David Jay’s – “The System – A 10 Step Guide to Starting Your Photography Business” Reviewed

In the past couple of weeks since David Jay released his “The System – A 10 Step Guide to Starting Your Photography Business,” the wedding photography world has been abuzz with opinions, for better or worse, of this latest informational guide for new photographers. If you’ve managed to stay out of the fray, consider your time more productively spent.

Though I’ve been aware of the fact that heated discussions have been taking place, I’ve done my best to keep out of them. Instead, I wanted the opportunity to review The System without being influenced by all the clamor and vitriol that’s sure to fly anytime something controversial heats up on the internet. My goal here is to review this guide with as an unbiased eye as possible.

Why Bother?
Before we get started, you might be asking “Why bother?” To answer, I’ll share with you my experience at the most recent WPPI convention in Las Vegas. There I met so many new photographers. People who’d been in business for less than a year in some cases, not aware which are the best business credit cards even… What struck me is how much they revered the “rockstars” in the business. More than a few came up to me the day after meeting me and apologized for not knowing immediately who I was and not acting deferentially. (Like I care. I’m usually in search of the bar at these things.)

My point is that there are many, many new photographers who genuinely revere, admire and believe the high-profile voices in this industry. If they say something, their word is as good as gold. To borrow from an old ad slogan, when David Jay speaks, people listen. The question is: Should you?

Who is David Jay?
For those not familiar with David Jay, he’s a former photographer from Santa Barbara who achieved some acclaim shooting weddings in the mid-2000’s. His real claim to fame, in my mind, is that he’s made a small fortune selling products to photographers, starting with his Show It! web slide show software. (Disclosure: I own this product.) His company now offers a small range of photographic software products – from websites to online file sharing.

In reviewing The System, I think it’s important to understand its author and his motivations. First, by his own admission, Jay ceased photographing weddings in 2008. He is no longer a professional photographer. Instead, he’s the owner and CEO of a software company that sells products to photographers. Yet, the irony here is that he’s still viewed – and presents himself – as a compatriot to photographers. I often find it ironic how people who are successful for their ability to sell stuff to photographers are lauded and continue to teach based upon their photographic skills.

Simply put, his admirable skill set lies in starting, running and marketing a software company – not necessarily as a successful photographer. This is an important point to consider as one contemplates the relevance of his photography advice.

Easy to Raise Rates in Boom Years
One of the illustrations in his The System is how his rates rapidly increased during his five year run as a photographer. Now, for those of you who weren’t around from 2002 to 2007, Jay’s years in business, let me just tell you that this time period was the golden era for wedding photography in Southern California. Competition was lower and the money was good. Wedding photographers’ rates in general matched those of housing prices during that time – they went straight up.

In the years since, unfortunately, rates have headed right back down. Personally, I’d be  impressed if Jay’s rate increase had taken place during the huge downturn that we’ve had in Southern California. In his aforementioned rates illustration, he states “2008 – Jasmine Star kicked me out of the industry.” I would venture to guess that in reality a) the business got a lot tougher and b) he was making gobs of money with his software company so there was really no need to shoot weddings anymore. Let’s just be honest here.

I also bring this point up because Jay makes it look easy to just raise your rates to rock star levels in a matter of a few short years. Sadly, given that we’re only now emerging ever-so-slowly from the worst economic conditions since the great depression, that’s really not possible for the overwhelming majority of photographers. To hold yourself to unrealistic goals is a recipe for frustration and even failure. For Jay to put this out there as a model to be emulated is simply not fair to his audience.

Having said all that, let’s dig into my review:

The Like Button
Despite what the detractors of The System may have to say, there is some good info in its pages. I can’t agree more with “Friends are the Foundation of Your Business.” His 6th Step on Marketing and Branding, though a bit shallow, has some interesting insights. Jay’s idea of the importance of a video of the photographer on the website runs counter to most of our expectations – but may well be worth considering.

Step 7 is as good a one-page primer on preparing for shooting a wedding as I’ve read. In particular, his emphasis on good communication and the importance of having a written contract is especially on target. (There’s an offer to receive his free contract, however when I signed up I merely received a promise for free stuff in the future. So much for good communication.)

