Marissa Mayer Sorry for “Misstatement” on Professional Photographers


Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer found herself in the spotlight earlier this week following a controversial statement made at Flickr’s NYC press event regarding pro photographers:

There’s no such thing as Flickr Pro today because [with so many people taking photographs] there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.

Photographer Zack Arias took offense to the comment, and before long, a number of publications picked up the story, sparking discussion and debate on the matter. Some users even took to Mayer’s Flickr page to voice their opinions.

But according to Mayer, the comment was taken out of context. She’s taken to Twitter to explain her remarks to outraged and confused users, stating that she “worded [her] answer terribly”.

Mayer response on Twitter

Mayer Twitter 2

Mayer says her “misstatement” was related to the terabyte of storage now available on Flickr and how many photos users are taking. In other words, Mayer is suggesting there isn’t quite the need for a Pro account given the tremendous amount of storage space now available to all users.

Mayer is also using her Twitter account to apologize for the confusion, and it looks like the community is taking kindly to her outreach. Certainly, it’s understandable how a comment can be taken out of context, and this being the Internet, it can easily can be stirred into a controversy very quickly.

Image credit: Marissa Mayer, Google by magnus hoij

  • Safe Toronto

    you are so right Allyson. Those so called old school pros are still foaming at the mouth about “amateurs” taking over their business. Some pros, who are honest about this say that old pros were so complacent and in a rut used to making a living of 1 photo licensed ad infinitum. Things changed suddenly for them, and they never thought their status quo could be ever challenged. Those who were really good took changes in stride, but your average Joe Bloe with a pro camera calling himself a professional photographer was rendered obsolete.

  • Safe Toronto

    Exactly. Pros are the ones who supposedly can afford pro gear (very expensive to be sure) that would guarantee the consistent output each time (and that is what pros are suppose to be about) – there is nothing like Phase one or Hasselblatt with their super lenses – just can’t beat that astounding quality.

  • Safe Toronto

    Completely disagree with this – that sounds like a mantra pros are trying hard to brainwash their clients with to keep up high prices for their services.

  • Safe Toronto

    and you would be able to tell the difference? I seriously doubt that. Are you aware that magazines, newspapers, even such a giant as Apple buys photos from amateur photographers? Actually they prefer to buy from amateurs. I could show you a Tim e magazine cover photo and guarantee you wouldn’t know it was not taken by a pro.

  • Redstart

    Someone’s on a high horse today. Get over yourself.

    “The general public takes snapshots…”

    Eh, no. Maybe some do, but just as many do not. The only difference is that a professional gets paid to be a photographer. Doesn’t make him/her any better than the rest of is.

  • Safe Toronto

    what bollocks… if you think that amateurs are morons they that would be maybe true…
    your premises are so off base that the conclusion you reach here is just ridiculous

  • Safe Toronto


  • Rugger Ducky

    Her comment is like saying “Everyone knows how to use a computer now, so there are no computer support professionals or programmers.”

    Just because you can do something as a hobby doesn’t make you good at it, or a professional.

  • alg1000


  • Amanda

    I think there is still a difference in the experience and education between the two. How many “pro’s” can set up a lighting ratio or describe lighting patterns or even operate a light meter these days…? The problem is that regardless of your skills and abilities, whether pro or “pro” It is dang hard to make a living at it anymore due to the saturation in the field and the public’s general lack of valuing photography as a art form and not just something that anyone with a camera can do. In regards to the statement, after reading her explanation, I understand what she was saying and it wasn’t about the profession, it was about the services/packages offered.

  • Amanda

    I am a photographer and I do not take a shot unless it is a good one. I post a clients images after I narrow it down to the top 50. That is 50 great shots. Obviously there might be 1 or 2 that are my ultimate favs but shooting 1000 images just for 1 good one would be silly and a waste of time………

  • Ken Aaron

    Safe Toronto, where did I say amateurs are morons? Please, look at my comment at point out where I said that. Don’t put words in my mouth. But since the original comment ws generalizing about “pros” I’m generalizing about the hundreds of millions of people who take photos with their camera phone. They are snapshots, which is a term that has been used for decades.

