What Irks Me About Hobby Digital Photographers

I’m not the kind usually stricken with digital photography envy, partly because I know what I need, and what I can use and manage, considering my still-limited knowledge and experience, and the other part being the not so impressive budget alloted for this hobby. The only ‘important‘ thing missing in my digital photography gear would be a telephoto zoom lens, though I don’t feel like I have a missing limb because of that, since I can only count in one hand the instances when I needed the extra reach.

And after that statement, here’s a few brave ones, on what irks me about the current crop of hobby digital photographers:

  1. There’s little awareness and appreciation of photography’s history. You’d probably hear someone mentioning Ansel Adams, and that’s when you’re lucky.
  2. Some aversion to film photography. The popular notion is: you can replicate EVERYTHING in digital photography, anyway. I hold hobby photographers who practice film photography with higher regard and respect than these DSLR-toters. Remember, your AF can fail, and your batteries can die, but when I hand you an all-mechanical, manual SLR or rangefinder, with a known-speed film, can you still shoot?
  3. Latest gear’s the best, and stick to your brand’s lenses, and accessories. A camera is a camera is a freaking camera. If you’re PRO, or have serious intentions to do so, this doesn’t apply to you. Anyway, the point is simple: you’re a hobby digital photographer, and you don’t make money for your output (though maybe sometimes you do), why succumb -and become inevitable slaves- to brand camera marketing? You can get camera bodies and lenses fixed, you can apply the hundreds of practical camera hacks and tips available online (e.g. yes, you’re not limited to your camera mount, there are things called adapters!), second hand accessories are totally acceptable, etc. etc.
  4. “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” – Robert Capa. If the mentioned quote doesn’t make sense to you, then you are the typical hobby digital photographer who’d always have his/her 200mm or so telephoto zoom lens permanently screwed to your camera. One: if you don’t know Capa, you probably don’t know the Magnum Photo agency, too, and that’s sad, really sad. Two: I’ve been to concerts and other events which don’t construct barriers to block anyone from getting any closer to their subjects, and out of the few dozen photographers, I’d only see one or two who’d have enough sense to go near whoever, whatever needs to be taken a photo of. Three: If you are aware of how traditional street photography is executed, no, its not done with a lens 2-3 feet long.
  5. Oh yes, the external flash, and those damn flash diffusers. (REVISED) My story on my search for an external flash can be read here, and here. Bottomline: read up on the Strobist blog, and the Strobist Flickr group, and get an entirely new, results-oriented perspective on flash photography. Also, I take issue on the current flash diffuser market, and its victims. Can’t the index card + rubber band method work? Or the more trendy, but ultimately practical ABBC (A Better Bounce Card) suffice your needs? Sto-fen Omni-bounce’s are within reason, but as for that $50 soup bowl diffuser everyon’es gone gaga about, proclaiming it as the answer to ALL lighting situations, well, I think you’d get a hint with the tone of my article already.

Special Mention: (REVISED)

One of the honest-to-goodness best ways to research photography is to watch films with great cinematography, and again, the older films offer outstanding material for this. The handful of online photography forums I frequent severely lack this appreciation. If anyone is interested in screening Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography, I have a DVD copy I’m willing to lend out.

EDIT/UPDATE: My discussion with Chayenne (ha!) re the topic had me realize that I’ve made a serious mistake of not defining what I meant by ‘hobby digital photographer‘ clearly: the reference is for those who have made that serious leap to the DSLR camera as their main photography tool, but haven’t chosen photography as a career. This doesn’t involve the point-and-shoot up to the prosumer camera market.


So there, its documented, and its off my chest. No, this isn’t revenge to those who smirk at my gear; somehow, my third-party battery grip makes my camera look more legit. This was conceived because photography is my passion, and it annoys me to no end how someone can actually call himself/herself a photographer by treading a misleading, consumerist path, whose lack of sheer interest as to how the masters of pre-digital photography worked is proof enough that what used to be a respectable hobby for the serious enthusiast, is now in the hands of a misinformed mob. I’m giving in to feedback and will try to carry a live-and-let-live attitude towards this. Hope it lasts!

PS: There’s some discussion over at a cross-post at Multiply, so you might want to go there and read some of the feedback. Thanks!

24 thoughts on “What Irks Me About Hobby Digital Photographers”

  1. i see so many parallels with a lot of other subjects – music – in particular for me at least. the bassist who doesn’t know geddy lee or jaco pastorius for example..

    the newbies come along and feel like they own the game without the courtesy of doing their homework.

    in relation to your post, i feel much better knowing i do know ansel adams and that one of my prized possessions is my dad’s old 1971 minolta SLR. every time i use it i feel oh-so-grown up. and the images that i’ve taken that are not the least bit blurry are the ones i am most proud of.

    great blog!

