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March 2, 2010
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The luxury of the non-professional photographer - The ability to share knowledge

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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 How To Brighten Uneven Tones by night-fate 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:

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

Instructables
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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:iconmissumlaut:
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.
Reply
:iconmysterioussoulstorm:
mysterioussoulstorm Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010   Digital Artist
you're right 10x for the advice.you encouraged me really :)
greetings from bulgaria
Reply
:iconwhizcuz:
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.
Reply
:iconvtoriia:
VtoriiA Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2010  Student Photographer
The world needs more people like you :)
Thanks Jean
Reply
:iconxblackxbloodxcellx:
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. :)
Reply
:iconnataliebrooke:
nataliebrooke Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2010
YOU'RE AWESOME!!
Reply
:iconphotographypool:
PhotographyPool Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2010
Very nice article, I couldn't agree more. Non professionals need more exposure!
Reply
:iconnvldai:
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...
Reply
:iconclairclairsky:
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~
Reply
:iconvenkatkothwal235:
venkatkothwal235 Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2010
Hi your massage is very valeable. thanks
Reply
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