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

  • Tom collins

    Professional? And Flickr is your photographic home? Because you get oops got a badge that said “Pro”? Hmmmm.

  • Duke Shin

    >everything is professional photographers

    What is grammar

  • peaceetc

    Did you happen to notice it was written by a woman of the female persuasion? It might have been a tad tongue-in-cheek. Just a little.

    Agreed about what makes a professional anything. It’s like the CEO thinks people actually thought they were pro photographers if they had the ‘pro’ tag on their Flickr accounts.

  • Sigi Kiermayer

    Dr. is a title you earn through an standardsized procedure.

    Who gave you the title ‘professional photographer’?

    Professional only says you earn money with it; that alone has no value itself. Even bad people can earn money and they do.

  • Brandon

    The last sentence was just the icing on the cake. That, and the various “girlfriends” you threw in the article. Sassy author, you.

  • Anon

    Now you mention it a degree in photography doesn’t separate your knowledge at all from a newbie photographer at all. Wow, thank you for opening my eyes. -___-

  • David Cohen De Lara

    Jeeeees… She misspoke. Get over it.

    We’ve got one meaningless quote that is very hard to interpret and is almost certainly not what she meant to say exactly. Most likely she meant something like ‘the lines between pro and amateur have gotten increasingly blurry and we want to offer the same quality and service to both without having to make a hard distinction between the two’.

    And even if she did say ‘there is no such thing as a professional photographer’, why do you need to get your panties in a bunch over that? Are you really so insecure as a professional that this makes you feel threatened?

  • Terry Thomas Photos

    young? yes
    female? yes
    blonde? yes
    Well, what do you expect?

  • eni turkeshi imagery

    brilliant post.kudos!

  • Stephanie

    Seriously? I am no pro, just an avid amateur, but I bought a Flickr Pro account just to be able to post my shots to more groups than the non-pro limit, if I so chose. On the subject of why they decided to do this move on Flickr, I have no doubt in the least that it was purely fiscally driven. In essence, they are trying to expose more Flickr members to their advertisers. If you have acess to a larger storage base and the restrictions on group postings are eliminated, then a lot of amateurs with Pro accounts will probably settle into a passive state of being bombarded by ads in their peripheral vision (which is where those ads work best, BTW… peripheral vision = portal to the subconscious). Especially if the cost of avoiding those ads is going to be a lot more than what they paid last year for their Pro account. Wasn’t the price of a Pro account $20.00 a year?

  • Phosphorescent

    The moniker “professional photographer” is misleading, because it refers to the photographer’s business management and marketing skills, and not to his actual photography. Anyone with expensive equipment, a rudimentary knowledge of technique and good taste can take decent pictures.

    But it’s disturbing how many self-styled “professional photographers” lack fluency in the medium. Sure, their technical skills and equipment are adequate, but they have no understanding of the visual language that they are using. And it is a language that fits into a broader artistic tradition with its distinct concepts and symbolism.

    Lacking the requisite vocabulary, most “professional photographers” repeat the same tired cliches that have dominated the medium for decades. Lacking education in the visual language, they think this is acceptable. So does their audience. I would have a problem with calling these people “photographers”. Perhaps “professionals with cameras” would be more adequate, since their living consists of telling people that the ideal they sell is worth something.

    Ms Mayer wasn’t trying to make an ignorant majority feel special; she pissed off an ignorant minority that has convinced itself that it plays an important role in the photographic medium.

  • jm8898

    there’s everything is professional photographers. Certainly there is
    varying levels of skills…” Is English her second language or is she mentally disabled?

  • Federico

    The answer is Behance. I already closed my Instagram account when FB acquired them and now is time for Flickr and Tumblr.

  • mrbeard

    flickr never differentiated between pro and amateur though, anyone could buy a pro account regardless of skill. From the start it should have been a free account and a paid account for extra features, which is what has been corrected in the recent change

  • Mitch Labuda

    A shining example for keeping the CEO in an office and letting the PR Deparment handle public relations.

  • Jackson Cheese

    I think this is a case of a lot of you looking for something to get upset & indignant over.

    I’m filing this under “who gives sh*t”.

  • postpanglossian

    Dishonest “catering” to the lazy, based in greed, has done much to destroy respect for professionalism in all fields. This goes well beyond photography. That such destructiveness is profitable makes it no less unethical.