  2. Salamat Jolo at Jimmy! Jimmy, parang gusto ko ngang ilagay sa efpeesi sa pleeker ang post na to e. Haha.

    Joey, after I’ve finished with this piece, I suddenly thought of my college poetry class. We were asked to write our favorite poets the first day of class, and I don’t think more than half the class can name more than three. Would love to see your film pics! 🙂

  3. well said sir!.i have both film and digital though i find it amusing to still stick with manual lenses.sad to say there are many pro-porma “digital” photographers out there.hahaha.Even some Photography clubs have some kind of bad treatment to the less equipped photographers. i think this is the downside of technology,everything becomes so easy when you have tons of money to burn.but nonetheless,you’ll definitely know wether a photographer is really one on the field!

    Before i went to photography im very much into film-making(indie) though budget cant afford to enroll&have an equipment.My real idols in photography are cinematographers like vittorio storraro,lajos koltai,tak fujimoto to name a few..

    Technical proficiency can be learned..but its up to the photographer if he can develop it or mold it into his own style.

    in the music industry,one said that today: “there are too many sheeps,not enough shepards” ….i guess this also applies to our modern photography..

  4. hey rain. =]
    ninotchka rosca was once asked in an interview which writers she has in her circle of friends. she replied (and i’m paraphrasing here, because i read that interview a loooong time ago) that she doesn’t hang out with writers. she hangs out with nurses, domestics, teachers, and people of other varying professions. why? because when you put writers in one room, they will try to “out-writer” each other. what i’m trying to say is, while it is rewarding to be among people with similar inclinations, such a practice sometimes breeds an exlusionary mentality. i think it’s an affliction that all artists, at one point, suffer. ^_^V

    you make a lot of valid points in this entry, but it’s a bit unfair to foist your expectations on hobby photographers because not all of them have as deep an appreciation for photography’s history as you do. maybe they just can’t be bothered to learn, you know? for some people, it really is just a hobby, not a consuming passion. do you expect readers to know the history of literary movements when they are hobby readers/writers? your standards may be difficult for the casual photographer (although i know that’s a term you don’t use lightly hehe) to live up to. instead of being irked, perhaps you could help educate/inform those who are “…treading a misleading, consumerist path.”

    anyway, just wanted to give you some perspective. =] be patient with the hobbyist and the amateur, because even those artists/photographers that you respect now started out that way, and i’m sure they learned from masters who were tolerant of their lack of expertise. sorry, ang epic ng response ko. but your entry really lit a fire under my ass. ;P

  5. Thanks jm!

    chayenne: Ahh, Rosca. Thats a name I though I’d only see online via the local lit blogs, not in this disorganization called my blog :p I think I’ll start re-reading the only book the family has of her.

    Anyway, thats probably the second time I heard that Rosca reference, and this also explains why I’m picky with my camera groups. One’s teeming with men with a fondness for vintage cameras and classic photography, and I’m always in awe of their stories how the photography was before, etc. My other photography group is really less about cameras, and more of, well, a friendly college org, where DSLRs are reserved for ‘the serious ones’. There were a few peculiar, albeit amusing moments during our last meeting: I was explaining to someone the merits of my Yashica RF, and the dozen or so people across the table were all quiet and listening. Ugh, geek.

    Referring to your second paragraph: err, what readers? Hehe. Yes, I’m fully aware my standards are off-tangent from everyone else’s, but not necessarily ‘high’. Oh and education? Dear, there’s this certain camera group i used to be active in before, and there, i keep on babbling about points very similar from those listed above, but once I go technical (necessary!), or practical (vs fanboy/girl-ism), I get the cold shoulder. I’m already probably disenchanted with that bit, but I still try.

    Or maybe I’m really just an elitist prick, or this schemy blogger who wants to drive some traffic to his site with a dying pagerank… :p

  6. pre, yung dvd, meron ba mcs? :p

    #5: well, diffusers are getting outragous and the stranger the build, add some glowing reviews and photogs go gaga gogo gago

  7. Tinatatakan kita lyn as my proofreader.

    I’m an opinionated man, Scott. Can’t change that at my age.

    estan, mcs?

    master of ceremonies (‘yo!)?
    err, master copies?

    Re #5: Di ba?! Pffft.

  8. Latest gear’s the best, and stick to your brand’s lenses, and accessories.

    I’d go with some reasonably priced Sigma lenses 😀
    pag may budget na hehehe

    san nga ulit nakakabili ng generic battery grip? 😀

  9. Yung isang alam kong pwedeng bilhan ng battery grip, tiga Flickrs Photo Club, admin dun, si Pat. Pero I see no reason na wala din nito sa Hidalgo 🙂

  10. 6. They know more about softwares than cameras, camera operations, and exposure theories.

    7. They won’t be able to load a 35mm film using slrs when you asked them to. And they refer to themselves photographers.

    8. They don’t know what is 35mm. And 120.

    9. They’re more comfortable using histograms for studio light exposures vs. flash/light meters. (well, okay lang naman especially if you don’t have one. Pero I’ve noticed a lot of photographers these day don’t use external light meters anymore.)

    11. They are the perfect sellers for ‘used’ digital camera bodies and lenses.
    (because they hardly use it.)

    12. VR or IS is important to their shooting style.

    13. They copy/ask your exposure settings during events. Haha!

  11. Hey Dan, nice to see you here. I know where’ you’re coming from as a film fan, but I have some stuff to add:

    “6. They know more about softwares than cameras, camera operations, and exposure theories.”