What I most liked about The System was his reading list. Books like Anatomy of Buzz and The Emyth Revisited (Written by Michael Gerber not Emanual Rosen as noted in The System) are definite-must reads for any small businessperson. There’s other books in there as well that I’m going to put on my reading list. Knowledge from a wide range of sources is always a great idea.

The best that I can say about The System is that it reminded me of attending a WPPI talk – a lot of fluff with the occasional helpful nugget of information that (hopefully) makes the time invested worthwhile. I think the greatest strength of The System is that it speaks to new photographers on their terms. It’s far too easy to forget the many challenges, big and small, that beginners face. While some of the tips shared seemed trite to me, they may be welcome by you if you’re just trying to wrap your head around all the technology and processes necessary to make this business work. Kudos to David Jay for reaching out.

Thumbs Down
I’ll start my criticism by skipping to the last page. There Jay states “Thank You: The System is So Much Bigger Than Me.” Actually, I’m sad to report that it’s not and that’s really the downfall of this whole document. It’s main goal is not to benefit photographers or the industry, it’s to sell more stuff for David Jay’s company. In so doing, it does a huge disservice to photographers and the industry that Jay hypocritically purports to serve.

Mind you, I don’t fault Jay for trying to promote his products. I do fault him however for doing so at the expense of the people he’s claiming to help. The most egregious example of this is his Step Nine where he admonishes “Clients Want You, Not Your Prints.” His message is to forget about delivering any product such as prints or albums, just “Shoot and Share” digital files – using his Pass website that he’s happy to sell you.

The problem with this “Shoot and Share” ethos is that it doesn’t translate to a profitable business model. Just making it easy for clients to access digital files without some way to charge for it is only profitable for the guy selling you the means to do the sharing – that person being David Jay.

No Need to Throw the Baby Out
In reality, the selling of physical products such as albums and prints is still highly profitable and typically generates about 1/3 of the overall billings for most profitable studios. There is no need to give up selling product and, to anyone starting in the business, this is an area where you can make a significant profit. Many clients still want albums and whatnot. Indeed, the revenue from selling products generally makes the difference between a full-time career that pays well and one that’s forever on the edge of being profitable. For Jay to try to convince photographers otherwise is shameful in my opinion.

Besides, what does David Jay know about being a wedding photographer these days? By his own admission, he hasn’t been in the business for five years now. When you’re in the software business, the answer to every problem lies in… more software.

There’s plenty more self-serving advice as well in the The System. For example, when it comes to websites Jay advises “Don’t waste your money on a template.” Really? Someone starting out should just run out and purchase a David Jay Show It custom web site for $1,500 (conveniently advertised on the next page). It’s okay to beg and borrow the very gear necessary to shoot the wedding, but buy a perfectly usable and good looking template that can cost as little as $100 is a waste of money? I don’t think I’m being too cynical to say that if David Jay were selling camera gear, he’d be shoveling you his latest Mark V camera instead.

The quote that’s really raised the hackles of many within the industry is his advice to “Spray and Pray” when it comes to photographing a wedding. Because this point has already been debated and berated up and down, I won’t comment further other than it’s emblematic of what appears to be his real goal with The System. That being to get as many new photographers into the market as possible so that he can sell them (you) stuff. Whether they (you) are successful or not doesn’t really seem to be as much a concern as the mere fact that you buy his stuff.

A Shame
I could continue to pick out flaws with The System, but my point here is to provide a useful review not grind on Jay. (I’ll just add that I wish he’d left Mother Theresa and Jesus out of this profiteering venture.) Overall, I view The System as a darn shame. David Jay has a huge pull in the industry – at last count The System had 3,000 Facebook Likes. Clearly his ideas of sharing and openness resonate with many. It’s unfortunate that much of the content is self-serving and not helpful to creating a sustainable wedding photography business.

To those of you in his target market – starting out and looking for advice and direction – my advice is take everything in The System with a grain of salt. Learn what you can, but don’t take any of it at face value. Sure it would be great if one could follow David Jay down the rosy path to a profitable business. Just keep in mind that anyone who offers you a shortcut to success is just trying to sell you something.

In the end, The System – and David Jay –  is just trying to sell you something.

