Photographers – Let’s Clean it Up!

Call out photography industryI am disappointed.

I am disappointed in the photography industry.

I entered this field of work 17 years ago, and hopped in and out of it up until I went full time in 2003, opening a studio. It was a great time being the only “visible” newborn photographer around. Over the years, blah blah blah… you know the drill… devalue and 10,000 locally who claim to be photographers that are not legal business entities, not charging enough to even make minimum wage, and not holding insurance policies or paying taxes.

But that’s not what I consider as much the main problem anymore…. No, the problem goes deeper. Let’s get to the root of things.  Currently, there are probably 10,000 photographers teaching or “leading” 90,000 new photographers by developing these online personas that many times are not reality and are well.  Dishonest.  And folks, omission is still dishonesty.

The national PPA and WPPI are not necessarily checking the credentials, experience, or background of their speakers.  Are they?  They can’t be, can they? I don’t know for sure, but why do I ask?  Here’s why.   When a MASTER CLASS speaker announces to her audience publicly on Facebook that she has never shot in RAW and doesn’t know how.  If she chose to shoot JPEG over RAW because that’s what she wants to do based on knowledge, education, or experience, that is different – but to ask those she is supposed to teach how to do so? and a master class?  Umm. What just happened?  How does this happen?

We look to our organizations to set a standard – an ethical and professional standard – and we assume that those who are put in teaching positions are free of inexperience, and things like plagiarism, and we expect honesty from these “leaders”.

Honesty. That’s a trip. I sat down with my cup of coffee recently and watched two industry “leaders” do an online interview where when asked by the audience how many weddings they have scheduled this coming year, they stated that they cannot tell the number of weddings because their clients are so famous/VIP that they signed agreements to where they were not allowed to talk about the weddings. Umm. Am I the only one that looks at my computer screen and says “bullcrap!” out loud?  No?  Yes?  No one asked for names. They simply asked for number of clients on the books this year just to gain some perspective.


Why do I bring this up? I started journaling months ago. Some of you may have seen those journal entries. Some wanted to say they were negative, and others understood them, and felt a comradery. I personally just put my thoughts and experience out there. You know what it did for me? It helped me to focus, and focus well.

Out of that, I completed my book.  Back to the Drawing Board – The Lost Art of Getting Great Images in Camera. I’m really growing weary of the fake it til you make it attitude that is underlying this industry wherever I turn. Why fake it? Why not just DO IT! Do it right from the beginning! It pays off in the end.  I believe in this book.  I believe in everything inside of it, and I stand behind it in full.  Do it right as an artist.

Focus? Yes. I gained focus.

I could sit here and tell you this —

  • I still shoot 200 portrait clients per year, and every client spends $3,000. I shoot, on average, 15 weddings per year, and each of them are $10,000 weddings. I’m busier than ever. I already have 42 clients on the books for the first three months of this year, many of which you will never see on my blog or website because I have signed contracts, they are too famous to post.  And you too can be this successful and live the dream!

For a second there, did you believe me? Not a bit of that is the truth, but I could pretend it is, and I could stand behind it, and say it 100 times online until I believed it myself.

Here’s the truth, and I beg every one of these leaders to start telling the truth, but oh, you may lose fans… that’s a shame. Well I, for one, wouldn’t be happy with myself if I’m not honest. If that makes me lose fans? So be it. – Here’s my truth.

  • I’m happy to shoot 50 or so clients per year at this point. I’m scaled back. I closed up my brick and mortar studio and now operate out of a dedicated studio space in my residence or on location. I have found I am happier with my work than ever. I’m also happier with my clients – every single one of them that I book value and appreciate art and find it is worth paying for something that is special and not the same as everything else. Many are artists themselves. I appreciate EVERY . ONE . OF . THEM. Because I’ve scaled back and only take a select amount of clients, I’ve had more time to cook dinners for my family, and more time to create better photography. I’m much happier. Yes, maybe my bills aren’t as quickly paid off as they once were, but I’m happy.

This year is all about going Back to the Drawing Board. I’ve complained about this industry. How dare I complain if I am not willing to help try to solve this problem?

I’m going to dig up the roots. I’m rejoining my local PPA (I chose local first as I want to start helping my local area where I can before anything else). I want to see change. I want to see standards and ethics high up there. I have no problem calling it as I see it. We need to clean up this industry and take a stand against all the BS floating around out there. New photographers everywhere need real true professionals for inspiration. We need honesty. We need integrity. We need ethics. We need professionalism.  Is simply telling the truth so hard to do?

Maybe we need our own Catfish? You think I’m joking? I’m not. Wouldn’t it be nice for some of these rockstars to have the fear that someone is going to pull public records or show up at their studio to make sure that what they say is true?

I’m putting out this call to every one of you that are sick and tired of what you are seeing. Stand with me. Start by joining groups on your local level. Find out how things run and offer to help educate anywhere and everywhere you can.  Write to PPA, WPPI – anything.  Start by just doing something.   Why are we all allowing this BS to continue to run rampant in our industry? Let’s stop letting our egos argue with each other – that’s half the reason we can’t stand together and get rid of this stuff.  WE, the photographers, have the power to clean up this industry by just being honest, being real, offer to help, try to participate, not just sit back and complain…get involved…. if we all stand together and just not put up with this anymore. Can’t we do that?


About Jodie Otte

Maryland Newborn Photographer and Child Portrait Artist, Jodie Holstein-Otte, specializes in unique photography of newborn babies, kids, and families. She works on location in Harford, Howard, Cecil, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and other areas throughout Maryland. She uses both both natural lighting and soft studio lighting techniques.

Leave a Reply