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April 15, 2015

Why “your camera takes nice pictures!” isn’t a compliment For Everyone

This post has been sitting in my Drafts file for over 6 months. It’s a topic that I feel passionately about, but I would never want to make an individual feel bad because they said something like this. This is not directed at any one person, nor is it intended to hurt anyone’s feelings. The sole purpose of this post is to educate!!

I think that almost every single photographer has been told at some point “wow!! your camera takes amazing pictures!!” … Again, if you are the person that asks that question, this post is not intended to make fun of you, but to educate you!! It’s not uncommon for me to be asked what camera I use, and I’ll always tell them about my equipment!! But then {if there’s time}, I follow that up with an explanation on how the camera does not make you a photographer! 

If I have said this once, I’ve said it a thousand times… A great photographer can take amazing photos with a lower-end camera, and a bad photographer can take terrible photos with a top-of-the-line camera. Just ask my sisters, they will tell you ;) For example, look at this stunning photo Jenny took a few weeks ago:

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This was taken with a Canon 5D Mark III, which is considered high-end in the wedding industry… basically a very fancy camera! Jenny picked it up, took a couple photos, and said “this is dumb. I can’t get it to work” ;)

A lot of people think “if I just get that camera, then I can take beautiful pictures too!”, and a lot of times, that’s just not the case. Photography is all about finding the right light, learning how to use the light, and controlling your camera on Manual mode… Not letting the camera control you :)

Whenever I hear “your camera takes great photos!”, I want to counter them with something like this…

“your oven bakes delicious cakes”

“your pencil writes great stories”

Imagine baking a cake for your friends, and being so proud of your made-from-scratch recipe!! And then being told “your oven must be amazing! Please tell us what brand it is!!” :) Ummmm, ouch!

If you were a writer, wouldn’t you be offended if someone read one of your stories and complimented you on your pencil?? That just sounds crazy, doesn’t it!? The pencil was just a tool used by the Writer. It had an important part in the process, but it by no means crafted the story.

I truly think that people mean it as a compliment! They are not trying to be offensive, which is why I think it’s so important to educate them! Everyone knows that the pencil doesn’t make a great writer, so why don’t they know the camera doesn’t make a great photographer? I think it’s because everyone and their dog can be a ‘photographer’. All anyone has to do is run to Best Buy, pick out a DSLR, make a Facebook page, and they’re open for business!! However, a lot of people will quickly realize that without the proper knowledge of the camera, the photos will turn out no better than ones from your iPhone… sometimes even worse!!

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On the outside, it seems like photography is one of the easiest jobs for someone to do. Snap a couple pictures, do some selective coloring in photoshop, put them on a CD, and earn an easy $100! But being a real photographer is so much more than that!! You truly have to have a passion for photography to succeed in this industry. I’ve told my other photographer friends thousands of times “It’s a good thing I love what I do, because it’s hard and it’s exhausting!!” There is so much to think about, that’s not just taking pictures! Contracts, taxes, business licenses… oh the list goes on.

Another comment I get a lot is “Oh! You’re a wedding photographer? That sounds like the best job ever! It’s SO easy!!”. YES, it is the best job ever!! But I often tell them “photographing a wedding is the hardest thing in the world. there is no way I could do it if I didn’t absolutely love it”. Wedding days are not ‘fun’ by most standards. They are hot {yes, even in the winter}, sometimes people are very mean, and there is not nearly enough time to get everything done {but you still have to, so you do}. You’re also constantly having to juggle guests saying “oh, your job must be so easy!” while also carrying the bride’s bouquet, trying to run from the ceremony site to the reception area to photograph before guests arrive for cocktail hour, having to repin a groomsmen’s boutonnière, and all the while keeping a huge smile on your face. Being a wedding photographer is kind of like rolling friend + wedding planner + peace keeper + photographer all together. And there’s nothing I would rather do!! But I don’t see how there is any way you can just photograph weddings for the money. You have to passionately love it!