John Mirelesl

About johnmireles

Photographer, writer, thinker, climber, outrigger canoeist, bad guitar player and even worse singer.
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66 Responses to David Jay’s – “The System – A 10 Step Guide to Starting Your Photography Business” Reviewed

  1. Ted says:

    I will be the first to admit to using the “system” as a general gag joke on my general perception of the wedding industry and of my general dislike of David Jay, or “rockstars” for that matter.

    The system does have some useful material, as you mentioned- friends are the foundation, communication and create a personal experience with and for the client, and the books. But the cons (however you interpret the word- con is up to you. Some will believe the con as in con-man, others as against…) of the “system” make it truly a disappointing self-serving message as you mentioned, to buy his product. Especially with the spray’d and pray’d idea. I am sure we don’t need further examples of weddings, where the images from the “professional” photographer destroyed the couple’s wedding. It screws up the couple’s wedding, or memory of it, the rapport between the client and photographer (which goes against one of the system’s step, general view of the wedding photography industry as a whole. By his careful additions to his services where he is going to rake in profit, it really does show how self-serving this “system” is.

    Why is Mother Teresa in there? She was never a model for profit! Plus, I think our dear David, needs to read your blog entries on Right of usage for images and Copyright. Unless he rightfully paid for the usage of the image from the photographer, because I seriously doubt he photographed her.

    Anyway, as always, thank you for an insightful post!

  2. jeffrey woods says:

    Good info bro hope all is well.

  3. Jasmine E. says:

    I truly appreciate your approach in sharing. So much easier on the eyes than what I’ve read previously on other blogs! Thank you for you post. I always look forward to them!

  4. Pizzuti says:

    This was a fantastic and unbiased review, nice job.

  5. cathydavidphoto says:

    FANTASTIC review and well spoken.

  6. Don Mamone says:

    Great review. Thanks for taking the time to point out the pros and cons of this hottly contested topic. Seems fair and unbiased!

  7. Don Mamone says:

    Thanks for taking the time to add your thoughts to this topic in a fair and unbiased manner. Always a pleasure to read your stuff!

  8. John. What a well written assessment of David’s system. Glad you took the time and waited for the hailstorm to calm down.

    Love reading your stuff.

  9. Greg says:

    Funny. A guy that sells stuff to photographers. Knocking a guy that sells stuff to photographers.

    • johnmireles says:

      Well, as I wrote in my review, I don’t fault him for selling stuff to photographers. (I actually admire his success in this department.) I don’t even fault his products – I even own Showit Web. Where I find fault with his System is that it provides information that, in my opinion, enriches David Jay at the expense of the financial success of photographers. If you’re actually hurting the people you’re selling too, I think it’s fair for me to point that out. Besides, if there’s something specific in my post that you disagree with, let me know.

    • showitamelia says:

      🙂 classic. Nice response Greg!

      Regardless. Thanks for spreading the word about The System. I really appreciate you including it in your email blast. It’s already helping tens of thousands of photographers start their business and by you emailing and posting about it more people will check it out and be able to take some good stuff from it and then of course people will toss the stuff they don’t agree with. No system is perfect for everyone but this is the best one out there with the most straight forward way to get going and it’s certainly gotten more people’s eyes on it than any book, magazine or video that’s out there so even if you discount me as a photographer I suppose you could learn a bit about marketing from what just happend 🙂

      • Shawn Rodgers says:

        Hello David!

        I think you’re in trouble buddy. I hope you’re as good at managing and investing your money as you are at marketing. I think you’d better stick to just the one Tesla.

        You’ve pulled the classic marketing trick of creating controversy and it’s getting you attention worldwide. Almost genius. Except you went too far. You’ve been slammed horribly on Twitter and Facebook, torn limb from limb on DWF (big newbie hangout), and are now getting it on personal blogs. And amazingly, you keep replying (here, FB, Twitter, Gary’s blog) like a total punk who is giggling and counting his cash. You’re total lack of sincerity and inability to even seem a little genuine is what will kill you more than the system will. It seems almost sociopathic to a many of us. I’d be amazed if you were allowed to give anyone the time of day the next time you want to speak anywhere reputable (WPPI cough cough).

        P.T. Barnum never met the internet. The controversy method to marketing only works if you’re very careful and sincere. Read Danoah.com if you want to see one guy who has mastered this perfectly.

