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Articles

Articles, thoughts, and op-eds written by Eric Hergenreder on historic buildings, all things photography, the art scene, and stories you won't find on the larger news outlets.

Why Trying To Be A Photographer Fucking Sucks

We all have that one friend with the nice camera. That one friend who posts on Instagram way too much, uses way too many hashtags, and asks whether or not we like a photo before they post it. Always asking you to come out shooting with them so they can take photos of you, inviting you to shitty art shows, and acting strange whenever anyone asks whether or not they're trying to be a photographer. Well, as you guys probably know, I’m that friend, and I’m here to tell you why it fucking sucks.

 photo by  Colin McConnell

First off, let’s be honest. The odds that myself or any of my photo-friends are going to do photography for a living is very small. When I say that I mean just photography. Anyone can have another job that funds their photography hobby and then sells a couple prints a year to justify that new $1k lens they’ve always wanted, but being a photographer by profession and still being able to afford that lens is not exactly something everyone can do. Becoming a profession photographer takes a lot of skill, a lot of perseverance, and a lot of connections. Take Joe Gall (@camera_jesus) for example. Joe is by far one of the most famous, and talented, Detroit photographers. But just talent didn’t get Joe 45k Instagram followers and the ability to sell an 8x12 print for $50. Joe does fucking crazy shit every goddamn day. Not many photographers are as talented as Joe and I would say hardly any would be willing to do half the crazy shit he does, which is important. This sets Joe apart and allows him to take the photos he does, and meet like-minded people that make remarkable projects happen. 

Let’s be real though. Any amateur photographer would drop everything in a heartbeat if they thought they had a realistic chance to pursue photography as a profession. It’s a dream for almost every amateur photographer I know, but even with that being said, I don’t know a single person who has dropped everything to try and become a photographer. It’s just not realistic. We all still have our day jobs, working 9-5 with hopes to save enough this month to get that new body or lens we’ve been eying for a year. It’s not that these photographers don’t have the potential talent or the drive that artists like Joe have, shit is just really fucking hard to get into. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a fistful of models on hand at any given time that I can hit up and do a shoot with. I don’t have connections to helicopters, airplanes, or blimps. But if I did, you know damn well I’d be up there every day.

You might be wondering, why do we still do it? If we know that it’s most likely never going anywhere, why do we still spend thousands of dollars and go out taking photos almost every weekend in 100° summers and -10° winters? Because we fucking love it, that's why. I don’t know a single person who bought a camera because they wanted to be a famous photographer. We buy cameras, upgrade our equipment, and shoot every weekend because we truly love capturing unique images and the adventures that come with such a hobby. I don’t think that photography will ever take me anywhere too far from Detroit, but I guarantee in my lifetime you’ll find me shooting all around the world. You can keep your basement brewery and bird-watching binoculars, and I’ll keep my camera.

 Photo of James Ryan by  Eric Hergenreder

Photo of James Ryan by Eric Hergenreder

I love photography, but certain aspects of being a hobbyist photographer, especially at a younger age, suck.  I go out shooting every chance that I get. I often pick it over studying for exams, doing homework, and social events. It’s calming and relieves all the stress you assholes give me every day. I’m always happy to bring new people along with me so they can see some cool places, views, and experience the sensation that got me addicted to the hobby in the first place. But it comes at a price. I can’t even count the number of ‘friends’ who have unfollowed me on social media because I post too many photos. It’s funny, because I didn’t unfollow you when you went through that weird mirror selfie phase. I also can’t tell you the number of people who have hit me up asking if they could come out shooting so that they could get a new photo for their Instagram or Tinder profile. I will never even entertain that as an option. I mean yeah, I’m happy to take photos of my friends, but there’s just a couple things wrong with that to me. A huge reason I love going out shooting as much as I do is the sense of adventure it gives me, because you really never know what you’re going to run into. I’ll never forget running into a crazy lady at the GT Warehouse with my boy Tom, or seeing the biggest pitbull in existence in Boblo with Tori, and I’ll obviously never forget falling two+ floors in a bando downtown with Tyler and Whitney. Those weren’t photo excursions to get shots for my Tinder profile, those were adventures with friends that happened because we wanted to do something fun. I hate the idea of taking an acquaintance out shooting just to get a photo for their social media. I’m no Joe Gall, but I’d like to think that the photos I take are some convoluted form of art, and looking cool on social media was never what it was about for me. Maybe that’s why I’ll never be a famous photographer, but hell, if being a famous photographer means hanging with people like that maybe I wouldn’t want to be famous anyways. 

This was more of a ramble than an article, but fuck it, it’s been on my mind for a long time. I hope that after reading this you’ll appreciate your friendly local amateur photographer more, and maybe you’ll even go out on an adventure with them sometime. We’re always looking for free models, and maybe you’ll even get a new Tinder picture out of it!


As always, I'll finish this post with something that I've been feeling lately. Death Grips has been in constant rotation when it comes to my musical endeavors. This is definitely one of my favorite songs by them, so check out the video (yeah, its not a photo) and peep the lyrics in the description. Happy listening.