RIP “Professional Photographers”


…there’s no such thing as Flickr Pro, because today, with cameras as pervasive as they are, there is no such thing really as professional photographers, when there’s everything is professional photographers. Certainly there is varying levels of skills, but we didn’t want to have a Flickr Pro anymore, we wanted everyone to have professional quality photos, space, and sharing.” – Marissa Mayer, Yahoo Event, May 2013

Woah, there, Yahoo cowgirl…let’s hold on just a second!

Before we start writing the obituary for all Professional Photographers everywhere, let’s recap what we know:

You, Marissa Mayer, were brought on as Yahoo CEO to take a company short on vision and turn it around. With a history of lackluster acquisitions, the task is daunting, to be sure. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say the purchase for $1.1 billion of Tumblr, a company that generated only $13 million last year, was surprising, to say the least, but spoke volumes as to the extent Yahoo is willing to go to increase its “coolness” factor.

The logic behind the purchase? Not cool company (Yahoo) associates itself with cool company (Tumblr) and thus, becomes cool.

If that worked, my grandma should be shopping at Forever 21.


But, I realize that it is not up to me to determine the course of Yahoo. As I sit here in my pajamas, drinking my coffee, I know that there are big power players in the world that are wheelin’ and dealin’ and quite frankly, not much of it has anything to do with me.

I don’t think anyone suffers under the delusion that you, as Yahoo CEO, are trying to better the Professional Photography Industry; that you wake up thinking, “How can I support and enhance the world of Professional Photography and those that create it? How can I, Marissa Mayer, make a difference to these artists?”

You might not think that, but let me assure you, girlfriend, WE do, which is why your statement struck such a raw nerve.

There is no such thing, really, as professional photographers… everything is professional photographers.

You know, I like to think that you were tired when you said this. It was 46 minutes into the event, after all. Maybe you were speaking on an empty stomach, you’d stayed up late watching Jimmy Kimmel and wanted to try out a comedy bit, or maybe, like me, when you open your mouth, you’re never really sure what will come out.

Oh wait, probably not…’cause you’re the CEO OF YAHOO, for cryin’ out loud!

Okay, Marissa, what the what were you thinking?

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

See, I believe you have every right as CEO to make decisions for your company, but when you explain your decision by disparaging a group of professionals who already use your product, well, between you and me, girlfriend, that was NOT the smartest move. It ranks right below the Yahoo acquisition of GeoCities. (If you’re reading this and asking yourself, “What is GeoCities?” I say, “Exactly.”)

Now, I’ve been hard on you, Marissa; I admit it. But, it’s tough love. And because I really do want you to do well in your position I’m going to share a little nugget of wisdom with you. This is something those Yahoo Execs won’t tell you. In fact, this is going to come as a major shock, so you might want to sit down. Are you ready? Okay, here goes…

Not everyone with a camera is a Professional Photographer. 

Let’s just let that sink in for awhile.


Now, I know this is hard to comprehend. I mean, I know what you must think: if you have a camera and you can press a button, what more is there? I know, I know, it’s a difficult concept to grasp, you’re not alone in this, but I assure you, there are many Professional Photographers out there.

Some of us are incognito, hiding out in studios or home offices; many of us try to blend in when we work, and there are even those of us who support ourselves and our families with our craft. Mind=blown, right?

So, Marissa, in closing, I wish you well. I would write more, but I have an appointment to go do that thing done by professional photographers that don’t really exist.

(Oh, and by the way, when I researched this article regarding Yahoo, I had to Google it.)

Image credits: Shot @ Hello, India! (BLR) by Neo-grapher, Forever 21 – Columbiana Mall by daysofthundr46, Fortune Most Powerful Women Dinner With Marissa Mayer by Fortune Live Media, Cameras everywhere by noraaaaaaa

  • ISO640

    Because it’s always been the cheaper solution. If it isn’t the cheapest solution, I wonder how many pros will now look elsewhere. This may end up costing Flickr/Yahoo more than they thought in the long run.

  • Adam Cross

    “when there’s everything is professional photographers” … that line makes no sense? is that what she actually said or a typo?

  • Justin Kern

    Original reply to Rob didnt’ make it through due to link. Watch the actual press release. The comment was made in response to a reporter and was meant to address usage. The differentiation in usage between a professional who used the service 5-7 years ago and an amateur has disappeared.

    You’re taking an off-the-cuff comment to a reporter as a value judgement about what is or what is not a profession. Then you are offended or hurt or disagree and turn around and do the same thing to another group. This is what I mean about thinking deeply. Working fast food—not a profession? Why not? What dictates professionalism? What about the manager of the store? What about the Regional Manager? What about the CEO? Is the answer different if they started working the register?

