10 Things You Should Never Say to a Photographer
Photographers Hate These Things
I wrote an article on Things You Should Never Say to an Artist and had a lot of fun with it. After a while I began to see the way it related to my photography as well so I decided it was time to write one for photographers. This list of don’ts may sound familiar to you because all creative have similar crosses to bear. This is by no means a complete list either. I can think of so many other things I have heard unthinking people say to my husband and me, but I wanted to keep the list short. If you think of other things that would fit, I’d love to hear them in the comments. So here it is: 10 things you don’t want to say to a photographer.
1. Can I Have the Raw Footage?
This was asked of me many years ago when I was working with film cameras. I was a struggling artist and didn’t really have a lot of money to spend on developing the film. My friend asked me to photograph her wedding shower, as well as wedding announcement photos, which I was more than happy to do. She thought she was helping me out by offering to pay for developing the film by giving the undeveloped rolls to her. Okay, I was young and inexperienced back then and thought it was a great offer. I asked only that she let me have at look at the photos and have the negatives. I never saw them again. I took this as an oversight on her part, even though I asked for them several times. The announcement photo I saw in the paper and it came out nice. I sure wish I had a copy of it for my own portfolio.
That should have been a lesson to me but years later it happened again. I stupidly let several rolls of film out of my hands for a church event and never saw them again. Worse yet, my church friend spread the word that half my photos were unusable, they were so bad. I’m sure you know that photographers take tons of pictures in the hope that half a dozen or so will be stupendous. I didn’t expect the whole roll of film to be great; I don’t know why she did. This was finally a lesson learned for me. Never let the client see the raw film, footage or photos. You show them the good stuff and throw out the rest.
My husband is a videographer and he has the same problems. He is often asked for the raw, uncut footage from a video shoot. He doesn’t let that happen because he knows there are parts of the footage no one should see before he edits, crops, and corrects for lighting. It is like asking Shakespeare for his raw, unedited notes for his plays before publication…. Just won’t happen!
2. I Want You to Do This Photo like the One I Saw on Pinterest!
We are artists, people. We don’t want to copy other people’s work. It’s sort of dishonest. Plus it says, “Basically, I don’t trust you to be clever or creative. So copy this thing from someone I thought WAS clever and creative.” What a slap — really? Why hire a photographer if you really don’t think they can do something clever with your family or wedding or whatever?
Do you think anyone can take wedding photos?
3. Thanks Anyway, but We Got My Uncle Joe to Photograph/Videograph the Wedding/Event
This is something my husband and I hear all the time. A friend approaches us because they are planning a blessed event and then a month or so later, call back and cancel because Uncle Joe or Aunt Bertha owns a camera. It’s okay with us, sort of a slap, but okay. We understand you are trying to make nice with brand new family members. And you just couldn’t say no to Uncle Joe and his camera after he so graciously offered. But that shouldn’t stop you from having some NICE and PROFESSIONAL photos as well.
I spoke with a friend who had that very thing happen at her wedding. She said she was sorry they left the capturing of their special day to a family member. The photos were blurry and fuzzy and really poorly framed. Not to mention the fact that there was no post-production tweaking done. With a good photographer, you also get lighting correction and subtle clean up of extraneous hands or elbows in the way of the focal point: the happy couple. Not to mention the fact, that with a professional you get creativity and the benefit of years of experience with cameras and special events.
4. You Aren’t Allowed to Be Here!
The place is swarming with folks all raising their camera phones to capture the moment but one photographer with a NICE camera shows up and is treated like the Paparazzi chasing Princess Di’s car. Half the time we are actually invited and yes, paid to be there, but we have to fight get a few good pictures around the self-confessed phone photographers. Some have gone so far as to say we aren’t allowed to photograph the actual wedding vows. Really? What do people think the couple wanted us to photograph?
I actually saw some video footage of a photographer taking pictures of a model on public land and was stopped by the park rangers because professional commercial photographers have to have a high priced permit to take photographs they are intending to sell. The problem is that if you have a nice camera and some lighting equipment, you are treated as if you are planning to sell or make a profit from the photos even if you are only taking the pictures for yourself. Ten feet away a whole group of people can be taking photos of their group and they are not stopped or asked for a permit. Apparently the size of the camera makes you look suspect.
5. Wow, You Have a Really Nice Camera — You Must Take Great Photos
The amount of time I have been working to hone my skills makes no difference apparently. It’s all about the camera? Listen, folks. The camera doesn’t take the pictures, I do. Anyone can buy a NICE camera. It doesn’t make them a photographer. The camera wouldn’t do so well in the hands of an orangutan and I could take some nice pictures with a very old, very small point-and-shoot if I had to. So there.
6. Let’s Put the Baby in This Shoe
I love Anne Geddes as much as the next guy, but I really don’t want to steal her thunder by copying her work. Besides, it’s been a little overdone, don’t you think? The best baby photos are natural; mom and baby, mom and dad and baby, soft lighting and whatever comes naturally. I love to just see the baby and the mom together. Those are the best in my book.
7. Can You Make the Photo Black and White with Just This One Flower in Color?
Really? Of course I CAN do that. The question is will I do that. Everyone who first starts out in photography does that little trick and it’s okay at first. It’s all right now and then. But it can be overdone very easily. If you look through your pictures and they all look black and white with one little colored object, seek professional help. Please.
8. Shoot This Photo on the Bias
Sometimes a crooked photo angle works but usually it looks like you took it just after “Happy Hour”. It is positively dizzying. If you want your audience to fall over, okay. Usually you don’t want to have the slanted photos of your friends and family. It is typically used as a photographic method to give the feeling of something off, or twisted, or haunted. Save the technique for that.
9. I Want to Edit These and Put Them on Facebook
It is really messing with someone’s copyrighted material to do that. It isn’t far from rewriting Shakespeare and posting it as if it was your own. Don’t do it. Even if you think it is “advertising” for us, don’t do it. Besides, no matter what you do to the photo, after you have added light or color or anything else to a photo from a professional, we don’t want to claim it anymore. Don’t bother to mention where you got the photo. We would rather no one thought we gave the photos to you looking like that!
10. Where Are the Pictures of You at This Event?
Sure, my husband and I never get into the pictures because we're TAKING them. Usually it’s okay with me because I prefer to be behind the camera. But as the years go by and my grandkids are beginning to go through photos of special events, it comes up that I’m in very few of them. It’s the photographer’s curse. What can I say? I was there, okay. The photos prove it.
I love taking picture for myself and others. I will probably continue even if I’m treated like the Paparazzi from time to time. As an artist I do get a little testy about certain unthinking things people say, but I’ll get over it. If you can think of other things you should never say to a photographer, I’d love to hear about it.