RESPONSE: Damien Franco's "Top 10 Signs of a Bad Photographer"

June 22, 2011

This is in response to this article: TOP 10 SIGNS OF A BAD PHOTOGRAPHER

I don’t get bothered by anything. Least of all anything on the internet. Hell… I saw the title of post and was sure we were in for a raucous, tongue-in-cheek, Letterman-style countdown poking fun at everyone one of us who picks up a camera. I love those sorts of things.

Sadly… what actually existed is a arrogant, snarky, article rife with superiority by a guy with 30,000+ twitter followers who seems to have forgotten where he came from (even though he mentions as much in his intro). In short… it plays more like Peyton Manning showing up to a high-school football stadium with his buddies to laugh and point at the little fat kid just trying to get some exercise. The defense of “can’t you take a joke” I’m sure is coming shortly… any yes, I can… but go back and read it… read it from the point of view of someone who admires your work and your talents and see what it’s like from their our point of view.

More after the jump…

Now… I have read Damien Franco‘s twitter feed for some time. He’s incredibly talented, incredibly insightful and is, according to his own Twitter Bio, “an all around nice guy”. So… perhaps this was just a misguided idea of a joke, but still… I’ve decided, as one of the guys who lacks Mr. Franco’s skill but certainly rivals his passion for the craft, to explain how a “Bad Photographer” like me, continues to shoot, in spite of the fact that I very often violate every point on his list:

(NOTE: These items were NOT written by Mr. Franco. They were sent to him by his twitter followers and he simply picked and ordered the ones that he thought were most hiiiilarious. I am removing the names of the people who sent them in, because… well… none of them took the time to compile the list.)

For some reason, there are two #1’s on the list… unsure why. Maybe I’m missing something.

1a) “Too many to mention- #1 is the “anything goes” mentality– more crap produced in the last 15 years than the previous 100 years Well, that sounds like a solid number 1 to me. And it’s probably true. Maybe it’s because digital photography makes it so easy to capture tons of pics but it’s like nobody slows down anymore. Take your camera off burst mode, look a the scene, think about it, pause, think about it some more, then take a couple of shots and move on. Sure, there are times when you’ve got to take a ton of pics, but come on! I used to shoot weddings with film and when I hear of photographers who do it now and pop out thousands of photos on one wedding it kinda blows my mind. Too much spray and pray and you’re giving yourself away.

RESPONSE: Who cares? Why does it bother you? You know what I want? A nice friggin’ print of my kid at her soccer game to hang on her wall. So… I’m going to shoot a lot of pictures and when I actually get the time to sit down and look at them, weeks later, I will hope I have something nice to print and show her. I look in awe at guys who used to shoot with film and not see what the hell they actually shot until much later. You know who I don’t look in awe at? Guys who point out that fact as a way of trying to make everyone else feel like we lack the chops.

1b) “One who is all bitchy to newbies! If they are good then why should they worry about competition and put others down? This one was hands down my favorite. We all started from somewhere and if you’re not contributing anything positive to the conversation then you’re acting like a bad photographer! Helping newer photographers out instead of putting them down would do wonders for your Karma and build your network as well.

RESPONSE: The fact that this exists in this article is more poignant than anything I could ever write. Mr. Franco’s article could be retitled “I’m being bitchy to newbies”.

2) “Using pop-up flash with telephoto lens in camera green mode:) And hold the camera in a very wrong unimaginable way:D Sure, cameras are really great at doing most of the “work” for you these days, but really? The balance of technical know-how and artistic vision is what makes a good photographer. Besides, if you haven’t learned how to hold your camera properly yet…

RESPONSE: Sometimes… when I push the shutter. The flash pops up. Why? Because sometimes I use the camera in “green” mode. Why? Because sometimes capturing the event in front of you, like my daughter’s birth… or seeing my 90 year old grandmother hold her great-granddaughter is MORE IMPORTANT than proving to the world that I’m a good photographer. And if said grandma or said daughter is far away, and I happen to be using a telephoto lens, and that flash pops up, or you happen to see me shooting in “green mode”. I invite you to laugh all you want. I totally agree that “The balance of technical know-how and artistic vision is what makes a good photographer”… but it seems to me that one of the most dangerous things skilled photographers do is forget to stop, look around, and realize that some of life’s greatest moments are passing them by while they change their ISO setting.

3) “Polarizer on indoors / shoots a whole roll with lens cap on (RF only, of course). Yeah, if you’re going to use a polarizer you should probably know what it’s actually used for. Now, I do have to admit, I’ve taken a random shot here or there with the lens cap on but a whole roll?

RESPONSE: Quick question… how does one learn the true effects of a polarizer without misusing to and seeing how it negatively alters the image? For that matter… how are we ever to learn what do to right, without first doing it wrong… A MILLION FREAKIN’ TIMES!”

