Rant: Wedding Photographer Wants to Buy Good Wedding Shots to Pad Their Portfolio

Just when you thought you’d seen it all… Excuse me for a moment while I climb atop my soap box. *Taps Mic* Check? Is this thing on? Okay.


This was sent to me by a friend this morning and, after I opened it, I just sat staring at it. I could see it was a Craigslist ad, that much was evident, but I had to keep reading it over and over because the words just would not register. I knew they were English, and complete sentences were formed, but what it was asking went beyond my means of comprehension.

At first, I thought it was a joke. Then I realized, it wasn’t. Then I said a very very bad word.

What in the world is going on here!?

Has our beloved photography industry fallen into some sort of alternate reality akin to “The Twilight Zone?” I quite often feel like little David, whose ride home from the dentist went viral on YouTube as he asks, “Is this real life?” We have reached a point in our industry where reality has merged with something off SNL.

And we have ourselves to blame for this. We saw the pendulum swinging and we should have seen where it was headed. We sat back in workshops and listened to photographers turned motivational speakers tell us that it’s easy; that with their help we could follow our dreams. We saw the shortcuts to success fly off the shelves. We watched hordes of photographers make money off the masses by selling the dream, and we did nothing.

Sure, some of us raised our hand and questioned the insanity that was being peddled to naive individuals, but many lowered their hands just as quickly when they were assigned unflattering labels such as: negative, Old School or cranky.

And we lowered our hands and our voices to the peril of an industry. We stopped demanding accountability, because of those that told us just to “mind our own businesses.” We were reprimanded and told to “focus on yourself and not others.” We were labeled “haters” when we spoke up and insisted that those peddling the label of “professional photographer” actually create businesses worthy of the title.

And when we did that, when we allowed ourselves to be silenced, you know what happened…THIS! (Here’s a blown up version in case you couldn’t read the text at the top)


Folks, this is OUR industry. Yes, I said “our.” It does not belong to this Craigslist advertiser; it does not belong to the industry leader who plagiarizes and/or steals; it does not belong to the inexperienced guy or gal who tries to pass off stock photos as their own in the hopes of gaining fame. This industry does not belong to them.

Why? Because they are not worthy of it.

This incredible industry many of us have been privileged to work in all our lives has been sullied by the likes of folks who could care less about it. In much the same way Homer Simpson views popcorn as simply the delivery system for the butter, they view photography as the delivery system to fast money and appearance of fame and celebrity.

In order to be worthy of something precious, you have to take care of it, love it, go out of your way before you allow harm to befall it. You have to honor it. And you have to speak up for it.

So, the question becomes, are we too far gone to come back from this? Have we reached a point of no return where “I’m a photographer” is now a punchline for a very poor joke?

I don’t believe that, not for a minute, because a pendulum is capable of swinging both ways. And once it’s gone as far left as it can, there’s only one place for it to go … and that’s back toward the middle. But the pendulum needs a push. It needs thousands of hands that are willing to guide it back where it belongs.

If we aren’t willing to raise our hands and play a hand in taking OUR industry back to a place of honor and integrity, then we better be prepared for more Craigslist advertisements like this one. If we aren’t willing to call out those that make a mockery of our industry, then we become part of the problem.

I, for one, am proud to push the pendulum. I hope you join me.

(Note: If you read this column and rolled your eyes at how preachy it is, I’m totally good with that.)

  • Clayton Finley

    Do you not know the basics about how ad-revenue and link based revenue works? Not to mention the amount of page hits these sensationalist articles produce? If not, you should probably go educate yourself on the matter.

  • Kerri Clark

    What a dumba**. Does he or she realize that the couples would expect him or her to take photos of the same caliber as the ones he or she is wanting to purchase????? Like…HELLO?

  • Kerri Clark

    Well, if you purchase images from other photographers, good luck taking photos of the same quality as the ones you buy. Really….good luck.

  • G.R.

    This guy is soon going to have a lawyer explain the concept of “model release” to him…

  • Pingbat


  • junyo

    But there will ALWAYS be creeps (and have always been), in every industry, no matter what you do. Change the rules and you’ll get different creeps, being creepy in new and different ways.

    Saying that the industry can’t function with the creeps is basically saying that the industry can’t exist in the real world, can’t adapt to changing times and extant reality.

  • Marks Fbaccount

    As a professional, this of course is nothing I’d ever do. But also as a professional, I also don’t have enough time to cry over what the others are doing. You have too much time on your hands. These stupid photographers will not last. Focus on your own business, or else you won’t last, either.

