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The luxury of the non-professional photographer - The ability to share knowledge


Let me say first for those who are too lazy to read through my entire wordy rant that this article is to encourage non-professional photographers to make tutorials and share with others the photographic knowledge that we have acquired through our experience and experimentation.


I do not consider knowledge itself to be considered a luxury. Or do I consider the ability to attain knowledge to be a luxury. I see both of these as simple fundamental rights of man; to go forth and educate himself in the pursuit of knowledge. However, I do consider the ability to openly share knowledge as a luxury but a luxury not for the masses but for the individual holding the knowledge. Allow me to explain why.

Let us use as our example what is most relevant to this art site and what I am most artistically familiar with: Photography. I am by no means a professional photographer. By professional photography I mean that my main income does not rely on photographic services and such. And as a non-professional photography, I consider myself to possess the luxury that is the ability to share all my knowledge relating to photography without restraint.

Of course one can argue that professional photographers share their knowledge relating to photography as well. Professional photographers hold workshops for the sole purpose of sharing their knowledge but generally for a price. For the sole purpose of distinction, I will refer to the sharing of knowledge with a price tag as simply the commercialization of knowledge.

Awhile ago I stumbled across one professional photographer who had a resources section on his website. I planned on reorganizing the resources section of my personal website so I of course wanted to see how he had organized his. While the professional photographer's resource section was conveniently organized, something about it was odd. How to set up for this type of lighting - $29.99. How to set up for that type of photography - $59.99. Photoshop actions - $19.99. GIMP scripts - $9.99. Just pages and pages of hoarded and commercialized knowledge.

By no means do I claim that all professional photographers attempt to hoard knowledge. I've ran into my fair share of non-professional photographers who, when asked how they achieved a certain effect, simple say that "it's a secret." By no means do I claim that all professional photographers attempt to commercialize knowledge. But I do see a lot more professional photographers than non-professional photographers attempting to commercialize on whatever photographic techniques they've learned.

And yet by no means do I or can I criticize professional photographers for doing this. Since photography is their livelihood, shouldn't they be entitled to profit from whatever efforts they have put into their photography? Time on the job is money. So their time dealing with photography is money. If they were to just hand out their lighting setups free of charge, they'd essentially be losing money and financially handicapping themselves and their families. So I could either spend days learning about lighting on my own through experimentation, getting ever closer to the lighting effect achieved by the professional photographer or I could pay the $29.99 for the professional photographer's lighting setup. Thus the ultimate choice lies with me and my evaluation of the worth of my time and the professional photographer's time.

In contrast, as a non-professional photographer, photography is not my livelihood; it's just a hobby. My time dealing with photography is essentially free of commercial incentives. If I were to just hand out my lighting setups free of charge, I'd first and foremost be saving someone else time so that they don't have to figure it out themselves through experimentation. I'd lose no money since I would not be profiting significantly from such things anyway. All I would lose is perhaps the selfish and egotistical assumption that I am the exclusive possessor of such knowledge, which in my opinion is an insignificant personal lose for a comparably larger communal gain. Thus I, as a non-professional photographer, hold the luxury that is the ability to share whatever knowledge I may have concerning my hobby.

So to all those non-professional, amateur, hobbiest photographers out there: The luxury that is the ability to share knowledge is yours. Use it. Apply it. Make the best out of it.  


Here are some lovely photography tutorials found on dA:
WaterDroplet Tutorial by onixa Tutorial: Wildlife Editing by DeniseSoden Sharpen images without halos by skurvash Set Up 3 - Maternity by cosfrog 5 Ways To Make Black and White by Zanarky :thumb141668264: JPG to HDR -- Tutorial by crazinessisay Improve Sky in Sunset Photos by hquer
And much more in the photography resources/tutorials section.

And more links to other sites dedicating to sharing photographic knowledge:

o diy create your own bokeh
o portable affordable reflector
o turkey pan beauty dish

o How to make a fish eye lens for a Nikon D90
o Studiolight with softbox on a Tripod
o Macro Tilt Lens
o Plus much more artisan crafts and non-photography related projects

My site JFotography
o How to set up for bubbly photos
o How to take self portraits
o How to give your photos a warm vintage feel


I shall conclude with the disclaimer that I would generally post such an opinionated rant as a personal journal. But I felt this to be something very important to me and perhaps even important in general, so I will attempt to say it to a broader audience. I do not expect everyone to agree with me. I encourage you to disagree with me and provide personal accounts of counterexamples. I've spoken mainly about photography simply because I do not know as much about other art forms and art industries so please share your experiences and opinions if you do happen to know about other art forms and art industries. But know that I am entitled to my opinions/conjectures, perspectives/prejudices and I will do the same for you.  

