6 things you probably shouldn’t say to your photographer…

It’s finally happened. I’ve officially been in the photography business long enough now to hear many of the stereotypical comments and “chat” that I’d suggest are perhaps not the best placed choice of conversation topic… I’ve been amused, baffled and even slightly frustrated with some of these, so just for fun, I thought I’d share some with you…

1. Your camera takes really great photos!

I know, I know. I’m starting with the comment that seems so obvious that surely no-one actually says it? I mean, that’s what I thought. I’d heard of it, seen many a meme about it, but I had never experienced it.

Until last year.

Those wonderful words were uttered in a kind, genuine way where I fully believe the person wasn’t trying to be offensive but I was left stuck for a reply all the same. I mean, imagine someone said that about a baker and their oven, or an artist and their paintbrush?

A camera is merely an instrument. A vehicle which enables us to capture an image as we see it or imagine it. Having professional equipment makes a bit of a difference yes, but only if you know how to use it. You could put me in front of the best stove on the planet and I’d still burn something – Michelin Star I am not!

The camera doesn’t make the photograph anymore than a laptop makes a novel. It takes time, practice and a certain degree of skill to get to a professional level. Implying that it’s all in the gear is a little bit cheeky however unintentional. Best avoided if you want to keep your photographer on-side (and remember, we have access to Photoshop…ha!)

2. My camera is better than yours!

This happens at almost every event I shoot. Whether it’s a corporate get-together, a christening or a wedding, I inevitably find myself sought out by someone who wants to compare gear. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have folk who are interested in photography and want to talk about it (provided I can still do my work for whoever has hired me!) – I could chat about certain types of photography all night but I keep finding myself in a situation with someone who takes that enthusiasm over the line in to competition.

Sometimes it’s the old Canon vs Nikon schtick and that’s fine for a bit of banter but let’s keep it in good humour. I’ve also had people feel the need to tell me that they own the more recent model of my camera and I’m never sure what to say other than a polite “that’s nice!” or “that’s a great piece of kit!”.

I rarely feel the need to compare gear with people. It’s just not in my nature to try to one-up someone over camera equipment and I find myself floundering for words when the subject comes up while I’m working.

3. Well, anyone can take a good photo on their smartphone these days.

Now this one I have to agree with – in a Disney’s Ratatouille style “Anyone can cook!” that is. Anyone can take a good photo on their smartphone but not everyone. As I mentioned above, a camera is merely an instrument and if you know how to use it properly you can take incredible images on smartphones. Many are doing it consistently and making a living and a name for themselves from it.

But not everyone.

And while professional photography went through a phase of struggling against the all accessible smartphone and even the entry-level DSLR, it seems to be picking back up again as people recognise the training and dedication it takes to acquire such a skill. Yes, there are natural born photographers who intuitively know how to compose and capture a jaw-dropping image with little practice but they are the exception, not the rule.

As Henri Cartier-Bresson says “Your first 10,000 photos are your worst.” Photography takes skill and practice regardless of the equipment.

4. I don’t get why people bother with photos… I never take any.

Yeah, this one left me stumbling.

It seems an odd way to endear yourself to someone, basically telling them you think their work is pointless. And it seems particularly strange when this is the first (and now the only!) conversation you’ll be having with them.

“Hey, nice to meet you. I think your work is a waste of time.” Not a great start, is it?

I know what you’re thinking – “Surely no-one has ever said that to you?”

Believe me they have. Right smack bang while I was in the middle of working an event. Someone came up to me to tell me all about how he doesn’t understand the point of taking photos. I didn’t know what to say other than reminding him that the people who had hired me obviously thought images to remember the event were important.

Photography isn’t for everyone and that’s absolutely fine. Of course it is. Art is subjective and photography is an art form.

I’ve long been a fan of documenting my life in photos and sharing them with people. It’s a way of life for me. I see the world in photographs and I find it difficult to switch off from that. But I understand that not everyone sees the world that way.

However, it’s an opinion probably best kept to yourself instead of using it as drunken small chat with the event ‘tog. I politely entertained the notion. Many wouldn’t!

5. Can you photoshop this so I’m slimmer/have different hair/look “better”?

Eeeek! I find this one of the most awkward things that is said to me. It’s usually done in jest but sometimes there’s a real request there.

I am a “less is more” kind of photoshopper. My photography style is about natural moments and doesn’t lend itself well to airbrushing and liquifying my subjects. In actual fact, I work hard to encourage people to see the real beauty in themselves and the moment instead of focusing purely on things that we’ve been taught to see as “flaws”.

I’d much rather empower people to see their beauty than to feel the need to be artificially slimmed or smoothed thanks to unrealistic beauty standards the media has ingrained in us.

However, I completely understand that people are rarely 100% happy with how they look and are concerned that the images might amplify parts of themselves that they wish were different. The majority of us look at an image and instantly search for the part we’re insecure about.

If you’re in that situation, please feel free to have a quiet word and let me know. It’s my job to make you feel comfortable during your shoot and not left wishing that the images were altered afterwards.

6. Don’t worry, I’ll just Photoshop it when you send me the image…

Whether it’s adding a person (as was the suggestion in the case I’m referring to), removing a person, adding filters or even cropping – you’re unlikely to have permission to do this and will have signed (and of course read…) a contract that informs you that this is the case. It seems pernickety but it’s for good reason. Photographers rely on people seeing our work, loving it, and wanting us to work for them. If our work no longer looks like our own then we lose the ability to make a living. Like anyone else, we’re just trying to pay our bills.

So please don’t edit our work and talk about it like it’s no big deal. It matters!

So there you have it! A list of some of the odd things people have said to me since I started out as a photographer. I’m super lucky to have only had the occasional guest at an event who has said something strange or a misplaced, but well meaning, comment from an interested party. I know photographers who have heard much worse.

I’d love to hear the sorts of things people say to you at your work…

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