Should Professional Photographers Crowdsource New Camera Gear?

An Orlando-based wedding photographer recently made the unusual move of setting up a GoFundMe account to crowdsource his latest purchase, a Nikon D4s, which retails for around $6,500. He got the idea from a client who suggested that crowdsourcing might be an easier way to finance the gear, rather than taking on an four extra weddings. But photographers across the Internet weren’t so kind to the idea, and a huge controversy erupted in a matter of days.

Here’s an interview the photographer did with Jared Polin, wherein he explains his actions:

Steven Yanni, the photographer under fire, said he saw no reason why he shouldn’t offer the public a chance to pay for his gear. In fact, he says, nobody but other photographers–few of whom even work or live in Orlando–gave him a hard time.

“I haven’t seen a downside, other than from photographers. Which I don’t really understand… It’s like Target commenting on how they don’t like Wal-Mart doing business.”- Steven Yanni

The interview is fairly tame, especially because Polin hardly plays devil’s advocate. He does repeatedly point out that Yanni’s problem is almost certainly in his wording, which comes across as presumptuous, lazy, and perhaps a tad arrogant–if he’d reworded the project, the mess may have been avoided.


Here’s the full copy of Yanni’s text, copied from his now-offline GoFundMe page:

“Buying a new camera is an expense that Pro-Photographers have to take on to keep up. (No they don’t take any better pictures, but when you take 100,000 images a year they do wear out)

Help us get the latest and greatest and to maintain our edge in the Orlando Market.

We are not asking for a handout, the products listed all have value – (Save maybe our ‘Gratefulness’).”

Below he offered several packages: $5,600 gets donors a wedding photo package that pays for itself; $3,800 gets his old Nikon D3s and extra battery; $350 gets a one-hour shoot; $100 gets a printed headshot and 10 extra pictures; $50 gets a workshop.

The deals are not totally unfair, and the idea actually seems reasonable in that light. Photographers would do well to consider a similar method of selling their skills for one-time gear upgrades, and Polin makes a strong point that Yanni may well have succeeded if he’d hired a proper marketer or copywriter to manage the campaign. Once again, we witness the unforgiving beast that is the world wide web.

“It’s the perception. It all comes down to wording online.” – Jared Polin

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3 responses to “Should Professional Photographers Crowdsource New Camera Gear?”

  1. Frank Prince says:

    I think that camera costs are getting out of hand. Professionals and amateurs alike should band together and boycott the manufacturers. Why buy an expensive camera in the first place? How many pros and amateurs are using toy cameras with very positive results.

  2. Barry Kidd says:

    Soon I’m going to need to upgrade Just to maintain a competitive edge on ISO. Perhaps it will be the D4s but I disagree that a photographer “needs” to upgrade every 2 years.

    I’m still working with a brace of D3’s that I’ve been using since Spring 2009. Then again I’m the same guy that used Nikon’s F3 for 20 years without upgrading because they suited me just fine till the digital age came along and you needed a new sensor for higher ISO rather than a roll of film.

    As to crowdsourceing your gear? Well, it’s up to each of us what we do and how we do it but my personal opinion is that it has a trashy ring to it. It’s not however the first time I’ve seen or heard of it. There was a photographer in my area that did the same thing when his body took a dunk in the Atlantic and his insurance didn’t cover water damage. OH well friend. That’s life. Yes, it sucks but that’s business and part of doing business.

  3. I’ve read the varying articles regarding Mr. Yanni’s campaign, and it’s clearly an issue of other photographers trolling his idea. Who cares how he runs his business, Yanni makes an excellent point when he said, “It’s like Target commenting on how they don’t like Wal-Mart doing business.” It’s tact. Businesses like Target could in fact go after other businesses, but it’s all about perception. Being tactless would steer consumers away from their store if they made pity claims about how another business did business.

    This is all a matter of photographers just being douchey. Angry because he found a way to help fund the expensive hobby/business that photography is.

    Haters are going to hate, it’s just too bad that Mr. Yanni’s campaign was targeted by some of the largely followed photographers like Jared which helped spread the negativity.

    In general everyone needs to be different, we need to steer away from the negative, trolling, bullying.

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