  • Bart T

    I’m gonna guess she’s trying to say they’d like to offer a similar service to eveyone, supposedly to prevent anyone from feeling alienated.

    Her choice of words is exceptionally poor, however, and I can understand the offence taken; although I reckon if you think it through a bit you’ll see there’s probably none meant.

    Simply stupidly worded marketing-blurbs from a person who happens to be in the spotlight.

  • Vlad Dusil

    Perhaps we should address what’s worth getting offended over.

    A random CEO of a big corporation doesn’t have the power to offend me, especially with a statement that has ZERO consequence on my personal or professional life.

  • Timtop

    Except, erm, there IS still Flickr Pro.

  • The Nexus

    Of course the issue is that age old question: What constitutes a “pro”? Is it someone who makes their living full time from making photos? What about those that do this part time but still earn a good chunk of change? What about the “art” photographer who doesn’t necessarily make a whole lot of money but still is at the top of his/her game in creating and doing something they truly love? Are they “less professional” than a full time pro? People get hung up on the word “professional” and everyone who can afford a DSLR (and that’s a LOT of people nowadays) consider themselves “professional” – and what right does anyone have to tell them they are not?

  • Ernest Garver

    Hey everyone, Mike has won over 50 addy’s….

    She is a moron but as some have pointed out, real “Pro’s” do not need the justification of the title itself or the virtual pat on the back being called one seems to give to some. They are out working, spending time with family, mowing the lawn…

  • Adrian Coakley

    Professional photographers and those of us who make our living off of photography have every right to take offense to her comments. What her comment amounts to is yet another person in power devaluing the livelihoods of those professionals who take great pride in the work they do. Anyone, who has relied on photography to pay their bills knows that the most important thing for them to protect is the value of their work. It doesn’t matter who Mayer was addressing her comments to, or whether professionals use flickr (for the record I know many who do). What matters is that it is yet another neophyte in a position of power that believes photography doesn’t hold value. And I might remind you that Marissa Mayer is in a position to set a market value on photography. She is the head of Yahoo and by default the head of Yahoo News which is the number one traffic online news site on the web. They use thousands and thousands of photographs a year often without paying for them. So yes you should take note of what she says with regards to professional photography.

  • Mark

    You know there’s really no such thing as a professional CEO any more. Any twit can pick up a copy of Harvard Business Review and regurgitate some truisms, cock-everything-up, take the severance package, and then stumble into the arms of the next unsuspecting corporation. Don’t even get me started on the CFO. Who in the world doesn’t have his own copy of Excel on a PC these days…?

  • sshoihet

    Being a “professional” photographer also has a lot to do with how you conduct yourself; all this whining and moaning is not very professional…

  • Andy

    Sexist because he used the word “girl” twice?

  • Justin Kern

    Adrian, if I believed for one second that she intended to devalue photography or professional photographers I would side with you in an instant. But do you actually believe that is what she said. If she were called to a podium to discuss the value of photography and the value of professional photographers, would that be her answer?

  • philharvey

    From her point of view there is no such thing as two levels of service with regard to hosting, storage, etc. So the statement that there are no “professional photographers” simply means everyone will get lots of land and lots of upload capacity and file backup and all those good things.

    Context matters and, in the context of this announcement, the “professional” and “amateur” level of photo storage no longer exists. For a company providing online and interactive services, this is a great attitude to have.

  • Hope

    “There is no such thing really as professional chefs anymore, given the pervasiveness of pots and pans.” — Robert Mark (Spot on, Robert!)

  • Adam Cross

    so much unnecessary anger towards this woman. Flickr would be dead in the water if she hadn’t got the CEO position. simple. I’ve seen Flickr go from a site that was completely stale and boring to a site that I’ve just re-signed up for because the changes make me want to use it again – I don’t care what she says in press conferences or wherever else – it’s what she’s doing with Yahoo and Flickr that is important.

  • tess

    What you don’t understand Vlad is morons like this woman and yourself are a reason that folks come crying to real pros every day after people who aren’t pros have destroyed their weddings and once in a lifetime photographs. People need to respect the pros who know what their doing and stop thinking that just because someone has a camera they have the ability to take a professional quality photograph. Social media and this type of drivel are some of the largest problems facing pros today. Education of the public regarding the elusive true pro is what is required and things like this woman’s comments are nothing but hurtful to the cause.

  • Justin Kern

    It’s nice to see someone else who actually watched the video and can think about these things clearly. Part of me wishes I had stayed on task and resisted the urge to waste time commenting earlier. At least I’m not alone :)

  • Noah Stephens

    She should shut(ter) her mouth!

  • Mansgame

    She’s partially correct. Photographers have to shoot weddings (one of the few areas of photography left with real money) to survive. A few well known photographers are the exception to the rule.

