STOP hoarding all your “secret” information

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Photographers of all types listen up ! It is time to STOP hoarding all your “secret” information and START to share it ! I am very upset and disappointed in many photographers today because they think they are Gods gift to photography and that the technique and information they have is exclusive to them only. They think that they are the ones who invented the god dam light bulb and I am TIRED AND FED UP with that kind of thinking.

Check it on  Jason Christopher’s Blog. Thx Wesley

There Are 65 Comments On This Article.

  1. Amen Brother. Listen up photographers. This includes you guys who don’t answer emails… ever.

  2. Too bad he didn’t spend some of that time using those books to learn about proper SPELLING and GRAMMAR, and not using ALL CAPS for EMPHASIS.

  3. This is another reason why I visit APE daily. The photographic community can be so much stronger if we all work together. I have opened my studio to other young photographers just starting out. We teach each other and they get cheep rent to shoot.

    It’s been a great experience. I’m not a industry veteran but anything I can do to help others grow as artists and business owners I do. The more education we have the better off we all are and we can and do make a difference.

    Once a local publication changed their terms which was unfair to their contributors. Word got around fast. A friend of mine fired the client, then I fired the same client 30 min latter as did other photographers.

    Their policy changed the next week.

    Listen up people. There’s a tidal wave of people buying cameras at Best Buy on Friday and doing their first paid shoot on Sat. These people are starving to learn about the business. If we dont help them our industry is going to take a noise dive and fast. If we educate these new shooters we all win. If we don’t this industry will quickly turn into something like the music industry and its going that way already.

    Its a “good enough” economy right now and it could get worse.

    This article is also a good read about the trends of the low end / high end marketplace for photographers –

  4. I can agree with you to a certain extent. I certainly do not think I am god’s gift to photography but what secrets are you referring to? I don’t think people should have to put their “secrets” out there for everyone to have. Trade secrets. Ever hear of them? If something takes me a year to develop why should I just put it on the table for the taking. That makes no sense to me. If people email me I reply. If someone asks me a question I do my best to answer it. Do I have secrets? Sure. Am I going to open up a buffet for every photographer just starting out that just wants to bypass all of the research I had to learn on my own. nope.

    • Donnar Party

      @ab, I agree. If you can’t figure it out from looking at a photo, then you need more experience. I learned lighting by working like a slave as an assistant and working in film over a long 15 years. Why should I give a free pass to my hard earned experience to every ass on Model Mayhem? The answer for all the newbies is HARDWORK, not getting a cheat. Hey, its hard getting clients, too, want my Rolladex?

    • @ab, Ok I am gonna try to help you understand a bit better AB. If it takes you a year to develop a lighting technique, you need help. Sharing lighting set ups is not new. Helmut Newton, Avedon, Penn etc. have all shared their technique. What makes a great photographer is not their lighting, it’s their personal, personable and directing skills.

      Try this: set up your “secretive” lighting. Invite another photographer over and both of you shoot the same model. Examine the results. I can promise you that you will have TOTALLY different results. Yes the lighting will be the same but who is going to capture the subject better ? Have I made it more simple for you to understand now ?

      • @Jason Christopher, no need to be a condescending a hole…and who said anything about lighting? I am a natural light photographer. get off your horse big boy your’re work is average at best.

  5. Exactly. More sharing will heal the broken world of photography and with it prob the rest of the world too. We need much more proclamations and silly morals like that because after all what has failed in other fields might for sure work in photography.

  6. Chase Jarvis has been sharing his secrets etc for several years now. He is very successful, approachable and will to answer virtually any question thrown at him. I have started doing the same on my site and it has only helped my business though I am not quite sure how or why. Maybe it’s just Karma.

  7. I disagree. I don’t think photographers are obligated, and that includes socially, to dispense information to other photographers. I can understand a small technical question that requires immediate attention but lighting schematics? That’s what testing is for…..teaching oneself and investing the time in finessing one’s own skill.