        What you have done is the mentor equivalent of me shooting a high profile wedding and pulling my pants down and flapping my junk around during the reception, and then laughing about it and being pompous all over the internet while the bride is crying. SURE that would create an amazing amount of buzz. But not the helpful kind.

        Your best bet at this point is to disappear. Be a silent partner and secret advisor to your business. I doubt it will be long before they firmly ask you to do so. You’re on your way to becoming the Don Lapre of the photography industry. I do hope you work it out much better than he did. Do you feel that manic fluttering in your gut, somewhere thinly between victory and self destruction? The mirror is often the hardest place to look. I hope can you find peace there.

    • Jose says:

      The difference between the two is that John is still a photographer.

    • Sorry Greg, but I don’t think I see another comment defending the snake oil salesman.

      Sell stuff to people – sure, we are all doing it.
      Sell crap to people – you deserve to be called out.
      Sell using Mother Teresa & Jesus? Even I find that distasteful, and I am not religious.
      Change your mind on SEVERAL key issues – very questionable.
      Switch loyalties at the drop of a hat – awful (what happened to friends???)
      Throw people close to you under a bus to save your own reputation – disgraceful.
      Lying on your Facebook page to save face at the expense of others – WOW!

      These are not guesses, I can give you solid proof on all of the above.

      I think the review John gave was balanced, and fair. Instead of simply making a sarcastic comment, would you care to say what you agree and disagree about, and why? If you support the “system” I would love to hear why that is. Seriously, I would.

      We average around $3,000 on album upgrades, per client, yet David Jay would have us believe that product is dead, and we should just “Shoot & Share”. Is he serious???? On what planet should I not be selling albums to my clients, who want them, love them, and virtually always upgrade to many more pages. It’s a happy situation for everyone.

      Oh wait, it isn’t happy for David Jay UNLESS the images are uploaded to him and he makes money. “Shoot & Share” is, in my opinion, a couple of rungs down the ladder from “Shoot & Burn” At least with “Shoot & Burn” the client has something tangible. I’m surprised that the similarity between these terms has not been pointed out before now – or maybe I missed it.

      Strange really, I am asking him if I can “Share” my own wedding images, shot by him, and he does not even have the decency to reply to me. Yeah, what a guy to pick as a mentor (aimed at those who have). Maybe treating people with respect should be on the first page of his “system”, don’t you think?

      Rant over!

  10. Thanjs for such a level headed and honest review. I’ve never been a big fan of DJ, he always seemed totally transparent and self serving to me. A hundred years ago we’d have called him a snake oil salesman, selling cures to what ails you, just $5 a bottle, or a case for $39.95. Still there ate some good points there on marketing but nothing that’s likely to create the next rockstar photographer overall.

  11. Good review. Way to break it down without being bias toward the supporters or haters. I agree, there is good marketing stuff in the System (a lot that I have used to build my own business) but the shooting tips take away skill of the photographer. In the end, you are right, he is merely just trying to sell his products!

  12. workmanphoto says:

    I’m glad to see someone point out the faults with the system but also stay on high road.I also had similiar impressions of it and I agree there are some small nuggets of good advice to pull out of it but overall it felt exactly like a WPPI sales pitch for himself.

  13. David Beckstead says:

    Great points man!

  14. A great honest review.

  15. Excellent and un-biased. Unfortunately, there are some others in the industry doing the same thing with their products. They’re just not publishing documents that prey on the hopes of newcomers. The reason this has ruffled so many feathers is because there are so many of us that know that most of the content is self-serving crap.

  16. angelalovinglegacyphotography says:

    Very well written. Your thoughtful insight, I hope, will be read by many. As an artist who is a follower of Jesus, I am saddened to see His name used as a marketing tool… reflecting disfavorably on others who call themselves followers. The bottom line is that as artists and as business owners, we must ardently pursue excellence. We must constantly seek to become better at we do so that we have a product that will outlast an onslaught of well-marketed mediocrity. Thank you for your intentional analysis and for taking the time to use your influence positively!

  17. imagesofhis says:

    I think you did a pretty good job of reviewing the system. Thanks! Especially, a review that might help out some new to the industry to understand the value of a physical product along with digital. Also, that in general one shouldn’t have an expectation to raise their rates the way he was able too. He is a great marketer though and I liked his reading list very much.