  • Mansgame

    She’s better than you in every category. Is that simple enough?

  • galabackhome

    Sorry: I’m not a pro. I’m also insulted that you think I’m stupid enough to believe that there is no difference between my pictures and those of someone who is good enough to make money out this lark.

  • Adrian Coakley

    Do I think she wakes up in the morning thinking about how she’s going to devalue photography? No. But do I think that as the CEO of very big media organization that publishes thousands of images a year, often unattributed and unpaid for, that she feels photography as a cost should be less? Yes, I do. It’s the best interest of her and her company, and they have proved that time and time again with regards to photography. So when she says professional photographers don’t really exist anymore, we should take note because people in her position often have a way of imposing their worldview on others.

  • Rob S

    I read the transcript off Engadget long before this hit the blog world and I took it exactly like the OP here. I think she, like many others, believe that the vast majority of pictures snapped fall in the category of “good enough” and that means the days of the photography as a profession are over. I find most people who think that way feel the same way about journalist having been replaced by everyone with a blog and graphic designers by everyone with Adobe CSx.

    What dictates a profession? Good question. In general a profession:

    Has a process for certification/licensing and periodic recertification/professional education.

    Has some form of professional association. That association may or may not have the ability to sanction/punish.

    Has some form of career progression that is recognized and generally followed.

    Has some form of professional ethics/standards and a mechanism to enforce compliance.

    Is recognized by other professionals as a profession.

    Now having said that, Photography fails at almost all of those but its kinda like how The Nine described pornography – I cant tell you what a Professional Photographer is but I know one when I see one.

  • Tyler Kerxhalli

    Wow, thoughtful analysis. The good news is that you aren’t totally over-reacting to something said that was undoubtedly not meant to offend you. There is such a stupid amount of postulation happening here, coupled with your frustratingly patronizing “girlfriend” usage, and flash analysis of Yahoo’s acquisitions.

    A few things: 1.) Yahoo bought GeoCities in 1999, when this website probably would have been on Geocities. Totally different time, different CEO, different trajectory.

    2.) Yahoo didn’t shell out all of that money for the $13 million that Tumblr made last year, or to keep Tumblr exactly how it is now. More likely, Yahoo is going to look to use Tumblr as a vehicle for other ambitions.

    3.) Mayer helped shape Google into what it is today, and yes she took the reigns of a struggling Yahoo, but I think it’s safe to assume that she has a better sense of the ROI when it comes to business acquisitions. Google has bought a ton of dud companies, sometimes for the product, sometimes just to get the staff.

    Key take-aways:

    1.) Professional photographers are still going to use her service. If they are so offended, then they won’t and that’s probably not the majority.

    2.) You don’t know anything about Yahoo or Marisa Mayer.

    3.) This is much less about any sort of journalism, and more about you making personal attacks against someone who has unintentionally offended you.

    I like PetaPixel, I really do. But sometimes these self-righteous articles just get to me. Maybe I’m doing the same thing as you in this hot-headed response, but the difference is that I’m not getting paid for it.

  • Rob S

    exactly. If you dont believe professionals exist, why should you pay a rate that reflects the needs of a professional? If every picture you buy is from a weekender with a DSLR who makes their living some other way, there is no need to factor in professional education, equipment replacement, redundant backup, marketing, accounting services, etc in the rate that you pay for an image.

    No she said EXACTLY what she meant.

  • Rob S

    Probably right. Having said that, her comments were very unprofessional.


  • brittany

    so would I!! My husband is a chef and it amazes me the comments people make regarding that. Especially when they find out he doesn’t work in restaurants anymore.

  • Justin Kern

    Rob, we disagree on the last point.

    Adrian, I think you’re right. I also don’t think that she’s to blame for the market shifting and I don’t think it’s in her interest to try and change the market for photography.

    Again, though, this was a comment about USAGE. You’re reading too much into it.

  • Sarah Bugeja Kissaun

    She is half right. There are really good photographers whose profession does not revolve around photography… I guess that’s what she meant – that it’s not just the professionals who can take really good photos.

    Or I’d like to think she meant that…

  • Rob S

    Can you imagine if the head of the NYSE said that because of platforms like eTrade there were no professional stock brokers anymore?

    What if a CFO declared that Quickbooks and TurboTax made accountants redundant?

    She meant what she said and said what she meant.

  • b

    here, here!!! I love when I have friends who call and want to send me the “professional” pictures they had taken of their family because a friend had a really nice camera and took their pictures at the park and then gave them 400 images straight out of the camera without even culling out the blurry ones or doing any editing of any kind. (Wait, what’s Lightroom?) then I send them a copy of my post processing price list.

  • Roy

    Someone who practices photography, regardless of their skill, is a photographer by definition. There’s no exam or admission fee involved here.

