WWDC 2019 Reaction and Exploitation of Photographers

In Master Photography Roundtable by Jeff Harmon2 Comments

WWDC 2019 Reaction

WWDC happened in late June 2019.  This is a conference that is intended to help developers know what is coming from Apple later on in the year with updates to macOS, iOS, now iPadOS, and hardware changes.  Let’s talk a little about some of the things that I think are important to photographers.

iPadOS and External Storage Support

Let’s start with the announcement that I think is the most important news that came out of WWDC 2019 for photographers – the ability coming in iPadOS 13 in the fall to directly use files from external storage!  The lack of meaningful storage with iPad has been my single biggest issue with editing photos on the iPad and it looks like Apple aims to entirely resolve this with iPadOS and new APIs that will allow app developers to directly access and use files on external storage devices WITHOUT having to copy the files to the local storage first!  

I can’t tell you how excited I am for this feature!  If you combine this feature with the mobile version of Lightroom and the mobile version of Photoshop that is coming sometime in 2019 I think all signs point to me finally being convinced that an iPad only workflow for photo editing on the road is fully viable.  

I still think I would prefer my MacBook Pro for editing on the road, but this makes it a very serious option!  Brent, you already invested in an iPad Pro thinking you wanted to go this route for your own mobile editing, how has that gone and what do you think of this new feature from Apple?

Brent: This opens the door in so many ways. I’m very excited about these options. Primarily due to the fact that, eventually, we should be able to import photos directly into LR from an external storage device, and then take that device and open it up on the computer as well. Even if you were to use LR mobile isolated from LR classic, i.e. not connecting the two via Adobe’s cloud system, you could still use the ipad for mobile processing and then quickly transfer them to the computer. We now have the problem of only one port on the ipad. I think I see two or three USBC ports on future ipads.

I’m very much looking forward to working this way, at least in testing it out. I have a shoot scheduled in a couple weeks that will take me out for a few days, I think I’ll bring just my iPad and see how it goes.

Greg: I did an all iPad workflow years ago with Snapseed because Lightroom wasn’t available.  If I had everything available today back then this would have been a breeze. The iPad, the pencil, the software, another option to edit on the go.  Especially with mouse support coming in iPadOS in the fall as well. Another option to interact with the iPad. I love that we have options today with lots of possibilities to find a workflow that works for you.

Jeff: Have you tried using the pencil for editing much?

Greg: I haven’t had a reason to use it so far, but when Photoshop comes I will have more reason to try it out.

Brent: I have done some with it, not as much as I want to.  Played around with it and kind of enjoyed working with it.

Jeff: I don’t really like editing a photo with the pencil.  I don’t have the latest iPad Pro, just the latest iPad normal which does support the pencil.  I dipped my toes into the water with it, making the minimum investment possible. Not a ton of storage, which limits the usefulness.  I personally haven’t liked using the pencil for editing photos. I am slowed down by it and find that things are in the way for me. I guess I am too used to using a mouse or a Wacom tablet for editing.  I am more efficient with that but we will see where this goes.

Though the pencil isn’t what has held me back from using the iPad for photo editing, it was the storage.  So expensive to buy an iPad Pro with the storage and I just wasn’t willing to spend that much money on something that had limitations.  When Apple puts out iPadOS that is all changing and I am excited about giving it a more serious try.

Brent: I would love to see some kind of dock made available for the iPad. When you are home you could dock it and get more of a traditional experience.

Greg: I am excited at what they are doing, not planning to replace my workflow for using a computer just yet, but I will be watching it closely.

2019 Mac Pro

The other big announcement photographers have probably heard quite a lot about is the announcement of a new Mac Pro that will be available in September.  Brian and I talked very briefly about it in the last episode and since then I have seen a lot of mixed reviews. We don’t know all of the details about the computer just yet, but here is what was announced.

The new Mac Pro is going to look somewhat like a PC desktop has for many years now and like the Mac Pro did back in 2006 before they went to the device that is lovingly called the trash can.  This new Mac Pro is rectangular and looks even more like a chess grater than it did originally, but there is some purpose to that with the way the cooling works. The computer has passive cooling which means there are fans at the front of the case that pulls air through it and then there are heat pipes and heat sinks that pull the heat out of the CPU and memory and put it up into the current of airflow going through the computer.  Thermal throttling has been a major complaint from hardware enthusiasts for a long time so I am guessing Apple has done a lot of work here to make sure it works really well without being loud.

