Living the dream and Uncle Bob

I’m going to paraphrase a little, but in filmmaker Robert Rodriguez’s book Rebel Without a Crew, he says if you want to become a filmmaker just tell people you’re a filmmaker and dive right in. Sure you may make your living as an accountant, but that 10 hours a week you spend working on scripts and short films defines who you are. You are no longer an accountant. You are now a filmmaker. Congratulations.

I’ve always subscribed to this theory until I became a photographer. I still think it works in practice but the proliferation of affordable digital SLR cameras has made it more complicated. Now not only can people say they are photographers, they can say they are professionals despite having zero ability.

This may sound like a little photo snobbery, and it probably is. I’m not saying beautiful images can’t be created by someone with an off-the-shelf Nikon D40. I’m saying creating beautiful images consistently in many varied situations takes a combination of natural talent, technical knowledge and experience. Buying a $600 digital camera gives you none of those.

I bring this up because of the “Uncle Bob” phenomenon. Uncle Bob is the name photographers have given to that wonderful family member at every wedding who fancies him or herself a professional photographer. I normally don’t mind them and, in fact, answer a ton of gear related questions for them. However, I bring this up because I’m currently editing a wedding where Uncle Bob is in every wide shot of the ceremony. This Uncle Bob did everything except stand between the bride and groom during the kiss. This is where experience comes in. You learn you are not what the wedding is all about so you stay the heck out of the way as much as you can.

I got my start in photography the same way he did so I don’t hold that against him. I spent some money on a nice SLR and started playing. However, I didn’t shoot anywhere I wasn’t invited to do so and I made sure I always stayed behind the people being paid to be there.

Please read this Uncle Bob. I love you, but you’re killing me here.

Tomorrow: How to get started the right way.


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