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MWAC Is A Four-Letter Word


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MWAC Is a Four-Letter Word: {Mom with a Camera}

by guest blogger Kara Wahlgren

Before you dismiss yourself—or anyone else—as an MWAC (mom with a camera), here’s why you should rethink the label.

MWAC (noun): 1. a mom with a camera;  2. new moms with new half-way decent cameras suddenly thinking they are pros and charging for their half-a$$ work undercutting real photographers; 3. a shoot-and-burner who spends little time figuring out the science, art and finer mechanics of photography or the industry and charges below industry-standard pricing.

I should clarify that these aren’t my definitions. They’re the first few responses I found when, out of morbid curiosity, I typed “What is an MWAC?” into a search engine. It’s not too surprising. Skim any photo board, and the general consensus is clear — MWACs are destroying the industry by over-saturating the market, undercharging their clients, and delivering glorified snapshots.

But is it fair to make such a blanket statement? I’ve never been a fan of the term “MWAC,” but since having kids, it gets under my skin even more. I’ve been a professional photographer for five years. I’m registered, I’m insured, I rent space, I know my 1040-SE from my ST-50. But I’ve also given birth (twice), and I still own a camera (didn’t have to barter it for either of my babies). By definition, I’m an MWAC.

MWAC01 MWAC Is A Four-Letter Word Guest Bloggers MCP Thoughts

Then again, I might get off the hook on a technicality. There are usually caveats attached: you’re only an MWAC if you shoot and burn, if you charge chain-store prices for your prints, if you blissfully ignore your taxes, if you still use your kit lens, if this, if that. But however you define an MWAC, the real issue remains — the term makes “mom” shorthand for “crappy photographer.” It lumps all moms together without considering their experience, business savvy, or skill. And it makes a clear statement that, in the world of professional photography, mommies need not apply. If you happen to have kids, you’ll start your business with a handicap and spend a sizable chunk of time defending your right to call yourself a professional. Before you can claw your way to the top, you’ll have to claw your way to the ground floor.

Don’t get me wrong — I get frustrated by the influx of would-be photographers selling harshly-lit, hyper-saturated snapshots for pocket change. But I still think it’s time to ditch the MWAC insults and find a new acronym. Here’s why.

1. It’s hypocritical. Photographers will passionately argue that buying a good camera doesn’t make someone a good photographer. Then in the next breath, they’ll snipe that some local MWAC is shooting with a Rebel. They were right the first time — someone with artistic vision and an entry-level camera will probably outshoot a wannabe with a 5D.

2. It’s misogynistic. In any other industry, it would be called discrimination. Imagine a doctor returning from maternity leave and getting slapped with the label “MDOC,” while her peers warn patients that most MDOCs use substandard equipment and only practice medicine as a hobby. Sounds ridiculous, right? And where are all the DWACs? They’re out there — but they’re usually just called “photographers.”

3. It doesn’t matter. If you’re a professional custom photographer, the cut-rate newbies aren’t stealing your business any more than Wal-Mart is stealing business from Louis Vuitton. I figure, if a customer can’t appreciate the difference in quality, they were never going to pay my three-digit creative fee. So-called MWACs are only in competition with each other.

4. It’s flat-out wrong. Personally, I think I became a better portrait photographer when I had my kids. For starters, whenever I need to test out new equipment or a lighting technique, there’s usually a test subject clinging to my pant leg. And no one knows better than a mom (or dad!) how to cheer up cranky subjects, make someone smile, or adapt to unexpected situations. Most of my favorite portrait photographers are parents. There’s a connection in their photos — maybe because they realize the importance of the memories at stake.

For those reasons, I think it’s time to stop throwing around the “Mom with a Camera” label. And if those reasons aren’t good enough, I’d like to offer one more: Because I’m the mom and I said so.

Kara Wahlgren is a photographer in South Jersey, where she lives with her hubby and two camera-weary boys. Check out her Kiwi Photography blog or visit her Facebook page.

*If you enjoyed this article, you may also like “What is a Professional Photographer in the Digital Photography Age?” Learn more about the definition of a professional photographer and why being a Mom with a Camera/Hobbyist is something to be proud of, not ashamed of.


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