The LGBT Issue: Every Photographer Must Decide [IP 117]

Jim is joined by Brian McGuckin, Darin Mellor, & Nick Page to talk about important issues in the photography community.  The four dive into camera news & social issues impacting photographers in the United States & around the world.

What's in this episode

  • Improve Photography has three new podcasts! – Check them out here! 
  • Amazon launches an unlimited photo backup tool! – Including RAW support for Canon, Nikon, & Sony!
  • Facebook launches ‘Scrapbook' to help parents tag photos of their kids.
  • Arkansas tries to pass a bill to make Street Photography Illegal.  – Photographers ban together to shoot it down!
  • LGBT Weddings hotly contested in Indiana. – Read Jim's unbiased article here!
  • Sony sells half of its stake in Olympus.
  • Details of Lightroom 6 have been leaked!!

Resources Mentioned:


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18 thoughts on “The LGBT Issue: Every Photographer Must Decide [IP 117]”

  1. Should a photographer be able to refuse to provide their services to a Muslim (or any other religion) couple at a Muslim wedding? Religion IS a protected class. What excuse would they use?

  2. If you have friends and family who are homosexual (the way they were born, just like the way you were born heterosexual…you know you did not sit down and DECIDE you are heterosexual ) and you have no issue interacting with them and you LOVE them, maybe, just maybe, you should begin to question the teachings of your religion. Maybe some day you will experience the abundance of love and joy shared at a “gay” wedding.

  3. Would you have to make a decision about shooting a straight wedding? What if the barmitzvah boy is gay? What if you are shooting modeling headshots, or bridal and the person is less-than attractive? Don’t you still make them feel beautiful? Isn’t that our job? If you are judgmental, say so. Put on your website, “I am afraid of LGBTQ people (or people of color, or Jewish people, or just…people who are not like me…and I won’t work with them.” No one wants to pay to be judged. There are PLENTY of talented LGBTQ and LGBTQ-loving photographers that would love the work. And like everyone else, the LGBTQ community DESERVES to have a positive photo experience!

  4. I just listened this podcast and I am disappointed. Jim says he plays the “role of Switzerland” and I understand. I would expect something like this from the rest, especially from fairly intelligent people.
    What freedom exactly are being taken away when they say you should not discriminate against the LGBT community? Because certainly they are not interfering with your beliefs. You can still believe whatever you want.
    And of course you should be able to refuse your service if you feel that you don’t “click” with your potential customers. That is a personality issue. If you see a “bridezilla”, you have the right to just refer them to somebody else.
    But refuse because they are gay? Seriously? And what religion exactly is this one that do not accept gay individuals? Christianity? Jesus said NOTHING about gays and lesbians. And please save your Leviticus references, go stone adulterers and people eating shellfish before use it as an argument. Actually don’t stone anybody. But realize that you are just using religion as an excuse for something inexcusable.

    1. You’re disappointed that we presented the facts in a neutral way and invited photographers to make their decision, presenting the issue with people for and against either side? That’s disappointing to you? Would you rather see Improve Photography become a partisan political tool?

  5. It’s tough, really tough. As a christian an one who tries to follow the bible. I have photographed many LGBT people for portraits and other sessions types. I have even photographed a commitment ceremony between to females. However I believe that marriage in its biblical definition is a man and woman. This hole debate is misunderstood. It’s not really the person who is being rejected, its the act in which the photography is to be used in. I enjoy photographing nudes. Does this mean someone can force me to photograph porn? I don’t think so. I know and understand that sometimes people will be hurt, left out, or just plain old treated badly with laws like this but there are times when murders are set free do to some stupid word that was or wasn’t said, written down or explained. Sadly the attack whores turned this into more then what it really was… A photographer is begin sure and forced to do something he/she doesn’t want to do all the while the L/G/B couple have all the freedom in the world to go somewhere else…

  6. How pretentious is “if I’m the wedding is feels like I’m participating,” you’re trying to excuse your bigotry. Photography is just taking pictures. especially, especially, something as basic as wedding photography. most of these responses are the definition of homophobia. you’re correct in that there are two sides, it’s bigots and good photographers.

  7. Shannon Brintnall

    My thoughts are these… If I were LGBT and looking for a wedding photographer I would not want someone who would be openly biased against my wedding or commitment ceremony. It would be bound to show up in the photographer’s work. I also feel the need to point out that not all Christian denominations are biased against homosexual relationships and it’s important to realize that there are many churches who follow Christ’s teachings and welcome all people without judgement, like Christ himself did. And as far as I remember (and I have a good memory) there are absolutely zero biblical passages forbidding the documentation of any wedding ceremony regardless of who is standing at the altar.