You can take the case off of the computer very easily, a feature I would love to see adopted by PC cases.  Inside things look different from anything available in PCs today yet everything is fully accessible for a person to swap hardware out and upgrade things over time.  Memory slots are not proprietary and easily accessible. An insane number of PCI slots are available, though the power supply and video cards may cover some of them making it tough to use them all.  Speaking of video cards, you can swap them out too, though drivers in macOS are likely to only support AMD cards as Apple and NVIDIA still seem to be at an impasse.

This is the Mac Pro I couldn’t imagine would be coming in 2019.  It is modular and could allow someone to upgrade components over time as they have funds to do so and as the hardware comes down in cost.  How much of that will truly be allowed, we will see, but even a note on the pricing supports the notion.

So now let’s get to the pricing.  Base price will be $5,999. For that you get an 8-core, 16 thread Intel Xeon W processor with a base clock of 3.5GHz and turbo boost up to 4GHz.  You get 32GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Not very impressive hardware specs for the cost.

Brent, you are a Mac guy, before I share my reaction, I wanted to see what you think.  Is a Mac Pro going to be ordered for your desk?

If I primarily edited video 6+ hours a day I’d work this into my budget. Having just purchased a refreshed MacBook Pro for my regular work I’ll be steering clear of this budget buster. However, I’m thrilled to see Apple back on top with an insane computer that people both dream about and complain about.

Greg: I used to own the 2006 Mac Pro.  I loved it. It made sense for me back then.  This one does not. It is not a price point that would work for me.  This computer is made for video content creators and it just doesn’t seem to fit for photographers.

Jeff: This is no doubt going to be a monster of a computer.  For a video content creator this is going to be really nice – if they can afford it.  What Apple is doing here is making the entry into the platform costs $6,000 and the expectation is that people who buy it at that price with the entry level options will be taking out the memory, the CPU, and the storage and putting in their own components.

However, I don’t think this computer is for photographers.  This is probably twice as much as most listeners have paid for a computer and just the tax implications of writing off that expense over 3 to 5 years is going to be difficult.

Also, Lightroom and Photoshop are both applications that don’t really take advantage of lots of cores and threads today, they like high clock rates.  Gigahertz are not the only thing that matters with computers but in the case of Lightroom and Photoshop is it more important than having lots of cores and threads.  So not only is it REALLY expensive, you may actually get better performance out of an iMac or even a full out Mac Mini.

This computer is for larger budget video content creators and just doesn’t make sense for most photographers.  It will be a phenomenal computer, no doubt. I just don’t think it is for photographers.

Greg: Even if I had $45,000 to blow on the top end 2019 MacPro, I wouldn’t part with my MacBook Pro.  I am used to the mobility and I don’t want to be tied down to a desktop.

Brent: It doesn’t make sense for my work.  The new MacBook Pro certainly does and I am excited for getting that out of the box next week.

Greg: This would be a game changer for those working on 4K video.  Being able to work with the raw video without building proxies would change things so much for those doing that.

Jeff: It is really encouraging that this computer exists.  For years many thought Apple was abandoning the desktop and not really producing hardware that was truly for creative professionals.  I am excited to see that they committed so strongly to those pros. The pendulum may have swung a little too far on this but give them a couple of years to work on getting the production costs down and to pay for the R&D and this probably comes down to a price point that mere mortals can afford.  I am very excited to see where this leads but I will definitely have to be watching from afar because I can’t afford to be in the same room as this computer.

The Exploitation of Passionate Photographers

Let’s move on to the other topic for this episode.  Brent, have you ever been asked to do photography for free?

Brent: Yes. Of course.

Greg: Oh yeah.

How often does that happen Greg?

Greg: Not as much these days since I do a lot of software development and people tend to ask about tutorials on how to do things it doing that helps me sell my software.  Back in my wedding shooting days it happened quite a bit.

Brent: I get asked a lot to connect people with students who are itching to do photography.  I try to teach the students that they can’t always do everything for free. Though there still is a time and place for it.

