Everyone has a camera these days.
Everyone, therefore, calls themselves a photographer.
I think it’s awesome photography has become so popular.
But … there are a lot of problems in the photography world. (!!!!)
Some of those problems are downright dangerous.
(I’m sure you’ve read news stories of photographers being killed while taking photos on train tracks, etc.)
A few years ago I met a woman, about 30 years old, who told me about her love for photography.
She was (and still is) very much a “fan” of my work.
Her photos weren’t very good when we first met, but she was eager to learn.
I encouraged her to keep at it, to follow her passion, and most of all, to have fun.
Over the last several years, I’ve watched her abilities (and photographic results) improve.
It’s made me happy to be on the sidelines watching her growth.
I’ve tried to encourage her when we’ve had contact.
I’ve truly enjoyed seeing her learn and begin turning out nicer images.
This woman has a full time job and family.
She doesn’t shoot often – maybe only a couple hours each month.
About a year ago, I noticed she was becoming cocky and arrogant.
I saw social media posts where she bragged about being a photographer … acting as if she were a professional instead of the hobbyist she is.
OK, let’s be honest, you might have thought she was an *award winning* professional from all of her bragging.
I watched, and read her posts, in silence.
I even read a not-so-subtle jab she wrote about me as her opinion of herself grew.
And then, I got an email.
She was “devastated.”
She had gone to the beach to shoot some photos.
She put her camera bag “far enough away from the water to be safe” and began taking photos.
A few minutes later, her bag and her two best lenses were swept away – along with her wallet, her phone, her keys, etc.
She hadn’t realized it was high tide.
She told me it had taken her “forever” to save for the lenses and it would take “years” to recover, financially, from the loss.
Of course, I feel bad for her.
Am I surprised by what happened?
No, not at all.
Three things struck me immediately.
You will never catch a professional landscape/seascape photographer shooting near the ocean without full knowledge of the tide and current situation for that day and time.
I check tide and sea conditions before I pack my gear, again when I arrive at my destination, and oftentimes again while I’m shooting.
Rogue waves can (and DO) happen ….
But, you will never, ever, EVER see me surprised by high tide or the daily ocean conditions.
Preparation is vital for any type of professional photographer.
(If I was shooting on train tracks you can be damn sure I’d know the train schedule!)
[P.S. Please don’t ever take photos on train tracks!!]
Second, professional photographers always (always, always!!) have their gear insured.
If I drop a $3,000 lens against ocean rocks, you’ll hear me swear.
You won’t see me cry.
My gear is insured and it can be replaced.
You can’t afford a lens unless you can also afford to pay to have it insured.
It’s as simple as that.
Camera gear is frequently stolen.
It also breaks.
And, accidents happen.
Insurance is a must unless you can afford (and are willing) to replace your gear at a moment’s notice.
Third, you are legally responsible for any damage you do while out shooting.
So, you think you’re a pretty good photographer and you decide you want to give lessons to a few friends?
You charge them a few bucks each and head out to do some shooting.
And then, there’s some type of accident …
Someone gets hurt.
Or, someone in your group accidentally damages something.
The next thing you know, you’re getting your ass sued and you have legal costs you never dreamed of.
Do you have an extra $60,000 sitting around to pay a lawyer?
Are you completely surprised to find out you could lose your home and/or all your personal possessions if it’s a big lawsuit?
Being a photographer brings on all sorts of liability issues and you damn well better know what they are.
That’s why professional photographers protect their homes and personal possessions, legally, by being incorporated.
(Legal terms for this vary depending on the state you live in. For me, I’m an “LLC.” I am not an attorney, so please contact an actual lawyer if you need clarity on this!)
Again, I am sorry for the loss my acquaintance incurred.
At the same time, perhaps it’s an opportunity others can learn from ….