How to Piss Off a Photographer

by Branden Eastwood Oct 24, 2015
Casually suggest we get a job at National Geographic.

The photographers who work for National Geographic have the best gig in the game, and they did not get it by casually dropping off a resume on Chris Johns’ desk. Most of them have been shooting for longer than I’ve been alive and they’ve got more connections than London Heathrow.

It’s not like these men and women are good. It’s like they are scary good. Sold your soul to the devil to take the world’s best pictures good. Suggesting that a photographer get a job at National Geographic is like asking a casual baseball fan why he isn’t playing for the Yankees.

Offer an opportunity to publish our photos but provide no payment, on the grounds that the exposure will be great for our career.

Exposure? If you don’t pay me the only exposure I’m going to care about is my body’s exposure to the elements from not being able to afford a place to live. This is a job. An awesome job, but still a job.

What it all boils down to is an understanding that being a photographer is not just about taking pictures. Understand that it takes hours, energy, and money to create images. If you’re respectful of that, you’ll probably not have to worry too much about being the victim of the best paid photographers out there: the ones with incriminating photos!

Tell us, “You have some great pictures, your camera must be really good.”

Have you ever stared at a beautiful painting and thought, “I wonder what type of paintbrush the artist used?” You would never assume the composition of the painting or the uniqueness of the subject was a product of a paintbrush. So don’t do that to photographers. A good photographer with a bad camera will always take better pictures than a bad photographer with a good camera.

This also applies to how you should spend your money on photo gear. Don’t go buy a camera for $8,000 when it won’t help you take better pictures than a camera that cost $2,000.

Publish our images on your blog without permission or payment.

At the dawn of the internet, the band Metallica managed to make themselves look like the world’s biggest assholes by suing Napster over “sharing” their music online without permission. While there’s a major difference between Metallica’s bank account and most any photographer’s, it’s hard to not feel somewhat sympathetic when you find your pictures used somewhere online without permission or payment. It’s like a karmic kick to the gut for all that time you spent ripping off music from the Pirate Bay.

Keep in mind this is how people make their living and no matter how glamorous it may seem, it’s not easy. That picture is not just a picture. It’s hours upon hours of hard work. Using a photo that cost money to create without permission undermines a real life human’s ability to survive; it is stealing.

Send us an email explaining how inspired you were by our personal project, and then ask for contacts so you can shoot the same story.

Honestly man, you might as well just ask me about the color of my girlfriend’s underwear. That really takes some nerve and is about as offensive. Those pictures and the people in them are the fruits of countless hours building relationships, researching issues, and discovering interesting nooks of the world.

Never mind that relationships don’t change hands like contact info on a business card. Never mind the costs and risks of traveling to a place on the slight chance of being able to develop a contact. Being a good photographer is about developing your own stories and ideas. That’s just as important as anything you’re doing with the camera. So, sit yourself down, do some research, and find your damn story so you can be pissed when someone tries to tell you how much you’ve inspired them.

Ask us, “Could you just go out and shoot this real quick?”

This was once uttered to me by an editor of my college paper in the same breath as a request that I scale the outside of a skyscraper to get a picture of Brian Williams who was broadcasting the NBC Nightly News from the roof of our college. It was so ridiculous I couldn’t even bother being pissed.

The request to “just go shoot something quick” reflects a lack of understanding in what it takes to get a good photo. Good photos don’t just happen “real quick.” It takes time to find your subject. Photographers are also proud of their work. If your name is about to be published next to an image you took and seen by thousands of people, it damn well better be a good picture, and anything done quickly rarely yields high-quality results.

Ask to borrow our memory card so you can put the pictures on your computer.

Again, it’s all about respecting what went into making those pictures. Those images are personal. Photographers feel a sense of ownership over them. We aren’t going to just give our creations out so you can share them on Facebook with no mention of where they came from.

This can also create a copyright or exclusivity conflict. If your unique images are already popping up everywhere for free, why is a publication going to pay you for images the world has already seen?  

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