Amateurs Who Don’t Know What They Are Doing…

skya008That’s a great header, isn’t it. Challenging. Inflammatory. Demeaning. Everything you need for a good cocktail party…

It’s also incomplete. It needs to be grouped with several other statements:

“Amateurs who do know what they are doing.”

“Professionals who do not know what they are doing.”

“Professionals who do know what they are doing.”

And my favourite – “Professionals who do not know what amateurs are doing.” In all these cases there is an assumption that something good or bad is happening and that it is connected with knowledge. If you have it, you’re good and if you don’t you’re bad. And it is good to be good and bad to be bad…

Let’s get a small show of hands amongst the readers of this column; All those of you who have the knowledge of how to fly off and land a Curtiss Goshawk naval fighter aircraft from the USS RANGER hold up your hands. Right – you are good and the others are bad. You may sneer at them.

This post is prompted by an exchange I heard in a shop between two professionals in the photographic business while handling a rather complex new digital camera. They had discovered an automatic setting that gave pretty good results with little user input – sort of an expensive point and shoot option in the menu. It was dismissed as a setting for amateurs who did not know what they were doing. But it was being said by two professionals who were not managing to set the camera in their hands to their satisfaction…after 15 minutes of consultation…

It was not the fault of the camera or the users – though the blame might have been laid on the doorstep of the designer who made something far more complex than necessary. Even here I should not scold – the trade demands complexity in most photographic gear. There are times when the users regret this, but the answer is to learn a simple routine with the goods and use it.

All good in the end – the two pros finally got it working and I did not get caught laughing at them. But it was a good lesson not to get too far above myself when I am playing photographer. I still need the AUTO setting myself sometimes.


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