  8. What I don’t understand is that everyone has abandoned the concept of freedom. We should be able to have the freedom to decline to serve whomever we want, no matter the reason. I don’t care the reason. Sound radical? It’s called FREEDOM. I’m not going to get into the morality or religiosity of this. Here’s how it SHOULD work: If I won’t photograph a LGBT wedding or a any kind of ethnic situation, they will get known for having these feelings. If I won’t do those sessions and I lose a ton of business because of the way other people feel, then one of two things is going to happen, I’m going to change my business to be inclusive or I’ll go OUT OF BUSINESS. That’s the way it should be. You vote with your dollar, your support, the word of mouth. Everything in our society should be this way, and everyone lets everyone else ALONE. My own personal feeling don’t really matter, I just want everyone in our society to go their own way. If I don’t harm them, then they should not try to harm me.

  9. The framing of this as a political debate – where there are two sides that each have valid and defensible points – is really off-putting to me, and obviously to many other commenters on the site.

    For the vast majority of the country, LGBT rights has moved from being a political issue to being a civil rights issue. There is no argument for denying services to gay people that does not, on some level, discriminate against gay people. And listening to the members of the round table discuss how they would be uncomfortable photographing a gay wedding – how they fear they would not be able to click with a gay couple – how they would not be comfortable posing gay couples – just drives home that this is more about justifying their homophobia and discomfort with gay people as human beings.

    I appreciate the attempt to have a reasonable debate on this, but it mostly comes off as really tone-deaf.

    1. @Manuel – Ugh! I don’t know why I said that. As soon as we ended the recording everybody laughed at me for making that slip. 🙂

  10. The advise you should be giving listeners is that if you are providing a service to the public (open to the public) then you need to serve the public. It doesn’t matter if they are a protected class or not. There is no excuse to discriminate against any group. Shame on you for not telling folks this. I am greatly disappointed in you.

    PS. I am not LGBT

    1. James, Improve Photography will not become a partisan political tool. I won’t allow it. What we did on the podcast is share two sides of an issue with people representing both sides on the show. We talked about how BOTH sides feel about the issue and left the listener to make his or her decision.

      I have no interest in providing political advice or persuasion on the show, which is why none was given.

  11. BH, so…if we don’t agree we are bigots? When do you get to try and understand religious beliefs?

  12. Thank you so much for mentioning the Amazon Prime new photo storage — I haven’t tried it out yet but hoping this will be the answer I’ve been looking for. Love Amazon Prime!

  13. Keith R. Starkey

    The issue is a clear as can be when it comes to discrimination: If you are going to open ANY business in the open market—that means, you offer your services to the general public—you cannot discriminate, period, regardless of the service you offer. End of discussion.

    Don’t believe me? Okay, then go ahead and try advertising your services as, say, a photographer, stating in your advertisement that you do not serve LGBT, black people, Italians, Germans or Catholics. Let’s see how far you go before you’re hauled off to court, fined and maybe even jailed. It’s that simple.

    See, no one gets to have it both ways: not advertise the discriminatory prohibitions of one’s service but then later announce them once into the game plan (like businesses are doing, and, rightfully, getting flack for it). Why don’t these businesses that won’t serve LGBT announce their discriminatory reservations when they open business or when they put in their next online advertisement? Ah, because they know darned well how that will work out for them.

    Look, I, personally, am in total disagreement with the LGBT position, but if I am going to open a business in the open market, I have to respect the equal rights everyone has to not be discriminated against because of race, politics or religion. The only time I should voice concern as a business owner is when offering my service may be thought to contribute elements of danger or harm to the general public (e.g, the customer is buying materials to make a bomb, and I overhear him on the phone talking about planting such). Only then should I have the right to notify the authorities that I believe there may be nefarious purposes going on. But to flat out discriminate against someone and refuse them service is to against everything it means to respect one another.

  14. Photographing a same sex wedding may sqick out some photographers, but they should at least own up to their issues and not hide behind an argument of “it’s against my religion”. I would bet that few of those photographers actually follow *all* of their particular religions rules in all ways. For example, any catholic photographer who photographs a wedding where one of the participants is divorced is supporting a wedding that isn’t permitted in their religion. Or those who claim that it is against things in the bible, but they eat shellfish or pork or wear mixed material clothing which are also forbidden in the bible. Own the fact that you’re already picking and choosing what parts of your religion you’re obeying. It may not change your actions, but at least you would be honest.

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