5 Things Non-Photographers Should Stop Asking Photographers

5 Things Non-Photographers Should Stop Asking Photographers

If you are a photographer in any capacity, chances are you deal with the same repetitive questions and comments from non-photographers when your photography comes up in discussions. It gets old, and despite it usually being well-meaning, I wish people would stop asking these five things.

Anytime the classic "what do you do for work?" question comes from non-photographers, I brace myself for a handful of all too common questions and comments when I tell them I'm a photographer. Even if you do photography as primarily a hobby, you likely have had some of these as well. I know that it is whiny and nitpicky, but quite frankly I wish these questions could just mostly go away. 

Do You Shoot Weddings?

This is almost always the first question I get from people when I tell them I am a photographer. Instead of taking the time to find out what type of work I actually do, they jump right into this. It is apparently big news to some non-photographers, but there are genres and careers of photography out there that do not involve shooting weddings. Not every photographer has the desire to photograph weddings and, quite frankly, the wedding photography market is saturated enough in most locations.

Have You Tried [Fill in the Blank] Photography?

One of the other things that I get almost every time these types of conversations happen (and one that gets under my skin the most), is the non-photographer trying to give me career advice. They like to recommend types of sessions that they think would be popular, even with no insight into the market in my location, what I may enjoy doing, or what my skill set is. Since living in Hawai'i, I seem to get this question even more and it got old extremely quick. I get that these people are well-meaning and just trying to help. But, you don't talk to a divorce lawyer and ask them if they have tried copyright law or ask a middle school science teacher if they have thought about teaching high school English. And yet, photographers are frequently asked if they have tried any number of genres outside their field of expertise or enjoyment.

You Must Love Living There Since It’s Such a Pretty Spot for Photos!

This one once again comes down to perhaps not understanding that there are different genres of photography and that I may be interested in something other than the few genres they know. I live in Hawai'i currently and have also lived in Colorado, and in both locations when I tell people I am a photographer they make some variation of the comment about how it is such a great spot for a photographer to live since it is so beautiful. Sure, I enjoy taking some casual landscape photographs every now and then, but I would not at all consider myself a landscape photographer. My primary work, and the work I enjoy most, is not landscape photography and isn't even dependent on pretty locations. Yes, living in a beautiful location is cool, but it isn't more suitable for me just because I am a photographer.

Since You’re a Photographer, I Won’t Bother Taking Any Photos

This one happens in a more limited capacity, as it is usually just in the context of vacations or special trips, but it still happens way too often. Once again, at the core, this comment comes down to an individual not taking the time to consider what type of photography you may actually do or enjoy. While yes, I do take images on trips, I am not there to document things for others and will not be taking loads of professional images of the rest of my group having fun on vacation. You are welcome to hand me your phone for the occasional snapshot, but don't expect too much more than that.

In the same vein, it is all too common to have group shots happen and be told that I should take the photograph because I'm a photographer. Taking a spontaneous group shot with a cellphone is absolutely not the same thing as me posing a group and taking an image with my camera, but this seems to be misunderstood. While the composition could be marginally better than if a non-photographer was to take it, I am not going to be treating a moment like that as a professional shoot and thus, the results will not be anything special. I'm happy to do it (within reason), but let's keep expectations realistic. 

What Camera Do You Have? It Takes Such Good Photos!

To a certain extent, gear matters. But, there is also a lot of skill and creativity that goes into taking strong photographs. So, when people quickly ask this question after seeing a few of my images (or even before seeing my photos), it rubs me the wrong way. I have spent a lot of time, money, and effort getting to where I am today, and having that work distilled down to just having a nice camera can be frustrating.

What are some common and annoying questions that you get from the non-photographers in your life? Rant away in the comments!

Abby Ferguson, MFA's picture

Abby Ferguson is a portrait and conceptual photographer and educator based on Hawaii Island. She earned her Master of Fine Arts from Kansas State University and founded the photography program at a vacation rental company while in Denver. She is passionate about helping others learn both the technical and creative aspects of photography.

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Yup it is pretty whiny and nitpicky...
You should realize that most people who ask those questions are just making conversation with someone who they thought was interesting...not trying to mess up your headspace. They don't know and they don't know they don't know.

Most people figure that most working photographers are taking wedding pictures or portraits of some kind. Most people who have hired a photographer, it was for their wedding or a party.
Unless their job is a photo editor, media buyer, art director or influencer all they know is the basic consumer level portrait and wedding photography, and the forensic photographers they see on CSI NCSI and Law and Order...

Explaining that you are "portrait and conceptual photographer" would not be hard...maybe the conceptual part would be tricky but the portrait part would be easy.

I don't know why so many photographers get bent out of shape when someone asks if they have a nice camera.
Do you have a worn out 14 year old Rebel or a nice camera? I have a couple nice cameras and if they ask, I say yes I do, and some nice lenses too.

In the words of Sgt Hulka from "Stripes"

Spot on.

The kicker is, her f-Stoppers bio actually has the audacity to say, "She is passionate about helping others learn both the technical and creative aspects of photography." That doesn't seem to fit with the article, does it?

"What Camera Do You Have? It Takes Such Good Photos!" I've actually told people that I put the camera on a tripod and it does all the rest. They look at me and walk away really quickly. Seriously. The best comment though was when I was photographing some grasses in San Diego at Wild Animal Park (years ago) for their abstract texture and I overheard some little boy tell his father, "look dad, he's taking pictures of nothing." This was really funny. You had to be there. I laughed for 10 minutes.

How about "do you get paid to take those pictures?"


Them: "Your camera takes good pictures!"

Me: "Why, thank you, I taught it everything it knows."

I interact with a lot of my print customers. The most common question is, "what camera do you use?" I just tell them Canon and leave it at that unless they inquire further. I also get a lot of questions about what sort of printer I use. Probably 98% of my customers are not photographers, so I do my best not to sound like some sort of know it all (I'm not!). But if they ask further questions, I'll answer to the best of my ability.

I've been asked a few times about weddings, but most of the time, it's more a generic 'do you do commission work?' I start off my answer by saying no weddings and no large events. That's for you younger shooters. ;-)

Photographers always complain about people asking what camera they use. Yet photographers OBSESS about gear and endlessly scrutinise what gear photographers use. DPReview etc wouldn't exist were it not for the endless obsession about what gear can produce what photo. Pros might not like it, but they are no better than the people who ask about their camera.

My favorite is "can't I do your job with a cell phone?"

Are you a professional photographer?

I think most people that photograph, want to hear their thoughts, so all these interactions are uncomfortable to me.

Gives me an idea for an article: "Top things photographers should stop whining about since they chose to be photographers." If the biggest "problem" you have is people taking an interest in your job/work, people upon whom you can make an impression potentially leading to more work, pick something else to do. Or pre-answer those questions on the back of your business cards for that balance between humorous and pretentious.

I'm genuinely curious who this article is for. My guess is that the average fstoppers reader is at the least a hobby photographer that has at least a passing familiarity with the photo industry. Seems like this is really a case of screaming into an echo chamber.

I don't mind these questions, ESPECIALLY when people ask me about gear I love it! This is just a post about photographers who like to be left alone basically

The nerve of people who aren't experts in a field to not know which questions they should and shouldn't ask someone who is! Luckily, the countless non-photographers that frequent the F Stoppers website will now know better than to be so stupid and irritating from now on...