  • Mansgame

    171 comments so far and about 170 of them are angry and offended photographers with their “how dare she! I am a professional” comments. Let’s put things in perspective:

    1. Most people can’t dunk a basketball and can never ever be a professional basketball player – even a bad one. The worst player on any professional basketball team (or even college) will absolutely destroy any average joe.

    2. Most people can’t perform surgery. The professionals went to school and spent many years perfecting their craft. There are no amateur surgeons.

    3. Most people can’t wire their own house, run the plumbing in their own house, frame the house, etc. Sure, some people are handy and can do a few things, but when push comes to shove and the house and they want things by the code, they call a professional.

    Etc. etc.

    On the other hand, there are thousands of amateur photographers who can take pictures just as good as the top 20 percent of the professional photographers. and tens of thousands more amateur photographers who can take as good as the average professional photographers, and hundreds of thousands of people who with a basic DSLR who can take better pictures than the worst professionals.

    No other industry is like this. If an amateur can do a better job than a professional in your field, it’s time to get over yourself. You’re not that special Mr. Photographer. Sorry you picked the wrong career.

  • John Hubler

    I think what irritates me the most about her idiotic statement is that she ultimately boils the entire worth of a photographer down to their ability to snap a picture. As so many have already stated on here, there are millions of people out there with cameras who can take pictures. Some might even take great pictures and not be “professionals”. However – it takes more than just being able to take good / creative photos to be a professional photographer. You need people skills and the ability to prompt good photos out of difficult subjects. You need creativity skills to figure out a way to make camera shy people appear comfortable. You need to be a quick thinker to be able to work with rapidly changing conditions. You need a quick and steady hand. You need to be a sales person… a marketer… an expert in lighting… you need a solid eye for color. The list goes on. All of this is a FAR cry from just somebody with a camera. And to call an average person with a camera a professional photographer is to ultimately insult everybody who has ever worked for years trying to perfect all of those other skills required outside of taking the actual photographs.

  • Glambike

    Rent a Hasselblad with an 85mm 1.2 lens, some lights, reflectors and a tripod. Hire an assistant who can use wifi devices and photoshop. Rent a computer too. This is basically what separates the professional product/fashion photographer from a novice without experience and connections. Everyone and anyone could point at the computer monitor and say “That one, no this one.” The professional photographer usually lets the client do even the decision making.

  • wayne.carroll

    Flickr. What do you expect from a bunch of Yahoos?

  • Phelony Jones

    So, all this crap so they could sneak some geckos and Chevy ads onto the site. Crips, what a blundering fool. She needs to go to HP or Best Buy. They can really use her talents.

  • Edeiwmurk Nivek

    Sometimes I think that people like Marissa Mayer and Carly Fiorina were specifically selected to discredit the idea of women in leadership positions.

  • f2point8

    Duh! Flickr Pro never meant pro-photographer. It means dedicated to the service and willing to pay for it. There are other places to go for a true professional photographer. What she meant to say is there are no professional photographers left on flickr.

  • badjoga

    finally someone who got it… additionally, a professional photographer is someone who gets paid for taking photos… people get butt-hurt easily. a pro photographer is not always a good photographer, pro doesn’t always mean good.

  • tcliff1

    So, I guess the 20 years of education and experience no longer matter. Wow. Anyone have a lonely island in the middle of nowhere I can move to?

  • tcliff1

    Vlad, you’re a dick

  • Tahir Hashmi

    There’s nothing else that’s offering 1TB of storage for free. For comparison, charges $180 for 1TB and Dropbox charges $499/yr for 0.5TB.

    You should also try estimating your annual usage and see how long it’ll take you to exhaust the 1TB limit. E.g. I upload < 500 photos/yr. Assuming each photo is 20MB in size, it'll take me another 90 years to exhaust 1TB at the same rate. I would expect the limit to get bumped up by the time I hit the limits even if I start uploading 16-bit TIFFs at 100MB each.

    The only real things that Pro-to-free switchers would lose are a) stats, b) image replacement, c) ad-free experience.

  • alex


  • Kay O. Sweaver

    There are a lot of people who “think” that photo and video professionals are a dying breed, but as someone who works at a photography store I can assure you they’re not. What we do have is a glut of people who *think* they’re pros (or can at least compete with them) who are actually totally clueless.

    As I type this I’m busy transferring files from someone’s camera and converting them into a format they can give to their client because they don’t know how to do it themselves. These people routinely bite off more than they can chew and either put out inferior work and/or come running to me to fix their mistakes.

    Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I cry.

