Backseat Drivers In Photography: Productive Lessons We Can All Learn

Backseat Drivers In Photography: Productive Lessons We Can All Learn

By Jason Row / October 11, 2016

Last Updated on by

Photography Opinions – Behind The (Computer) Screen

We've all encountered them, especially in photographic circles…the armchair photographer. Let’s be honest at some stage we have maybe even been one. They can make us super frustrated. We then find ourselves worse off for letting these emotions run high.

In response, our fingers rapidly tap out clever replies, in the hope for some sort of strange retribution or satisfaction. Problem is, they always have an answer and this is a very short-lived way to tackle such issues.

the armchair photographer

We know in the back of our minds that these individuals are just seeking attention and our rising to them is giving them that attention, making them look (somehow) important.

Today, however, we are going to take a slightly different approach to these mad men (and women) of the internet. We are going to poke fun and shine a light on them. That way you'll be able to spot them and identify when you're being faced with them.

1. The Keyboard Warrior

Every photographic forum has one. Actually, if it's a well know forum it has several. Keyboard warriors tend to write first and omit the thinking later bit, completely.

They're often fairly angry individuals, people who know just enough about a camera, to belittle those asking questions but not enough to actually go out and take great pictures.

Keyboard warriors are the first responders of the internet world without providing the help normally associated with first responders. To seek out a keyboard warrior simply make any personal opinion on a photographic forum and within seconds you will get a rather pedantic reply.

Type a statement such as “Just bought the – [insert any camera equipment here] – and am absolutely loving it.”. Wait a few seconds and you will have flushed out a keyboard warrior.

Replies tend to be belittling either you or your equipment. They go something like this. “If you had spent a few dollars more you could have bought … You obviously have no idea about equipment”.

Keyboard warriors tend to reply without thought or reason. By Adikos

Top Lessons

Ok, so we know they're around, in abundance, and how to identify one. So when faced with what you might suspect is a Keyboard Warrier commenting, for example, on a comments thread you're active in, remember:

  • Not to jump back,
  • Keep cool, and
  • Only give a constructive or neutral reply if it's required.

It's just not worth going down that rabbit hole on issues regarding your work, gear or someone else's entirely.

2. The Troll

Before the world got itself all connected, trolls lived on Scandinavian mountains far from the civilised world. Wireless internet has allowed them to beam themselves into our digital world wreaking havoc amongst the generally calm and well informed photographic community.

Trolls see themselves as devil’s advocates. However, for that to work, you have to believe in both the devil and advocates. Trolls will both start conversations or jump in on conversations. They will often start a thread by post something inflammatory.

Usually, they do this by deliberately posting in the wrong forum.

For example, a typical troll might post on a Nikon forum:

“The new D810 is ok but the EOS 5 mkIV is so much better”. They will then leave that hanging there, with no explanation on why it’s better. This is mainly because they neither own a Nikon or a Canon or possibly even a camera.

They simply know how to ignite a forum post. Within minutes a chorus of Nikon owners will shout down this insane comment. Occasionally the troll will look at his Top Trump cards and add a fact where the EOS 5D is slightly better than the D810. This is simply to keep the war going.

By partaking in this, you're in for a losing battle. I don't mean, you're going to be in the wrong, the opposite actually. What I am referring to is that once you've been hooked in, the Troll has essentially acheieved “job done” status.

Trolls often jump in on posts as well. They will post a deliberately inflammatory reply to a seemingly good thread then fire the flames and watch it go down hill.

When you see a troll trolling a photographic forum, ignore him or her – often, extreme opinionated responses or comments stand out, so try to give a wide berth.

They are sad individuals who know nothing about photography but wish they did. They are great at starting a forum war but useless at using a camera. Don't get sucked in, it's just not worth your time or respect.

Jan Hammershaug

Top Lessons

Trolls are there to provoke and deliberately start a fight. You don't want any part of that, so try to avoid it altogether by:

  • Spotting a seemingly obvious negative or highly provocative comment and bypass it with responding to a genuine photographer or enthusiast,
  • Looking out for fellow photographers who look as though they are being targeted and warn them, publically. This way the troll is named and shamed and people will ignore them eventually (plus they'll get bored and move on).

3. The Armchair Photographer 

The are two indisputable facts about armchair experts. They think they know everything and they actually know enough to seem clever. If they could, armchair experts would write everything in caps. This is because they are not giving you their opinion, they are giving you a fact.

There are many, many armchair experts in photography. They are spawned by the massive wealth of online information there is on everything photographic.

They zealously read exactly 25% of every article written on photography whilst wistfully looking at their Nikon D5 gathering dust on a shelf, wishing they could somehow take a good picture with it – just not put that knowledge to practice!

With that 25% of knowledge, they roam around the photographic forums, correcting, explaining and helping “noobs”.

To the inexperienced photographers it seems at first that they are a wealth of useful information, but dig deeper you will find they are generally quoting some website they read six months ago. Often the advice they give can be dubious, sometimes even, just downright incorrect.

The problem comes when you try to challenge an armchair expert, especially on a complex subject. Because the information they are quoting is from some obscure website translated from Serbo-Croat it must be true.

You can argue that with all your experience this is not the case but experience counts for nothing in the mind of an armchair expert. After all, they don’t have any.

Armchair experts are armed with insane amounts of knowledge and little practical ability. By Robert Freiberger

There is one type of armchair photographer that grinds all our gears and that is the “pixel peeper”. Let’s be honest, modern day cameras are capable of images that can be printed to enormous sizes.

Despite this, the pixel peepers will continue to tell you that their camera’s sensor is 0.004% better and so your choice was dumb. Of course, the biggest print he or she ever made was a 5×7 inch glossy!

Summary

Some Friendly Advice:

Keyboard warriors, trolls and armchair experts are a fact of online life. However, rather than getting heated with them and engaging in digital warfare, think of them as objects of fun and just ignore them.

After all, the time you spend at a keyboard arguing could be much better spent taking pictures out in the real world, something they would not think to do.


Armchair Photographers…Lessons to Take Away

Remember, these “experts” sitting comfortably in their armchairs will throw facts your way, but don't take it as gospel truth

  • It's always best to do your own research and not rely on someone's opinion, no matter how informed they appear
  • Like these “experts” behind their computers, remember that you should take what they say with a pinch of salt and keep learning the way you have been so far – don't get put off. Keeping shooting firstly and learning secondly.

Further Resources

If you need to just grab some inspiration and head out to the hills for some fresh air, check out this amazing guide by Photzy – The Landscape Photography Guide!

About the author

Jason Row

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here

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