The warning signs of bad photographic advice

People make money off the web, and I get that. I don’t have an issue with that, and I don’t have an issue with people making a living. People make money in a variety of different ways, and everyone is entitled to make a living…honestly.

What I do have an issue with is when people spread misinformation to make money, under the guise of it being accurate, because this distorts the perception of brands and camera gear, in some cases leaving users with a bad perception of the gear, or giving them the idea that they are somehow to blame because gear doesn’t work the way they expect. What annoys me more is when these people are quick to call out others as charlatans for promoting gear for money when in reality, producing videos with inaccurate information with the sole purpose of making money, is the pot calling the kettle black.

I’m not going to name this person, I don’t want to give him any more publicity than he has already. He’s everything wrong with the internet today, a liar and a fraud. Someone given a pedestal they don’t deserve. The problem with this particular vlogger is that he talks on a technical level, often giving the viewer the perception he knows what he is talking about and as a result, he has a large following, over 100,000 followers. He claims to be an expert on a number of subjects, but it’s clear that his knowledge is textbook based.

To put it into perspective, I could read a book on rocket science, I could read lots of them, and in doing so, I could learn a lot about rocket science. I don’t actually need to know how to actually build a rocket or have built a rocket before, to convince people I’m a rocket scientist, I just have to know more than them. Reading a book, or twenty books on rocket science doesn’t qualify me as a rocket scientist because reading about it doesn’t substitute for doing it, actually designing and building a rocket, learning about theory vs practice, the actual learning that takes place from that practical experiences.

In photography, it’s one thing to learn about the various rules in photography like the rule of thirds, it’s another thing to learn how to actually apply the rule of thirds through practice and when to break it. You can read about all the rules in 10 minutes, but it could take a lifetime to master them and know the best way to break them.

So how do we see through the bull and find out what is real and what isn’t?

The biggest lesson when evaluating the advice given by a photographer is to look at the person’s work because that will give you a clear indication on whether they know what they are talking about or whether they are full of shit. If they refuse to show their work, or will only show crappy test shots, that should be the first warning sign – it means they have something to hide. If they want to charge you to look at their work, that’s the second warning sign, because they know people won’t pay to see their portfolio, and they know it.

That’s the thing with photography, unlike most other areas, it all comes down to one thing, the photos. You can claim you are the god of photography, the best in the world, but ultimately when you look at the photos they produce, that should tell you the truth about any artist. Art is often subjective, but photography isn’t. The vast majority of people on the web are proud of what they have produced, irrespective of who they are and the skill level. You can see when a person is a real photographer, you can see when they are an experienced photographer, not just some camera geek who pretends to know what they are talking about.

So does this mean we don’t need to worry about the photographers that aren’t any good? No, we need to worry about the people who deceive, because it’s hard to decipher between what is accurate and what is bull. People don’t have to be the best to give you good advice, they just need to be honest about where it is coming from, like a travel photographer being honest if a trip was paid, or a gear reviewer being honest about what they were given and what they paid for. If a person giving advice on gear has lied about their credentials, what guarantees do you have about what they are actually telling the truth about anything?

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