Jeff:  You bring up a great point Brent, I still see a lot of value in doing projects for free because you are excited at the prospect of trying something new.  I completely understand that for your students and for those of us who have never done a lot of different types of photography. I do see value in doing that sometimes.  At the beginning of your journey towards mastering your photography it can really help you to progress to take on projects that will help you to stretch and go.

There are also so many people with cameras today, everyone is a photographer. That makes it harder for someone just starting and learning to differentiate themselves from their friends or family who have a camera.  As you are getting started I think there are projects you have to do for free so that you can learn.

Does Passion Lead to Exploitation?

This has been talked about a lot here on the podcast and throughout all of the photography media outlets for years.  Why is it people feel just fine to ask photographers to work for free and/or for the “publicity” when those same people would ask a plumber, electrician, or many other professionals to do their work for free?

Petapixel pointed out a study that was done by a group of researches and published by Jay Kim over at Duke’s Business school that makes a ton of sense to me.  The premise is that if you are passionate about something, not specific to photographers per se just anything a person is truly passionate about, people sense that and like blood in the water they will take advantage of that passion and exploit the person’s skills.

Do you think that on the whole photographers are passionate?

Greg: Oh yes, for sure.  I have had three careers in my life to this point.  I was an engineer, a marketer, and now I am a software developer/photographer.  There was a big difference in how people asked me to do work between the portion when I was an engineer and when I was a marketer or a photographer.  I think part of the difference is that people don’t realize what it takes to be a good photographer.

Jeff: I totally agree.  Most people have no idea how much time it takes to learn how to use your camera properly to create good images.  It takes a ton of time and experience. A lot of trial and error. The average person has no idea what it takes really.

Brent: We also make it look so simple.  The average listener is probably generally good at what they do with their photography and they don’t see how much time it takes to do things.  They see you come to a shoot for an hour or two and then in a day or two or a short time later you deliver good images. They don’t consider the cost of the equipment either.

If there is any chance I get to let him go out and shoot I am going to do it!  I love it. It is a passion and others can feel that and then they think they are doing me a favor by asking to have me work with them on a project for free.

Greg:  I think photographers tend to underinvest in understanding how to run a successful business.  If you spent the same amount of time on that as you do in educating yourself on how to use your camera and lighting and all the things that the listeners are doing then you would have an entirely different result.

If you only invest in your photography and not in your business you shouldn’t be surprised that you aren’t getting paid well or attracting the clients you want.

Jeff: I think having a passion for the art of photography is critical for a photographer to be successful.  As you get started you have to shoot so much that you better love it. If you don’t, you should move on. I have a passion for photography but I also have a fear that if I did this as a full time job I would lose that love for the art.  Plus, I really love my day job and have a passion for it as well.

Brent: I literally just had this conversation with a student yesterday.  I told them if you love it you should pursue it and if they end up falling out of love with it then you deal with it at that point and switch your career.

Research Says Exploitation of Passion is Human Nature

The research wasn’t something that was specifically looking into photographers.  It was all kinds of jobs or things people do with a tremendous amount of passion.  A couple of quotes from the research summary:

  • It is scary to think that when we see someone in a bad work situation, our mind may jump to the conclusion that they must be passionate about their work. While not always factually incorrect, this may serve to legitimize instances of mistreatment
  • The researchers found this tendency to exploit passion arises from two beliefs: that work is its own reward, and that the employee would have volunteered anyway
  • Our research is not anti-passion.  There is excellent evidence that passionate workers benefit in many ways. It’s simply a warning that we should not let the current cultural emphasis on finding passion in our work be co-opted by the human tendency to legitimize or ignore exploitation

Greg, what do you think?

Greg:

Brent, does this ring true to you?

Brent: Absolutely, and I’d like to take it a bit further, if I may. That is, I see this idea happening all around us. It’s not perfectly related, but these days people expect free stuff all the time. Look at YouTube, or podcasts. They’re free. And many times there are those who continue to expect freebies all the time.

