What They Think We Do as Photographers

Chances are, everyone in your circle knows you are a photographer. How many of those people have an understanding of what you actually do on a day-to-day basis? This brief, but funny video by Niels Kemp highlights some of the misconceptions he encounters from the people closest to him. 

The video hits the nail on the head when it comes to the absurd perceptions people have about what a hobbyist or professional photographer does vs the mundane reality of what we actually do. Back in the day, when I was photographing music artists regularly, people would ask if I photographed for Rolling Stone magazine. I would tell them I did not. The typical response was, “Oh. Well, you should shoot for Rolling Stone.” In their minds, being a photographer for that publication was as simple as bringing a camera to their studio, setting up some lights, and waiting for someone from the publication to introduce you to Taylor Swift. 

The misconception that I encounter most often these days is that clients believe a quick and easy portrait is one that is created against a white backdrop. They say, “We need something simple… just some quick portraits on white.” There are ways to create a white background in post-production, but if I am creating the portrait on-location and I want the white seamless background to be photographed as pure white in camera, then I need at least 4 lights and about 15’ distance between myself and that background. Finding a space of that size in NYC is not easy. It helps to have V Flats on-set to reduce light spillage when you are shooting on white seamless, but if you’re traveling by subway, as we often do in my city, it is impractical to bring V Flats.

If you have any specific misconceptions that you encounter regularly let us know in the comments below. Perhaps Niels Kemp will incorporate some of these into a future video.

John Ricard's picture

John Ricard is a NYC based portrait photographer. You can find more of Ricard’s work on his Instagram. accounts, www.instagram.com/JohnRicard and www.instagram.com/RicInAction

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I bumped into one lady nature photographer while out on location... She was like "Ohh you shoot?", **Starts laughing out loud** and said "Ohh Nikon, good luck with that!" (she was a canon shooter). "Nikon has the worst colors." She then went on to state that she only shoots jpeg and shoots weddings and advertises that her photos are pure and unedited. I mean, more power too her I guess. I kept things pleasant then went on my way.

That was the real world back in 2000. She must be stuck in the past. Couldn't argue about RAW back then, they couldn't figure out that a jpg is a canned preset.

JPEG is very underrated though. I don't know if people realize it, but the majority of sport and event photography that you see is captured on jpeg. These images are plastered all over the web and magazines. They go through virtually no post processing before publication and the jpeg works just fine. These images are of some of the top celebrities in the world and the photographers are full time professionals. When I used to shoot for Getty, their image transferring software automatically reduce each image to 2,000 pixels. (Not sure if that has since changed). Meanwhile, a hobbyist who is shooting some co-worker on the weekend to create images for his social media shoots RAW and spends an hour processing a single image.

I didn't mind the jpeg comment she said as I know a lot of photographers that only shoot jpeg; I think it was the laughing 'Nikon colors suck" comment that got me more. I've not heard that said about a modern Nikon camera, specially the Z series. But given the Canon in her hand I chalked it up knowing she probably never touched a Nikon in some years. Though I hate to make assumptions.

Yeah and I don't think she had the color temperature set properly on her Nikon. That's why jpg is not a good option in the first place.

There is a consistent group of "Nikon haters" on the internet who seem to think that it would be good if Nikon went under. They are often Sony supporters - but are not limited to any one brand of camera. Perhaps she went to the Ken Rockwell school of photography where those who use RAW are to be dismissed for lacking knowledge and skill.

Ken Rockwell school. Ouch! :)

They do, or did, but I can’t tell of many photographers who really upload to servers near or instantly. My point was, there is nothing pure about a jpg when you consider that a jpg is the product of a raw data that has been set to save specific info and automatically dump the entire available info for ever. Question is why buying a great camera, very expensive lenses and dump the data from an image. Makes absolutely zero sense and I have yet to meet a jpg pro who has never played with curves before uploading. I think even agency photographer can mess with RAW +JPG all day with models like Z9 and R3. It probably would be a good business to have RAW copies for any possible commercial use later.
RAW is a good school for anyone. Yes the hobbyists will spend time learning but that’s only because they understand in the first place that there is more to their images than what a canned profile will retain. Shoot in beautiful light and you won’t get much difference (that’s what canned sells for, average in good situation). But when you spend a good amount of time, you learn to really read the picture and detect right away where things can be improved and how much 200 degree temperature off can make a bla image start getting interesting. Get used to your screen and it will happen. It’s an investment in time but it’s worth it.

The agency photographers I've been around don't even have time to download a card filled with RAW + JPEG images. I've photographed the Friday morning performances at the Today Show in Rockefeller Center in NYC a few times in the past. I would finish shooting the performance and walk to my studio -about 15 blocks away. That's a pretty quick walk. By the time I had download my card to start post processing and editing, images from the event were already posted on Getty and Wireimage. This made it very easy for me to write my captions since I could copy the names right from those captions, but made it basically impossible to make any money on image sales since basically identical shots to mine had already been posted by the time I even started my upload.

I have bought pictures a year later from a photographer who works with agencies just like I have with photographers who don't work for agencies all this for a publication, not personal use. But yeah, you can't compete with someone contracted by an agency, but again not many work with agencies. What I know is that when the event is done and they travel back home, if it's not a local event, they have plenty of time in the airport, hotel, on the plane to sort their images and get them ready for selling on their site if they have one. Since the R3 and the Z9 are out now, I would definitely without any hesitation, shoot Raw jpg. It's purely business and income.

You must have a great deal of patience. Far more patience that I would have had with her.

Thanks :)

It was interesting, after she insulted my camera and insulted my process, she hinted at she wanted me to update her site as most the links are now broken; since it hasn't been updated in many years. I quietly didn't engage that conversation, I'm not getting involved in that mess. Most sites are 'click-n-build' now, I'm not going in and hand-coding html a 15 year old site.

When people ask me what I do for a living and I say "I'm a photographer!" Then people ask "so you work for netgeo?" I politely say no. Then they look at me awkwardly and then reply "Oh, so your not really a photographer then!" :(

Oh my, these are the same people to whom your photography is never a job unless you shoot A-list artists or win various prizes. It's always 'You are just hitting the button' and 'Photoshop does everything for you'. Still, you suddenly become the greatest photographer in the world when they need someone to bring the camera for family gathering or repair old family photos, since Photoglory is apparently too complicated for them.

Omg this is TOOOOOOO funny. My favorite is I "JUST" need one shot. Nothing big just one. Okay. Well I still have to put on makeup, pack my gear, tackle Miami traffic, come to your place. Go back to my car because I forgot my mask. Set up my gear. Take 40 shots. Pack back up. Fight traffic back home. Download to my external drive, upload to LR edit. Export to Photoshop perfect it. Upload it to Dropbox and email you. "Just one shot" . Ouuusahhh

Even when the client says, "we just need a few quick headshots," it's silly because it takes quite a while to relax the person, build a rapport and produce a natural looking headshot.

Oh it's okay, I'll just use my phone then...