Meaningless Labels on Photographers

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I’ve been reading a lot of camera and lens reviews lately, and they all label the users as one thing or another: Pro, Semi-Pro, Enthusiast, Novice, Casual User, Hobbyist, Amateur. I’m here to tell you; that’s all a bunch of nonsense. I stop reading when I see them labeling me or my equipment as one of these. I think you should too. Here’s why:

  1. You can be using an “entry-level” camera, as they call it and be a “pro”, getting “pro” shots. The equipment rarely matters.
  2. You can be opposite and be a “novice” using “pro” equipment and get awful shots. The equipment rarely matters.
  3. Nobody knows who defines a “pro.” Is it when you get paid? Is it your level of work judged by who? You could be a “pro” right now. Who’s to say?
  4. How is anyone defining whatconstitutes “novice” equipment compared to “pro” equipment? They don’t know the application, so they cannot know if it is “pro” or not. Here are some examples:
    1. APS-C sensor format is seen as “novice” or “enthusiast” level by the reviewing public, but it is best to use an APS-C camera for professional sports photography and professional nature photography. A contradiction.
    2. So called “slow” zoom lenses with maximum apertures of f/5.6 – f/6.3 are seen as “hobbyist” or “enthusiast” grade by the reviews. However, these are the best lenses for anyone shooting landscapes and nature. You don’t need “fast” f/2.8 – f/4 lenses for landscapes and nature and these would not be for the “pro” landscape or nature shooter. Another contradiction.

Bias in Photo Reviews

Another thing I’ve noticed is that in photo reviews, the reviewers already make up their mind about my submitted photo based on the type of camera and lens I use. They’ve said things like these:

  • “This would have been better if you had used a full-frame camera.”
  • “This camera doesn’t have the resolution of a larger one, and it shows.”
  • “The Nikon model you used in this shot shows the limitations of pixel depth not seen in comparable Canons.”
  • “The inferior qualities of this lens shows with softness in the corners.”
  • “Too much lens aberration with this particular lens limits the overall quality.”
  • “This entry-level camera doesn’t have the color depth of the others in its class and certainly not of the full-frame Canons.”

Little did they know for all of these comments I received on these reviews, I totally faked them out. I used an EXIF editor (called Exifer) and changed the camera and lens combinations to bring intentionally out their biases. For these comments above, I took the photos with an excellent camera and lens combination and then changed the EXIF information to be that of an “entry-level” point-and-shoot camera.

Then I did the opposite to see what would happen.

I shot snapshots with the crappiest camera I could find. I even used my phone camera. Then I changed the EXIF information to be that of a full-frame $5000 camera with an equally high-quality $10,000 lens and posted the picture. I got rave reviews:

  • “The superior quality of the 5D mark III shines through.”
  • “This lens is a monster!”
  • “Wow. Great shot!”
  • “Excellent colors!”

What fools. Well, reviewers obviously are biased, and you’re not getting good review feedback if they’re looking at what equipment you’re using before reviewing your photos. I’ve learned to watch out for that now.

One last thing on this. I also took exactly the same photo and posted it both ways with EXIF showing an excellent camera and lens, and showing a poor camera and lens. The reviews followed the above for exactly the same photo. This way I could be sure it was not the photo at all, it was the EXIF information on the photo showing the equipment that biased the reviewers one way or another.

 Summary

Nobody defines you or me.

Nobody gets to say who is a “pro” or who is an “amateur.”

You do.

When I see reviews of equipment or reviews of photos, I keep that in mind now. They don’t know what they’re talking about 80% of the time. This becomes apparent as soon as they label something as “enthusiast,” “novice,” “entry-level,” or “pro.” I back off and stop reading at that point. Or, at least I read with caution because they are showing their bias. I watch out for it now.

Thank you for reading what I wrote — I hope you enjoyed it!

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GLOSSARY OF TERMS USED IN THIS POST

  • EXIF – “Exchangable Image File Format” is the term for a standard that specifies the formats for images, and metadata tags used by digital cameras (including smartphones), scanners and other systems handling image files recorded by digital cameras. You normally cannot change this information without a special editor. (Definition from Wikipedia)
  • APS-C – Advanced Photo System type-C (APS-C) is an image sensor format approximately equivalent in size to the Advanced Photo System “classic” negatives of 25.1 × 16.7 mm, an aspect ratio of 3:2. (Definition from Wikipedia)
  • Full Frame – A full-frame digital SLR is a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) fitted with a 35mm format (36×24 mm) image sensor. This is in contrast to cameras with smaller sensors (for instance, those with a size equivalent to APS-C-size film), much smaller than a full 35 mm frame. Currently, the majority of digital cameras, both compact and SLR models, use a smaller-than-35 mm frame, as it is easier and cheaper to manufacture imaging sensors at a smaller size. (Definition from Wikipedia)
  • Exifer – A free program that allows you to change the EXIF data in an image file. Search for it on the internet and you will find it.

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