  • Alan Klughammer

    I think regulation of a creative industry like photography could have a lot of unintended consequences.
    if photographer A is “certified” they have to charge a bit more so un-certified photographer B can charge less.
    also, who makes the certification? I have seen a lot of attempt to quantify art, and it always fails at some level.
    Disclaimer: I have a degree in photography and a diploma in Business Administration. I learned much more about each of these disciplines as a practising professional.

  • Jackson Cheese

    Epic troll.

  • James Bennett

    You act like this is a new and only pertains to photography; try web-design. Where every stay at home mom or WOW geek thinks dreamweaver or WordPress is all you need to start a web-design company. There’s a word for these people, it’s called a “poser” and they diminish the work of every field out there.

    Although you could argue that good work will always stand out. Youtube brought thousands upon millions of wood be film makers and that didn’t stop the making of good films.

    Or, that there is a natural place for these people. Not many people can afford the 3000 or more price tag for a good photographer. A decent website can run $10,000 and if you want e-commerce then the sky is the limit. These people run the 500 or less gamut, and who cares what they’re doing in that range. You don’t want the hassle of dealing with people in that range. Most of the time they don’t appreciate or care about the quality of work your doing anyways.

    If you just put out quality work then that’s all that matters.

  • Harrison Lansing

    Sorry, but you may have named yourself “ProPhotog”…but you’re not one.

  • Laura Babb

    I can’t see anyone with half decent images/half a brain selling copyright for “a good amount of images” for “$75 – $150.

  • Doc Pixel

    …and don’t forget the graphic design and typesetting industries before that! Desktop Publisher is a forbidden and derisive title to this day in the design industry.

    I’d also like to point out that we have in Germany something called the “Meisterprüfung or Meisterbrief” (Masters diploma basically) for just about all professions, from plumbing, painting, electric, and yes… photographers. That very fact does not make any of them with the certificate on their wall, the best professional for the job. It does not guarantee quality by any means.

    My base clientele is made up from 90% of these “certificate holders” in design and photography. If truth be known… I couldn’t recommend more than a handful of them if I or my team wasn’t in the background keeping the technical side and post-production art working. The majority would go bankrupt within a year… or find another person(s) to take my place… if they’re lucky.

    The business of photography (and design) today is far more than the art of the creative endeavor. An unfortunate reality. A 20 year old certificate on your wall that credits you with mastering the technical side of “capturing light”, or knowing what the difference between a sans serif and a serif type, plus Business Economics 101… does NOT alone make you or anyone else a pro.

    Adapting to new tools and new aesthetics AKA “looks”; the continuous education of your craft; and applying it to “the basics” and foundation of your training… and finally delivering a product… is what causes me to pause and exclaim, “impressive”!

    Wasting your time “B and M’ing” about the upstarts, get-rich-quick trainers, bloggers, Craig Listers, whatever… is simply that: Wasting. Your. Time.

    Asking for an association of peers to value and promote your work only stifles the desire, necessity and motivation to further your education, and also comes with no guarantee for the consumer. So please explain what you folks are hoping to gain with that request. Respect? Guaranteed income? It is not and will not work. Trust me on that… and definitely wear sunscreen! :)

  • henrymaxm

    lol only in Miami.

  • p.rock

    Recurring theme with this author, I’m afraid.

  • Display_Name

    This is a bit of progress. He could have just stolen the images….

  • Mike

    That argument fails every time. What do they call a person who graduated medical school? Nothing until he passes a board of certified doctors. What do the call a person who graduated with an Accounting degree? Nothing until he gets his CPA.

    How does a dancer become so amazingly creative at the grand opening? By learning the basic concepts and moves and repetition of hum-drum dance principles. How does a concert cello player become so amazingly good? By learning all the principles of music and playing the scales over and over again.

    How does a painter become a great painter? By understanding and knowing the why behind composition and color theory.

    Again, certification is the foundation, it is not the end. And anyone with a certification has the tools in place to become creative and more importantly able to recreate the creativity with confidence in knowing how to achieve it and why.

    So I ask again, why shut the door on furthering your knowledge base and skill set; education in your craft? Is it because you’ve failed the process and therefore need to talk down upon it to make yourself feel better? Is it because of fear and that you may find out that you actually don’t know what you’re doing or that you may fail? If not the latter of the two, then it must be plain laziness and a person that thinks of themselves as creative, yet lazy…has closed their mind to the possibilities and have slammed the door to other creative juices they may never know existed within them.