4) “Cutting off feet in a family snapshot. We’re photographers not surgeons. ‘Nuff said.

RESPONSE: Guess what… when I go back and examine the photos referenced in #2 above of my grandmother holding her infant great-granddaughter… I don’t give a crap whether or not someone’s feet are in the picture. I want to see the look in their eyes as they connect across 4 generations and inseparable family ties.

5) “the same person in many of their portfolio shots Yep, that’s a sure sign you really haven’t done that many shoots. Go get some more clients and then update your portfolio.

RESPONSE: This one aggravates me more than any of them (except #1b). Go check out my “People” portfolio (click here). You know what you’re going to see? An 8 year old brunette, a 5 year old blond, and a 15 month toddler with overly-chubby cheeks. You know who they are? My daughters. You know why there are a shit-ton of images of them? Because they are always doing something worth taking a picture of. Do I have too many pictures of them in my portfolio? Probably. Do I need to get out and shoot different people? Definitely. But I work 50 hours a week and care for three kids and shoot all I can on the side, when time permits… which is rarely. This, however, in the esteemed opinion of Mr. Franco, makes me…


So I ask… given my time constraints and the obvious inferiority of my portfolio… Ought I give up this hobby that I love so dearly? Apparently… because… again…. I am “Bad” at it.

6) “example: only shoots “polaroids”. Naughty photographer! Wha? You mean I shouldn’t be doing that anymore?

RESPONSE: I have to admit… I don’t really know what the hell this person is talking about. Polaroids specifically? Or “naughty” photos? Well… Polaroids aren’t made anymore, as far as I know… and as far as “naughty” photos. I’ll let Helmut Newton (link is NSFW) speak on my behalf. If his images don’t make your heart race a little… you ain’t living. One of the finest photographers ever in my mind.

7) “someone who doesn’t know what apeture is or what is does let alone how to change it. This goes along with that whole “P does not stand for Professional” argument and could also get classified with “shoots in auto mode“. I got tons of those types of responses.

RESPONSE: To a point… I agree with this. If someone calls themselves a photographer and doesn’t understand at least the basics of aperture, I’d offer them some books to read which might help them better understand it so they can improve. You know what I wouldn’t do? Write a blog post to my 30,000+ followers proclaiming them a “bad photographer”.

8. “When most or all pictures have signs of camera shake. This basically means you don’t understand shutter speed or perhaps it’s relation to focal length. Either way…

RESPONSE: Same as my response above, replacing Aperture with Shutter Speed. Hey… we all gotta start somewhere.

9) “one who says they’ll just “fix it” in lightroom/photoshop later after a bad exposure. and then added “anyone who uses “Photoshop” as a verb. Yep…Photoshop…let the arguments begin!

RESPONSE: I understand Mr. Franco’s line “let the argument begin”… this has been going on for ages. Is the use of Photoshop a “crutch”? Or… is it an art form in and of itself? One can argue both ways I feel, but in the digital darkroom, photoshopping one’s imag… OH NO… I USED PHOTOSHOP AS A VERB. And we all know what that makes me….

10) “Focused more on gear than quality of images. I have nothing to add here. Nailed it!

RESPONSE: I agree 100% with the sentiment of this. But again… c’mon… we all get excited and buy the next big “thing”. I remember I bought an 18% gray card when I first started shooting b/c some blog somewhere listed it as an “essential tool”. I used to use it as a fan to keep myself from sweating on a hot day while shooting in the California sun. We all buy stupid crap. The point I’m making is that I think this can be said better as “Buying the best gear in the world won’t make you a good photographer”. I don’t necessarily think that it makes you a bad photographer.


So… look… If I REALLY thought Damien Franco was a total D-Bag… I wouldn’t care what he thought. But in reality, from what I’ve read of his posts, and seen of his work… he is not. I write this really only half seriously because even if he were to say “Yes, Garrett… I’ve looked at your work and you are a bad photographer”. I’d pick up my camera, and go shoot something, because that’s what I do when I am stressed or irritated. I used to drink… a lot… but I don’t do that any more. Photography has become my new addiction. As of this writing, I have a grand total of 261 Twitter followers. Most of whom are following me, because I followed them. I will never have 30,000+ twitter followers… and that’s okay… because I have 11,000 images of my daughters stored in Lightroom which I can look at whenever I want… and they have no idea whether or not I’m a “bad photographer”… just that I smile when I have a new image of them to add to the collection.

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  1. This!

    Yes, this is exactly what a good blog post does. I love that you put your passions to words and I love that you took the time to post a full response.

    I love that you defended your love of photography, your addiction, whatever you wanna call it.

    BTW – Most of my “people photography” these days is of my kiddos.

