I like to think the photography community is a positive one. It is filled with great people that are very passionate about art, helping others, and helping to expand it to more and more people. However, no matter how many good photographers there are that are out there, a few bad apples spoil the barrel.
There are plenty of specific examples out there that you can find but that isn’t what I want to focus on in this article. Instead, I want to pick a couple of toxic categories these bad actors can fall into. This is to do two things: show potential pitfalls for would-be bad apples and to make it easier for others in the community to pick up on signs of a negative influencer.
Know it Alls
Nobody is an expert in everything. There are plenty of photographers among us who enjoy playing themselves up as masters in everything from composition to post-processing to gear and everything else. Their knowledge knows no bounds and they will let you know when you are wrong or how you could have done better with your images. They tend to be extremely rude and discouraging for anyone from beginner to the experienced but self-conscious.
These know it alls are so damaging to the community because they tend to get into the closest-knit groups before going off. The other downside is they might be some of the most enthusiastic, but their enthusiasm rubs people the wrong way because of how they choose to show it. These individuals thrive off the deepest and darkest of forums and they usually don’t make very many actual photographs of their own.
Along with the competitive nature of photography are the contests that claim to help discover and bring attention to the best photographers. What actually happens is there are so many competitions out there that they devalue the original purpose. There are so many award-winning photographers out there that being one means nothing! I am an award-winning photographer… Who cares?
Anyways, some people let this go straight to their head. The “award-winning” photographers among us make sure you know it. Their opinion matters the most because they have already “made it to the top” and you could learn a lot from them. In reality, it is a sad argument from authority used to support a superiority complex.
The idea of becoming famous in photography isn’t bad inherently. There are plenty of well-known photographers in the community that are really nice guys and genuinely care about being positive with their influence. There are some who prefer to live it up and “big time” other photographers even in person on location with complete strangers.
I have never been and will likely never be that well known of a photographer, so I may never know the struggle. However, I do know what it looks like when someone grows an audience but doesn’t care about the people that follow them. The comments and questions get ignored entirely. When they sell products or services they don’t provide a proper level of customer service. They never remember the names or details about people they have interacted with in their own community.
It sucks to see these figureheads that are so toxic become so big, but since I want to promote positivity in this post here is a list of great influencers in the landscape photography community! Ben Horne is a talented and caring photographer both for the landscape itself and for those who take the time to follow his content. Aaron King and Brendon Porter from Photog Adventures are some of the nicest guys in photography and they have cultivated a great group and culture around them. Nick Page is another easy nomination for this list because of how he treats those around him and respects nature. Erin Babnik is one of those people that just care so much about the photography community and it shows in how active she is in forums, writing articles, creating images, and participating in every corner of the landscape photography community.
The last group I will talk about being toxic is one of the worst out there. These people are obsessed with the technical specifications of the equipment they and others are using. It isn’t something they enjoy at this level because it consumes their happiness. It frustrates gear snobs when someone else creates something that is pleasing to the eye with “inferior” camera equipment. Photography to a gear snob is about reading/watching gear reviews, living in rumor mill sites, and tearing others down for spending their hard earned dollars on a trip to a beautiful spot and not on the latest Sony.
Obviously, photography is about more than just gear. Gear is just one small piece of the puzzle, but for some reason, there are so many out there that get hung up on the tech specs sheet. It is ok to be interested in the things we use to take images, but at some point, it has to be about the images, location, processing, and everything else that is a part of photography.
I don’t want to focus on the negative side of photography too much, but I do believe that shining a light on the bad apples and potential pitfalls can be really helpful. Keep an eye out for these types of people in the field and online because they do exist everywhere, and if you see yourself falling into one of these categories there is still time to turn that around! Being self-aware is always a good thing when it comes to being a positive part of the landscape photography community.