    Education, interning and assisting are all good way to acquire knowledge. Hopefully when it comes to assisting a relationship becomes established between photographer and assistant allowing for a genuine exchange of information, knowledge and expertise.

    If you’re talking about fine art, okay I get it. But commercial photography is founded upon commerce, an exchange, not karmic retribution.

    I say this as a guy who’s just barely starting out.

  8. That’s the best part. They really don’t have a secret. 9 out of 10 successful photographs on-line are made by simply adding the, whats hot today, PS action. Take any nasty photograph and make it a winner by adding a action.

    Don’t be fooled. You can do this too with around $79.

    I’ve not seen too many native, good photographs in a long time.

    Do you not see why there are so many “photographers” in the market today? It’s because of actions, not digital cameras.

    Funny thing is, and I don’t think they get this, they actions date a photography pretty much on target. I’d say about 80 pct of the wedding photographers that call themselves that today will be out in two years. You’ll look at their wedding albums in about 6 years and date it almost exactly. You’ll cry, oh, that’s a MCB photography or a Kubota Photograph.

    Don’t sweat it… it ain’t real.

  9. There is plenty of information about technique and equipment out there. There is far too little information about what photographers are charging.
    I’d love to see a site that publishes real but anonymous invoices which have been sent to clients giving a description of the work, usage rights, expenses and terms and conditions.

  10. Isn’t this exactly what spending years assisting is for?

    Lets be honest anyone can now pick up a DSLR and call themselves a photographer. Rank amateurs who do freebie jobs don’t do photography any good in the long run, they just get taken advantage of for one free job and/or do a dismal job which tars working professionals with the same brush. It also brings down the standing of photography in the eyes of those who commision the work.

    The industry doesn’t need more amateurs thinking they can be professionals, what it needs is more people who won’t undercut and screw over those who make a living here. Often it’s by not asserting their copyright, understanding usage or doing jobs for shockingly low rates. Back when we shot large format film there was a huge technical skill set whick kept out the wannabe photographers and kept standards high (it took ages to learn how to properly shoot and process film, especially large format).

    Flogging workshops to naive amateurs won’t make them photographers, all it’ll do is line the pockets of those who host them.

    If you want to be a photographer, get assisting, get a portfolio, work with as may different people as possible, work as hard as you can, get a portfolio of your best work together (a decent post bound folio not one of these crappy art shop books) go see agents, they may not take you on but they’ll certainly give good feedback on your work. Then after years of hard graft, maybe, just maybe, you’ll be good enough to call yourself a professional.

    There are no shortcuts in this business, assisting, hard work and perseverance are the only things that will get you there. Those who think that spending their way in with workshops and the latest kit will be sorely dissapointed.

  11. EXACTLY!!!
    Do you know who Janez Puhar is? Of course not! He invented photography on glass in 1842(!!!), but he took the secret of the procedure in his grave, so nowadays pictures and written international articles exists, but nobody successfully repeated the procedure after his death.
    What a shame for photography!


  12. #16 GREAT post Sam!


    “The industry doesn’t need more amateurs thinking they can be professionals, what it needs is more people who won’t undercut and screw over those who make a living here. Often it’s by not asserting their copyright, understanding usage or doing jobs for shockingly low rates.”

    A couple of years ago I got so fed up with guys near me doing just that I decided to “put something back” and offer FREE advice on the business aspects of our industry. That’s what needs tackling so badly. It never gets taught properly at college, never gets addressed by magazines and is something of a “dark art”. This doesn’t help the industry one bit.

    There are more than enough people out there taking $$ for lectures on technique. There are even more who have only just entered the business spouting utter crap and misinformation on everything from pricing to model releases to licencing on every forum they can find.

    I figured that if what I wrote affected the way somebody approached charging, holding onto their copyright and earning money from it and made them think that they didn’t have to ‘throw it all in for free’ then I’d have done a good job.