  • Sumicaro

    Well how many photographers buy followers on Facebook or Twitter, or other social media sites. That in it’s own way is a lie too telling people that they are more popular with people then they really are. The reality is the whole industry is on a slippery slope. Is it better or worse to have a 1,000 followers on Facebook that you don’t know and don’t really care if your photography is horrible but you get clients because they think that it’s good photography because a 1,000 people like it or buying images
    to miss-represent your work . Both buying the images and buying followers is lying to clients.

  • waleeper

    He would have done a lot better to advertise that he will shoot someone’s wedding at a steep discount to build his portfolio.

    I know that is another problem, but if you are at the bottom, you are only going to get bottom rate rates, and if you ware honest, you will get someone willing to work with you and won’t be as demanding of the results knowing you are just getting started.

    This isn’t going to end well for the photographer either, when he goes and does a crappy job on a wedding charging full rates and not able to deliver what he has on his website.

  • Andrew

    Mike, stick with what you know. You obviously know nothing about the accounting industry or how it works. There are millions of working accountants out there with no CPA certification, even in large international accounting firms. There are high ranking corporate officers in accounting departments that don’t need or want the CPA license.

    Your seemingly confident response above falls miserably flat.

  • Mike Zimmerman

    FLA strikes again… The land of the weird…

  • Jerk

    Mind blowing preaching article! Nothing to see here.

  • johnnyrotten.

    We should bring back guilds, for all art forms, I’m serious about this.

  • Michael

    As a Professional Freelance Photographer this just makes me sad, seriously I wanna kill myself. What the hell has happened to the industry that is Professional Photography?, Photojournalists are being sacked left right and centre, and I have to constantly deal with idiots who tell me work for free and you can keep the copyright of the images arghhh! Just die already.

    Anyone with a disposable income who can afford a half decent digital camera can come around claiming to be photographers. Stealing other peoples creative work has gone on for years and I’m tired of it, I had a Photographer who was working for an Italian Sports magazine (he isn’t anymore because of my lawsuit) who shall remain nameless due to an ongoing case, steal my Photographic work off of my website and then try to pass it off as theirs. F*ck it’s so depressing.

  • King Tigre

    You can’t regulate art. It’s too subjective. Photography is an art form.

    If client A hates an oil painting, but client B loves it, whose opinion determines whether the art is professional or not?

    I personally think Jackson Pollock was a hack who splattered paint randomly on a canvas….but his “Art” is revered by many. Photography is just as varied an art form as painting. There are so many styles and visual approaches to creating said art that regulation is impossible. As soon as it would be, some “Unprofessional” person will come up with something new and visually knock the “Pros” on their collective @$$3$.

    I can teach a 2 year old how a camera works. Aperture, Shutter speed, Rule of thirds…it doesn’t make them a “Pro”. It’s the way they uniquely visualize the world through their art that shows their real potential.

  • JC Ruiz

    I saw this last Friday and had hoped it was a joke. I live in Miami where everyone wants to be someone without putting in the work so I can see where this might be true.

  • Stylist

    This happens in commercial photography too and don’t get me started on photography styling.

  • James

    Probably not you’d be surprised how much you can get away with.

  • junyo

    What do they call a person who graduated medical school?

    “What do the call a person who graduated with an Accounting degree?”
    Bookkeepers, tax preparers, managers…

  • James

    Honestly, your english is fine. Much better than i would have expected from your name, and considerably better than some americans I know. Just a quick tip, I think you mean reporter/photographer rather than reporter-photographer.

  • Alan Klughammer

    Mike, did you read my post? I have “certification” in both photography and business. The problem is that I have seen people graduate with these certifications who don’t know what they are talking about, and I have seen people without formal schooling do quite well.
    Certification doesn’t guarantee competence and adds an extra level of complication. Doctors deal with peoples lives, Accountants deal with the flow of money (think peoples life savings, government taxes, etc) Photographers take photos…
    I agree there are yahoos out there, but if you are a competent photographer yourself, they are not competition. I do feel sorry for anyone who hires them, but then again, everything in our consumer society is “buyer beware” Including Doctors, Lawyers, and camera sales people.

  • Dino G.

    I dont care, so what he wants to pad his foliio. I would never do what this guy is trying BUT STILL who cares? It’s not going to hurt any of us. So what if some people have OTHER peoples shots on their pages.