PS: This article was actually inspired by a coworker who didn't want to present her research at an international computational sciences convention for fear that someone would take her idea prior to its publication. While the analogy between research and photography does not completely hold, there are some striking similarities. As an aspiring (professional) research, I am aware of the self induced pressures to hoard certain knowledge and details pertaining to my research.
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MissUmlaut Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2010   Photographer
Not all professionnal are unwilling to share their knowledge for free. Mostly it is the lack of time, but I have meet very generous people. The more exeptionnal was a great professionnal that offered me a week of stage, just for me, just for the subjects I wanted to explore ( paintings photography and use of chamber camera with tilt and shift). He is the most kind man and very knowlegeable (well, he was R&D head of Kodak film products in France)
and also an artist. The fact is, his career was done, he had time to give to his love of photography and others.
Many professionnal photographers are in the struggle of surviving.
The other thing is ; not all amateur have the hack of teaching / explaining what they know !
I am always willing to share my tips and tricks, but I usually do it when asked about.
mysterioussoulstorm Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010   Digital Artist
you're right 10x for the encouraged me really :)
greetings from bulgaria
whizcuz Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2010  Student Photographer
I found this journal interesting. Thank you for sharing; I couldn't have done it better myself.
VtoriiA Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2010  Student Photographer
The world needs more people like you :)
Thanks Jean
xblackxbloodxcellx Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2010
Great article! I agree with you more or less on each point.
I've got a friend who is an artist in all definitions of this word and it's his way of living. But even though he takes profit from what he does, or makes, he's the good, generous person, who's always ahppy to share a bit of his fantastic knowledge with others. ^^ So I guess it just depends on the person's mentality - if you're a generous person, you'll share what you've learned for free, but when you've always been at least slightly egocentrical, or a tad too provident, you'll ty to make money of your knowledge.
That's at least what I think. :)
nataliebrooke Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2010
PhotographyPool Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2010
Very nice article, I couldn't agree more. Non professionals need more exposure!
NvLdai Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2010   General Artist
^^ u r so kind.. Nice message.. :clap: I got photography lesson for 1 semester.. I really only got lil bit knowledge of photography.. but i kind of luv it.. I'm still exploring now..
I would like to try ur bubbly tutorial but still lack of some materials.. hope i can try it soon n share u my result..
Thanks all for sharing links...
ClairClairSky Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm taking a pohotography class in school~

We're learning about still life and Irving Penn right now~
venkatkothwal235 Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2010
Hi your massage is very valeable. thanks
knotty02 Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010   General Artist
Wow I loved it :) :heart:
punkyitz Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
:bulletred:What a well-worded wordy rant
Saphirre Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010  Professional Photographer
First may I say, wonderful article. I am so "on the fence" with this subject, and it's nice to hear a voice speaking up for those who want to learn.

I am by no means professional yet, but I am attending college for a degree in photography so I may reach my dream of being a quality, professional photographer. That said, I am paying A LOT of money for my education just to go into a field that is SUPER competitive for jobs. Should I get paid to pass along the information I am paying highly to get? Should I be offering my knowledge to people I could someday have to compete with for a job? And should either of these questions matter, shouldn't the quality of my work prove to get me the career I crave for? These are questions I go back and forth on. And yet I love that there is information out there for all photographers, amateur or not!

So I guess that's just a little argument against free knowledge. It hurts those of us who are paying for an education in fields such as this. I guess I feel that in a small way, it is diminishing the worth of my degree. :shrug:

What do you think?
JeanFan Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
I personally don't think you have to worry.

I suppose we can try looking at the subject with another perspective: say from a mathematician's perspective. I'm paying a lot of money to learn math. Should I be teaching other people the math info that I'm paying highly to get? I'd say to that: sure why not. Why? Because simply knowing a few math theorems doesn't mean you can apply them or even understand them. Analogous statements I believe can be made about photography.

Specialization works for a reason. No one can be really really good at everything. But people can be really really good at a few things. Free information allow everyone to be decent at a lot of things but when the time comes, we will still look towards someone who has specialized in the task, someone who is really really good at that task.

A big advantage that you as an aspiring professional photographer have that non-professional photographers don't is time. I spend maybe an hour a week now on photography. Someone in the field spends every day on it. Especially since you are taking classes, information is delivered to you in compact formats such that you learn much more than I do from experimentation and reading in the same amount of time.