  • Ken Aaron

    Safe Toronto, yes I’m very aware of this. The reason publications buy from amateurs is they get the photos very cheap or free. More profit for them.

    Tell me, what do you do as a profession?

  • Ken Aaron

    And Patterson did work for clients. Did you not read what I said? Apparently not.

  • hungrylens

    Say there are a billion people who “take photographs” – I think even fewer than 5% make their living at it, let’s say half of a percent. That’s still 5 million people around the world. I just pulled that number out of thin air, which is probably what you did anyway, but think about it.

  • Ken Aaron

    Redstart, Snapshots is a term that has been used for decades. Since the original comment was generalizing about “pros” I’m generalizing about the 100’s of miilions who take photos with their camera phones or other cameras in fully automatic mode. Yes, they are snapshots. Guess what, when I’m taking photos of my friends with my camera phone they too are snap shots. And, yes, I am a professional photographer. One who gets paid by clients.

  • Ralph Berrett

    What have here is the classic Freudian slip. Did she miss speak, yes, was it out of context, that maybe up for interpretation. Is it what she believes, yes. I think it is what she believes and it was a subconscious slip.

    I think she is sorry, not because slighting the photo community. I think she sorry that message about flickr’s changes were lost.

  • Ken Aaron

    Sorry Safe Toranto, expensive gear doesn’t make the photographer. I can make beautiful, commercial, sellable, consistent images with a Holga. Its the skill, vision, eye, and talent that makes a photographer. It’s the abiliity to produce consistent, quality images that meat comercial clients demands that makes them a pro.

  • Mathieu Drut

    Nowhere in your first statement do you use the word “client”. Apparently, you didn’t read what you wrote either.

  • Ken Aaron

    Not when you are talking about a photo shoot that is in the tens of thousands of dollars. Do you even have a clue as to what goes in to a commercial photo shoot?

  • Ken Aaron

    I have made several comments on this story and got my refernces crossed. Forgive me.

  • bob

    Sorry but this is just as shockingly bad a statement as Marissa’s.

    Are you seriously as thick as she is?

    1 She’s made Flickr worse!
    2 Everyone already had the same level of service the way Flickr was before the change.
    3 She didn’t ‘apologise’, she tried, and failed miserably, to diplomatically take back what she said after her advisers obviously told her she had royally f**ked up and quite frankly, it’s too late. No-one was looking to be offended but she’s done a pretty first rate job of it anyway.

    I’m not a professional photographer but I am a professional in other fields and aspire to one day be able to call myself a professional photographer too so yes I’m deeply offended by the drivel that she spouts when she’s chosen to try and kill of an entire industry in one sentence, in turn ruining the hopes and dreams of thousands if not millions of people who hope for the same thing.

    What drives you to think that any professional raising a concern about someone potentially killing off their business, and the entire industry they work in, is not confident in their work?

    Lets say Allan Selig, commisioner of the MLB, wakes up one morning and decides that everyone has access to baseball bats, balls, gloves etc so there’s no such thing as a professional ball player anymore. Do you think the players who make a living from baseball are going to take it lightly? Are they then considered to be not confident in their work?

    insinuating that only adolescents are the only ones raising concerns just shows that you are the one who needs to do the growing up!

  • Rob S

    You are talking apples and oranges. That “worst” NBA player is still one of the 450 best in the world. The best Craigslist dude is not even in the top 10K.

    I spent last weekend competing in an SCCA autocross event. I finished in the bottom 1/3 in a borrowed car. I wasn’t even close to the top guys that day but I am pretty sure I can beat the pants off the vast majority of the population. Yet the very fastest guy – who happens to be a current SCCA Champion – couldnt get a ride in the ARCA series.

    Your Craigslist “Pro” is more like me as a car racer. Sure compared to most people I look fast. Then I face the SCCA champ (Your flickr guy) and look like an idiot. But compared to even the lowest level of ARCA racer (a TRUE pro) that SCCA champ fades. And of course when you bring in a NSACAR or Indy or F1 driver you see what Professional means.

  • Rob S

    “No other industry”?

    Right because there are no “shade tree mechanics” who can fix cars
    but are not ASE certified.

