Put down the camera Uncle Bob.

It's no news that "everyone's a photographer", but over the past several months (years for most professionals), it's getting just plain ridiculous.Dads at soccer games with Nikon D3's and 300 f/2.8's, chaperones at prom with Canon 5D Mark II's and fast primes, and uncle Bobs at weddings rockin' R-straps and Fong-spheres.Are hobbyists ever going to draw the line and just stop trying to compete in the professionals' market?

For those who're reading this and scratching their heads a bit, let's start from the beginning.A long-long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,(or about 2002), the professional photography world was starting to look toward the innovations that digital photography was bringing them. Popular 35mm camera manufacturers were starting to come out with higher resolution, more rugged digital bodies, and the medium format world was already starting to acknowledge the advantages of 25+ megapixel tethered capture. Many large volume, lower cost photography operations such as the one I work for were also starting to migrate, and even starting to utilize the power of the internet for their marketing and sales strategies. But a strange thing happened alongside this boom in professional volume; consumers who'd before not had access to high end film labs and expert developers now could rely on their personal computer to process images. This continuity between professionals and consumers has only increased with the larger scale by which digital photography has propagated itself into the digital lifestyle. What used to be a startup cost of several thousands of dollars could almost be had for several hundred. Image processing that used to cost up to $15 per roll of film could be had for the one time value of a memory card plus software.

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This is Bob, at this particular event, it was the Father of the Bride!Add a few years of technology and about a few million emerging pro-sumers/ professionals to the mix, and you can see where there might start to be a problem. Let's not forget to include the plethora of image hosting sites that offer everyone FREE service (Flickr , SmugMug , Photobucket , to name a few). Wow, photography's not looking so bad now is it? This is exactly the thought which is catapulting thousands and thousands of otherwise normal, hardworking moms, dads, aunts, and uncles into the photography market. And who could blame them, right? Well, let's first lump "them" into a persona we can all identify with. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Uncle Bob.And sorry Uncle Bob, but I can blame you! If you don't mind, sir, I'd like to ask you a few questions:

(I'm going to spend the rest of this post referring directly to Uncle Bob and those like him, so please bear with the aggressive statements that follow. ^_^ )

Question #1 - Wow, that's a nice new (insert DSLR here) Uncle Bob, so why are you here?

Truth is, you're not here because you want to be, you're here for what you think is saving you money in the long haul. "Oh my God," you thought, "there's no way I'm paying $10 for a 4x6 of my niece/nephew!" Or "Why would you pay $3000 for someone to photograph your wedding? I could buy my own gear for half that and shoot it as a wedding gift!"

Question #2 - Just what part of your little "investment" is saving you money?

Truth is, it isn't! Even though today's entry level DSLR's are cheap by professional standards, they're still at least a couple hundred bucks. That's not even including the mountain of accessories you may feel compelled to buy to look "professional".And what happens if you manage to damage your gear in the midst of playing the pro? That's right, you eat even more of the cost. Let's not even consider the fact that you might be doingweddings without the reassurance of backup equipment, good insurance, and good contract/lawyer.

Question #3 -Furthermore, what part of this is saving you any of the time/hassle?

Uncle Bob, you already have a day-job. Why needlessly add more hours of work for something that's going to offer you little/no return, especially when there's probably already a professional on the job? Don't think it takes time? Consider travel time, shooting,post processing, and uploading. Even with very little of all four, I know I'd rather spend a majority of that time not shooting for free.

Question #4 - Do you even really know what you're doing with your gear?

If your answer is no, I admire your honesty, but go ahead and add education to your totals for cost and time. If your answer is yes, why are you always standing behind/around me when I'm trying to take a shot at a job I'm being paid to do?

Am I being a tad overzealous on this topic? Hell Yes. Why? Because I'm sick of showing up to sporting events where I know I'm going to see more mom's with Canon 7D's than those with snacks for the players.It's just plain rude to be constantly bumped by a random dad's monopod whilst he's creeping right behind me on the football sidelines.

So what can I as a pissed-off professional do to quash this onslaught of Uncle Bobbing? Why I can dress in bright colored clothing and passively ruin Bob's shot, just what any other mature adult would do. Honestly, it usually never comes to that, but as a preventative measure, I always have sassy-colored clothing on hand just in case. Don't believe me? Well, I wouldn't want to be called a liar. Just check out this Flickr set of an Uncle Bob's volleyball shots:

Wow, Uncle Bob certainly did take a lot of pictures ^o^

Not only are the .jpeg's he's posting for free unprocessed, ill color-balanced, and often out of focus, you can probably see me in every single one of them. I usually never follow up on Uncle Bobs, but I just couldn't help myself. ^_^

Bottom line Uncle Bob, put down the camera and enjoy your life. There are already people being paid much less than you think to waste their time at your kid's game, wedding, or other drawn-out event. And if you're really in it for the love of photography, start off small, at home, or maybe while traveling. But if you're polite, respectful, and not planning on undercutting my territory, I'd be glad to help a fellow enthusiast out. Happy shooting Uncle Bob, please just don't interrupt my day job to ask what the heck ISO is.