Photography & Filming

Stop Now: Photographers Are Awfully Toxic

Having been an active member of the photography community for the past few years, I started to notice some toxic traits. In a community this small, how can everyone seem to hate each other this much sometimes? Let’s dive deep and see just how bad it gets here.

Before going further, I want to say that there are plenty of far smaller, close-knit, and personal communities where members support each other to be better photographers. I, for one, have a great friend who happens to be a photographer who I share a genre with — so much so, we shot the same models, worked with the same teams, etc. Nonetheless, he has helped me a lot in my career. At the same time, the wider photography community has been, well, a mix of things, but “helpful” would not be the first word coming to my mind when talking about it. Let’s see just how toxic photographers can be online sometimes. 

Online Versus Real Life

The thing about photographers being mean is that they are primarily mean online, not in real life. The anonymity of a platform where you can just post your wildest opinions has its attraction to such individuals. Things that you would not say to someone’s face are easily said online. It can be something from small childish comments such as “you’re stupid for thinking X” to legitimate death threats. Many content creators, myself included, have received death threats from random people online. Some people were even stalked. I will be not the first person to say that there are a lot of weird people online who will go out of their way to make you feel bad.

The anonymity of an online space makes some people exaggerate their hate and take it to the next level. When I read a comment from someone under my articles, I can take it to heart. As someone who was used to friends and family commenting on my posts on Facebook, I saw strangers as my friends: people with a good motive behind them. It is not hard to imagine the person who wants to interact with the content and get something out of the interaction. So, I took all the comments seriously and personally. Quickly, though, I realized that there is a portion of the audience which just wants to get an interaction, no matter the message behind it. The lesson here is to take fewer comments to heart and try to see what the real intention behind them is. 

For me, this is the problem with the online photography community being toxic online but not in real life. It is sometimes hard to tell if someone is being a hater or just genuinely disliking a piece. There was solid advice that came from people who disliked a particular piece, advice that I found valuable and am grateful for. At the same time, when you meet such people in real life, you can usually tell just by the way they are that you are not going to get anything useful from them.

The usual comments on how someone’s images are awful should not even be mentioned in this article. I believe this is so downright childish it should get the person saying it a timeout and no screen time for a week. There are much worse camera club members, especially online. They pretend to be giving advice, when all they want to do is make you question your choices and ultimately quit. I sincerely wish there was a simple way to find a way to tell good feedback from bad feedback. In short, I stopped seeking feedback from other photographers and started to look at feedback from clients, people hiring me, and authorities in the industry. Look for feedback from your audience, not your peers. 

Another toxic trait that often accompanies the camera club photographers is showing off titles and accomplishments, usually measured in dozens of years. Listen, nobody needs to hear that you’ve been a photographer for 40 years. Just because you had a camera for 40 years does not make you a pro. There are people that have achieved more than you in four, and there are people that achieve less than you in 40. This all goes back to some people being childish. The whole “years of experience” argument can be condensed to school kids ending a battle with: “I am older, hence I am right”. If there is any real way to measure progress in photography, it should take into account years spent and put that against improvement and big clients shot for. Everyone has their own way of telling if they made progress. 

Gear Reviews

Reviews of gear are perhaps some of the most polarizing pieces online. While reviews are created as buying advice for prospective buyers, it is not uncommon for people who already own the gear to also read the review. Photography is an expensive hobby or profession. Although the basics can be bought for as little as $1,000, a lot of photographers invest a lot more than that. Photographers, especially hobbyists, accumulate tens of thousands of dollars of gear.

It is not uncommon for these people to go on reviews of their favorite gear and read what others have to say. If the review is positive, they will usually leave a nice comment. However, if their precious camera gets criticized, it opens a can of worms. I don’t know why, but a lot of these people seem to take this personally and far too close to their hearts. Sure, you worked hard to buy that camera, but that doesn’t mean you should hate everybody who hates your camera.

Reviews see some of the biggest fights between photographers. In fact, it does not really make a difference. All that matters is what images you capture. Perhaps instead of spending time arguing online, you could spend time being a better photographer.

People Projecting Their Views

Lastly, what also gets toxic is people who project their views on photography on your work. Sure, there is someone who wants to take pictures with a camera and rejects the smallest possibility of using a phone for the same task, and sure, there is someone who rejects Photoshop, digital cameras, or whatever it is. That should not mean this idea is the only right way. Photography is technical, but it is an art form where everyone gets to do whatever they want however they want. All that matters, especially in the amateur world, is the end result and how happy you are with it. Listen to suggestions, but please don’t take them as a rule.

Closing Thoughts 

Unfortunately, the photography community is full of people who want to be toxic, primarily online. It is really sad to see a community that can be supportive and encouraging be the opposite sometimes. Perhaps there is no one solution to this problem besides suggesting that one think an extra minute before posting the comment. Think about what the person on the other end of the screen will feel when seeing it. Remember, they may very well think that this is their best image, it might be their best piece of gear, or whatever it is you’re hating may hold sentimental value.  

What are some toxic experiences you have had in the community? Share with us in the comments! 

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