    Never has there been a handyman who can do house repairs but isnt a “professional.”

    And there has certainly never been anyone who could cook an excellent meal who isnt a chef.

    No way my mom made dresses -including wedding dresses – because she was not a “professional.”

  • Rob S

    Go shoot in challenging light and prove me wrong.

  • Rob S
  • Rob S

    Makes me think of all the arm chair types who yell at the refs in the NFL. Total blind idiots who could be replaced by anyone….until they were. Suddenly everyone wanted the REAL refs back. And who was the most vocal about the need for REAL pros? The other professionals on the field – the players.

    You know why the NFL had to dip into the Lingerie Football League for refs? Because the NCAA refused to let the NFL borrow theirs. No way the NCAA was going to let the NFL degrade THEIR product.

  • dangerousjenny

    I am sorry I think people are misunderstanding the meaning of professional. A professional is a person that does something for a career. They learn all the can about the subject and strive to give a product or service based on that being the best that they can. That said I may be able to write amazing stories, but by all means I am not a professional writer. I do not publish my work, I do not sell my stories, and I don’t learn as much as I can to give a great product. My photography however I do. I learn about settings, lighting, how to handle clients. They come and pay me to give them an amazing product based on their needs. I try to make a living on that. Right now I am a semi pro because I am not quite there yet. I don’t think I am better then anyone else and I don’t believe other professionals do either. Just because some amateurs can take some photos as good as professionals does not make photographers that do it as a living less of a professional. Just means they are putting their life into it. Hobbyist usually don’t. So her comment is and all the other’s on this forum trying to say that professionals aren’t professionals just because everyone has a camera now is degrading and disrespectful. You put your life’s work into something you love and you aren’t aloud to be called a professional because someone else can do something similar? How wrong is that.

  • Viking

    I think a billion is pretty high… canon sales are at a billion, just over, for 2012. Take Nikon and the other stragglers, like Leica and you might be at around 6 Billion dollars. Now cut that number in half because at least half of those buyers are buying point and shoot, probably closer to 80%. But to be generous we’ll say have. So then divide 3Billion buy 2000, the average cost of a professional level camera. Then divide by 3 because most professionals have 2 bodies. So at best there could be 1 million people that would be, by definition, considered “professional photographers” now think about how many of those professionals are in the public eye. If we are being generous, we would say maybe 500. I will admit, there are still professional photographers out there making a proper living off their work. But Photography as a profession has suffer with the advent of digital. The pickings are quite slim and photographers have had to come up with new and different way to generate income over the last decade. Like workshops, product endorsements, etc. So can we say there are photographers that are considered “professional” the way we would have defined it in the 90s ? I don’t think so. I person like Frans Lanting comes to mind when I think of a professional photographer, who makes a living almost solely on his production of photographs.

    But I think the point of this is that Mayer’s statements just bruised alot of egos. I think alot of people out there who consider themselves “professionals” are really just rich hobbyists and nothing more. I’m not taking away from their ability to create great photographs, just that they don’t make a living off their work.

  • Viking

    agreed !

  • Rob S

    5% of a billion is 50 million. I think a 5 million estimate is low because I think way more than a billion people take a picture every day.

  • EdgyPhoto

    Funny that the “cop out” is to defend herself 140 characters at a time… Why not actually post a response on a medium that can include a little elaboration. Seems more of a 140 character “F.U. I ain’t got time for this” than anything…

  • Ken Aaron

    So johnr, those kids taking photos with theri smart phones, do they know how to adjust aperture and shutter speed, two very basic elements of photography? No, because they can’t control those ontheir smart phone. Do you think they have any idea about how either of those will affect a photo or how they can be used creatively? No, because they can’t control them. Do you think they know how to change the look and feel by using those two variables? No, because they can’t control them.

    While you can take nice photos with a camera phone, you really can’t make an image in the way others do because you don’t have the ability to control those variables.

    Sorry, but relying of preset algorithims for shutter speed and exposure does not make a professional photographer.

  • madmax

    Taking very good pictures these days is so easy that a lot of amateurs can do the same or even better than most professionals. Marissa´s statement was unfortunate but not absolutely wrong. Too much injured egos here!