  18. craig john says:

    Kudos for the good level headed write-up, John.

  19. rickrosen says:

    Excellent thoughts John. The problem I have with DJ and others in his little circle is that they promote each other which to the newcomers adds great credibility and believability to what they are pitching. The message is always to follow them and you will be a big success in just a few years which any experienced photographer knows is untrue, especially in this current market. Young families get hurt because the wide-eyed newbie maxes out their credit cards to buy the stuff being pitched and all the expensive gear they recommend. Canon sells a crap load of 50mm 1.2 lenses because J* recommends it. After a few years most of those newcomers will fail and disappear with a mountain of debt and a strained family. The other issue is that by making it sound so easy to shoot a wedding they give the newcomer a sense of false confidence and many weddings are screwed up. I hear photographer horror stories all the time. Every working, experienced professional is hurt by the “Showiteer” mentality because the entire industry looks only as professional as the last photographer experience at the church or venue. We all collectively take it on the chin as Jay fills his pockets while destroying the profession.

  20. Lynn Clark says:

    I appreciate your calm review of this. So many others I’ve read are all about tearing him down. I read it and felt like it was a big sales pitch for his products cloaked in a business system, but that’s what a lot of photographers are doing now, so it’s not surprising. I thought the best part was his reading list, which had titles I haven’t read along side some obvious ones (e-Myth is the solopreneur’s beginner’s bible, right?). Thanks for a review that cuts the wheat from the chaff, John.

  21. I agree with Angela, this post is very well written. I heard of the system, but never looked into it just because of all the crap I’ve heard regarding David Jay. You can never have to much information, unfortunately the world is full of disinformation, and it’s our job to sift through it.

  22. Jerry says:

    Could not have been said any better !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I wish more people can see through what he is doing.

  23. Andy says:

    I am happy that you reviewed David Jay’s “The System”. I closely looked over what DJ had to say and found what he said to be dubiousd. He was simply selling a product. As long as I realize what he was up to I can pull from it what I need and move on. On the other hand, he is offering a plan of action. For someone who is just starting it is something. Having a bad plan is better than not having a plan at all. It is not a bad thing to fail if you are following a plan. That is how you learn. After all, there is no such thing as a perfect plan.
    Myself? I don’t advertise. I don’t have a lot of “friends” in the industry. I own a template web site. I shot 60 weddings last year and will do more this year. My success has been accomplished by one thing, fanatical focus on what I do best and focus on client relationships. Follow up brilliantly.
    Your competition is not the other photographer. Your competition is the person sitting across the desk in front of you that you want to buy your service. In the end, clients are buying a relationship.
    There are lots of “teaching” photographers out there. The thing to remember is that experts can only offer you an informed opinion (usually while selling you something)
    Have a plan, learn from your mistakes and adapt.

  24. Betsy McCue says:

    Well put, John! Thanks for sharing an objective non-emotionally-charged evaluation on the pros and cons of the system. Hope that those starting out continue to learn from the nuts and bolts on your site… The rising tide raises all ships and we appreciate your willingness to share!!

  25. John says:

    Excellent review John. I started my photography ‘service’ (I wouldn’t call it a business yet) in 2009. I started following [the work of] a lot of these “Rockstars” then and watched more show up. That was right when Jasmine started becoming who she is today. It was interesting to watch, because I’ve been paying attention to a lot of these photographers’ work, but have seen some of their messages move from honestly helping people to becoming somewhat arrogant in their tone with the way they share information. David Jay, for some reason, never really stuck out to me. He does seem a little too flashy for my taste. Those shots of him with cloud city behind him in his “freedom house” kind of turn my stomach a bit. Kind of like watching a TV evangelist… They’re suppose to be spreading the word, but they’re 10,000 dollar suit is too loud. I’ve been interested in reading The System to see if there is any helpful information, but have been pretty sure it was going to be another Showit ad. I promise I will read the system soon, when I have the time. It just hasn’t been “appointment reading” to this point.