    So I formed a blog and started writing. Still do in-between commissions! It’ds sporadic. I’m not a writer. But all the info is free and the Google ads are there to help pay the hosting (it gets a lot of visits!)

    The more newbies and those dabbling that can wipe the mist from their eyes and see that you CAN make a decent living from holding your copyright, licencing your work and not getting ripped the better it’s going to be for ALL of us.


  13. This is ridiculous. why should ANYONE, EVER tell people how they did something. It can take weeks, months, a whole careers worth of serious hard work to develop a style that is based on technique. Stop being lazy and go and figure it, or even better, go work out your own tecqunique that is unique to you.

    • @D,
      I agree with (20) wholeheartedly.
      The people who are willing to just “give it away” most likely didn’t struggle though some process to earn it themselves. They most likely learned it from a video or were given the technique by someone else. If you work hard through practice or apprenticeship you should enjoy the fruits of your labor without any expectation that you simply give it away. People wouldn’t expect you to give away your services or your prints. Why on earth would you be expected to give away your techniques???

  14. I agree with #20, everything would be the same, no one could choose among different styles.. just lazy talk people.. discover, feel..

  15. Share economic information, but not technique. Those who put too much emphasis on technique will just end up copying some other photographer’s style, and delay developing their own style. As someone else stated on this post, it takes work and experience to improve. There is no fast-food solution to launch a creative profession.

    Pricing is all over the map, and I have never heard a good reason for that. Clients are confused by all the systems in place, and it seems that same confusion is amongst many emerging photographers. While the Graphic Artist’s Guild has a pricing guide and sample contracts for illustration and design, there exists nothing similar for photographers. This creative profession of ours needs more structure and guidance on pricing, and in a way that everyone from clients to emerging photographers can easily understand it.

  16. Have you ever heard of “learning”. You sound like the typical yuppie who gets their Masters Degree and now all of a sudden they think they should immediately be put in charge of a project – or be placed in upper management. How about working for it chiefy? You have to learn the craft. Just because every idiot and moron now owns a digital camera it does not make you a photographer.

    I hope this absolutely ridiculous post was a tongue-in-cheek attempt at humor

  17. Oh BTW – I dont’ think your mommy spanked you enough. Too much coddling by parents now-a-days.

  18. Agree with #20. And, #22 — so very, very few blogs are about the actual business of photography, about pricing, marketing, about the cost of getting and of keeping a client. Stuff like that.

    For the last couple of years I have had the rare pleasure of assisting a photographer who absolutely delights in what we call ‘forensic photography.’ You sit in a coffee shop with a stack of magazines and backwards-deduce how they did it. And of the really cool images, he will test lighting (even to the point of buying/modifying gear), build photoshop actions, whatever it takes to nail the look.

    Is that copying? Yeah. But it is how we learn — by integrating the achievements of other artists into our own DNA to the point that our own style eventually emerges.

    Hunter S. Thompson taught himself to write by copying “The Great Gatsby” over and over. Jimmy Page got his tone by replicating Elmore James. Stevie Ray Vaughn worshiped Albert King. There was a time (way before Trump!) when learning rote skills from a master craftsman would have been called an apprenticeship.

    Back to the original question: ain’t it better when you figure things out for yourself? You opened up a can of worms with this one, and good for you. Good for all of us. Glad to read all the opinions.

  19. Technique is only a tool…it should not define you creatively….for that you need vision…anyone scared of sharing techniques probably feels insecure about not having a vision.

