It’s Tough Being a Professional Photographer at Times!

Girl taking photograph

I bet you didn’t know I was a professional photographer did you? Well I’m not, ha! Had you going there didn’t I? But I do have several friends and acquaintances who are, and it seems they have a tougher time of it than we might imagine. Overall my impression is that they love their job, so we don’t need to feel too sorry for them, however, they do have to put up with a lot of crap from the general public. I like those guys, so I thought I’d help them out here by highlighting some common issues, in the hope that people will stop and think before opening their mouths.

Here is a small selection of the types of things they have to deal with…

They receive compliments – “Wow, your camera takes really good pictures!”
That is seriously insulting. “Wow mister surgeon, your knife does really good operations!” Yes, quality tools are important, but good tools in the wrong hands can have disastrous results; if you don’t believe me, then just ask my kids after I’ve cut their hair using a really good pair of scissors.

They receive helpful advice – “You might want to use a flash, the light isn’t very good here.”
Well thank goodness someone was there to point this out to them! Otherwise they’d have been puzzling for weeks about why their pictures didn’t come out right.

They get given the chance to charge less than they are worth – “My friend’s brother’s cousin has a nice camera and he says he’ll do our wedding for a quarter of the price you’ve quoted. Can you match it?”
Oh yes, absolutely. By the way, I have a really nice hammer, and can install your new kitchen for a fraction of the price you’ve been quoted, are you interested?

They are presented with wonderful opportunities – “Would you take some photos of me/my wedding/my kids/my dog, for free? Then you can use them in your portfolio, so it’s win-win for both of us!”
Photographers are by no means the only professionals who are asked to provide their services for free under the suggestion that it will be good for their portfolio, or that it might open doors to bigger and better things for them; actors have to deal with this a lot, as do graphic/web designers and probably others that I haven’t thought of too. I’m not saying that professionals should never do any work for free; there are occasions where it might be appropriate, but to try and sell the idea to professionals as being some kind of great opportunity for them is, again, insulting.

One of issues with photography is that it is done both professionally, and by most people anyway (even if it’s just an occasional snapshot on their phone), so everyone thinks they know something about it. I was trying to think of what other professions are like that – I came up with chefs, and er…there’s photographers, chefs, and…you know, those other ones that are done both professionally and most people do the thing regularly as well anyway.

I will finish with a couple of questions for you; answer them if you like, or not, I don’t mind!

1. Aside from photographers and chefs, can you think of any other professions that are also something that most people do anyway?

2. Do you work in a profession/job where you have to deal with a lot of annoying things like that from people?


photo credit: Kris Krug via photopin cc


65 responses to “It’s Tough Being a Professional Photographer at Times!

  1. Q1. Prostitution!
    Q2. er, yes!


  2. Vanessa


    I love the bit about people thinking that it’s the “camera” that does the work. So many people go out and buy an expensive DSLR and put it on automatic and never get around to using it properly. On the other hand for those of us who know how to use a DSLR we can find great buys on eBay. 🙂

    As far as professions go I can think of one that I’ve been in. Sales. Admittedly not everyone is involved in direct sales, but most people think they know better the value of an item then the seller.

    A lot of people always seem to think inside salespeople are ripping you off. (Yes there are unscrupulous ones). What people don’t understand is that the salesperson lives off their commissions. And that THEY do not set the prices, they are in the middle. (I won’t bore you with the long chain from manufacturer to end user)

    I’d hear:
    “Well I found it down the street for less, why can’t you give it to me for the same price?
    “You can buy it cheaper why can’t I?”
    “Give me your discount, and I’ll buy it.”
    “You’re trying to rip me off.”

    Salespeople, like food servers, live off their ability to please the customer, by providing good service. They have no control over the price set for an item, only in how you perceive the value of what you’re buying.

    Please don’t take the “price” out on them.


  3. Not quite the same, since this isn’t something everyone can do, like being a “photographer” or a “chef”, but I have a friend who is a doctor. When complete strangers are introduced to him and find out what he does, they say, “Maybe you can help me…I’ve been having this pain in my side…” His standard answer is “You should see a doctor”. Said with a smile, of course. As for the price “negotiators”, I would be so tempted to say, “If you can get it cheaper at Store X, why are you talking to me? You should be at Store X buying it!”


