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Why One Photographer Left a Large Camera Company's Ambassador Program

Becoming a camera brand ambassador is the dream of a lot of photographers, representing a certain echelon of professional status and of course, meaning you get to use a lot of expensive top-end gear without having to pay for the privilege. However, this photographer made it into the ambassador program of a major brand and then decided to leave it, and this enlightening video features him discussing why he made the decision. 

Coming to you from Mitchell Kanashkevich, this interesting video essay discusses why he decided to leave Panasonic's ambassador program. Being offered an ambassador position by a major brand can be one of the most exciting moments in a creative's career, but Kanashkevich gives us a rare glimpse at the other side of things, and I think it is really important to see, particularly as it provides a more balanced look at things. I was especially intrigued by his discussion of the politics at play. As he pointed out, companies do not just give ambassadors free rein all the time; they want to see a return on their investments, and as such, you may find your creative impulses stifled or pushed in directions you would rather not see them go. Check out the video above for the full story from Kanashkevich.

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14 Comments

J.d. Davis's picture

You dance with the one who brought you.

Leon Kolenda's picture

You show all stills, and then condemn Lumix for Autofocus in Video? Good Luck with Sony. I have Three systems, Nikon Z6, G9, and Fuji X100V, I use them all, but my Favorite is the G9 and all the lens's!

Steven Dente's picture

Of course you miss that 100% of this presentation was done as video. All the text was done by FStoppers in support of the video.

Nick Rains's picture

Authentic Ambassador programs do not give anything away for free. You get invited to take part once you are already using the brand by your own choice, not to get 'free stuff'. You might then get a really good deal on other purchases but a genuine Ambassador should have skin in the game.

J.d. Davis's picture

Many brands DO compensate:

https://ladybossblogger.com/brand-ambassadors/

commission
discounts
free stuff

Nick Rains's picture

I know they do - that's what I said in my comment. I said authentic programs do not give stuff away for free. All others are just buying ad space.

From your link:

16. ASICS

Want to get some free shoes and a free t-shirt? Become a brand ambassador for ASICS!

As an ambassador, you will…

Receive $15 an hour
Be compensated for miles you drive from store to store
Receive a pair of free shoes
Receive a free t-shirt

Woohoo, free shoes and a free T-shirt and $15 per hour...

My point was that Ambassadors need to be genuinely credible, and you don't get that by giving them a free camera system to use. They need to be already invested, then invited to the program after becoming 'prominent' in their field. Some random person with 100,000 followers on IG is not a candidate for a free camera system, not if the brand wants them to be taken seriously.

Mitchell Kanashkevich's picture

I couldn't resist replying, since I found this. :) Just to make clear - I had 3 Panasonic bodies and 2 lenses before I even approached them. So I was genuinely a fan of their gear. I had already started to use it exclusively for over a year, so I thought - why not get something out of it? Why not collaborate - make some stuff to promote them and get paid?

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "genuine". Who approves what's a genuine program? There are different ambassador programs with different brands. All have their own nuances. Panasonic had a great one for the MOST part. They even had the idea to only get actual ambassadors to be in their campaigns, i.e. people who actually use the gear, promoting the gear.

Giving things out for free to someone who is already using the gear and basically just giving them the later versions of that equipment - I see nothing wrong with that. There were all kinds of other things that were part of the program and different ways to get paid too. Totally reasonable, if you're producing work for a brand.

So, the whole "skin in the game" that you mention - I did say in the video that I already bought their camera bodies and started shooting with them exclusively. I think that's about as genuine as it gets.

Nick Rains's picture

I didn't mean to cast aspersions on your own circumstances, Apologies if it came across as a dig. I was merely commenting on so-called Ambassador programs in general, aimed at 'influencers' not actual users like yourself. I, too, was a Panasonic Ambassador once (early days of the Lumix GH models), and they were very professional and genuine. I am currently involved in a similar program for another brand and they are very careful how the whole Ambassador concept is implemented and publicised - even to the point of discussing whether the word Ambassador has any meaning anymore!

FWIW, I think you made the right decision to step away. It has to work for you.

Mike Ditz's picture

Well I lasted 5:22, not even half way as I totally lost interest in whatever he had to say.
They dated for a while and broke up, because expectations were not being met. That's life...

Jan Holler's picture

I found this video interesting. He has good reasons. I liked how he sympathised with his former colleagues and his "employer".

David Tothill's picture

Not sure you will ever find your way onto another (future) Ambassadorship, but as you said, not a priority. I liked the way you laid it all out, watched till the end. The stills you flashed up were an instant 'SUBSCRIBE' from me. Good luck to you.

John Ricard's picture

Although the title stressed that this was about "one photographer", I was hoping for something that gave more general information about the pros and cons of being an ambassador. Instead, it was just one photographer's personal story. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, but I was hoping for something a bit different. Miguel Quiles did a video on the subject a while back, which I enjoyed very much.