Why photographers fail

Jul 9, 2017

Don Giannatti

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Why photographers fail

Jul 9, 2017

Don Giannatti

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Join the Discussion

Share on:

Recently there has been a spate of very sad, and ultimately defeatist articles decrying the “death of photography”. We have no shortage of examples. Seriously.

In all their pain and detailed examples of how the art and business of photography have been “ruined” (their words), I can find little to no examples of the basic, most important reason that photographers are falling behind.

And that is;

Photographers are wildly devotedly, happily, and ecstatically in LOVE with the processes of photography. Like any devoted partner, they see the relationship as sacrosanct and the most important in their lives.

And they are totally 100% wrong to be so. At least wrong in the exclusion of understanding what it means to love the process without acknowledging it’s personal nature.

Photography is a process, plain and simple. Romanticizing it makes it more difficult to change, to adapt to new rules, and to find solutions that are not instantly visible.

While they are deeply committed to and in love with the process of photography, their clients are simply… not.

We call that a disconnect.

And a shame.

Let me give some examples.

1. The often repeated mantra of “everyone is a photographer now” followed by a dramatic, and heavy sigh meant to make us feel the pain of these words.

What they are saying is that at one time, photography was a devoted mistress only available for the chosen few who took the time to court her with roses and champagne and hours and hours of practice. Now they feel betrayed because making a photograph does not require that long, tedious process. And it breaks their heart.

But, you see – clients are not interested in that relationship. They require images that speak to their customers. Whether or not they were created by someone who has 25 years of experience, or a teenage girl in the suburbs… if it sells their stuff, they are totally happy. And they should be.

2. The obsessive nature of Gear Acquisition.

Photographers are simply in love with this facet of the business. They LOVE their gear. We see “unboxing” videos, and tribes of shooters devoted to one manufacturer or another. Tee-shirts proclaim an undying love for a specific brand while sponsors build more and more loyalty by infusing the gear acquisition with an almost mystical attachment.

In fact, gear based websites, blog posts, tweets, and FB postings far, FAR, exceed posts on the images created. A blog that discusses mirrorless cameras will draw far more photographers than one that discusses the aesthetics of a brand photography. It’s like photographers are in love with the technology while being flummoxed and confused by the end use of the product.

I must note, that clients do not share this obsession. They are focused on the images produced, and the viability of those images to help them be more successful, not whether the camera has a mirror or sports the fastest autofocus on the market.

3. Fear and loathing of anyone who didn’t “come up through the ranks” – or whatever you would call it.

Recently a young photographer whose father is a professional athlete got hired to do some photography for a major brand. You would have thought he had been tried as a mass murderer. Social media exploded with photographers from every genre decrying this abhorrent behavior on the part of clients! How could they have hired this upstart, this beginner, this homewrecker?

While so many in the photography industry were outraged because of the brazen move, the client was enjoying increased visibility of their product due to the incredible outreach of the photographer.

And they were right to be.

4. The anger at and derision of the beginner.

This is an almost classic case of jealousy. The photographer finds their relationship to photography threatened by anyone coming into the profession that may cause them pain. It is a tacit admission that photography, and indeed any arts-related profession, is a cruel and difficult partner, and they are deeply committed to that one-sided relationship.

Clients have no interest in whether one is a beginner or a grizzled old practitioner. If the images work, the clients are happy. Period.

5. The constant articles, posts, and memes of professional posturing. Whether it be a Facebook meme reminding people why a professional photographer is expensive, or a plaintive discussion of how changes in the business have affected photographers in sports, photojournalism, and consumer work, the focus is always on the photographer – the process – and rarely on the fact that client needs have changed. Drastically in some industries.

Clients, whether they are consumers looking for a family photograph or a brand looking to increase their visibility in the 16 – 20-year-old female market, the only thing that matters to them is how successful the image will be.

If you are a consumer shooter and are pissed off that some neighbor with no experience has been cutting into your market, you will have to face the fact that the neighbor’s images are PREFERRED over yours. I agencies are hiring Instagrammers to help develop their brand imagery, and you are no longer being hired buying a new camera, with a gazillion megapixels will not help you.

The client only cares about the image, and how that image works for them

Photographers are in love with all things “photography”.

Clients are in love with images that sell their stuff and couldn’t care less about “photography” and the mystique and magic photographers are so desperately enamored of.

This huge disconnect is creating a sense of loss for photographers instead of opportunity.


All around us. Photographers creating images that brands love. Photographers embracing new ways of communication (think Vine, Instagram, Snapchat) are finding clients that are interested because their customers are interested.