  4. I get asked a medical question or two. Or a hundred. I never mind, but as a pediatrician, questions about the prostate do throw me a bit…

    Love that you’re sticking up for photographers. I would never question them, and you’d know why if you saw the horrible photos I take.


  5. 1/. No
    2/. Yes

    I did enjoy this and I’m sure there are many a professional “professional” out there for every job there is… someone always knows better or wants to take an chance for a freebee…


  6. How about writers? You’ve heard the things people say: Have you written anything I’ve read? No, really, what do you do for a JOB? I’ve got a great idea for a book…
    The above is for question 1.
    Question 2: I don’t any longer because I’m now retired! Yay.


  7. There is an old story that goes as follows
    A group of friends went to dinner together. one guest – a photographer showed off some photos that he was proud of..
    The host said “Wow – you must have a really good camera”
    The photographer seemed to take this to heart and remained quiet for the rest of the meal….
    At the end of the meal – the host asked him – “Did you like the meal”
    To which the photographer replied – “Yes – It was Great.. You must have a REALLY good Oven”


  8. I work in a hospital as a medical photographer, and we have problems with clinical staff taking their own photos, especially on mobile phones. Not only is the image less professional, but they have no idea about issues of patient confidentiality when it comes to photographs. The whole area is a minefield of legislation, and it’s up to the clinical photographers to sort it out!
    And, oh yes, speaking as a writer, most everyone I know has an idea for a book, they just haven’t got around to writing it yet!


  9. Well, some people seem to think that because they can garden, they could also do archaeology without any training…. And sometimes to answer your second question. 😉


  10. Those things would be so annoying to a professional photographer. I can’t think of anymore professions besides the 2 you came up with. And no, thankfully, I don’t have to deal with annoying people like that as a proofreader (except from the other proofreader who is allowed to annoy me)


  11. Wow. Those what be super annoying questions to be asked.


  12. That first one killed me. Oh wow, would I take insult to that. Your lap top writes really good stories. If I had the time to write, I would write a book too. Arhhhh!!!

    I get asked for medical advice. I don’t mind too much. I always have the “….please see your GP,” ready.


  13. A1: Perhaps the most obvious is writers. Everyone does it every day but so many do it so badly.
    A2: A friend of mine is a electrician. Someone asked him for a quote to install a couple of ceiling fans. Their jaw dropped at the figure and they protested, “But the fans only cost $100 each!”. His reply was, “Your fans might have been made in China but I certainly wasn’t.” He got the job.


  14. Teaching. Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you know how to teach them to read. Everyone thinks they can run out to the bookstore and grab a workbook…. Seriously, if it was that easy everyone would be a fabulous reader and I shouldn’t have bothered with the degree. And no, after working a ten hour day, I do not want to tutor your niece.


    • Oh gosh yes, teachers do have to put up with a lot from parents don’t they! I work at a university and we work with schools, so I know quite a few teachers through my job, as well as just through being a parent, and I often feel sorry for them! They also have to put up with people saying what an easy life they have with the long school breaks etc, whereas actually they have to spend so much of their own time marking, and preparing lessons etc, a lot of people just don’t realise that.


  15. Further to my previous answers. Answer to Q2. Being a firefighter it’s so annoying that you’re a fantasy figure to women (and some men) and they pester you all the time to take you home. Oh, hang on; that’s my fantasy!


  16. #1 Writing
    #2 Yup. Although my computer has never been given credit for writing a good article. So, yes, photographers, have it worse on that score.


