When you work in an industry which involves creating work and putting it in front of an audience, eventually you are going to get some negative and rude feedback – it's par for the course and it is water off a duck's back. But there's the problem. A good insult should really get under somebody's skin! This is a guide to how to do that to a photographer for best effect.
Compliment Their Equipment – This is the classic passive aggressive tack that can really get up a photographer's nose. Most photographers will be proud of their camera gear and go to great lengths to look after it. When you compliment it, don't go overboard – a quick, “Hey, nice camera – it must be able to take great shots,” is enough to put the wrath of God into many photographers. What you are implicitly implying is that the gear is what does the hard work in taking a good photograph and that anyone could really take a good photo if they had the same gear. This stings a photographer more than most people know for the simple reason that taking a technically good photograph, no matter what gear you have, is actually quite difficult and has often taken years of study and practice to master. The further beauty of this insult is that there is no great comeback because, as we mentioned, the photographer will probably be quite proud of their equipment.
Ask “Did You Use Photoshop?” – The beauty of this insult is that it's not direct either (more passive aggressive hilarity!). The more innocent your demeanour when saying this, the better the effect will be too. What you are saying might even be perfectly innocent and inquisitive, but what the photographer will hear is “I don't think you are good enough to have taken this photograph without resorting to digital manipulation.” If you are lucky they will also hear, “I could have got a similar shot if you let me use Photoshop too.” This will be like metaphorically ripping out their heart and showing it to them as they die. Mission accomplished!
Tell a Wedding Photographer That Your Cousin Did a Great Job of Shooting Your Sister's Wedding – This is insult gold when you are talking to a wedding photographer. Many of these folks have spent years perfecting their craft and building their wedding shooting business a week at a time over the course of many years which involved a lot of poverty, especially in the beginning. They just love hearing when somebody paid your cousin $100 to shoot a wedding and the results were “great” – not. If you really want to rub salt into the wound, show them an overblown snap of your grandparents doing Tequila shots while dancing in a sea of confetti and laser beams. Extra points for lens flare.
Mention That The Best Photo of Your Wedding Came from Uncle Bob with a Compact – This is especially effective when you went out of your way to hire a professional wedding photographer. It says that despite your years of learning the craft and more years of suffering as you built your business that you are still not good enough to beat a drunk, balding pensioner with bladder problems. Insults don't get much better than that.
Loudly Proclaim the Use of HDR – This is starting to head into direct, confrontational insult territory (we prefer passive aggressive) so be careful. If any photograph you see has saturated colours, then loudly and unapologetically claim that it is as a result of using HDR software. Be sure to ignore the fact that the photographer had woken up at 3AM every day for the last 2 weeks to ensure they were at the right place to get the magical lighting. Ignore that they shot on large or medium format film. The more obnoxious you are with this insult the better the effect will be.
Tilt Your Head Slightly And Ask if the Horizon is Straight – This isn't so much an insult as simply a Machiavellian little way to mess with the mind of a landscape photographer. Unintentionally crooked horizons in landscape photography really upset a lot of photographers so implying that they have missed something this elementary is to imply that they couldn't pass a 101 course on landscape photography. Be sure not to push this one too far – you want to plant the seed of discontent without revealing your true intention of simply owning their headspace. For extra giggle, watch them keep returning to the photograph you were talking about and squinting to see if they can detect the non-existent slant in that horizon.
Be Irate About Something Completely Insignificant – Did the photographer use Lightroom instead of Aperture to post-produce their photographs? Yell at them! Did they shoot on a Canon rather than Nikon? Tell them that you only take Canon shooters seriously and write off the rest. Did they shoot JPG instead of RAW files? Write them off (loudly) as a complete amateur! But whatever you do, make sure the point you are being irate about has NOTHING to do with the actual end image that you are looking it. Make sure you couldn't just look at the image and judge what you are being irate about. Ask them, and then get mad about their answer. This is insult nirvana.
The really great thing about this list is that almost every photographer who has been doing this for a while has heard at least one of these. Some may have even completed the whole set! Which ones have you heard? Tell us some more great insults in the comments!
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