Photographic License

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I was recently reading a  forum of photographers – professional photographers, if you will. The forum itself is generally helpful – need advice on lenses, venues, printers? Fabulous. Need to refer a client to other qualified photographers because you’re unavailable? It’s a great resource for that. However, last week, a question came up in that forum and frankly, I’ve been annoyed ever since.

In that forum, someone asked: Wouldn’t it be nice if you had to be licensed or take a test or something before you could call yourself a photographer?

Several others immediately jumped on the bandwagon, slamming “fauxtographers” and agreeing – YES, you should be licensed. Those unlicensed hacks, essentially, were stealing their business.

Or so the professionals feel.

And, well… it left me feeling…icky.

My theory is, how can you license art? Creativity? Perspective? Style? And when I said as much, someone immediately responded that there were technical ins and outs that people should know, artistic style aside.

This argument stems from a saturation in the photography industry – and I’m sure it’s happening elsewhere in creative fields as the tools you need to create become more accessible. NaNoWriMo probably has a lot more people declaring themselves as writers. PhotoShop and other products have people dabbling and calling themselves graphic designers. And DSLRs at every price point mean that everyone’s a photographer.

And sure, that means for those people trying to make a living behind the camera, there’s a lot more competition. Require licensing, limit the field, increase your odds.

That makes sense… right?

But… but… but…


It just seems to me that when a person is hiring a photographer – they’re either shopping by price, in which case you may never win them over because they aren’t willing to pay what you are worth (or what you’ve said you’re worth, and far be it from me to be the judge of that) or they are shopping by style and they will hire you because they LOVE what you do.

The people who want to hire lesser priced photographers, WILL. And it won’t matter the skill level of the other photographer. And it doesn’t take into account your skill level (And frankly, I’ve seen a wide range of skill level among photographers at all price levels – and that’s just the way it is – there are people GIVING THEIR WORK away, my GOODNESS they are so talented, and there are those who tack an exorbitant price tag on their work and I think… wow, that’s a lot of money – are there people who will pay that?).

The problem with me saying all of this is that yes, I love photography. Yes, I am a photographer. And yes, that leaves me open for criticism from people as to where I might fall on that range of price versus skill.

To which I say this –

As with any other photographer: You can only deal with you. It’s up to ME to be the best I can be – to do my best work, to give my clients images that they are happy with and they will treasure. And you know what – some of you can do it better. I can’t control that – I can only do the best work I can.

Which is why I think licensing is stupid.

You want to make taking photos without a license a punishable offense? I’m not sure what good that would do. If you’re looking to shrink the pool of competitors, the best way to do it is by stepping up your game — and I’m speaking as much to myself as anyone else.

I still believe what I do behind the camera is an art. And I still believe that a person can know everything there is to know about every technical aspect of a camera and of taking photographs – and produce images that leave a viewer feeling absolutely nothing – because it’s not all about knowledge, but about feeling and art and perspective. And you can’t teach that. And you certainly can’t license it.

You be you. Let the others worry about themselves.


About sarah

Sarah is a book nerd, a music lover, an endorphin junkie, a coffee addict. Oh, and a goof ball. She writes, she tweets, and she sings off key.


  1. Thank you!!!
    I’ve had insecurity about my photography, not that I’m trying to sell it, but that so many people are ‘real’ photogs and I’m not ‘serious’ enough to have a DSLR…I have a draft of a blog post about this, actually.
    Should publish! heh.
    But yeah, we all have our own perspective, we are each the only person living this moment in time, and sometimes I get some mighty good shots!

  2. This is one of the reasons I’ve shied away from the forums I used to read. Also? I’ve quit reading/looking at a lot of other photog’s blogs/websites because I was limiting my own creativity to replications of what I was seeing, the popular stuff.

    Anyway, I’m with you on this. Licencing is silly, but I kinda-sorta see their point, too. Mostly…I just hate to see people pay good money for a less-than-great product.

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