  17. Speaking of photographers, last year I had occasion to have my picture taken by a photographer for the local newspaper (long story). I asked some innocent question along the lines of “How did you get into this line of work?” and it turned out he had a master’s degree in photojournalism. I said, “Wow! I bet you’re underpaid.” Only because newspapers are dying a slow death and I know they don’t pay squat. Boy, did I get an earful. At our paper, he said the photographers are held in the very lowest esteem, he only took the job because he has a new baby and doesn’t even make enough to support his new family, etc. And this is a guy who took only one picture–one–and it was fabulous. He used his light meter and took the picture facing the sun, which highly impressed me. I guess you have to know enough about a subject to realize how difficult something is, and to realize you don’t know enough to do it yourself. It’s that second step most people seem to miss. I am so sick of the attitude we see a lot in the U.S.–this is a democracy, therefore my ignorant opinion is equivalent to your educated one. Okay, I’ll stop ranting now 🙂


  18. Why do people do this? They are obviously lacking self-confidence and so need to drag others down to their level. They can’t do anything good themselves so it must be the tools that are good. Crazy damned fools 🙂


  19. I have never found a photographer who can make me look good in a picture. Obviously, it’s their fault. HF


  20. Writers. We give it away for free on our blogs, which run the gamut from crap to fantastic.

    I have a lot of respect for photographers because my own efforts are so lame.


  21. There are a surprising number of people who think they could take great photos if only they had expensive kit – just as there are lots of people who seem to think they could do better than politicians, football managers and other jobs requiring specialist skills.

    People seem to forget that photographers often have to work unsociable hours and carry the pressure of having to produce good results every time.

    People also forget that it’s also possible to take very good photos with the kind of cameras many of us have to hand. Some of the best shots I’ve taken in the past couple of years haven’t been taken with my swanky SLR but with my iPhone. A good eye and some basic technique works wonders.

    Of course, I suppose it’s easier and more comforting to say that we could do what the pros do if only we had X, Y or Z. What’s that expression about bad workmen …?


    • Yes, funny how people always think they could easily have been this or that because they know all about it. I say ‘people’ but I guess we all do it from time to time. Whenever I take a good photograph I tend to put it down to luck rather than a sign that I could be a professional!


  22. Great post, very droll! 🙂
    Good question about professions that involve things that people already do… Hmm. Driving instructors. How many folk out there are backseat drivers? eh? 😉
    Teaching is the kind of profession where you get many silly questions – actually, most jobs I’ve been in are like that. Favourite was when I was working in the libraries. Phonecall came through, I answered and the first thing the person said was “Oh, so are you open today?” I couldn’t resist the temptation to say “No, actually, I’ve just been brought in today on the off chance that anyone phones up to ask.” That person believed me. Don’t worry, I did set them straight. But I thought about it first. Lol.


    • Ha yes! I think in any job where you are dealing with the public, you have to deal with the same questions and comments. I’ve never worked on a supermarket till, but I always imagine that they must have to keep smiling through the same things all the time, like when they have trouble scanning an item, people always say “Must be free then!” they must find it hard not to scream sometimes!


      • This so true (the not screaming part). I manage parking for the city where I live, and customers all the time drive up to the payment window and say “I heard it’s free today!” I have a cashier who answers “That was yesterday, so today we have to charge you double”.


  23. My first job out of university was cleaning offices. I didn’t get any of the skilled professional insults like you mention, but cleaning other people’s messes all evening made me not want to clean my own when I got home! 😀

    I have a couple of photographer friends who do get those insults, though. I love my photographer – she’s rad – and, working with her, I understand just how much above and beyond a good photographer goes, to create a truly stunning photo. When I book a photo shoot with her, I’m always impressed by the extreme level of care and detail she takes in her work (and in making me look my best).

    It’s rather rude to demand pro bono work or price cuts from a professional. You’re right, Vanessa – you certainly wouldn’t do that with a contractor building your kitchen!


    • I seem to keep getting behind on replying to blog comments these days! Yes, it’s hard to imagine anyone who has properly worked with a good professional photographer ever doubting how much real skill there is there.


  24. I’m a freelance copywriter…. *sigh*


  25. Oh god, I swear I’ll never think these thoughts about a photographer again! Well, most photographers. The one’s my parents paid to take studio photographs of us kids over the years are another thing…

    Like other people on here, I’d say writers. I’ll be so ecstatic the first time I receive monies from my writing I’ll either frame it or blow it all on nail polish. One or the other.


  26. You know what I put up with on a daily basis, so I enjoyed this post very much. Well done!


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