Also, I work at a church-affiliated university. Working “for the cause” is a common theme. And we certainly know what we are getting into, but that doesn’t keep you from burnout. That’s one of the biggest concerns my boss has, is burnout of her staff. And it’s a real concern, it’s totally possible to burn out, even though you are completely passionate about something. If you’re not putting food on the table for the wife and four kids, and you’re not able to “advance” in life one starts to wonder if it’s worth it anymore. So yes, it can be a very real issue no matter your position or passion.

How To Avoid Being Exploited as a Photographer

Whether this research fully explains the issue or not, there is no question photographers get asked very frequently to do their work for free.  So now the question that comes up in my mind is how photographers can avoid this. We don’t want to lose our passion for photographer, that seems to be the essence of what makes a photographer good at their art.  

Greg: I think there is a way through this.  We have to be careful for sure. Undercutting each other isn’t the answer.  You don’t necessarily have to take the offer that is given to you. When I started out shooting weddings I did that by doing second shooting with a local photographer and I was able to come in and help the professional grow and learn much faster under the wings of another photographer than I could on my own.  That is better than a freelance or freebie project.

It is always better to be different than to be better.  If you do something different it gets noticed and clients will choose you because you are different even if there are other photographers who may be technically better.  

Finally, aim for the high end of the market.  Those that I have worked with for free or very little are the worst clients I have had.  Those who have paid me the most are the ones who respect me and let me do it without interfering or demanding things.  Those who paid me less were the most demanding.

Brent: Learn to say no. When I figured out how to say that appropriately things get better. It allows me to focus my efforts on what’s important and to keep sane.

There’s also the notion of protecting one’s income too. If you’re a photographer and you’re given an opportunity to do something for free, think about the work you’re effectively stealing from someone else. Maybe that’s a little harsh, but it applies.

Seattle Photographer Chase Jarvis has a blog post and here’s the link. https://www.chasejarvis.com/blog/say-no-unless-a-project-has-at-least-2-of-these-3-things/

In it he says if a job isn’t providing two of these three things then say no. They are Money, Portfolio and Relationships. So this suggests that free work is possibly valuable so long as it really adds to your portfolio and to your network.

Jeff: I am still in the midst of this.  I am so passionate about it and excited about it that when someone comes to me with a project that I have never done I tend to jump in with both feet because I want to try it.  Though I have changed it after having it start that way.

Shooting sports is my example.  I wanted to shoot football, that didn’t work out because so many photographers want to do that.  A team mom found out I was looking to shoot high school sports and they asked if I wanted to work with the womens high school basketball team.  I accepted that because I wanted to shoot sports. I did it, I learned a ton, made plenty of mistakes. When the next year came around they asked me again and this time I told them that I have experience now and I needed compensation this time around.  I knew that I couldn’t stand on the forever free path. I was nervous to ask, but it worked out just great and they agreed.

I also think there are absolutely some things that are still worth doing for free.  Charitable cases that you believe in and do without any compensation.

Some Projects Are Worth Doing For Free

Greg: What kinds of projects have you done that had no compensation attached and you are so glad you accepted?

Jeff: I have had two big ones.  Both were serious health issues that families had to face.  First was a family where mom had a tumor that had to be removed from her brain and they didn’t know for sure how it would turn out.  I took photos before the surgery and things worked out for her and the family is doing great today. The other I talked about on the podcast a few weeks ago where a lady was losing her fight with cancer and the doctors knew she didn’t have long to live.  I took pictures of her and her husband that they would use in the obituary and at the funeral and I was so happy to help them with those photos.

Brent: I helped a family where one of the children had a form of very fast moving cancer.  6-9 months usually after diagnosis. I gave them a really nice big canvas and I loved doing it.  On the flip side I went on several mission trips photographing what we were doing. I either came out even on the project or I spent hundreds of dollars out of my pocket to be there and participate.

Greg: We all point to these charitable cases.  Two stories for me too. I feel good about one and a terrible regret.  I had a co-worker ask to do a free photo shoot for a family and it turned out that her father was dying.  I had no idea and passed on it. After he passed a few weeks later I felt just terrible. Then another situation I had a friend of mine had a terrible medical issue and they had a baby that only lived for a few minutes after birth. I dropped everything and went and took those photos and I am so glad I did.