  26. Andy Martin says:

    His email should have started with, “Paid Advertisement”.
    Ok, so David Jay is selling something. But here is the thing… if you are a newbie and don’t know where to begin, at the very least you need to have a plan. A bad plan is better than no plan at all. I would tell a newbie, Have a plan. Learn from your mistakes and adapt. Be like a shark. A shark will die if sitting still. So move in a direction. Any direction. And when you get to where you want to be… keep moving. You will make mistakes along the way. There is no way around it.
    Myself? I own a website template. I have very few friends in the industry. I went into debt buying good equipment… I quess I didn’t know any better. Today, I am debt free. Last year I shot 60 weddings. This year (and it is April) I will shoot 60 weddings.
    My focus has not been to aquire “friends” in the industry. I guess maybe because I have no plans on selling them anything.
    My goal has been to aquire outstanding client relationships… To follow up brilliantly… My competition is NOT my fellow photographer. My competition is the potentual client sitting across my desk. They have options beyond what I am offering them. They are the ones I am selling a relationship to and who are going to build my buisiness.
    Buyers beware – What we need to remember about David Jay and all of those other so called experts is they can only give you and informed opinion and usually while they are trying to sell you something.
    The way to advance your buisiness is to have a plan, make mistakes and adapt. Don’t sleep and be content. Don’t be second to none. At the very least meet your clients needs and at best surprise your clients and exceed their needs. Make them raving fans. As photographers we provide a service and clients buy our service trusting we will do what we say. They are the ones buying a relationship, so focus on that.

  27. artsyphotographer1 says:

    I totally agree with you. I would add that if you have a sound business model and financials and choose to charge a higher creative fee with at an additional charge for full size & fully edited, corrected, high res ready for print images on disc it does not make one less of a professional photographer. There are two basic biz models out there. One being you make your money on the backend and two on the front end. Me, I choose front end.

  28. That is great John. Well said.

  29. George Natis says:

    Wise words John. I lost David when he started his Blogs are a past thing. From there on he seemed to have a transition to new person with one thing in mind – make a business with all his followers. Sad.

  30. Wade Baker says:

    A very good review John. It is right on the money and most likely mirrors the way most of us who are trying to make it in the photography business feel about David Jay’s system. Good job.

  31. John, thank you:) The truth benefits all, and it’s a shame when something is presented as helpful but is really a sham. I enjoy your material because it is realistic and applicable without having to buy your products(which are great). Thanks for sifting this for us new guys.

  32. John Decker says:

    Well said Juanito!
    Thanks for taking the time to dissect this and point out the good, the bad and the ugly.

  33. Mindy says:

    Right on target — very fair!


  34. David Jay says:

    In a matter of a few weeks there have been over 3,000 people who have clicked like on The System. You have 263 people who have liked your Photographers Tool Kit since whenever it started. So those people who “don’t agree” with The System aren’t really a concern when thousands upon thousands are benefiting from it. Keep pluggin away. 🙂

    • angelalovinglegacyphotography says:

      I saw no sarcasm whatsoever in the original review; this comment drips with it. I think we all know from the number of mediocre photographers with hundreds of “likes” on their pages (One of whom, a big “showiteer”, lives in my town and shoots outdoor engaements with pop-up flash and yet is now teaching classes – eek! She may be gaining a following but she’s doing a disservice to clients who get poor work and fellow photographers whose joint reputation suffers). It seems to me John is more concerned with thoroughness and attention to good education than getting Facebook fans. (And clicking “like” doesnt mean they’re “benefitting,” which I define as getting better at our craft). Not that there’s anything wrong with Facebook fans, but they don’t mean something is good quality. Rather than leaving a sarcastic comment, it might be good to address the concerns he respectfully addresses. Again, the focus should be on perfecting our craft and on delivery of good work to our clients who deserve it, rather than primarily focusing on feeding our pockets or tearing each other down.

    • @ David Jay – 36 MILION people watched a YouTube video about Joseph Kony – that doesn’t make it a good thing, now does it? Comparing numbers is not what this is about. There are plenty of sites that I like, but I don’t hit the “Like” button.

      If you are so proud of how many people are reading what you write, why not write in a more responsible fashion? John already said that when you speak, people listen. So would it not be better to give them better information?

      You reply to this review almost seems petulant. Is it beyond the bounds of possibility that you maybe messed up? I saw that you asked someone in Twitter today what they liked about your “system” and when they said that they liked nothing, your answer was also a little childish. What was it? “people who can’t find good in things usually aren’t very successful” So, just because someone does not see it from your standpoint, they are, or will be, unsuccessful? Wow, you really are quite the guy.