    Meron naman ako mangilan-ngilan na kilala, na they won’t touch photoshop daw kasi gusto nilang matuto (tapos ako naman, after hearing that retort, ok lang image editing, it helps, tsaka ako, realizing this influx of DSLR users, I’m more inclined to give my photos some other flavor than what just comes out of the camera, lalo na pag gigs/events). Pero yes, I agree with you on this, pero its not a big irk for me 🙂

    “7. They won’t be able to load a 35mm film using slrs when you asked them to. And they refer to themselves photographers.”

    Ang sa akin, if you’ve decided early on to go digital all the way as a hobbyist, do not EVER look down at those who have a preference for film photography. Craft ang photography, disiplina, at para sa akin lang, mas personal ang dating pag less intervention ng technology, except for that light-tight box in your hands called a camera, and the developing and printing process. Wag lang magmamaliit, dahil film photography is a tougher discipline vs. just setting your DSLR to Auto or P mode, tapos shoot away.

    Sa pag-proclaim naman ng isang tao ng photographer sya: if this was his/her means to get food on the table, o sya, pagbigyan. Pero if nainggit ka lang dun sa mama na nakita mo sa beach na may dalang DSLR, at biglang napa-text ka kay mommy para ibili ka naman ng malaking camera na may mahabang lens pagbalik mo sa Manila… you get my drift here 🙂 Kaya ako, kelangan parati na may ‘hobbyist’ or ‘amateur’ bago ilagay ang photographer kung gusto ko ipagsabi ang passion ko sa paglilitrato.

    “8. They don’t know what is 35mm. And 120.”

    Part na to ng walang interes sa history ng photography. Medyo ok lang na walang masyadong alam, pero kung may interes naman, at willing malaman yung history nga, plus na rin yun. Pero kung walang ka-interes interes… para kang kuto na masarap tirisin at sunugin ng posporo.

    “9. They’re more comfortable using histograms for studio light exposures vs. flash/light meters. (well, okay lang naman especially if you don’t have one. Pero I’ve noticed a lot of photographers these day don’t use external light meters anymore.)”

    Diskarte na rin yan ng naglilitrato. Kung nakukuha naman ang results with either method, ok lang yun.

    Wala kang #10 :p

    “11. They are the perfect sellers for ‘used’ digital camera bodies and lenses.
    (because they hardly use it.)”

    Haha. Yun nga e. Bili ng bili ng gamit, akala mo kung sino. Porke’t sinabi ni ganito, ganyan, na haneps to da max ang bagong gamit na to, bili na agad.

    “12. VR or IS is important to their shooting style.”

    Isipin mo lang ang sitwasyon ng classic photographers: e ano bang technology ang meron sila nun? Uhm, cell-powered, handheld, analog light meter?

    Pero sure, kung isa kang ambisyosong sports photographer wannabe, pagbigyan.

    “13. They copy/ask your exposure settings during events. Haha!”

    Ok lang sa mga nag-aaral pa lang, nag-uumpisa. Pero kung naka-5D sya tapos naka latest tele L lens na puti ang nagtanong ng ganun, mapapailing ka na lang talaga e. Mag Powershot na lang sya, matuto muna sya dun.

  12. “Pero kung naka-5D sya tapos naka latest tele L lens na puti ang nagtanong ng ganun, mapapailing ka na lang talaga e. Mag Powershot na lang sya, matuto muna sya dun.”

    The “Pro-Porma” photographers?hahaha..

    one more thing…give them a pro-model to shoot,sila ang pagpapawisan..lol

  13. Kasi akala nila pag bumili na sila ng pro-cam, pro-photographer na sila e.

    Kaya nga kahit kasama ako sa mga online forums na ang mga topic na lang parati ay nikon vs. canon, show us your gear, etc. etc. nandun lang ako kasi baka maka-ututang dila ako na kindred spirit na iba (sa karamihan) ang takbo ng isip pagdating sa photography. Mas gusto kong makisama sa mga taong ganun, kaysa yung mga alam-mo-na.

    Referring to your older post: THAT’s why I love my Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography DVD. Magpa-mention ka ng influences dyan sa mga pro-porma photographers, malamang-lamang, magkakamot ka lang ng ulo e.

  14. re: you’re not limited to your camera mount, there are things called adapters:

    haha! hobby photographer myself. cashless. shoots on film and manual, thus a Hidalgo devotee. no impressive work to say the least. but i did my homework first. gave up my passion of taking art as a career in place of clan hopes of having a family doctor [sounds oh-so-familiar?], then came back to my first love.

    considering conversion lenses as alternatives =D i’ve asked around say they have “lesser image quality.” have you personally tried those [wide angle/fish-eye/tele-/macro] conversion lenses?

    much thanks!

  15. Hi Diane. Hmm, can you be more specific on what sort or setup you’re trying to achieve?

    I have used adapted lenses on my digital rebel. Mahirap, pero possible, adn when and if you get it right, hayup ang results. Jay Javier, a pro photographer friend, has got a lot more successful -and AF too!- with the newer Pentax K10D when it comes to the adapted setup, using M42 mount lenses.

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