7 Obnoxious Things People Believe About Photographers

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Working in the photography industry is a fantastic gig – there's no denying it. Something about being around creative people and being able to be creative yourself is just unmatchable. But sometimes, it's obviously difficult for others to realise that a photographer is a professional too and deserves professional respect. Here are a few common situations when that can be a little irritating for a photographer.

Friends Will Work for Free – The ridiculousness of asking your accountant friend to do your tax for you for free is readily apparent to most people. So is getting your dentist friend to do a bit of free root canal work. For some reason, that doesn't extend to photographers. This one seems to be unique to photographers too.

Better Equipment Means Better Photographs – When a painter comes up with a fantastic painting, do you say, “Wow, you must have a great brush and paints!” This is a pet irritation of a lot of photographers. If you really think that it takes an expensive rig to take a great photograph, then you need to check out what can be done with the humble iPhone.

My Brother Can Shoot the Wedding – Well, your brother probably can take photographs at the wedding. Just like he can do your tax. Or fix your car. Of course if you want your car to keep going, or avoid getting slammed by the IRS, then you might like to get a professional to look at your tax return and car. Just like you might like to check out some professionals if you want good wedding photographs.

They Have No Right to Shoot X – The truth is that if a photographer is in a public space in most western countries then they can shoot just about anything. That includes you, security guards, police, children, your house – anything. If they are on private property, then it's different, but in public there is usually no legal expectation of privacy. (Check the laws in your own country for specifics). That's not to say they shouldn't be polite, but rights are a whole different issue to manners.

If It's a Striking Photograph, It Must be Photoshopped – A talented photographer knows that getting an image right “in camera” is the best way to end up with a great result. Many are actually very good at it and get stunning images before they get anywhere near a computer. That is what makes them good at their craft. That is why they study. That is why they practice.

They'll Be Grateful for the Work and Work Cheap – This one again goes back to professional respect. You don't ask your dentist for a discount. You don't ask your child's teacher to throw in Maths and Science, but don't charge you for geography. You don't ask your waiter to throw in dessert for free. So don't do this to a photographer. If you cannot pay for the service, then don't ask for it.

I Know a Guy Who Can Do It Much Cheaper – Yes, yes, everybody knows a friend of a friend who can do the photography job for a third of the cost. The kicker is that a photography business is an expensive one to run and you get what you pay for. If you're happy enough to risk your cheap shooter, then go for it. Just don't use it as a cheap bargaining ploy when you're talking to a professional.



Here's a great little video that we found on John Dowling's photography blog that you might like to watch so you can really see the ridiculousness of some of these situations.

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I'm Rob, the editor of Light Stalking. I try to keep this ship on course.

83 thoughts on “7 Obnoxious Things People Believe About Photographers

  1. Kelly Jo

    Great article, so spot on! May I add the proverbial, “This is my vision…” I’ve had folks walk into my office and say, now, this is what my vision is for such and such shoot. (Inner dialogue is thinking, “Then why are you here? You don’t need me to shoot it for you; you’ve got the vision!”)

  2. Trish

    So true! I’ve been shooting for years now but have just opened my business in this area over the past year and I’ve encountered all of these situations (some more than once)!

  3. Terry

    I’ve been doing this for 12 years…& now everybody who has a camera thinks they are a photographer…this is sooooo spot on. Been there, done that… It’s also the reason I’m paid in full one week prior to the event & have an iron clad contract laying out what I will and will not do.

      1. NerfBarbarian

        Which explains why people don’t typically hire criminals or obnoxious photogs. Or worse, obnoxious criminal photographers…

  4. Bas

    Spot on. Actually, the first bit (about doing stuff for free) also very much applies to any IT related work. Not only do people ASK you to do things for free, they EXPECT you to.

