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|| News Item: Posted 2009-04-02

Being A Professional
By Darrell Miho

Photo by T. Shane Gilman

Photo by T. Shane Gilman

Darrell Miho (left) and Mark Kauffman in May, 1992 after the opening of a retrospective showing Mark's work at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
Either I'm getting old and grumpy or some people out there just don't get it. Every once in a while I just have to shake my head and wonder, "What are these people thinking?" Odds are, they're not.

People spouting their mouths off on the message boards or sending unprofessional emails or commenting on things they know nothing about or haven't done their research or trying to be funny without thinking about the consequences.

It's a continuous problem that there doesn't seem to be a fix to. Perhaps the solution is just to regurgitate this information over and over because just like there is a new freshman class every year in college, there are always new members here on Perhaps once a year, we should have a State of the Sports Shooter Website speech or a professionalism test for new members.

One of the things that everyone sees is the behavior of people on the message boards. This probably won't be the last time I say this, but at least now we have a link to post whenever we think someone is getting out of line.

Your behavior on the message board reflects on you as a person and a photographer and you will be judged by it.

People either just don't understand this or they just don't care, but the photo world is a small world. People talk. Editors talk. Photographers talk. Editors talk to photographers. Editors read Imagine that! Your reputation precedes you. I know for a fact that one of you will never work for a certain newspaper because of something you wrote on the message board. I know for a fact that some of you come up in conversations repeatedly and it's not to praise your work.

Let me repeat it in case anyone has a problem with short-term memory or retention.

Your behavior on the message board reflects on you as a person and a photographer and you will be judged by it.

I think part of the problem is a lack of foresight and the anonymity the Internet provides. We have become a society of instant gratification. From snail mail to email to instant messages. We do things now and we don't think about how our actions now can affect our career down the road. Trust me, your reputation is being formed right here even if our names are being associated with icons instead of faces.

Everyone needs to act professionally. We have all followed different paths and are at different parts in our careers, but we are all people and we are all expected to act like professionals. Most of you get it. Some of you don't. So here is what I believe it means to be professional.

First and foremost, it means treating others with respect all the time. In case you're wondering, name-calling is not professional. Foul language is not professional.

There was a post that talked about a pissing match and how the poster didn't want the thread to spiral downward, which it did because they were one of the pissers who seemed to have an endless stream, and it became one of those drama filled posts we see periodically. I just have to say one thing - if you don't want a pissing match, then stop pissing. Pissing matches end when one-person stops pissing.

I also got an email once regarding a couple of items I had posted in the classifieds. This is from someone I have never met. "I see you are re-listing this items... I have $100.00 to spare for the bag and the LaCie HD. What do you think do we have a deal? The HD works right?" That Is the entire email, sans their initials. The items in question were listed at $90 and $40. Maybe I am getting old, but this sounded so bad that I simply responded that this wasn't a flea market.

Their response to my response was something to the effect that this was the way people do things online and that they were looking for things to give to some students. I'm sorry, but that's not the way I do things online. A little courtesy would be appropriate.

A simple introduction like "Hello, how are you? My name is so-and-so and blah blah blah…" I still address people as Mr. or Ms. on my initial contact. Perhaps if they had explained themselves a little better in the initial contact and not sounded like their offer was take it or leave it, perhaps I would have been more receptive to the "deal" and taken their "spare" $100.

Being professional also means all the time, not just in public. I had someone call me out on the message boards about being professional and they were very polite and made valid points. In private however, I was sent an email with four-letter words. If you're going to be a professional, you need to do it 24/7/365.

Then there's the post joking around about eating establishments in Los Angeles and suggesting a place in Crenshaw, a place known for gang violence and was featured in the movie "Boys in the Hood". Joking around is all fun and good, but when someone's safety is involved, then that goes a bit too far for me.

It's sort of a double-edged sword, on one side, it is known to be a gang territory, but on the flip side, if you don't mess with them, they don't mess with you. It's not a place to send someone if they're not aware of the environment and at the same time it's really not as bad as people think it is. I've hung out there. I know what it's like. Jokes like this only reinforce the negative stereotype the area has.

Sports Shooter is not alone. There are other sites that have much more drama and less professionalism and I tend not to go to those sites as often for that very reason. Which brings me to another very important point.

It is a known fact that some big name photographers have come and gone from this website. Others pop in now and then, but don't comment nearly as much as they used to on the message boards. Why the exodus? It's simple, they are tired of the lack of professionalism. Bill Frakes. Rod Mar. Robert Beck. Rick Rickman. Vince Laforet. When's the last time you saw them give some advice from their wealth of knowledge on the message board? is a GREAT resource for everyone. Even seasoned professionals learn a thing or two here. I can guarantee you they still read this stuff. They just don't care to deal with the people who seem to think they know more or behave in an unprofessional manner. I can say this because back in college, I used to be a know-it-all. Ask my instructors. We laugh about it now. But I probably would have learned a lot more had I not been so cocky. I had one of the greatest photographers for an instructor and mentor, Mark Kauffman, former staffer for Life Magazine and co-founder of Sports Illustrated. I learned a lot from him, but I look back and often think I could have learned so much more.

If you want to retain the great names that visit this site and learn from some of the best photographers out there, some people need to learn to keep there mouths shut and their minds open. Most of you understand this. But there are always a few bad apples that can spoil it for everyone. Trust me, we will all benefit from their wealth of knowledge.

I would like to believe that in a perfect world, we could monitor ourselves and keep each other in check. But we all know that the world isn't perfect. I'm not perfect. Nobody is perfect. Some, however sometimes drift too far from center and need to get yanked back every so often before they fall off the deep end.

If someone makes a comment about your behavior, provided it's done in a professional manner, don't be offended, listen to what they have to say. They might be right. Or they might be full of it. But it never hurts to take a step back to assess your own self. I wish someone in college had pulled me aside and told me to quit being such a snotty-little-know-it-all. I still get out of line sometimes and I am grateful to have friends that will pull me back.

Think about what you say and what you do before you say or do them. Think about the long-term affects. I sometimes think I shouldn't write this, mostly because the people that I am making an example of aren't going to be happy about it. But I have left their names out of it on purpose because I'm not looking to call them out, just merely using my own personal experience with others as an example that hopefully others will learn from.

The photo community is like a family, dysfunctional and all, but in the end, we are a loyal group who will be there for each other in a time of need. There have been countless threads on good deeds that others have done. Lending a lens or body because someone forgot one or it crapped out. Raising money for another photographer or their family. Offering support during times of need.

We are all professionals. Let's help maintain a level of professionalism that we can all be proud of. We can all do our part to make this community a better place. If we do, maybe some of those big name professionals will drop-in more often to bestow some of their wisdom. I know they're watching.

(Darrell Miho is a Southern California-based freelance photographer. He is also the director of the Garrett Miho Foundation . Check out his blog at:

Related Links:
MIho's member page

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