    9 times out of 10 if someone is withholding information it’s b/c they are scared of losing control of the situation. i.e. insecure…..if ppl weren’t so insecure and actually were comfortable w/ themselves as people and artists then they wouldn’t feel the need to withhold anything….they would want to share it all b/c they would know not only will it help the person they’re sharing it w/ but, it will help them in return by creating an open pathway to share honest info in both directions. you get back what you give….and that goes for everything in life….not just sharing techniques. let yourself teach someone something and they will teach you something in return w/out even being aware of it.

    i would fucking write up diagrams on my lighting setups for you if you wanted me too. photoshop tutorial….anything…doesn’t matter…shit that really matters is your vision and that is in your heart and soul(you gotta be able to find it though) and no one can take that from you. if you think technique is what makes your photography stand out then you should take another look at why you take pictures the way you do or for the reasons you do.

    you want to make amazing photos that speak to people? you better go out there and live life and find out who you really are as person deep down…b/c that is the only way you will be able to show ppl how you see the world.

    • @Brady, “you want to make amazing photos that speak to people? you better go out there and live life and find out who you really are as person deep down…b/c that is the only way you will be able to show ppl how you see the world.”

      Rubbish, still life, beauty, architectural photography all require a high degree of technical ability. No ammount of living life and finding out who you are will teach you good technique. Hard work and a willingness to commit to your chosen field will.

      “9 times out of 10 if someone is withholding information it’s b/c they are scared of losing control of the situation. i.e. insecure”

      Again, load of rubbish. If I worked bloody hard on perfecting a particular technique why the hell should I give that away to someone who can’t be bothered to figure it out themselves? Would Mercedes give BMW their engine designs just because they asked? Of course not, they would tell them to figure it out for themselves, that’s the nature of business. It’s called a competitive advantage.

      Fine, give away all of your knowledge to anyone who asks, but don’t try to make out that those of us who don’t are somehow morally bankrupt for not handing a free ride to anyone who can’t be bothered to put in the effort.

      Go sell your crystal gripping, hippie nonsense elsewhere and try not to bother those us who’ve worked hard for what we have.

      Oh and drop the stupid text speak, it doesn’t do you any favors at all.

      • @Sam,

        it may not do you favors but, it does me plenty. if you don’t agree with me, cool deal. I know what works for me and maybe that doesn’t work for you. so be it.

        And i didn’t say technique was unnecessary. it is very necessary to be able to create the things you envision…my point is the end goal should not be learning technique. technique is a means to and end not the end itself. And I thinks it’s unfortunate that most of today’s work flaunts technique over substance. that is my point really about technique. Substance has taken a backseat to technique…How many photos do you see that have flawless technique and feel completely sterile and empty? Probably the majority wouldn’t you say? and yes, some of mine fit that description too.

        i don’t recall insulting you so why the assumptions? Being morally bankrupt or giving anyone a free ride are you’re own assumptions. not mine.

        and I much prefer being a happy hippie than a bitter photographer like most of the people in this biz. I have better things to do then sit around and be mad about shit.

        • @Brady, Now this is a much more reasoned post, once you lose the spiritual “who you really are as person deep down” comments you make a good point. I totally agree that technique is a means to an end, but without that initial ability you’ll never create the work you want.

          There is plenty of genuinely creative work out there that’s let down by poor technique and I for one would rather see really excellently shot work with no soul (which is usually down to poor art direction) than a great idea screwed up by an incompetent shooter.

          There is no reason to give your hard earned technical knowledge to anyone who just asks for it. Training up an assistant is an entirely different matter and should be encouraged. You get an assistant who works hard for you and in return they get the benefit of your years of experience.

          I’ve got to be honest I know quite a few advertising photographers here in London who are at the top of their game and not one of them is bitter. I also know quite a few who aren’t doing as well. They’re not bitter either. Everyone recognises that there are much, much worse jobs out there and being a photographer, even in one of the worst advertising recessions in recent history, it’s still a great job to have.

  20. i am pretty open about my techniques, but not everything. Ive had a lot of people be quite open with me, and I try and be helpful.. certainly not rude or difficult (which i have had happen on asking questions about a year ago).

    on the business side of things, good information share is so so important. what people are charging as a creative fee and useage needs to be clear in the middle market. if this doesnt happen soon, it will disappear altogether and u will be left with the “no pay” and the “high pay” markets.

