitless. Those are some adjectives to describe what your photo is now that it has gone around the equator a couple times. "Just don't send it then," you say. Easier said than done. Your model will want to see it. You'll be amped to show your friends - whether or not they are trustworthy is a mystery in itself - some new shots. An editor you send it to won't use it but will email it to everybody in the office. You will blog about it and some viewers will drag the images off of your page and make them their own. A store owner saw the shot and wants to use it for their next promo card, but of course has no intention of paying you for it. Why not? Because he or she could do it. Right? Who knows really. Maybe they could, maybe they couldn't. But the fact is, they didn't. I did. We did. We used our time to get that shot. We spent the gas money. We waited an hour or two or six until the lighting was just right. We have years of mistakes that we've learned from to achieve that image. We did it. They didn't. So, I ask, why is the world all of a sudden, over the last decade or so, expecting to use images for free? Why are our shots so valueless? Is it the flooded market? Is the field simply that competitive? Are there too many photographers? I don't have the answers. We don't have the answers. But I do want to make a living, as minuscule as it may be, taking photos. I do. It's my passion and it's what makes me happy. After a day of shooting, I come home satisfied and excited to upload my images onto the ol' external and get back to work editing. Maybe I'm asking too much. Or maybe I'm just not that good. Or maybe I'm just as good as everybody else. Again,  the fact of the matter is, I use my time to get these shots. When did that become valueless?


  1. Brilliant piece of writing. Thanks!

  2. thanks man. only another photographer would enjoy it. i've been hip to your blog for quite some time. really dig it. love the (i'm assuming) northern california coast feel. i could also call that home someday. someday...