The most annoying questions every photographer is asked.

Sunrise At Rye Harbor, New Hampshire

Golden light illuminates the granite boulders at Rye Harbor state park. The long exposure gives the water a smokey, etherial look. A classic New Hampshire seacoast landscape image.

I was in Newmarket, New Hampshire this past Saturday participating as a vendor during the town’s Olde Home Day celebration. The weather was perfect for an outdoor market, and the people were great. But as the day wore on, I was repeatedly asked two questions, both of which make me cringe every time I hear them.

“What kind of camera do you have?”

Possibly number one on my list of annoying questions. Until I put a little thought into it though, I didn’t realize why this question bothered me so much. Then it hit me, at its core this one questions my ability as a photographer. The idea that you can buy your way into creating great images is quite prevalent  among the general public. To me this says they think it’s the gear that made the photograph, not my skill, vision, and creativity as an artist. Not to mention my effort to be at the right place at the right time. I’ll bet no one ever asked Picasso what kind of brushes he used, or Stephen King what kind of typewriter he created The Stand on. I’ve decided I’m going to start telling people who ask, that I use a Kodak Easy Share, the look on their face will be priceless.

“Is that photoshopped?”

I went into this in more depth in an earlier post, so I won’t go too deeply into it again.  I consider that what I’m creating is art, and not photo journalism, so I make no secret of the fact that I use Lightroom3 and several plug-ins to achieve the result I envision for an image. The fact of the matter is, do you like it or not? If so, does it really matter what I did to the image during the editing process to get to the result you see? Buy it, or not. Like it, or not. The process shouldn’t matter.

Another question I get asked a lot has to do with the perception that, as someone serious about their photography who uses a “real” camera, I know everything about the features and operation of every camera ever produced since the dawn of time. The question can take many forms, but usually goes something like, “what does this mean?” or “how do I get my camera to do this?” Usually asked by the owner of their new point-and-shoot. My standard reply is almost always, RTFM,* and I think most of you know what it stands for. However after this smart-ass reply, I do try to help when I can because, one, I’m not a total ass, and two, it is usually asked by a family member or close friend at a family gathering or some other social occasion.

Well that’s it for now, I’m sure there are more that I’m forgetting at the moment, so in the mean time why don’t you tell me, what photography related questions most annoy you.

Silver Cascade 1, waterfall, Crawford Notch, NH

The picturesque Silver Cascade located right off of route 16 in Crawford Notch in the White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire is a popular scenic location.

*For those who can’t guess it’s, Read The F—-n Manual!

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17 thoughts on “The most annoying questions every photographer is asked.

    • Thanks Chris. Enthusiast, amateur, it’s all the same. You like to take photographs, that and the results are all that really matters. And by results I mean that you like what you have created. I don’t create my images for anyone other than me. I do try to make technically good, artistic, compelling photographs, not just take snap-shots, and I think I’m pretty good at it too. I love the compliments I get on my work, and the fact that people have paid me actual, real money for my work thrills me every time, but if that all stopped tomorrow I wouldn’t stop making photographs.

      As for the experienced photographers looking down their noses at your gear, screw them! Those are the kind of photographers I have so far not had the misfortune of meeting.

    • I’m far from an expert, but here are a few pointers that should help. Bring the long glass. The longest lens you have, or use the longest zoom setting if you aren’t using a dslr. Thats optical zoom, not the digitally “faked” zoom some point and shoot type cameras have on top of the optical zoom. The image quality is pretty gross with the digitally faked zoom on all the ones I’ve used. Next, get as close to the fence or glass as you can. As long as the fence is well within the minimum focusing distance of your lens you will barely see it. Most likely you won’t see it at all. You’ll be focusing on the animal that is hopefully far enough from the fence that the fence won’t be within the dof. Hope that all made sense. You also might have to manually focus (dslr) if the auto focus keeps trying to focus on the fence/glass. Also, use just one focus point. The center is usually the most sensitive and accurate, but I prefer to pick one closest to where I want the subject in the frame (as Rick Sammon says, “dead center is deadly”) when it comes to composition. With a p&s you just have to hope the fence doesn’t give the af system fits.