    1. S_Krage

      Ha ha, you are so right. I finally put a notification on Facebook telling everyone I’m no longer doing it, it’s not worth my 8 hours of fixing their computer on a Saturday for free, or even to get paid. I now get less emails and phone calls…period, but that’s okay. Because I’m no longer trying to fix your virus or spyware you put on your computer once again…. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Sabine

    I have had the other way around, also hilarious: ” I want you to shoot my wedding ” Me: “okay, but why, you haven’t seen any of my pictures yet…”
    She: “Oh that’s ok, I’ve seen your camera!”
    This really happened!!

    1. Mike

      Indeed.

      Friend comes to me with a sob story about the only “camera” there being his mum’s iPhone.

      I tried to point out to him that I do landscapes almost exclusively but they were persistent!

  6. joe Fox

    Working for free isn’t unique to photographers friends – it happens to IT professionals too. Need help with your computer? Don’t pay someone $50 to $200/hr for support and assistance with your downloaded virii and pr0n collection, ask a friend who has nothing better to do after a 60 hour work week supporting a user base with the same problems. We feel your pain! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Peggy

    Seems to me that IF you have a camera, you automatically DO WEDDINGS! People ask me all the time…….I tell them “No” or I tell them my starting price and they leave me alone!

    1. TheBeerLady

      I feel your pain – I don’t do weddings, I don’t do babies, and it’s pretty much because I’m not overly interested in doing either. (For some reason, toddlers & little kids are fine, just not babies. Anne Geddes, I’m not.)

      I had a friend of a friend of a friend tell me not too long ago that they would ‘let’ me shoot their wedding so I could get the practice. Gosh, thanks. They seemed surprised when I told them that I’d be glad to shoot at the reception or the bachelor/bachelorette parties, but that they might want to check out my style to see if it’s really what they wanted out of a wedding photographer LOL

  8. Adavardes

    I like the article on the whole, but I have a problem with how it seems to address prices for photography, and “working cheap”. First, let me say that professional photography is, without question, worth more than an amateur’s work, at least financially speaking. It holds true for any service and product: if you’re making something with a certified education to back it up, you deserve to be rewarded for that investment in human capital.

    However, regardless of whether or not you start at a different standard of pricing, the principles of capitalism hold true. When you sell anything, even photographs, you’re talking about capitalism, and in a thriving capitalist economy, competition drives everything. People are going to ask for a cheaper price because it’s the duty of the supplier to compete with his peers, especially when dealing with luxury items – things people don’t necessarily need, but would very much like to have. Better prices mean more consumers, and thus more profit. Being inflexible in your prices, no matter how good the principles behind it are, will kill your business if you have someone willing to give a discount where you won’t.

    Is it pretty? No. But there’s a big difference between professional respect and entrepreneurial shrewdness, and I think the article fails to bring that side of the story to light. As I said, luxury items are a competitive field, and I would consider professional photography to ultimately be a luxury. The article oversimplifies the issue by placing it in the same category as car repair or dentistry – things people can’t necessarily do without. While it’s not very nice to say, nobody necessarily needs to have a professional photograph, regardless of how beautiful it is. They’ll think about their pocketbooks before they’ll think about their souls.

    I grew up in a small mom and pop antique store, and the best policy is to set your prices higher than normal for a professional photographer, and start offering discounts that bring it to the price you actually want. Either that, or work on a haggling system, starting high and ending in a middle ground you can make profit off of.

    1. Mark

      You miss one very important point: Photography is not a commodity!!!

      A professional photographer is an artist and should be priced at the top of his/her skill level and if they have a studio as overhead they need a LARGE markup. If someone questions your pricing, show them your portfolio. If they still don’t get it, you are probably better off losing them as they will only be frustration to you.

      Yes, you should examine your pricing IF AND ONLY IF you are not getting enough volume to support your business. However there are many things to examine before prices. What are your marketing campaigns doing, is your sales staff skilled enough, are you paying too much for print service, etc.

      1. Jean-Paul Boudreau

        Mark, I agree with you. A photographer creates images, he does not trade in commodities.