    I have done, and still do, many “rookie” mistakes in my photography from time to time. Any photographer who says they don’t is either lying to you or to themselves.

    Thanks for writing this up!

  2. […] Photography & Retouching – Los Angeles & The Santa Clarita Valley « RESPONSE: Damien Franco’s “Top 10 Signs of a Bad Photographer” Final Thoughts… June 22, […]

  3. Well said – I saw that post the other day and didn’t even finish reading it because it pissed me off. I’m glad you had the balls to say something about it. I hope he learns that what he did really was bad form!!!

  4. We’ve all done stupid things, that’s how we learn and we’ve all wanted to shake someone to snap them out of blurriness or showing every single snap.

    I’m all good with the workings of a camera (and Photoshop!) but believe me, I’ve gotten nervous and for a shot or two switched into auto just in case, terrified I’ll miss the thing the other people will be upset that I missed.

    When I first got into photography, I was told that in a 36 roll, I should feel very lucky to come out of it with one good shot. Because I was told that early on, I have never been disappointed and have been very good at choosing my displayed shots carefully. That was a good piece of advice that I tell as many people as I can. Hey, I still show crap sometimes. I cringe later at the nerve I had, but that’s what blogs are for. Test it out.

    Photography is art, plain and simple. It can be easy to slip in and out of snob mode. Our own insecurities bring us in both directions. Never listen to discouraging comments, only take them as opinion and once in a while you’ll find a helpful one. Just please don’t over-criticize me to have me find a bunch of blurry snapshots on your site. Ask a question or something.

    Gear: if you gave Ansel Adams a disposable paper camera, those pictures would still be be donning museums and a billion calendars. The equipment that’s important is behind the camera.

    Photoshop is a tool for photography and professional photographers most of all and can also be a playground for artistic manipulation if that’s your thing. Using it properly to get the results you were really after is a hobby/job in itself and can be quite amazing. When I look back at my beginnings with Photoshop, I cringe. It takes a long time. With photography, you have an eye or you don’t. With Photoshop, well sometimes you feel you need to be a scientist. I love helping people with Photoshop correctly

    As a photography hobbyist for 30 years, I’m as insecure as they come. I hate compliments because I think people are just trying to be nice, and and am embarrassed by harsh criticisms. I love ‘what about trying -this- questions and suggestions.

    Being offputting to a single person at a critical moment might discourage them to a dead stop. We all should be very careful of our friends and followers… every one of them. That guy with the comment about 1 for 36 just mentioned it to me as a side comment and it changed the entire way I viewed photography for my whole life. If he even suggested I was a bad photographer at that exact time, everything would have been different.

  5. Brilliant Post…thank you!

  6. I think Franco’s post was more about people trying to make a carrier out of photography than hobby photographers, but on the other hand… I agree with the hypocrisy of 1b. What a lol.
    However, most of the points you bring up in argument are to do with “who cares, I’m just trying to get a fucking photo of this fleeting moment”- if that’s all you’re worried about at the time… why are you bothering with an SLR?

    In any case, you would have to agree that all the points he lists are things we can all improve on anyway, right? It was a bit of a harsh title for his post, but you can’t argue that improving those aspects wouldn’t make your photos better…

  7. I take exception to #10. Gear is important. While a simple point and shoot can get you some nice pictures, it won’t do the same job as a SLR with a telephoto lens. When I don’t feel like carrying my camera bag with me, I make sure we have my wife’s P&S. Although, her iPhone takes as good a shot.

    95% of people just look at a picture and see what is in it. 5% look at a picture for its artistic value. We look at the framing, the telephone poll growing out of someone’s head, the garbage can in the background. and the other ten thousand extraneous things that distract from the picture.

    And would Ansell Adams get as good a photo with one of today’s P&S cameras? Yup!!! Only a lot more of them.

  8. I am amazed to read how easy some people are offended and take everything so personally. You should have used your time to improve your skills instead of justifying your ignorance to the afore mentioned subject, in my opinion.
    Clearly you have enough time to comment on other peoples opinions and that is what you are doing. Getting worked up about the opinion of other people you never even met, never bothered what they background is and so on. Just a stupid little rant of yours.

    Why do you feel the need to compare yourself and your skills to others? Are you that insecure to care? Above Post is suggesting so!!! Sad and Pathetic really…!

    • If I’m “pathetic” for getting worked up and taking the time to respond to his article… Then does that make you “doubly-pathetic” for getting worked up and taking the time to respond to the guy who got worked up and took the time to respond to the article?

      I’m kidding really, but welcome your opinion. As you can obviously tell by Damian’s original article and my response, we are all entitled to them. In many ways, I totally agree with you… it wasn’t the first time I wrote something based on a gut reaction… Probably won’t be the last. Live and learn, right? 🙂

      Thanks for your comment. My best to you, sir.

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