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Book Bag: 'Professional Photography' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

13 November 2014

The full title of Grant Scott's 196-page survey is Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained. And if you think that's a handful, wait until you open the book. There's nothing Scott misses in this comprehensive fly-over.

Scott has been a professional photographer since 2000 after working for 15 years as an art director of photography books and magazines such as Elle and Tatler in the UK. He has edited Professional Photographer, Photography Monthly and Turning Pro magazines in the UK and is now a freelance photographer, a senior lecturer on Editorial and Advertising Photography at the University of Gloucestershire and the founder and curator/editor of The United Nations of Photography.

We'll outline the book's contents shortly but first we want to disclose what kept our nose in the book for a couple of weeks, sipping a few pages at a time.

It was Scott's approach to the material.

He not only laid out each issue he discussed even-handedly but he concludes each discussion with a list of things you can do about it.

That's pretty rare.

Usually we get moaning and groaning or spaced-out enthusiasm but rarely do we get a list of things we can do about anything. And given his sharp-eyed appreciation for the problems and opportunities, the lists are particularly useful tools. They're not the kind of thing you're used to (stuff you already tried in a different order).


In just seven chapters he gives both old and new professional photographers something to think about on every page. Here are just the highlights of each chapter:

Chapter 1 covers The New Global Landscape, pointing out that both moving and still images are part of it.

Chapter 2 continues with The New Commercial Environment. He's clear-eyed about the changes that have occurred in publishing and photojournalism. And he's forthright about dealing with buyers who don't know what they're doing.

Chapter 3 discusses Getting On-Track Online, suggesting your Web site is your shop window and how best to dress it. He delves into the issue of blogging and social media without leaving email behind. Also included is a discussion of competitions and festivals.

Chapter 4 talks about The Power of the Personal Project in rediscovering the joy of photography and stretching your skills. It also covers publishing a photo book and exhibiting prints.

Chapter 5 considers The Value of the Image Reconsidered, asking, "Does the photographic image have any value in the twenty-first century?" The discussion includes a copyright, funding, stock images, syndication and the print as artifact.

Chapter 6 evaluates The Importance of the Moving Image, defining the moving image and its market while not neglecting a discussion of professional audio capture and pricing the service.

Chapter 7 concludes with Taking Control of Your Professional Practice.

An Appendix lists useful and interesting Web sites in several categories.


The book is well-illustrated with surprisingly contemporary Web sites as well as a nicely-reproduced sample images. And the discussions are engaging. More than once we found ourselves arguing back at the pristine page. But just to insert another point of view.

In discussion building a Web site, for example, he advises using a content management system like WordPress. Naturally, we argued for custom code under your own control so you can do anything you want. But that's admittedly out of reach for the busy pro and Scott's step-by-step advice with checklists is probably the most efficient discussion of what to do in which order we've ever seen.

When he broaches the subject of the value of an image (with a sober and up-to-date portrayal of the current ploys in magazine contracts), he insists the image today is merely code. We had to complain that it isn't code at all. It doesn't do anything. It's merely data. You feed it to code to display an image, for example. While we're technically correct, he has a point he's making about the image as artifact. And that's more than mere data.

His most controversial statement, however, is tucked into the back of the book, although Scott seems to think he's mentioned it earlier. What he says earlier is this:

Professional photography cannot be discussed, embarked upon, engaged with, or understood without first accepting that without a commercial environment, it would not exist. Photography would remain what it is for many -- a hobby.

What he says later, is a bit more controversial:

The truth of professional photography is that if you are not paid for your work then, yes, it is a hobby, as you will need to earn your living from some other activity. Therefore the client is the enabler who allows you to both pay your bills and continue with your photographic practice. To try and remove contemporary fine art from this equation is patently ridiculous when the photographs that sell for the highest value, do so in that very market.

It seems to us that by this criteria, painting was a hobby for Vincent Van Gogh. He never sold anything in his lifetime, after all. He didn't earn his living from some other activity either, though. He had a generous brother.


Leaving fine art out of the equation, what Scott focuses on is the new landscape for professional photographers, the ones with clients (or who hope to have clients). He paints a clearer picture of that landscape than we have seen anywhere else. And as you study the picture he paints, you will no doubt be inspired by an idea or two.

To sum it up, we found Scott's book lively, intelligent, engaging and useful. You don't often find those virtues between the covers of one book. Four photo corners.

Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained by Grant Scott, published by Focal Press, 196 pages, $38.95 (or $29.62 at

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