    I am way more concerned about what guys like this guy charge. I mean if he does stupid stuff like this maybe he is charging 200 for a wedding too. Now THAT frightens me.

    I did FREE shoots until I got a lot of great shots to show Your work should be just that YOUR work.

  • Stahp

    How about if I read this column and gagged at how badly you mangle your argument with ableist slurs?

  • Jude I⚡caяiot

    Regulations are often bad, m’kay?

    First thing: I have worked as a photographer AND as a process server for several years now (photographer first). Last year my state decided to try to “regulate” process serving. The things they came up with were absurd, expensive, pointless, and simply would’ve messed up a thriving industry. Government regulations of industries in the way you want usually are not found on science or fact, but on gut instinct and feeling and by people who have nothing to do with the industry that is being regulated.

    Second thing: How does one regulate opinion? I don’t like landscapes at all, so I’m no Ansel Adams fan, but some people think that is the epitome or photography in the film age. That is their opinion, and mine is just that he was good at what he did. It all comes down to the viewer. So, what you’d be left with is the ability to regulate based on what? A test? Like with guns? What does that solve? People can know rules, know their stuff, and still be crap at actually being a photographer, just like people know gun safety rules and laws and can pass a test, but still fail to uphold them.

    There is no point to regulating an industry that is considered an art form.

    Should we regulate the music industry and makes bands have to register and get a license to perform?

  • Jude I⚡caяiot

    I don’t see that at all from the post you are replying to. I see someone making a legitimate point about how dangerous certification is. First, it’s an added expense. Secondly, regulations by government agencies are often goofy and are created by people who aren’t really in the field they are regulating. Thirdly, certification means very little… People take gun safety classes, pass a test and can have a gun, but they still don’t always handle it safely or use it legally. Passing a test proves very little in photography as well. I could check all of the right boxes and get a 100% but suck at actually applying my knowledge.

  • Jude I⚡caяiot

    Doctors and Lawyers aren’t in the field of opinions (well, lawyers are, kinda, but not really). Photography is a field of opinions. I might like one photo and another person might not. Doctors are either right or wrong, no opinion involved. Lawyers either know the law and can apply it or they do not.

  • Jude I⚡caяiot

    Hey, mine is to the right of Insert.

  • Jude I⚡caяiot

    Your first paragraph hits it on the head. You would need regulation for all of those sub-industries.

  • cleveland photo group

    well said and i hope we can push it back Sad to say this may not have happened in the old days of film

  • oliver

    Surely this is just simply proof of someone trying to work illegally?

    False advertising is illegal in most countries, it is a fraudulant way of getting customers by deliberately misleading them into believing they’re getting a level of service which is frankly not available from the company they’re using.

    Easiest way to deal with this sort of thing is just to pass the proof over to the relevant country’s trading standards board and have them deal with the company responsible.


  • Alisha

    If they rolled their eyes they are part of the problem, you are 1000% correct!

  • Doc Pixel

    Just a note: Have you ever tried spattering paint on a canvas and making any sense of it afterwards? It’s harder than you think, and in fact I don’t believe it can ever be learned. It’s a talent.

  • pmow

    It’s a little of both. Your wealthy individuals and businesses are going to look for better work. Since photography is a luxury for most though, the vast majority will avoid hiring a pro for a number of years if they get terrible results.

  • King Tigre

    Thank you for illustrating my point exactly. :-)

  • bebekashmir

    Hey, at least he’s willing to pay for them and didn’t just poach them off the web! This is more than we can say for many of our potential “clients” and fellow “photographers.”

  • noboafted

    You should have emailed him, and gotten the web site so we all know who to avoid in th future

  • teila

    100% correct Andrew. There are also many med school grads who went to med school not to become physicians, but to get better positions in biotech, or business- same goes for law school… Many people go to law and medical school with the idea of never practicing, but using what they know, and the degree to gain better positions in their respective industry.

  • teila

    Or tax professionals who never prepare a return, but are versed in tax law, even more so than many tax attorneys depending on the grad school (taxation) attended and experience. So many variables.

    Certification in photography is utter ridiculous. If I’m hiring a photographer, I couldn’t care less what pansy “certifications” he or she has, just show me your work, and give me contact info to some of the corps you’ve done work for and I can decide the rest for myself… Like anyone else who has a brain can.

  • saga frontier

    this plagiarizer should be caught and strung up, hogtied, and washed down w/ butter!

  • Robert Lowdon

    Yep, and the “In The Style Of (image stolen from a nameless photographer)” shoots aren’t any better.