  • canon413

    If she said ” photographer’s professional account” then maybe a mis-statement.

  • madmax

    The biggest difference between a pro and an advanced amateur is the know how to do business, not the quality of pictures. Only some pros are really awesome and true artists.

  • FT

    Seems legit. Further, flickr has allowed ALL pro users to grandfather themselves into the new scheme at the original prices. So it looks like flickr is really making an effort and I am on board.

  • Craig

    She took to twitter to explain? Come on, most of the world doesn’t use twitter.
    On the assumption that professional photographers don’t use flickr, the speech writer would be trying to make a cool statement with the “in” crowd of 13-25 y.o. twitter and tumblr users.

    Time again to try to find an alternative to flickr, but I’ll miss the people I’ve met and the comradeship in the groups.

  • Daniel Lowe

    I’m just super happy that the word got out, that it was an APG member that got a response, and that she realized she had made a mistake, by saying it. If you have dedicated your life to photography or image-making, then her comment probably bothered you somehow.

  • Daniel Lowe

    Well said. There’s a skill in translating what the client says into real action items. And then having the skill to execute under challenging conditions.

    I’ve worked with remote control helicopter operators as a camera operator.. you should hear some of the requests we got from clients… then you have to consider if the shot is possible, and safe. I’ve been there when a remote control helicopter flying a Canon 5Dmk3 went into a pond at the university of Notre Dame. (at 5:40am, on a Sunday morning)

    Seriously, you don’t just roll out of bed with a point and shoot camera and get print-quality images at sunrise, sunrise, and in low light, without skill and practice.

  • emil

    You wally! then give these kids an assigment in studio or location to get pictures for a brand.

  • emilanos

    that was for Johnr

  • aksolanki

    Hi, let me ask you, is every shot you take a great shot? Meaning you could take a single shot every day and it would be great. “1000 images just for 1 good one would be silly and a waste of time………”, I agree. Who suggested this to you?

  • mavfan1

    1. Most people who became upset aren’t “pro” enough to support themselves full-time.
    2. Those that are pros are too busy to care about what Yahoo’s CEO has to say.
    3. She obviously misspoke and meant that with so many people uploading so many pictures there was no need to differentiate between pro and amateurs with a different type of account.
    4. Get over it folks.

  • mavfan1

    johnr didn’t say the 12 year olds were pros. He simply said they can take great photos. Besides, if you see a photo that really impresses you do you wonder about whether they set the shutter speed to 1/160th of a second, whether the camera was set to shutter priority or whether they let the camera select the shutter speed and let that fact determine whether you enjoy looking at the photo? I sure hope not. A great picture is a great picture no matter what settings were or were not set by the photographer.

  • mavfan1

    no, it’s simply getting paid that makes them a pro, not whether they are any good or not.

    A great camera doesn’t make a great photographer just like a Mont Blanc pen does not make you a great writer, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

  • Guest

    The point is, when Mayer wants some new headshots or goes in for a magazine cover shoot or is caught at a press conference by a photojournalist. Those photos are not being taken by some soccer mom with an iPhone. They are taken by a Professional Photographer that likely makes more than $50 per hour for the work being done. That is happening all over the world at every moment by gifted professionals. And saying they no longer exist because of a bunch of snap-happy camera-phone users (which is exactly what she meant when she said it) is an insult to us. Many of us who had been using Flickr as a professional photographer’s community.
    PS: The new layout is horrible and the interface makes it less usable.

  • kdscv

    Pro’s don’t take 1000 images to choose one. If that’s what you believe then you’ve never met a pro.

  • amportfolio

    All I ever got out of her statement was “I don’t want Flickr to be 500px where a smaller community of creatives post their work…I want Flickr to be the next Instagram where millions of amateurs post meaningless pics and thus allow me to sell ads and data.”

    Still not sure if I’m staying with Flickr or looking into the competition.

  • Abby

    “Everyone can take great pictures. There is no science or art involved.”

    You’re joking, right? Ever heard of rule of thirds or the golden ratio? This doesn’t include calculating aperture vs film speed vs shutter speed.