        This article describes how people in our social network treats us, however, have you noticed how a complete stranger will generally show more respect for your work.

        Nobody’s a prophet in his hometown.

    2. Matt

      A better option is to set your prices consistent with you target demographic, and then to offer added-value items or services. The added-value will cost the supplier less than a discount will, meaning the business can be sustained.

  9. Danny

    Have to agree wit Joe Fox. Photography for me is a hobby, and IT pays the bills, but not where friends are concerned. Because I like computers, I’ll also like clearing viruses, installing routers, copying files, installing hardware, etc for free.

  10. Bryan Farrell

    we shouldn’t complain when we do it to our selves, as we learn and want to build a portfolio we all have created this situation but what we need to do is educate the public about the difference, when i started i could do a shoot and get some good shots, as a profecional i know what the image is going to look like before i hit the shutter and i can create a beautiful shot not just click, look at the lcd and go “oh wow, that looks great’ every now and then.

    1. Jean-Paul Boudreau

      Bryan, I think a lot of us self-thaught semi or professional photographers recognize ourselves through your comment, which describes so well the difference between an amateur and a pro.

      Great article! Right to the point.

  11. Desiree

    OMG SOOOOO TRUE!!!! i wish the general public would see this!
    But i wish the general public would know a lot of things that seem to be common sense, like to tip your waiter, that when at a stop sign and everyone stopped first the person on the right goes, etc…

  12. Monica

    This hit the nail on the head! I actually had someone tell me that since they already paid me $75 (for the session fee), that they should only have to pay me an additional $125 because another photographer offered them a package with session fee, a print credit AND the CD with all images on it for $200!! Seriously!?!? I told them they could have their session fee back and go to the other photographer….

  13. Me

    I sincerely think you take most of these issues too personally. I know exactly how it feels, but it applies to most professions, It’s called steotype

    1. Avril Jones

      It has nothing to do with stereotypes! This is about people wanting something for nothing, which is, frankly, taking the pee.

      Due to this bad attitude from would-be customers, it’s hard for photographers to declare a fixed hourly rate and stick to it. But that’s exactly what car mechanics and dentists do. They charge you for materials used, add a mark-up to factor in insurance, premises, utilities and all other costs, then they add their hourly rate for the time spent fixing your car/teeth.

      Why don’t photographers do this? Why shouldn’t they?

      It’s no harder for us to do the sums than for those other trained professionals. Yet I’ve never come across a photographer who works out his/her charges that way.

      First, you have to decide what annual salary you want. Then make a realistic estimate of how much work you’re going to get over the year. (Those with past years’ bookings to go on have an advantage over those starting out.) Divide your desired annual salary by the number of hours you expect to work and there’s your hourly rate. Then add the cost of doing each job (plus a mark-up to allow for slight underestimating) and there’s the price you should be charging. Needless to say, unrealistic salary desires will result in unrealistic prices.

  14. Profile photo of MikeMike

    Great piece here and right on the money. Fortunately, I haven’t been asked to shoot a wedding yet! That would be laughable (I mean, me shooting a wedding and all).

    Love the video. I got a really big belly laugh about this one.

  15. Profile photo of Cheryl PierceCheryl Pierce

    I am an amateur who has acquired some skill, but with a LOT to learn. I’ve had two family members comment on my photos lately. One said, “Your camera takes really good pictures” and the other wants me to shoot her wedding. I suspect they think the camera does it all on it’s own and I just hold it and push the button. :o)

    1. MLBrowne

      This is really the truth — for writers, too. While struggling to create meaningful narrative, people actually ask me why I can’t write faster. At least with the camera, I can tell them I’m constrained by shutter speed and available light.

  16. Ashlee

    I totally agree on all points, except the working for free… I think every industry gets this. My husband is a vet, he gets calls all hours of the day and night from friends, family, friends of friends, people he met one time, etc, wanting him to diagnose their dog over the phone, or via e-mail, or facebook, for free… and I’m a small business consultant, and I get the same thing. Great article though, and really… everyone needs to stop asking everyone else to do things for free… trade maybe, but market value.