As far as whether you may be offering knowledge to people you could someday have to compete with for a job? I think if a person likes photography enough to go out and read tutorials and learn photography and such, there's probably no realistic way for you to single handedly sway his future job choice in one way or another :XD:
H-Abbas Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010
Thank you for posting this article. I absolutely agree with what you said and I onced Noted you and acknowledged your openness to share your knowledge and experimentation with others. Whoever is sharing such knowledge, like yourself, is actually putting so much time into it in order to organize it and write ti clearly for amateurs, like myself, to learn and lean upon. I think this is awesome.
As for a comment on the last line of your journal (the research section): I am a professional researcher too and I can tell you what my boss, who is a renowned scientist always tells me: "There are tons of ideas in the field.. no one will steal yours". And I totally believed in that. Actually, talking openly about my project infront of scientists in national and international meetings led to spectacular collaborations and support from other labs with the expertise that I needed. Research and knowledge belong to the public AND should be shared no matter what, free of charge. One thing I highly appreciate about NIH and NCI is that they generally allow you to access any dataset of any clinical trial that you'd like to know about. Well mayeb this is technical as their money is tax money and belong to the public. Regardless, knowledge should be shared. You do not only tell other people about thigns that might help and advance their career/hobby but you will also feel better about yourself, and who knows, maybe benefit from unexpected collaboratiosn, as happened in my case at various levels.
So again ,thank you for this article and for consistently sharing yoru knowledge (I tried one of your tricks [link] and it failed drastically because I half-assed it: ) but having in mind to try again.. it is my fault, not yours :). Been a while since I've taken picturse.. but when i go back to takign pictures will try that again)!!
JeanFan Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
If I may say so respectfully, I disagree with your boss in his statement that there are tons of ideas in the field and that no one will steal yours. The most striking aspect of any nation or internation conference is that no matter what you're researching, someone else in the world has had the same idea. So I would probably rephrase his statement into "There are tons of ideas in the field and tons of minds to think of them. If someone has the same idea as you, most likely they didn't steal it" :lol:

But my last statement concerns less about ideas and more about the execution of ideas. I do believe execution of ideas to be fairly unique especially in the field of computer science. For example Aaron Clauset, CristopherMoore and M. E. J. Newman developed an absolutely brilliant method of building hierarchical structure to predict missing links in networks. The idea of using hierarchical structures to predict missing links in networks (say which terrorist is secretly correct to whom) is nothing new. But the execution was new and unique and that's why, although the project was a theoretical project, it was published in Nature May 2008, Vol453.

Talking openly about the execution of your ideas in front of other scientists in an intelligent manner is the difference between stirring up interest or engaging in an intellectual conversation and losing a publication or recognition.

I do believe that conclusions or products of scientific research and should belong to the public. However, the process by which I've reached that conlusion or product shouldn't always be readily available especially prior to publication or patenting, etc. Or to put this in computer science terms: I will give you an interface or maybe even a class to extend, but I won't give you my entire program ;)

Ah sorry I'm not making sense. It's very late here. :XD:
H-Abbas Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010
First my boss is a she :).
In genetics, when you generally present data at a meeting, it is usually a collection of few years of work which include, but not limited to, engineering a new mouse model. This process takes at least 1-2 years to develop. Hence, if you present your work/idea in progress to other scientists, even if you had someone who will take the idea and try it, that person/lab will be 2 years behind anyhow. Hence, my publication will go first no matter what, unless I decide to slack actually :). Of course in biology, sometimes you do things on readily available systems, such as cell lines, and other people cna try these ideas. I would definitely feel cautious if my work involves such readily available material that anyone with expertise and an army of postdocs will jump on and execute before me.It is not about beeing foolishly open. I can sincerely tell you that the best time I have in research is during our lab meetings and hsaring of ideas. It is just so amazing how brainstorming can stimulate collaborative work.
As for the study you referred to, I actually just read some comments on it. I will quote one which might re-state what you mentioned : "In many cases, the new method was more reliable in reconstructing the true network structure than were other commonly used algorithms." this is from the same issue of that article.
You are making sense. So do not worry :). I feel am in the wrong forum tonight...
Oh and by the way, the sets of linking data computationally has put the biological field quite behind (in my opinion, which many disagree with). The invention of these high-throughput data systems (microarrays, ChIP-Seq) and alld this crap made us know TOO MUCH that we don't know where to focus... at least in the war against cancer. We indeed need better networking/linking computational analysis to collectively network data together for better assesment of the literature and what we know/don't know.
JeanFan Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
I suppose it does depend a lot of the area of research. No one would blame a biomedical engineer for not wanting to share the schematic of his new invention prior to patenting at a conference. But even that engineer would have to/can share ideas and collaborate in certain environments like lab meetings with people he knows.
TE2YA Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010
wow, you do great tutorials.
i am very impressed.
and thank you for the link to others too.
i love people who share their tip and tricks, so i am making by myself too.
here is mine.