And their customers are even less interested in the romance of photography than your clients are.

They. Don’t. Care.

Sadly, for photographers, they never will.

So stop being in love with the process. Stop romanticizing “photography” and be more interested in the needs of the clients, and how they use the images they are commissioning. Stop being fearful of the changes going on all around us in the world of image creation, and embrace the awesome opportunities for image development and client engagement.

This may be the most confusing time ever to be a photographer, but it may also be the time of most opportunity.


To anyone who thinks I may be saying we shouldn’t care about photography, I want you to know that is absolutely NOT what I am saying. Of course we must care about what it is we do… but we must be careful not to romanticize it beyond its own capabilities.

Photography is technology. Technology changes, adapts, and emerges as something different at almost a maddening pace.

It also destroys as it changes. Not malevolently, but simply as its nature is to constantly be evolving.

About the Author

Don Giannatti is a photographer and author based in Phoenix, Arizona. He runs Lighting Essentials, one of the best resources out there for photographers. You can visit his website here and his online portfolio here.

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!


We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

12 responses to “Why photographers fail”

  1. Alexandre Bettencourt Avatar
    Alexandre Bettencourt

    I agree. This occurs not only in photography, but in different consumer-oriented arts such as music. A musician will go as far as denigrate other musicians, because their instrument is not being played as how the former see fit. The casual or even die-hard concert goer simply doesnt’t care about technique or other BS, as long as they’re having fun and getting their money’s worth. Same is true for photography. Artists can become very posessive, competitive and even feel entitled to a degree. But wether that art is being produced for one self or for others, there’s no point in infighting, it serves no one other than whoever started the fight. If you’re doing it for yourself, enjoy it. You’ll have no one to answer to. And if you’re doing it for a customer, try to meet his/her expectations. If you can’t, look for another gig or another client, because their bottom line is certainly not yours.

    1. Donald Giannatti Avatar
      Donald Giannatti


  2. Chris Hutcheson Avatar
    Chris Hutcheson

    Great post. Pretty relevant, actually, for a lot of different types of work.

    1. Donald Giannatti Avatar
      Donald Giannatti

      Thanks, and yes it is.

  3. Andrew Sharpe Avatar
    Andrew Sharpe

    You say, “customers… Don’t. Care.” And you’re right. But it’s a lot more than “customers”. It is simply “viewers”. Nobody, except for a handful of photographers, care how much work went into an image: how you hung by your toenails upside down, or waited for hours getting bitten by 500 bugs, or went back to the same location for 4 months before you got your photograph. Really, only the image counts. No amount of words describing your herculean efforts is going to improve an image. And your 1st point, about “everyone is a photographer now” is about as old as photography; look up the comments when the Kodak Brownie first arrived.

    1. Donald Giannatti Avatar
      Donald Giannatti

      Yes, I have witnessed the death of photography for decades… meters in cameras, auto exposure, auto focus, digital… all designed to make ‘everybody’ a photographer.

      And yet here we all are.

  4. Joel Wood Avatar
    Joel Wood

    “The casual or even die-hard concert goer simply doesnt’t care about technique or other BS, as long as they’re having fun and getting their money’s worth.”
    Obviously you’ve never been to Rush show.

    Clients have always tried to lowball photographers. It’s more prevalent/known now because of the advancement of DSLRs (anyone can take a decent pic now), and the internet (easier to bitch about clients).
    Digital cameras have empowered the client’s arguement of “you just have to press a button”, so yeah, it’s harder to get paid.

    The article makes a good point of client’s not caring about education, experience, technique. I’d take it one step further and say some client’s don’t care about results. Portraits, real estate, etc, just want something “to throw on the ‘net”.

    Remember “speed, quality, creativity: pick two”? Now it’s “pick one”.

    1. Donald Giannatti Avatar
      Donald Giannatti

      The challenge is to find the clients who DO care.
      They are out there, and actually more plentiful than most of us think.
      The problem is that there are so many MORE small time clients that the noise they create begins to wash out the good clients.

  5. Dunja0712 Avatar

    Very well-written article, and straight to the point. Fantastic read!

    1. Donald Giannatti Avatar
      Donald Giannatti


  6. Luc Andre Paquette Avatar
    Luc Andre Paquette

    This writter/photographer looking at his portfolio has about 2-3 years of photography experience…. I hope but it is an interesting point of view… and yes most people don’t care about photography and what goes behind…. and frank-fully it shows in their taste as well.

    1. Donald Giannatti Avatar
      Donald Giannatti

      You missed the portfolio from the 80’s.
      Been a photographer for nearly 40 years.
      But thanks for reading.