  17. Kazz

    These are all excellent points that I agree with. I do take issue with item #5, however. I do agree that a great photo doesn’t mean it’s photoshopped. But it’s still just as valid for a photographer to capture source information in the camera to be edited in Photoshop. There was a time when a photograph wasn’t considered complete until it was developed and printed in a darkroom.

  18. Squid

    “Better Equipment Means Better Photographs” is indeed a mistaken belief but having the correct equipment to a shoot with a specific purpose certainly makes your job easier.

    1. Kate

      Don’t forget however, all the learning that needs to be done to use that better equipment . Photography is my hobby and I totally understand how much knowledge you need to operate that camera ! I can’t express enough my admiration for an accomplished photographer! It is such a talent. I was a hairdresser for many years and the same thing applies to the attitudes of people. “oh maybe I’ll let you do my hair ” like they are doing you a favor!

  19. B.K.Agrawal

    Sometimes the customer ask “You are charging $10, how is your photograph 5 times better than the one who is charging $2 per photo?

  20. Tyger

    So true. I am not a professional, but I have seen this side of society. I have been paid by some friends of my brother to do some senior portraits, but only because I asked my brother to see if any of his friends (he is a senior) would like me to take them.

    I did the sessions and release for cheap, because I knew I did not have the experience to back a bigger price and I was just looking to build a solid portfolio. Not because I was expected to.

    Where the aggravating part comes in was when one of my clients comes back and expects me to release to him all of the photos taken during the session. FOR FREE!!! Truth to be told I did work it out with him that I would only do that if he paid (which he hasn’t come back yet to buy), but second I didn’t think releasing the photos that weren’t my best out into the public (even though he assured me he just wanted to see if he got his monies worth and nothing else… yah right… why does a 17 year old need more images if he isn’t going to show them to people) was a great idea for my professionalism.

    I think free market economics should have been covered a little more in the article, but the base element was, as some others have said, “spot on.”

  21. Tyger

    sorry about that ^^^ I was trying to put that as my profile picture (or I thought I was). If a moderator could delete these two comments (picture and this) that would be great.

  22. hamid kootval

    So funny and so true… I am about to dump one of my clients that I have been shooting for for the last three years.. He still doesn’t get it..and tests my patience every time we shoot…
    Great article..

  23. Arun Kanth

    Wish I could share all the above points and the video to my clients !! Iam a photographer and i face these everyday… The approach should change definitely !! Great work by who ever put this content up… – regards, Arun Kanth

  24. Andrew Mckay

    While I agree that many of the situations covered could be irritating I think photographers need to understand that many of the situations occur in other industries and it is not only unique to the photographic industry

    I get many similar comments from potential clients that Joe Bloggs down the road or “my brother/friend/uncle” can build that wall a lot cheaper than my quote. My industry suffers from”fly by night ” operators and cowboys who take a lot of work away from genuine builders.

    The photographic industry is perhaps unique in that the line between work and hobby/passion/pastime can be very thin and blurred. But the photographic industry cannot have its cake and eat it. Like any industry it wants the market to grow and expand.

    Newcomers are encouraged to join the market and are bombarded with an array of excellent products from camera’s,lens, software,courses, books,youtube tutorials and a whole host of accessories to spend their disposable income on.

    But if one on the newcomers wants to take photographs to make some money on the side there is loud chorus of disapproval from the industry. No this is reserved for the “creative” and artistic ones , the chosen few who call themselves professionals.

    One should also remember that many “obnoxious” people simply cannot afford the fees of a full professional. In these cases the weekend hacker serves a purpose be providing a service to a portion of the market that would never be able to afford the creative artist.

    I fully agree with the comment about ” Just donโ€™t use it as a cheap bargaining ploy when youโ€™re talking to a professional”

    This is a very good point and I get it all the time in my industry, drives me mad as well but I don’t go posting articles about

    I think the professionals need to chill out a bit and understand it is not only their industry that has idiot clients trying to push their luck.