  21. @28

    charge what you feel you’re worth….your fees are based on you and your work not on anyone else’s. just make sure you can fully justify your fees and know how to negotiate properly….that is going to be the real key to being successful as fas pricing goes….you might think you’re worth 10G’s a day but if you can’t convince someone else of that well then you’re gone. doesn’t matter if the person down the street is charging $20 or $20,000. it’s good to be aware but, it shouldn’t dictate what you charge. there are a lot of other factors. ultimately it’s your responsibility to create that perceived value in your buyer. what others are doing in the business is pretty irrelevant IMHO…create your own path. if you keep looking at what’s already in place then you’re just placing limits on yourself and you won’t ever realize your potential in any capacity. anyone who has become something great in any arena in life has done so by doing they’re own thing when everyone else thought it wasn’t possible. you get my point. at least i hope.

  22. it’s a strange and bizarre circumstance when people approach me and ask specific details of how i have my camera set up for specific shoots..
    it did take me a year to find the ideal set up for the subject i concerntrated upon for the next 10 years..
    to read someone become bitter at not having instant access to the information is disheartening at best.. irritating at worst.

    i teach photography, and am happy to teach photography.. i love it.. i earn well.. my students learn their own techniques and personalize the way they shoot according to the subject they shoot and their style, or authorship.

    it would hinder them to carry the baggage of information which i find helps me shoot instinctively.. get in the way of them finding their own thing.

    i answer emails as best i can.. i mentor a handful of ex-students online.. and i receive some mentoring myself as it happens..
    there are no secrets.. just had graft and work.. and as for technique.. do the work.. get out there.. do not imitate, initiate..

    jason – enroll in a collage course.. read.. think.. experiment.. spend years doing it and then go tell someone who writes you a blunt email how you did it all without feeling jolted.

  23. The best advise that I can offer is to stop looking at other people’s work.
    The world doesn’t need more of the same or a discount version of it.

  24. I’d say not all photographers should share their technique. Many many different items should be considered with the pros and cons of doing so.

    I, for instance, kept all of my technique secret for quite a while. It was until the “cinemascapist” and my “cinemascapes” became known to such a large audience that any copy cat would be easily identifiable as such. I am confident enough now that what I’ve developed is easily identified as my signature style and I can share the details with the world and not be concerned with it.

    There are legit reasons for some to keep trade secrets and I think that if I were in the commercial world, I might hold out from ever sharing my exact techniques?

  25. yes yes stop hiding your information… so this guy can package it into his $1295 2-day workshop. I’m guessing the market for this is wealthy, but lonely, men who want to start shooting hot girls right away.


    What chef gives up his secret sauce recipe? Not many.

    Sharing business info is one thing that benefits us all, but if you want to be a serious artist, its all about the sweat, work and personal exploration. I like to guide my assistants in how to LEARN technique and DEVELOP new ones. Not on specific techniques that are going to be out of style before they figure them out.

  26. In this age of photography as “commodity” I have started to refuse to discuss how jobs are going to bed one for two reasons…

    1) the person asking for the “bid” usually has no idea what we are talking about anyway….
    2) I have seen over and over my technical details taken and applied to the lowest bidder’s numbers so He/she can keep their job at Jack in the Box and pick off photo jobs with my knowledge regardless of their lack of expertise.

    There simply too many “Best Buy photographers” out there who, while they may have enough “eye” to be great amateur photographers, enough equipment to make me salivate, and a regular job they can lie to the boss about a sick day to every once in a while, they have ZERO experience actually doing the job, handling the client, or keeping things creatively moving along,.

    AND they don’t care whether they get paid or not.

    I am not going to help them… don’t ask!