Lighting and Exposure

How to take animated photographs

Some Trick Shot Study

How to use board to control shadows

now i am writing about
How to take WATER WAVE photograph
for my next journal
if you are interested, please check some out.
JeanFan Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
Wow cool :highfive: amazing work
kitamba Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010
you are one of a kind:heart:
KobraPhotography Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
Very well said! :thumbsup::nod:

Feel free to check out my tutorials :D
JeanFan Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
SensoryCore Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010  Professional Photographer
Thanks for the information.
JGDA9RS Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010
great read. we're lucky to have such luxuries nowadays. i always wondered where the greats learned back in the days of WWII. a lot of them seem to have gone to Paris to learn photography, or somewhere far and expensive.
fauxonym7 Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
hear hear!
Lyubena Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010
Great article. Made me smile and inspired me to think of new way to take my pictures!
I like the introduction so much: "photographic knowledge that we have acquired through our experience and experimentation." - what is better than sharing such a special thinks like experimentation, personal observation and vision of life!

Thank you!
ucilkampar Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010
:D i love you more everyday! :D wahahahahahahaha (oops.. keep this a secret from my gf..) =P
lusete Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2010  Professional Interface Designer
Thank you for this. I have been saving up and buying all the bits I need for a small home studio. I want to start taking stock photos for artists to use and have two willing models (in the shape of my 2 daughters).

Thanks for the tutorials.

iCandyiBear Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
wow O.O
you truly are an inspiration. ^u^ Thanks for the awesome tutorials! :nerd: hahah I just really wanted to do that intercom face XD
ShyamDeFloreal Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2010
Well said that's why I've started my own little collection of informative tuts that I'm posting on my journal :)
syncopatedrhythms Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2010   Photographer
amazing. you truly are an inspiration to others :)
phantommask Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
thanks a lot for encouraging.
SelfPowered Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
I went to a paid seminar on lighting once, I have absolutely no regrets, the instruction was entertaining and informative. It's interesting though that the single best piece of advice that the photographer hosting the event had to give was: "Play around and find out what works for you"

It's all the fiddling and experimentation on the way that is truly beneficial in the long run, and it's funny that you don't realise how much you've learnt until you start to explain something to someone else.
auroille Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2010  Student Photographer
well said!
AprilEchidna Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2010
As someone moving into a more serious approach to my completely non professional photography, I really enjoyed this article. Well said!
xenia-u Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you for encouraging! This made me feel better
kpoprules Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2010
Your so cool :D
Adimo-Rosa Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2010  Professional Interface Designer
I very much admire your complete way of being. I am also a non-professional semi-photographer, and as such I've admired the works and efforts in a broad range pf photographies since long ago.
Of course, as a person with ideas in mind and the interest of searching and exploring new things I've come across knowledge of other photographers that I wish to learn, and many of them charge for it. I think similarly to you. It is some kind of luxury which is always nice and appreciated when shared. :heart:
jaffacakesandpopcorn Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2010
Well said :D

I did watch a tv program recently about a couple that had set up a photographic studio business that had, according to them, failed because of the digital camera revolution and the amount of people that now posess these very capable cameras, making their services almost obsolete as a profitable business. How true this is i dont know, they may have just been useless lol but i guess if it were true then professionals would be trying to make money anyway they can, just to pay the bills.

I personally think you are very generous in taking the time to write your tutorials to help others and make photography a more enjoyable and easily accessible hobby for people like me, who by my own admission am a complete noob! so thankyou! :glomp:
JeanFan Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
Well I still believe professional photographic studios have a lot to offer and can be a profitable business with some talent and a lot of good marketing techniques :XD:

Haha no problem :hug: I'm sure you have a lot to offer in terms of photographic knowledge :D There's always someone n00bier :nerd:
jaffacakesandpopcorn Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2010
haha! youre right actually i gave some advice to someone on here last night, regarding their new camera as it was similar to my new one, but most of my advice was to look at the excellent basic Nokia tutorials on youtube and to try different things/settings/angles/light and to take as many pics as possible :D But i was happy to help as we all start of in life as :nerd: <- that propeller needs to speed up or hes going to fall over :rofl: :D
JeanFan Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer

Yup. Never underestimate how much you have to offer. :nod: (But I suppose at the same time, never overestimate how much you know :XD: )
jaffacakesandpopcorn Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010
:highfive: lol yeah i could give bad advice all day long hahaaaaa! like ..rule number one.. always leave your lense cap ON :rofl:
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