      I have read posts made by you, claiming that you shoot in Manual 99.9% of the time. Yet you now say people who shoot in manual are “clueless” . I read a post you made that suggested doing some second shooting to gain experience – and now you say it’s a waste of time. Everything changes to suit the current objective, right?

      I also read your recent comment about SmugMug only being for “landscape photographers and amateurs”. Really? Yet you rolled them into your Showit stuff? And what of other SmugMug users – Jasmine Star, Robert Evans, etc – all amateurs? You know full well you painted that picture because you want to steer people in your direction – so let’s stab another company in the back.

      Now you are polluting the very industry that has been good to you, with absolute drivel – almost certainly at the expense of many, many brides to be. You really have no shame, do you.

      Enjoy the money. I hope it will all be worth it in the end.

    • Robert says:

      It’s more than a little disingenuous to claim great success from your “likes” given that most of those come from people who don’t have a clue about the industry and are looking for just your sort of false validation to make them feel good, AND the fact that you decided to censor and delete any and all feedback off your page that wasn’t glowingly positive — even comment that were more constructive than negative.

      If your system was so great, you should be willing to let stand all comments, because it could handle it.

      Instead, you need to hide behind false, uninformed praise.


  35. I think this article is indicative of John’s style which is level headed ,succinct and quite valuable. Bottom line, if you are a good photographer, build your brand, take care of your clients, and charge a fair price you will have enough work that you won’t have time to spend naval gazing
    about David Jay or Jasmine Star.

  36. matt shumate says:

    Alternate Headline: David Jay Continues to Spout Bullcrap on the Internet. I taught a workshop a couple of weeks ago & DJ’s name was a punchline to all of the students for the entire class—before I even said a word. All potential clients of his, all now know what a fraud he is.

  37. True Angela. I tried to raise my prices in a downward economy because of advice from DJ and friends and it almost bankrupted me. 3000 likes from inexperienced, brainwashed followers doesn’t equate to really helping people make a living at their craft.

    • Likes from Facebook, or the internet for that matter, is a highly unreliable measure of someone’s actual appreciation or decision these days. It might be a quantitative number, but in no way and actual qualitative one.

      That said, 3000 lemmings v. 133 likes on this post (from people who read thoroughly and think critically.. IMHO). I think you can judge the weight of which idea has more, well, weight.

  38. bertopics says:

    Nice Review John, and I couldn’t agree more. David is just getting in line with allot of others in our industry trying to capitalize again off the newbie photographers. Its sad that he has chosen this kind of marketing strategy which is getting really old now. We should all be trying to help each other so that many more can win, and sustain the industry we all have passion and love to do. I look at giants like Canon and you just have to scratch your head at their greed for their prices on new technology. Its getting really old fast especially in this economy where many are lowering their prices to stay alive but the leaders in the industry seem to be going the other way. Common guys, we can all win here!

  39. Mark says:

    Great review and right on. As someone who has been to WPPI consistently over the past 13 years I do have to agree the rockstar mentality is reaching new highs that really is terrible for the industry as a whole. I met DJ at WPPI when he was starting to reach his high and was pretty amazed at how much smoke and mirrors there was, as someone who was already speaking at the convention he had so little real experience and insight to provide back then I couldn’t believe people were actually listening to his message and believing everything he said. He was talking about raising your prices to $10,000 + and on and on when in reality only shot 1 wedding at that price.

    Keep up the good work! And lets all focus on the art and forget the high school nonsense, the more we ignore the Rockstars hopefully they will just go away.

  40. Snarky DB comment by David Jay aside, a quick read of the system reveals a foundational basis for the nuts and bolts of getting started in wedding photography.. Really, it is pretty good. I had to spend thousands of dollars and years accumulating that type of knowledge because when I started in 2006 there was no paint by numbers kit like this.

    I like virtually everything John writes about… He is a thoughtful, intelligent guy whose target is more mature photographers who have been around the block a few times. David jay’s audience are noobs.

