5 Most Annoying Questions Every Photographer Gets (And How to Answer Them)

5 Most Annoying Questions Every Photographer Gets (And How to Answer Them)

Photography has an air of mystery around it. Not every client understands how photographers work, which leads them to ask silly questions. Perhaps you have heard some of these yourself, perhaps you haven’t. In any case, here are five of my top favorites and how to answer them.

Do You Need an Assistant for This Job?

An assistant is an integral part of the crew, they cannot be left out. Campaigns are stressful things, and to do the job well, you probably need a helper on set who will make sure you are hydrated, have extra batteries, are backing up, and doing all the behind-the-scenes work. It is stressful enough working against the clock, doing it without an assistant makes it even more stressful.

The best answer to such a question would be to double your rate and the time it will take for the job to be completed. Suggest that hiring an assistant is cheaper than having you do all the work as it will take double the time and stress.

Why Are You Not Retouching Your Own Pictures?

This one is in the league of “why do you not develop your own film?” or “why do you not do the makeup in your own looks?” The job of the photographer is not to develop and post-process the images. Back in the day, the job of a photographer was to take photos, while a lab technician did the retouching and fine-tuning. I have managed to find a retoucher who can take my “film” and develop it in the best way possible. I simply send him a raw file, he does the color processing as well as retouching. He and I have great chemistry which makes working much easier. As a photographer, your job is to create the image, not to retouch it, do the makeup in it, and so on. Stick to what you’re good at. 

My Phone Also Takes 50 Megapixel Shots, Why Do You Need a Camera?

Megapixel count simply shows the number of photo-sensitive areas in a sensor. However quality is not quantity. This can be easily debunked by comparing a shot from a phone and a camera. Despite not having computational photography and processing power, the raw power is far greater. Ostensibly, phones are very close to being as good as cameras, however, when it comes to detail, there will be a need for full-frame and medium-format cameras for professional photography. There is such a category of work as content creators who film on a phone. However, a client who hires a content creator instead of a photographer usually does not have the budget and knows what they’re getting. It won’t necessarily be a fine-art product, but rather a trendy video or still for social media. While small-scale campaigns can absolutely be done with a phone, larger-scale work requires a team and a professional camera.  

Can I See All the Pictures From the Shoot?

Selection is often one of the stages of the process that is overlooked. Yet, I believe that selection is where a lot of creativity happens. For example, my visual language might point towards one pose, while the client might like a different one. At the end of the day, there is no problem with providing the client with a short selection, but if they ask to see all the pictures it is best to politely decline. The explanation should go something along the lines of selection being a creative process. The images based on which they hired you were selected by you, and if they want your creative input as a photographer, they are not allowed to see all the images. This is unless you are in the upselling game and charge per image, there you should try to deliver a fair selection so that the client purchases as many as possible.

I Am an Influencer, Can You Do It in Exchange for Exposure?

A client who asks this clearly thinks too much of themselves and isn’t really bringing any value to the audience. If they see their audience as a gateway to free stuff, do they really deserve to have an influence? Sure, the bigger your audience, the more money you make, but you need to bring value to them, not just see them as a cash cow. Frankly, if this is their argument, they probably see you as their fan who would gladly do it for free. Instead of seeing the value you are bringing to them, they probably only see the value they are bringing to you. An influencer should understand the value of good images and be ready to pay for your work, perhaps even more than a regular client.

Having done a few free shoots for influencers, I got exactly 0 jobs from them posting me, tagging me, and “advertising” me. Frankly, influencers are overrated. Keep your brand image and kindly charge for your work.

The best answer to such questions from influencers would be that you can’t put exposure on the table, and you didn’t get to where you are now by shooting for free. Your time and effort are worth money, if they see the value in what you can give, they should pay for it. Exposure is not payment. 

Closing Thoughts

There will be a handful of clients who as these questions. Sometimes, it is simply easier to pass them on to the next guy who can take the stress of working with them, but sometimes all you need to do to solve these issues is simply educate your client. They don’t know the full breakdown of what you do, so sometimes educating is the way. Nonetheless, some red flags make me say no to the client as soon as I see them. Probably the biggest one from this list is the “pay in exposure’ question. In a follow-up to this article, we will discuss the clients you should probably avoid if you can.

What are some questions you hate answering? Let us know in the comments!

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19 Comments
Michael Dougherty's picture

My personal favorite (not really a question) was many years ago when I was shooting patterns in grasses at Safari Park in San Diego, some little boy behind me says to his dad, hey dad, he is taking pictures of nothing.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Ha! I love that.

Morgan Bowle-Evans's picture

My phone has 50mp why do you need an expensive camera? How about the litany of other equipment photographers use? And the biggest one; a strong understanding of light. Best camera in the world doesn’t make up for that!

Illya Ovchar's picture

100% agree!

Jan Steinman's picture

When I was doing the art festival circuit, there was the sort of person we called the "KIA," for "Know It All."

He was generally a past-middle-age man, with a much-younger woman on his arm.

He'd come in and walk around the booth, and tell her all about how I did my photos: how I got certain affects, the time of day, the location, often prefaced with, "When I was there…" And EVERYTHING he said was WRONG!

A lot of people would come in, point to one of my large prints, and say, "I took one JUST LIKE THAT!" It was overcast, there's a crowd of tourists in the photo, and it's a little blurry, and my thumb is in the corner, but it's JUST LIKE THAT!"

Another thing we overheard a lot, often by a guy to a lady he was trying to impress: "I could do that!"

I'm not really sure what "that" was, because I'm sure he didn't fully understand the glamorous life of the fine art photographer: bookkeeping, record-keeping, editing, printing, matting, framing, driving all night, hauling a tonne of glass around, setting up in the dark, the wind, the rain… and the people who come in and blithely say, "I could do that!"

Illya Ovchar's picture

The KIA is sometimes a client you have to deal with...

Richard Kralicek's picture

Why are your images so blurry? Can't take a picture with everything sharp as my phone does? Of course, Bokeh is overrated, but when I'm using it as means of painting with light. Don't know if I'm good at it, but my game, my style.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Absolutely! Your game, your style.

Mallikarjun Katakol's picture

My simple answer is, if tools can make a professional anyone can be a writer, as you can get a pen and a paper for cheap. Honing the skills and artistic decision making is what pros charge for

Illya Ovchar's picture

Absolutely!

Ed C's picture

What were your settings?

I don't remember and frankly I don't go into any situation with settings in my mind. I evaluate the situation and determine what settings work for my intent. What is the available light, what dof I want, do I want motion blur or not and what settings will achieve that,, etc. etc. etc. photography is not about some prescribed idea of settings or presets. It is about feel and understanding the light and everything about the situation.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Yeah, I get this one a lot. Most of the time 1/160 f/8 ISO 200. Not sure that tells people a lot.

Tom Reichner's picture

About Illya Ovchar asked,

"What are some questions you hate answering?"

Many people, upon viewing one of my wildlife photos, will ask, "did he (the animal) know you were there?"

Of freaking course the deer or elk or bear knew I was there! For Pete's sake, it is looking right at the camera and there is a clear, unobstructed view of the critter!

Illya Ovchar's picture

I'm sure he also signed a model release and posed for a series of portraits LOL.

Jim Bolen's picture

#6- You must have a good camera, that's why your stuff looks so good.

Jan Steinman's picture

When I have an excellent meal at a restaurant, I always compliment the chef for his choice of expensive pots and pans.

Jim Bolen's picture

And don't forget the oven!

Illya Ovchar's picture

Ha! I love that.