UPDATE, JUNE 2024: Strobist was archived in 2021. Here is what I am up to now. -DH


Shedding Light on the Gender Gap

UPDATE: I figured there would be some comments on this one. But still, I had no idea. Kinda like turning on the comment firehose.

Thanks much for all of the helpful feedback, and to those asking, I got the 94% number from multiple polls.


I am getting ready to hop on a plane to Mexico, where I will be teaching for Santa Fe Workshops next week. So if emails go unanswered, or comments are a little slow to moderate, thanks for your patience.

Interesting fact: My SFW class, whom I have already met via email, is 75% female. This is interesting only in that the readership of this site is overwhelmingly male. Ninety-four percent, last I checked.

Which brings up a question that has been bouncing around in my mind for over a year now: Why is that? Why do women comprise only 6% of the site's readership?

And further, why does lighting (in my experience, anyway) tend to be more of a guy thing?

Some thoughts, and a pathetic plea for help, inside.

XX vs. XY

I worked as a newspaper shooter for over 20 years. So as a staffer, stringer or intern, I worked with a total of roughly a hundred other photographers over that time period.

That's not a huge sample, granted. But still, I think back and realize that the male photographers I worked with were more likely to use lighting than were the female photographers. There were exceptions, of course. But in general, the trend held.

And it has certainly borne out looking at not only the readership of this site but the makeup of the previous lighting classes that I have taught. Always more males than females, and usually not even close. Sometimes there would be just one or two women in a class of 50.

I actually mentioned it during a class in Paris. And someone (who was female, for the record) answered that lighting was (ahem) "Too technical for lots of women."

Mind you, I am merely paraphrasing, and not saying that myself. Heck, if Missus Strobist even sees this post, she will beat me senseless with the business end of a weighted boom.

And I don't buy that line of thought anyway. But the fact remains that many guys tend to be more technically oriented photographers. And (in my experience) women tend to care more about the actual photo as compared to the camera model, lens, lighting ratio, etc.

Which, if you think about it, puts us guys at a big disadvantage. Because frankly, you can teach a trained monkey how to light. I even watched Patrick Smith teach himself and he went out and got a real job at an actual paper in Utah and everything.

But seeing subtle pictures, sensitivity, photographer/subject interaction -- all that stuff that I have again and again seen women excel at -- is something most people either have or they don't. Good luck teaching someone how to do that.

So in that sense I am very jealous.

And I do not know if my suppositions are correct, but I do know that only a very small percentage of this site's readers are female. So, I am asking the females, why is that the case and what can be done about it?

I mean, we could certainly just shoot a decent number of the male readers and that would bring the percentages into line. But surely there is a less messy alternative.

Interesting fact number two: There is a small-but-growing "Lady Strobists Group" on Flickr, which certainly says something about this. Although, being a guy, what it says or does not say is probably beyond me.

So, You Tell Me

Please share your thoughts. Is this just another stupid boys' club? Is lighting and being female (even a little bit) counter-intuitive in some way?

Asking the women mostly, of course. In fact, if you are a married guy you'd probably better run any prospective comment past your wife (before the fact) just to be safe.

And if you are female and feel out of place in a guy-dominated group -- as the main Strobist Flickr Group can sometimes be -- please consider joining the Lady Strobists group.

IMO, there is absolutely no reason that lighting need be gender-weighted. Assuming it even is. And please take my word for it when I say that I am not consciously trying to do anything to present lighting as a Guy Thing on this blog.

It's just another in a long list of areas where I apparently can't attract women…


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