Think hard before you turn those things down.  You can’t do everything for free, but when the human side of things matters that much you should see if you can make it happen so you don’t end up regretting things.

Jeff:  It is a challenge.  There is so much value and so much we can do to improve the world by taking on these projects.  Shooting for free for a good cause. Makes us good people. But at the same time you can’t go and shoot for free with every hard-luck story.

I think that is something to take away from this episode.  The human tendency is going to be detecting the passion of a photographer and then try to exploit that.  It is a hard balance, you have to make judgement calls. People probably aren’t trying to be mean or take advantage all of the time, some will, but we have to do what it takes to make sure we get compensated.  Something I need to work on.

Greg: I think you just have to assess the sincerity of the requests.  If the person is uninformed where they just don’t know what the value of the work really is.

Jeff: If you are a photography who has had the same pricing for a few years you need to take a look at that.  Not only is inflation happening but you are getting better with experience.

Doodads

Brent: CalDigit TS3 Plus 15-Port Thunderbolt 3 Dock ($310) https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1434943-REG/caldigit_500561_ts3_thunderbolt_3_docking.html

Greg: X-Rite i1Studio ($440) .  Jeff suggested checking out DisplayCAL open source software to try out over the software that comes with the device.

Jeff: TeraCopy for Windows (free for many uses, $25 for a few pro features).  I use this to copy files faster than the native file copy does and best of all to copy my files from my memory card to my computer and do a checksum validation to guarantee the full file made it without any corruption.

Reminders:

Comments

  1. Great show guys!

    I have a question in particular for you Jeff. I know this episode you mentioned that if there was a modular Mac in the $2000-$2500 price range you would consider it.

    You have said quite a few times that you’d love a full frame body but they are too expensive. You could get a FF body for around the same price so it’s there a reason why you see one being more value than the other? You keep your body for a long time so it would be a good investment for you.

    Also you could build a way more powerful PC for $3K or even get the same specs for much cheaper than you would get with the modular Mac. But if you prefer the Mac OS then obviously it would be the better choice!

    1. Author

      @Daniel,

      The keyword in there is “consider” it. With the pricing the way it is, as compared with what I can do on the PC side of things myself, I really can’t even consider top of the line Mac computers. If Apple used this new 2019 Mac Pro as a foundation or platform to make something available for much less I would have to strongly consider that option.

      Not only have I stayed away from upgrading my camera to full frame because of the cost, I built my computer for photo (and video but that just hasn’t happened much) editing more than 5 years ago and haven’t upgraded anything. It is for the same reason. My 5+ year old computer is running at 4.2Ghz, has 32GB of RAM, and has a decently fast SSD drive. Yes, the technology has improved and there is nothing I would like more than to dive into a new build, but 5+ years later it is still doing the job.

      Yes, the costs are similar, but I am quite sure I will prioritize getting a new computer (probably a custom built PC again) over a full frame camera body because I use my computer for other things besides photography. I say it enough on the podcast episodes about my being a hobbyist photographer who has a day job that is should be no surprise that I do a lot of other things with my PC besides photography. Among other things, as an example, I run virtual machines to test things out for my day job as an information security professional. Investing in my desktop computer is just higher priority than investing in a full frame camera.

      Another reason I prioritize the computer above a full frame camera is my not being convinced I want to stay with Canon. Going to the Canon 5D Mark IV full frame camera no doubt would help me as a photographer and would be least expensive way for me to do that. Well, other than finding a used 5D Mark III or maybe buying something refurbished through Canon. However, I am not convinced that the money invested there would so significantly change my photography that it would be worth the expense. If I was going to go to full frame and really try to make an investment that was going to meaningfully change the quality of my photography with gear alone (there are SOOOO many other ways I am improving my photographer that also require investment besides gear) and I had the opportunity to do that today I think I would invest in Sony. Such an investment would be significantly more expensive that a new desktop computer would be.

      Really though, I don’t have the funds laying around to be making any investment. I am getting what I need out of a 5+ year old PC for my photo editing and the crop sensor cameras I am using are not what is limiting my ability to create the photos I envision. I am hoping that I can get funding for a new computer approved by the Harmon finance committee in 2020. Canon has until then to release something compelling enough in the way of a camera body to change the prioritization of my investment.

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