    Rant aside , I really enjoy this web site and will be returning more for some of the excellent articles and tutorials.

  25. Renee A. Chew

    This video was a HOOT of the TRUTH! ENJOYED it, The hairstylist was the frosting on the cake……
    When my Brother & his wife were married back in 94, They had hired a professional, but of course you have that one JACKASS that thinks taking photos is childs play so he buys himself the expensive CAMERA and Justifies the expensive Camera to his wife & FAMILY by saying “HEY, I’ll BE YOUR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER” Yeah, that’s it, thats the CHEAP ASSES way out of a WEDDING GIFT….”Why, I’m a Professional Photographer so, I’m giving you a $5,000. Gift!” What was sad was that he showed my sister “to be” some professional photos of a WEDDING he was at, but in no way did he shot them , But, made her believe he had…..Needless to say “HE in NO WAY, shape or form knew how to take photos, THE PHOTOS WERE HORRIBLE! My Brother and his Wife are still madly in LOVE almost 20 years later, and have the BEST FIRST & LAST MARRIAGE! Yet at their 50th anniversary they will still have they HORRIBLE PHOTOS of the Second best day of their lives, [1st was the birth of their child in 1995] I CAN NOT STRESS ENOUGH HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO HAVE A PROFESSIONAL!

  26. Kenneth Lane Smith

    Could someone please tell me what brand of golf clubs Tiger Woods uses because I am sure the only reason my golf game stinks is that I am using the wrong brand of clubs.

    Oh, and if you don’t mind, I’m going to write a great novel, and I really need to know what kind of typewriter Hemmingway used for his work.

  27. Mark

    I just spent four hours a day for four consecutive days attending and online seminar on marketing, pricing, and production skills as continuing education. None of that time is paid, nor is the several years of learning with online forums and in the field practice to learn the field. I will never stop learning, but I am doing very well in my field. Furthermore, I have invested in several thousand dollars of equipment. I DO NOT WORK FOR FREE unless I want to for a specific charitable purpose. Friends and family might get a small discount, but they will pay or do without.

  28. Mark

    I should point out that I don’t do charitable events for FREE like some think. I bill them for the photography and then sign their check back over to them as a donation. That way I can for sure get the tax write off!

  29. Jose

    That is so REAL. They will not see you as a Professional, but consider them self’s a one in all aspects of live at the moment of needing your service!

  30. Jen

    This was great but by no means does this only apply to photography as others have pointed out. I’m an accountant (no I won’t do your taxes even for a fee) and I work in IT (no I won’t fix your virus-laden computer because you’ve never seen a link you didn’t want to click!)

    My partner is an athletic therapist and gets it all the time too “oh I hurt my shoulder the other day playing baseball, can you look at it?”.

    I have seen it in reverse. Recently started my own consulting business. I wanted a professional looking website, had a rough idea of what it would take and found a great professional freelancer. Can’t tell you how many people thought I was insane “OMG I could have gotten you in touch with my cousin/neighbour/friend, he could have done it for $500!”. Hard to explain that I wasn’t interested in a website that LOOKS like I spent $500 on it.

    Being in consulting I guess I understand the value of services for fee more than most because I have to justify my fees as well!

  31. Jen

    PS to my last comment. When my dad re-married several years ago they want me to do their wedding photos. Small low-key wedding. Long story short I felt obligated to say yes. Thank god by a considerable stroke of luck one picture turned out fanastic but to this day they don’t have good wedding pictures because they didn’t want to hire a pro. They have one good picture but the rest were no better than any other amateurs picture at a wedding with no experience. I was not a pro by any stretch and it showed unfortunately. I was nervous as hell and regretted saying yes.