    So what.
    The funny thing is, I intuitively did virtually everything he recommends ( except spray and pray), and my carrer followed a similar trajectory, although I don’t shoot 10k weddings, i am however booking in the 6k+ range and was fully booked for 2012 by Dec of last year. I didn’t do templates for the same reasons he said, and I made friends with other photogs ( experienced, not noobs).
    BTW the making friends part I heard from none other than Cliff Maunter who I consider the Dean Emeritus of all things wedding photography…

    I rarely visit DWF because there is just so much naval gazing, and people with tooooo much time on their hands. I am working nearly 7 days a week, have two employees to lead, and barely have the time to get my laundry done and see my family much less fret about people entering the industry. Too many people on dwf do not understand basic principles of business and economics.

    Repeat after me:
    The market has efficient pricing.
    The market owes you nothing.

    Wedding photography has remarkably efficient pricing. If you are a $1500 photographer and try to charge $5000 you will go out of business. If you want to charge $5000 you have to get better. I went from $800 to $2000 to $3600 to $ 6000 in four years. Didn’t happen overnight, I just spent those years putting one foot in front of the other and trying to be better than last week. People rarely ask why I charge what I do, but when they do ask, I tell them you cannot get $6000 photography for $1500. Just doesn’t happen. Certain cars cost what they do because of what they offer. Other cars cost less because they offer less. Think Toyota Yaris for $ 15,000 vs Mercedes 600 AMG for $120,000. They both have seats, an engine and four wheels. They both get you from A to B. they just do it differently. So do all of us.

    We live with free market capitalism . That’s the good news. Bad news is guys like DJ can cause creative destruction, but hey that’s life. The possibility of achieving success comes with the possibility of failure, an event that is certainly occurring a lot in this business. The criticism of DJ sounds like silent film actors complaining about ” talkies”, or buggy whip manufacturers complaining about the invention of the automobile. Travel agents got decimated by the Internet, but that is forward progress and we can’t stop it, nor do we want to.

    If 100 noobs follow his instructions to the T , some small percentage will do well, others will not. Why? Because this biz is a sum total of a lot of moving parts and only the strongest , the smartest, the most talented, and the most determined will survive.

  41. Jose says:

    Great info. Haven’t seen The System yet but it seems like an infomercial.

  42. mae says:

    I think I’ve been living under a rock for a bit because I haven’t heard about all the commotion until today. Great writing (as always) John. I appreciated the straightforward and unemotional review.

  43. Dan says:

    Well done. Well said. I too am a showit customer; but I also know there is more to a wedding than spraying and praying, borrowing gear, and marketing my personality. Ideally a wedding is a once in a lifetime experience: I don’t think we should encourage people with little or no experience to go out and market themselves as a wedding photographer. Instead take the right path; second shoot for a while; build up your own base via family shoots, senior shoots, etc. them shoot weddings. There are no do overs there.

  44. Gerard says:

    Interesting read… I remember testing the beta version of Showit back in ??? I forgot …was it 2001 or 2002? anyway, I found it pretty useful at the time … of course I was aware that DJ was more of a salesman than a photographer… and mentioning “God” as a sales pitch was making me very suspicious of this character…

    For me the problem is that after 15 years of wedding photography, I feel like i’m on rollercoaster ride. The slices of the wedding cake are getting thinner and thinner … I guess , like in in the gold rush, the money is in selling tools to the diggers…

  45. Pingback: Zack Arias Rant about The System

  46. Sarah Tatom says:

    I read and nodded a LOT to this article before even realizing who wrote it. (Because I Kind of have a tog-crush on you after the photovision wedding shoot out…just sayin’) I absolutely agree and have said it numerous times myself. I appreciate that David Jay obviously believes in his products and he is great at sales. Can’t fault him there. but I think he is truly doing a disservice to the industry and that is unfortunate.

    • johnmireles says:

      Sarah: I’ve actually gone from being on the fence about David Jay to thinking he’s just plain bad for the industry. I’ll be going off on him in my next blog post. Stay tuned!


  47. bertopics says:

    John thank you for your insight on the system! I think most critical thinking photographers believe that it is a bunch of self serving huey! But for all the younger generation photographers who are coning up and still learning the critical thinking aspect of dissecting what is real and what is not real in our industry, he must be like a messiah to some! His quiet charismatic way which promises to help the newbie is far to appealing to the younger generation! I guess he gets it where he can, and who can fault him for that but the way he does it is wrong and thats why articles like this which need to be much more amplified really do help!! Nice John!

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