  • Evan Skuthorpe

    “Oh, and by the way, when I researched this article regarding Yahoo, I had to Google it”

    Classic! Eat that biatch!

  • Evan Skuthorpe

    Madam, there is no such thing as Yahoo anymore… This time next year at least…

  • Rob S

    Then you should also understand that TH didn’t post it because of his personal situation but because of how the decision impacted a lot of people. Yahoo screwed up. You either have a pro account or you dont. Setting arbitrary lines based on your method of payment (recurring vs non-recuring) is simply bad business and doesn’t pass the common sense test. I honestly dont know how that ever got past the first decision point:

    So if you have a Pro account you get to keep it as is.


    So everyone has to either go free or ad free for $50?

    No. If you are a Pro user who set up a credit card for recurring billing before January you can keep Pro but if you didnt set up recurring billing or you bought your Pro with or without recurring billing after January than you have to switch.

    OK, any other exceptions?


    What about them?

    If someone gifted you a Pro account you have to switch.

    Wait so if I bought it myself I can keep Pro but if my wife bought it for my I can’t?


    Thats really the way we are going?


    – And IM the unProfessional?

  • Willi Kampmann

    I think your short-sightedness on the Tumblr acquisition js jawdropping. Yes, Tumblr might have a lower revenue per year than Yahoo paid for it. But how exactly do you make money on the internet? That’s right: Through advertising. Yahoo’s strength is synergy. They have their own advertising network. They have search, they have Delicious, they have news aggregators. In short: They have everything to increase Tumblr’s user base AND to increase the visibility of each single Tumblr blog. And they have everything to optimize revenues from Tumblr. And Tumblr, in turn, has the potential to make the other Yahoo offerings more attractive as well.

    So, saying Yahoo bought Tumblr just “to become cool again” is … well, it’s kinda like saying that everyone’s a pro photographer these days.

    Personally, I think Mayer’s comment wasn’t the smartest. But it was the right spirit, because the opposite to her statement isn’t true either: Paying for a pro account doesn’t make you a pro. Despite a not so small subset of Flickr users actually believing that. From now on, there will be only one measure of whether you are a pro or not: your photostream.

  • Blair

    Yes, they are “amateur” photographers.

  • Photography Student

    What makes her better than anyone? Her experience? Her status?

  • Rick

    There is no such thing, really, as professional business executive, because anyone wearing a business suit is a professional executive.

  • Adrian Coakley

    Her comment may not have been about usage but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. If she thinks that professional photographers don’t really exist anymore what’s the point in paying them? She isn’t solely responsible for the market shifting, but she is a part of the problem and she shouldn’t be excused just because there are a myriad of other factors at play. It really is up to photographers and people who work in photography to defend the value of their work. Mayer may not have intended her comments to be taken the way they were, but history is prologue and there is enough past evidence that makes comments like hers extremely suspect.

  • lidocaineus

    Really? You really think someone out there looking for nice looking headshots is going to find a poor photographer (in your case that would make them an amateur) and be thrilled with the output? The market determines its own course, and your odd segregation of pros and amateurs sounds like its spoken from a source of fear rather than any real reason.

    Here’s a hint: there’s little difference between a pro and an amateur. A pro is simply a pro because they can charge more. There are plenty of piss poor pros and plenty of amateurs whose talents are astounding. Pro vs amateur has nothing to do with skill.

  • Whatevs

    What makes a pro is not just talent, but the ability to show up and deliver, year after year. Just like in any profession.

  • Helk

    Get a grip of yourselves. It’s an off hand comment that deserves far less than the attention it has generated here

  • Nate Parker

    That whole Flickr “Pro” thing was just a joke anyways- Pro is as Pro does.

  • philharvey

    Thanks Justin. I think the good thing it shows is that there’s a sensitivity to the art of photography not being given it’s due. I’m glad to see that as well.

    We need to keep talking up photography as an art form. But, of course, we can do that in a much more constructively than by tearing apart a tech CEO over a couple of comments.

  • lidocaineus

    Theoretically yes. But amateurs can do the same thing, and pros aren’t always consistent. My point is that the line is arbitrary and that Tess’s comments sound like someone deserves respect for labeling themselves with pro; anyone can say they’re a pro.

  • ptsuk

    any “PRO” photographer isn’t butt hurt at a statement from tech CEO when she was talking in the context of storage. Or as a “pro” is your data somehow compromised of “special” 1’s and 0’s?

  • ckoerner

    Were the photos used in this article taken by a professional photographer?

  • ptsuk

    Yes its certainly nice to see someone understanding the context of the statement in that everyone data is comprised of the same 1’s and 0’s unless i’m missing something that “pro’s” use 2’s and 3’s ;) hehe.