  32. ARC

    Agree mostly, but you’d be surprised how many friends expect free advice, prescriptions, opinions, etc from doctors as well. It’s like yes, I dropped $500K on med school education and lived like a slave for 5 years of residency so I could be your WebMD.

  33. KL

    Great post! My husband is a mechanic and loved it too. He gets it all the time. “Well, thanks for diagnosing my car with your $7000 scanner and taking 2 hours of your time which are easily worth $150+ but I have a friend who can do it for way cheaper now that we know what’s wrong so I don’t need you to fix it. What? You want me to pay you for diagnosis time? That’s a rip off.”

  34. Paula Kelman

    This is also absolutely true in the dog training field! I’m both an amateur photographer and a dog training instructor…..the worst are when they expect you to give them free advice and that the dog was a natural at whatever you were teaching (because you have no talent with dogs…). GRRR!

  35. Maggie Morris

    I started to laugh at the audacity and nerve that some people have when trying to get something for nothing. If the tables were turned I am sure they would be outraged at the mere suggestion of providing services and goods for nothing or little financial return. I have been a vicitim of this as an artist and professional videographer.

  36. Meghan

    I’m an accountant and unfortunately friends and family ask accountants to do their taxes for free. It’s not just photographers who get these absurd requests. Sometime they’ll offer to pay with a bottle of booze in exchange for tax work. I’ve also had clients who’ve tried to haggle on the price after their tax work was complete and it came time to pay the bill. I think people have a general lack of respect for those providing professional services (not just photographers) because they think they’re just paying for your time so you can afford to discount it.

  37. Jim Moustakas

    Nice article. I completely agree. I have been a professional photographer for over 20 years now and have had all these scenarios come up on many occasions.
    The one I like the most is when people ask me to do a job free so I get more experience. Thanks, thats so kind of you!

  38. Rafa

    I work with computers, and I’m part time amateur photographer. As a photographer I can tell you I’ve suffered all but the first point. Whenever a friend asked me to take some pics, they’ve always have paid me, more o less, but never have tried to get it for free. But as a computer guy (what pays my rent) absolutely everybody with no exception wants me to fix their dammed windows for free. Always. Sorry, but that’s that.

  39. Shah

    I love this video, photography / Videography is a art n some people expect raw footage n images to be given free, all photographer n videographers should never ever give a away the raw, if they r a pro. SHAh

  40. Penny

    Goodo Amber. Go right ahead and buy lots of expensive equipment. But since it is clear you lack imagination and any idea about photography I doubt they will be anything but ordinary. Real photography is about capturing a moment, an angle, or waiting for that to come. Many brilliant photos were taken on an old Brownie.

  41. Penny

    Oh. And what’s more. It’s about lighting and understanding light, aperture and shutter speed. And the knowledge of a zillion other things as well as years of experience. Understanding your camera and knowing every little thing it can do. All the camera does is allow you to press the button and take a picture AFTER you have made all those choices. Oh yes and did I mention that a those choices are probably made in a split second? That is what makes a good photo, not the camera itself. I will never be a great photographer but I can certainly know one.

  42. Nora Kramer

    LOL. I saw this a lot as a graphic designer and website designer as well. Um, yeah…Dreamweaver, Illustrator, and InDesign don’t come “pre-bundled” with creativity anymore than photoshop and a DSLR do. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  43. HDove

    Anyone can spend hundreds or thousands on a camera. It’s technique and creativity that you can’t buy. Granted the iPhone picture quality is not as good as a Canon Mark V, I’ve seen better composed pictures sometimes come from very creative people with iPhones. My family and close friends never ask me for a discount, they always try to over pay, whereas the people I don’t know that well are always the ones trying to haggle the price. It’s a business not a flea market!

  44. Sandra Sigfusson

    Friends don’t let other friends work for free. I charged for a graduation shoot for “friends” once. They never paid me, but instead offered to have my husband & I over for dinner. That never happened either. In hindsight I should have taken a deposit for the event & requested the balance upon delivery of the images. Lesson learned.

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