      I’m not a pro, far from it, but I will do my best if you ever have any other questions.

  1. I have to say that my biggest pet peeve is closed-mindedness. People (usually photographers) who hate some style or technique or manipulation or gear or whatever. Examples abound. You don’t have to travel far to find someone who thinks digital manipulation is unacceptable or HDR is wrong and on and on. Personally I’m so glad there’s such great variety out in the big world in terms of people’s artistic vision. I’m agreeing with your sentiments – technique, tools, gear are all irrelevant. The only thing that matters is the final image.

    • I’m with you there Mike. I’ve seen some great HDR images, and some that are just over done crap. One thing I do know about HDR, the only people who seem to really hate it are photographers. You know who loves it? The buying public. I’ve been spending a ton of time over at 500px.com and am developing an appreciation for a lot of different genres of photography. Do I care how the images are made? Only to the extent that I might want to try the techniques myself.

    • Thank you very much. Surprisingly enough, it was completely forgotten on my hard drive since last September. I just re-discovered it doing my periodic Lightroom library search for hidden gems just like this one.

  2. Jeff…if you’re hearing those two questions all the time…then “y’know what”. It’s time to make a sign addressing those two questions in detail…and then put down at the bottom. “These questions have been addressed on this sign. If you have any OTHER questions, please feel free to ask me.” Might make those shows a little less irritating.

    • Hugo,

      Very good suggestion. I have to say that while I find the questions and the frequency with which they are asked somewhat annoying, I actually enjoy answering them. I tell people, in a very polite way, that it’s not the camera that makes a photograph, and even their P&S is capable of very good images. I also enjoy describing how I go about “photoshopping” an image to arrive at the end result before them. As for the shows themselves, that are far from irritating. I can sit a listen to people tell me how wonderful they think my work is all day long. I truly enjoy interacting with the public in an effort to get my name out there. That includes the people that ask any of “the questions.”

  3. Been browsing your blog and as I soon as I started reading this I was saying….Yes. And yes. And yes. You hit all the major ones, but one so often get is the “digital or film?” And then the “pfffft” I get when I say digital. I even had someone say, “shooting in film too hard?,” as if film has another set of tools besides aperture, exposure, DOF, etc. Another one is the general “why?,” as in why are you out here by yourself taking pictures of leaves on a log, and then shocked to find out I’m doing it for fun, as a creative outlet and primarily for money. Enjoyed all the comments. On gear though, a bunch of mine has came from people who bought expensive gear thinking it directly proportionate to stellar photos…so I’ve picked up a few things on sell-offs 🙂

      • Aaaaaah yes, the digital vs film debate. I thought that debate had ended a few years ago. Maybe film is still better if you are shooting medium format, but not sure even that’s the case. If film is so great, why can’t you find anyone around who processes it any more? I’ve never shot film other than back in my early 20’s when I thought it would be cool to have an SLR with all the big lenses. Never took it seriously though, wish I had. I might be a better photographer today with 20 plus years to perfect my craft, instead of just a little over 3.

        I’m with you on the reason why I make photographs. Would I like to earn a bit of money from my hobby? Hell yea! But if I never earned another penny from my images I would still be out there with my camera clicking away.

        On gear, used is the way to go! I’ve had several pieces of Canon “L” glass in my possession over the years, my first, the 100-400 was the only one I bought new. And you are ever so right, it astounds me the number of people who have never held anything more than a point and shoot or cell phone camera that think they can “buy” their way to making better photographs. Of course, good gear may make it easier, but with out the right “eye” good images will be more luck than creativity and skill.

        Keep up the excellent work. I have been “cruising” your blog as well, and very much liking everything I’ve seen. Very impressive!

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