  27. You know there is 1 thing that has not been pointed out.
    Real photo professionals don’t need to ask for help or ask:
    “How did you do that?”
    They look at the image and figure it out themselves.
    They buy a box of Polaroid and do lighting tests until they get the look they want. (or want to “barrow”)

    We need more people that actually know what the hell their doing both with their cameras and lighting and fewer amateurs picking up a digital camera, setting it to AUTO, fixing it in post, and calling themselves professionals.

    • Donnar Party

      @James, I agree, I posted that in a reply to one of the above posts. What is absurd is that digital makes it cheaper to learn lighting. No need to spend $100 on Fujiroids to learn how Jill Greenburg lights crying kids. Just look, and figure out what’s going on. I do this whenever I see a shot that is well lit, or a technique I like. Not to copy, but to learn. You can pick up something you may use every time you do this.

      • @Donnar Party,
        I miss the days when a Professional photographer would bring in a couple of assistants, get some pizza and beers, and just spend the day doing lighting tests.
        Even better when photographers gave a me access to their studios and I could spend the weekend doing these tests myself.
        “Here’s to the good old days.”

  28. Jason are you also the type of guy who doesn’t own a license for photoshop and downloads your music for free from the internet?

  29. @37 (James) — Touché my friend.

    Do you think Apple, Google, IKEA, Wal-Mart, Chevron, Trump, SalesForce, etc., would share all of their secret information with their competitors? Exactly.

    Although we’re not changing the entire world with pictures, our little secrets are some of the few advantages we can maintain in this crazy, over-crowded market. That is what keeps the pros looking professional while the others with their sub-par Canon’s just look like trust funded babies who bought their way in.

  30. Oh, and BTW, Jason SELLS private digital fashion workshops with all the free information he has gathered and /or is asking for.

  31. Von R Buzard

    Most of the folks I know see a lighting technique they usually can figure it out on their own. It’s the business end that most need help with

    I have often in the past helped out a friend with a question or two but it should be a two way street.

    At least pay it forward if you aren’t paying it back

  32. Malcolm Gladwell’s most recent book called “Outliers” (no, it is not about the Bush Administration) has several anecdotes about how long it takes to become proficient at something – I believe it comes to 10,000 hours working at it. It isn’t like a bell that goes ding on the microwave or anything, just that at a certain point you stop concerning yourself with your toolbox and go after what wants to be released from your head and heart. You can work beside the best in the business and learn at their feet but until you are doing it yourself, making choices and truly seeing through your own eyes, then wondering how will be just that – wondering.

    The trust and confidence in your skill that you need in yourself is what takes the longest to attain and cannot be gotten in any master class.

    Like in “Kung Fu Panda” – “there is no secret ingredient”

  33. A-MEN to that.
    The secrets aren’t what make a photographer successful, and hoarding them is a sign of paranoia and a lack of confidence rather than careful business practices.
    Really, anyone who thinks the setting on the Briese or feathering of the softbox is what makes a compelling image, doesn’t get it. I’ve even heard of a few local commercial photographers who refuse to hire experienced assistants for fear of said labor running away with the goods. Might I stress, “local” photographers. Nothing gives me greater confidence than having an assist with 10 years experience who knows a few tricks I don’t, just in case.

  34. I really want to respond to every single one of you but I think I can help in one post.

    If we all have the correct knowledge about photography including lighting, business practice, etc. then I believe we will stop getting the calls from inexperienced clients that say ” Well I just got a quote of $1,000 from another photographer and he isn’t charging me usage rights so why are you?”

    That photographer that quoted $1,000 has no idea how to quote, can’t light his way out of a paper bag so he fixes his lighting in Photoshop. He also has a day job which makes him enough money to live so an extra grand in his pocket sounds great to him.

    But imagine if we all knew the correct way to quote, how to charge for usage etc. and didn’t use post to correct our mistakes, there would be no potential clients getting $1,000 quotes without usage and then the decision would come down to whose work that potential client likes the most for their needs.

    I hope this helps you guys understand my point more.