That was a little bit of a rabbit trail but now we’re back on track!! Haha!

Sometimes during a consultation, a bride will put out a list of questions she got from Brides.com. You know the one… “50 Questions You MUST Ask Your Photographer!” Now I am all for answering questions!! If you’ve ever had a consultation with me, then you know that there is nothing I love more than easing your conscious, and answering any question you may have! But inevitably, I will get the “what camera do you use?” question. And while I never mind answering that, typically the bride will have no clue what I am talking about. Most of the time, I could probably get away with saying “oh, I shoot on a Canon 600 EX-RT”, and they would have no idea that a 600 EX-RT is actually a flash ;) What I’m getting at, is that whatever my answer would be shouldn’t dictate whether or not they book me as their wedding photographer. They have obviously seen my photos, and they love them enough to be at a meeting with me! So how would my equipment change that for them? Sometimes I think that those long lists of questions succeed more in confusing the bride, than helping her {obviously not true in all cases!}!

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A photographer’s equipment should be a second thought to a curious bystander. I think it’s so sad that when someone first sees a beautiful photo, they immediately think “I wonder what camera they shot that with?”, instead of “wow, they have such an eye for beauty!!”.

 You may be wondering then… “If it’s the photographer that really makes a great photo, then why are photographers always upgrading their cameras??”, which is a great question!! The reason a photographer gets higher-end equipment, is because the image quality gets better the higher up you go! The quality differences between a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 30D are hardly recognizable to the untrained eye, but to a photographer the difference is insane. If you tried to explain the differences between the two, most anyone would have glazed over eyes and be sleeping before you even explained the half of it! To anyone who is not a photographer, it can be a pretty boring subject. Basically, the ISO capabilities are much better in a 5D Mark III, letting you shoot in darker areas. There are so many differences, but again, you’d just be bored ;) But THAT’S why it’s so important for us to constantly be upgrading our equipment! Not because it will necessarily make us better photographers, but because it will give us more variety, range, and creative abilities! And in weddings, that’s what it’s all about! Giving the very BEST to your clients!!

So what SHOULD you say to a photographer?? {Not that we’re all delicate little flowers, who will wilt if asked what camera we use ;)} Try complimenting them on the actual photograph. It was the photographer that found the light, the photographer that framed the shot, and the photographer that edited it. Give them a little bit of credit for it ;) Also, try asking for suggestions as to what camera you should look into getting. For many people, purchasing the Canon 5D Mark III is not only fairly unattainable, it’s just not practical if you only intend to use it for everyday photos. A Canon Rebel or Canon 30D will do the job perfectly, and cost you a few thousand dollars less :) 

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Asking about our equipment is not a bad thing. Asking with the underlying thought that the camera created the photograph is where it goes wrong :) Most of us have spent a lot of time and money on our equipment, and we love talking about it! It’s just not as fun to be unintentionally second-rate to the camera. 

I have worked HARD for my business. It has taken me years of hard work and dedication to get where I am. Photography is truly my passion, and I would spend any amount of time just to learn more about it. Hopefully this has given you some good insight into photographers, and what we do! Leave a comment and share if you enjoyed this post! :)

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5 Comments on Why “your camera takes nice pictures!” isn’t a compliment

  1. Kate

    April 15th, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    this was the best.

  2. Emily

    April 15th, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    This post was excellent.

  3. Nela Holmes

    April 15th, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    Very good stuff, Emily. Totally agree with it, and try to remember it as well.

  4. Elizabeth

    April 17th, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Thank you, Emily! Very well put. :)

  5. Samantha

    April 25th, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    Great article, Emily! I’m pretty sure when I was a total newbie I asked some of these questions. Oops! Now that I’ve had a camera and have been learning things for about two years now, I totally agree with everything you said!!
    I hope you don’t mind, but I linked to this post in a recent post I wrote. :) Here’s the link:
    http://samanthasuzannephotography.blogspot.com/2015/04/5-things-every-photographer-should-learn.html

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