Wednesday 23 September 2009

Minor rant regarding standards

I was just reading a post about a badly behaved photographer on Birdforum. Mistake, I know. I even got sucked into commenting. Big mistake. It was the usual story of a photographer trying to get too close. The funny thing is that the [alleged - Ed.] resulting photograph was pretty ordinary. As I browsed this nameless [and alleged - Ed.] photographer's web-page, it struck me that many of the images were in fact pretty ordinary, sub-standard even. The trouble is that everyone is a wildlife photographer these days. Many of the posters on internet forums have links to webpages, which, surprise surprise, are generally "Fred Bloggs, Wildlife Photography", or "John Smith, Bird Images". Sometimes of course the link is to a rubbish blog, but at least there is no pretence about it.

So what is happening? Fundamentally, I think that the modern age has made it all too easy. Proper photographers in the pre-digital era had to build up a stock of transparencies, invest a stack load of money in glass, bear vast processing costs, make loads of dupes, work very hard at marketing once they were back from punishing hours in the field, and hope they got lucky. As a result, the quality needed to be very very high. Today, you fork out on a prosumer camera and a third party zoom, or if you're loaded, a pro body and a white monster, and you're done. There are no processing costs, you create a free website in five minutes, and hey presto you're a wildlife photographer. Except the photos are mostly all complete crap.

So here is a tip to anyone who has decided to speculatively set themself up as a "wildlife photographer". Browse this website, and re-evaluate every photograph of a bird you have ever taken. Then delete your crappy website from cyberspace and don't come back until you're much, much better. I don't mean to sound discouraging, but 99% of what is out there masquerading as wildlife photography is mediocre, and the sooner more people realise it the better.

I take photos, mostly of birds, and sometimes I post them up here. Usually they're my better efforts, but they are still mediocre versus what can be achieved. And I know it. That's why this is a blog, and I'm not contemplating wildlife photography as a career.

"And a good thing too!"


  1. Did you get the puffin this evening?

  2. Agreed. I've got some photos I'm proud of, but I'm under no illusions as to where they stand in the grand scheme of things.

    I think the good done by digital photography revitalising the hobby and bringing it to the masses has outdone the harm, but I also think that people such as myself who started on digital will always be outclassed by those who had to know exactly what those little buttons and dials would do before releasing the shutter.

  3. No, I only arrived at about 4ish, and it never floated back up. BTW, ddd I see you in the Centre around 4.30ish? Somebody that might have been you (I have no idea what you look like) came in from the reserve, and asked me if the puffin had been seen again. I said no. As far as you/this person was concerned, that was the wrong answer. The correct answer was apparently "Yes, and here it is in my scope, would you care to take a look?"

  4. Oh, and one other thing - Columbo moment. I did know exactly what those buttons and dials did, but my photos are still not good enough. In fact, I reckon that cost associated with releasing the shutter in pre-digital times forced you to think more before you pressed the button. These days it is fire and forget. I only switched over about 3 years ago, but I am still not as good as I was ten years ago, which is highly depressing given how often I depress the shutter button.

  5. Right, that was you then? I had a feeling it might be - a birder with kids, known at Rainham, etc. I'll try and ID you before I leave next time and maybe even say hi.

    It's a shame the bird didn't reappear, it's pretty much once in a lifetime for Rainham/London, so "yes, here it is, would you like a look?" would have been a perfect answer!

  6. I like to think my photos are part of an illustrated story. That's my excuse for having the world's worst bird photos.

    Anyone have any tips on getting dust out of a camera?

  7. I notice the same thing on mom blogs. Lots of people doing a sideline in family photography these days. Some are good, some ... not so much.

    Perhaps the increased ease of post-processing also encourages mediocre photographers.

    That said, I don't mind seeing lots more photography all around, except when people start trying to sell the undeserving stuff. Of course even the good photographers should be giving the birds the necessary room...

  8. I've got some photos I'm proud of, but I'm under no illusions as to where they stand in the grand scheme of things.
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