  • Allyson

    I think you are completely missing the point. I don’t know this woman, but I DO know that she was speaking in reference to the tool (Flickr) and what it offers photographers. From that perspective, there is no distinction between classes of photographers- they can all have the same amount of terrabytes. Go deeper here– the array of tools available to all, regardless of level of talent with said tools, means that they can post hi-res, ginormous file size pics, even if they are crappy, just like you (Mrs. Professional Photographer) can. That was all. That was the extent of the intent of the remarks. Why on earth an entire community of photographers is misconstruing this as an attack on your creativity/profession makes no sense to me. Mayer was simply saying that the storage partition between crap/hobby photographers and “pros” no longer needs to exist on Flickr. She was making no judgement on your profession, she was saying that everyone has access to tools that can create really big image files, therefore everyone can have the same amount of storage. If you have a problem with that, I honestly think it goes a lot deeper than outrage about her comments. Its not her fault that you have a profession that’s relatively easy for an amateur to dabble in. Flickr doesn’t have a responsibility to make sure you have a way to broadcast to the world that you are somehow different and better than the majority of the people “dabbling” there.

  • ReneeV

    The cost is representative of the product. McDonalds sells hamburgers. So does Bobby Flay’s. McDonalds hamburger cost $1.00 on their menu. Bobby Flay’s cost $9.00. They are, in essence, both hamburgers. However, one is an inferior product, produced quickly and cheaply. The other is hand made, hand cooked to order, served by waitstaff while you are sitting, and you are given choices of a large variety of accoutrements. They are both hamburgers. However, they are far from the same thing.

  • Allyson

    “a pro photographer should be confident enough not to get offended by this.”

    Exactly right. Attacking Mayer for her remarks says more about the pro photographer and his/her insecurities than anything else.

  • Z

    So flickr pro subscription is worthless is what she is supposedly trying to say. So I should get a refund?

  • renee

    Pro -vs- Amateur has nothing to do with what you charge. The cost is representative of the product. McDonalds sells hamburgers. So does Bobby Flay’s. McDonalds hamburger cost $1.00 on their menu. Bobby Flay’s cost $9.00. They are, in essence, both hamburgers. However, one is an inferior product, produced quickly and cheaply. The other is hand made, hand cooked to order, served by waitstaff while you are sitting, and you are given choices of a large variety of accoutrements. They are both hamburgers. However, they are far from the same thing. A “professional” does something for a living. I teach my kids every day. Does that make me a “professional” teacher? I cook everyday. So on my resume, can I list that i am a pro chef? I’ve also fixed my toilet, cut my grass, changed a lightswitch plate, and I’ve shot a few three-pointers on my son’s hoop outside. Should I be calling LeBron for my spot of The Heat???

  • Donny

    If there are no pros like myself anymore maybe companies don’t need to over paid useless CEOs like you

  • Vlad

    You are a hilarious crowd of frustrated wankers. I love to hear your whining. Every day, every minute a kid with a camera can rule you out. You will be irrelevant in no time.

  • Duke Shin


    Shiggy Diggy, mate.

  • renee


  • renee

    Yesterday i closed a sale that was 1700. i worked a total of 5 hours and my out of pocket cost for materials was $100. I think i picked the RIGHT career.

  • Garry Bryant

    Ditto. . . enough said!

  • eninja1983

    Well Said. After all, the CEO is just like you also a professional, working for money. Why hate her, you do the same thing.

  • lidocaineus

    What does that have to do with anything? Both are “professional” restaurants. If anything, you just proved my point that quality has nothing to do with being a professional.

  • JD

    May be, you are a good professional photographer but you are definitely not good in business and PR :) This statement from Marissa generated such a big wave (notice: for free!) that everybody is talking about her and Flickr now. Even those, who do not actively use Flickr, would go and look at it now. Marissa is really good in getting attention of people to her projects :)

  • R.S.

    You give Yahoo too much credit lol

  • lancephoto


  • Henry Halifax

    According to IRS data the total personal income revenues from those identified as photographers has gone down about 75% over the last 15 years. This despite a huge explosion in the use of photographic imagery in society at large.

    She’s partly correct. The power amateur may style themselves a pro, but there are less paying clients and employers.

  • Dave

    Yahoo has it’s place – at least minimally. Just look at Yahoo news. What a conglomeration of swill. It’s disorganized and more often than not, only presents half the story re: news items.

  • alecio

    This one was the first coherent comment here, congratulations!
    A pro photographer should be working and not worrying much about Flicker

  • Stephie

    Love the last like here. Well done.