Men and Women in Photography — Still a Man’s World?


This is not a discussion about whether men or women are better photographers, I think we have proven time and time again that gender has nothing to do with it. I am more interested in the bigger picture and how the world perceives women photographers and men photographers.

They have been saying for a very long time it is a man’s world, and I thought things had changed, but I keep hearing how women still aren’t paid the same, that women still get treated differently. I don’t know how true it is, I have always gone through life thinking I can do anything if I really want to, well almost anything. Of course I can’t be the queen of England, I will never be a famous movie star and I will never fly to the moon, they are just not something that is possible. Instead I concentrate on realistic goals, those for me are being the best photographer I can be. I don’t think being a woman stops me from that.

Recently I heard that there are more women doing photography than men, especially new people coming into photography. Yet, when you look at the world of professional photography it is still very much dominated by men. Part of the thinking behind this post came when I was going through Nikon’s website and I found a page of photographers, Professional Insights, and they list a whole heap of photographers, but out of the 20 listed only two of them are women — and both are listed near the bottom of the page

I was shocked. I thought if there are more women doing photography now, then why do Nikon only represent it like it is 10%? Of course, that could just be Nikon and maybe that is how they think about the world.

Then I saw this from Canon and their European and Philippine ambassadors, see if you can spot the women in the big picture.

It seems that there is a perception that men do all the really cool stuff, you know like Landscape photography, architecture, while the women do all the portraits, babies and weddings. You really don’t hear of men photographing babies, unless it is their own. So while I think there is a place for women in photography, have we been pigeon-holed as only able to do certain things?

My questions today are more about perceptions. When you think of women photography, what sort of photography comes to mind? Why do you think professional organizations still have more men represented than women?

Tell me your gender and what sort of photography you like doing? Do you find it a struggle to achieve what you want?

(republished from Up for Discussion — Men and Women in Photography with written permission by Leanne Cole)
A passion for photography is the main drive in Leanne Cole‘s life. An image starts with a plan, then execution and onto editing and creating what she planned in the beginning. It is the whole process that is important. Now Leanne is teaching that to anyone who wants to learn.

For more on Leanne’s work visit her site Leanne Cole Photography — Art and Practice.

  • Always makes me wonder why the world’s most famous cooks must be men. Women have a different approach to everything, a different eye. different obstacles in life. Maybe women are once again much wiser than men and keep their hands off a less and less promising career… Seriously, maybe even in this day and age men still face more pressure to earn a family’s bread and butter. Simple economics in the end. Lots and lots of famous and highly respected women photographers out there. More and more female photographers are making their mark on the industry and the world. And I see more and more girls and women carrying serious photography gear, not only regarding smartphone photography and selfies they’re taking “us” on. Today, photography is probably the one industry with no gender discrepancy. Both earn the same: not enough.

  • Your last two sentences are sadly true.

  • Andy Umbo

    There is a discrepancy of income between men and women based on total jobs worked, but very little for similar jobs. This is a statistic that is erroneously repeated by the news media and women’s rights organizations and rarely corrected. Women make something like 97% of what men make in similar jobs, and I haven’t worked for a company in over 30 years that pays women differently than men (and in fact, most of the companies I’ve worked for have many women senior managers, especially in the media and advertising departments).

    What is true in the sociology of work, is that over time, men tend to abandon jobs that don’t pay well, for those that do, and women tend to move into those lower paying jobs. Women aren’t paid less than men, they take jobs that pay less after men abandon them. In fact, I recently had an interview to manage an e-commerce photo department, and on a tour through the studio, the entire photo staff was women! I have never seen that in my management career!

    The bigger issue is that photography has turned into a poorly paying field over the last 30 years. 30 years ago, about 70% of the people in the field made a middle class living, with about 25% making less than middle class, and about 5% making more. Now, about 75% make less than a middle class living, with about 20% making a middle class living, and the same 5% making above middle class. There is more demand for photography that ever before, driven mostly by internet advertising, and yet for some reason, the salaries have compressed to an unlivable level for most. The rise of ‘cheap-to-free’ stock photos, now used by most small local ad agencies, has killed the small regional and local ad studio, and flooded the wedding photography profession with a lot of people looking to make some sort of income, which then has driven prices down in that sector; with couples even advertising on Craig’s List for photographers to do their weddings for free, ’cause they look good and you can use the pictures for your portfolio! The constant and expensive upgrade of digital equipment every 3 to 4 years, vs. the 25+ years you could have owned a film camera, on top of compressed freelance rates, also limits income.

    It’s also a slippery slope to apply any sort of value to women vs. men in business, like “they look at things differently”, or “solve problems differently”, or…whatever. It’s nurture vs, nature and they way people in general look at those attributes has more to do with the difference in the way they were raised, than their gender. I can also say, based on personal observation as well as some study, that it’s not women that get held back in corporations based on gender, it’s the primary care giver at home, regardless of gender, that gets held back. I’ve known situations of many brilliant men who had to leave the office at 4:30 pm to pick up a child every day, or take care of aging parents, to also lose out in the struggle for the top rungs of the ladder because they were not available 24/7.

    So, yes, Dan, those of us in photography are making far less than our peers, and it’s a sad state of affairs.