A quick guide to being friends with a professional photographer

I never in a million years thought I’d become a photographer. I certainly never imagined that this would be what I was doing as a career. If you had asked me growing up my answers may have been vice cop, Viper pilot, or Jedi Knight for the Rebel Alliance. Photographer? I wouldn’t have guessed it. Despite a lot of misconceptions about being a photographer and how to deal with us as people I love what I do.


For awhile now I have felt like I should come with a user’s manual. A guide if you will to being friends with and/or knowing a professional photographer. There are lots of aspiring photographers and a good number of people who are making a living being in photography – odds are you know a few. Now those who know me understand that I’m grumpy and easily irritated. It’s part of my charm. So not all of the following points are going to be true and resonate with every photographer out there. However a lot of them do, and a lot of photographers in an effort to please absolutely everyone will rarely educate people to some of the issues we deal with on the daily. That’s where I come in. Here in no particular order are some suggestions I have for supporting the photographers in your life.

If you see a photo a photographer has taken that you love and want to use for something, no matter how close to or how friendly you perceive your photographer friend is – ask first before you do anything. Just because social media and computers make things very easy to copy and re-distribute never assume that the photographer is okay with this. Asking is a sign that you respect the talent of your friend and take what they do seriously. It’s also the law.

Brand Loyalty.
Some photographers will make Star Wars dark side references to particular camera brands. A lot of us simply do not give a crap about brands. Or maybe it’s just me, but I am not endorsed by Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Sony, or Olympus. Yet I’ve owned cameras by all of those brands (hell, I even had an Epson camera once). There is no “better” one, they are simply tools. Find the best tool for what you need and call it a day. Keep an open mind, they all have great products, they all have dogs. If I use your brand we’re not on the same team. We’re on the same team because we’re both photographers.

Bring Your Camera.
To a photographer pretty much every moment in life has the capacity to be documented in a beautiful way. However we really like to be the ones to choose which of these moments we want to document, so please don’t ask us to bring our cameras. It basically amounts to saying, “please come here and take photos for free.” It makes us feel like you want us there for the photography not the people we are.

Can you recommend a camera to me that takes great photos?
No more than a carpenter can recommend a hammer that hammers great nails. A camera is a tool, and the majority of what makes a photo great is the vision of the photographer – a camera is simply an instrument of the vision. I’m happy to recommend cameras to people, but for the most part I look for cameras that can provide professional quality results. So I don’t know much about cheaper entry level cameras.

People are perplexing. They will post hundreds of the worst most unflattering images of themselves on social media as if there were rewards for doing so. Yet if I tell someone I’d like to photograph them I am often running into all sorts of walls and interference. What’s this all about? I theorize that everyone to an extent questions their looks and attractiveness. If they were to let a professional take their photo and not like the results – what then? Or maybe they just don’t like my work – we can’t expect everyone to think what we do is great (and I’m totally fine with that). The thing I think sometimes people fail to understand is that it takes courage to ask someone to let you photograph them. And it takes courage to point a camera at a person. Try to remember that when someone asks to photograph you they are intending to take an awesome photo of you. It’s a good thing.

Always always always credit the photographer who takes the photo. Sadly I have had people use my photos on more than one occasion, and nothing is worse than seeing the comment, “who took this photo?” The best way of crediting someone is putting a link  so that a potential client can click something and easily be put in contact with that photographer. On Facebook it can be as easy as saying “photo by” and then putting the @ sign in front of their personal or professional business page. Another great credit is a full link to their website.

Photography is not a terribly lucrative industry, it is at most times a struggle. Even wedding photography which can seem extravagantly expensive to the client – when broken down to the time and overhead costs of a business the margins are not as high as people perceive. Very few people truly appreciate photography as an art and are willing to pay for it. It’s never fair to expect a photographer to give you a photo for free.

“Enhancing” stuff.
Never do any additional editing to a photographer’s work without their permission. I’d go even as far as to say that you shouldn’t crop a photo without their permission. To us it’s finished work, and it is supposed to look exactly as you see it. It’s not yours to make changes to.

For me Instagram will always be about cell phone photos. My personal account is a weird assortment of lame snapshots and occasionally serious efforts – but it’s always a photo I’ve taken with my phone. A lot of people aren’t as hung up on low res purity on Instagram as I am, and will post photos taken with “real” cameras. We do this on our business page, but our personal ones are purely mobile phones. One thing can be said universally – every photographer I’ve ever spoken to about Instagram and people posting their photos to Instagram feeds has had the same very adamant request – DO NOT RUN A FILTER OVER MY IMAGE.

Good opportunities for exposure.
Often times people have suggested to me that photographing something pro bono for whatever reason would be, “a good opportunity for exposure.” I don’t think anything I have ever done under the pretense of exposure has ever lead to paid work. If photography is truly important to an event or cause, they can afford to budget something for it.

Paparazzi photographers are not creating art. They are simply looking to capture an image of a well known person in the most unflattering way possible. Because unflattering looks better on covers of tabloids. So referring to us like we’re members of the paparazzi because we’re photographing you isn’t exactly a compliment.

Photographer isn’t a super pretty word to begin with, but it has a certain dignity to it. Shortening it to “photog” or worse yet, “tog” is pretty much an auditory abomination in my book. It sounds and looks so moronic to me. I try hard to not be insulted, some people really think it looks cute or believe that we as photographers want our difficult title shortened to make our lives easier. Truth is it takes a fraction of a second to write the full word out, and 99% of the time you have more than 140 characters at your disposal.

Post Production.
There is a perception with digital photography that because it’s digital it’s instantly ready to go. Nope. It needs to be edited. And even if you tell me, “it’s just fine for me” it may not be fine for me. So give us the time to edit the images before you start asking about them. This pretty much applies to everything. We understand you’re anxious to see them, we’re anxious to have a finished product to show you. Just remember the majority of us have an established process or “workflow” that follows anything we shoot. Also don’t ask for “just a couple” of photos. It’s easier for us to make the final cut selections, and do the editing work and present the finished product then it is to guess on which ones you might like.

In my experience the sad reality of being a photographer has been coming to the conclusion that often times the people whom you would think would most be in your corner as supporters, often times are not. Support the photographers in your life. If you appreciate their work, recommend them to people you know are looking for photography. And if it’s not something you think they might do, ask! I’m often surprised when people have told me, “oh I didn’t think you did that,” after sending their friends off in a different direction.

I’ve gone back and forth with watermarks (i.e. putting our logo on the photo). I understand why people don’t like them, they are a distraction from the image. Policing people to use them has actually at times strained some friendships of mine. Ultimately it all goes back to credit. If you always credit your photographer’s work watermarking becomes less of an issue. I’m not sure why it’s so hard sometimes for people to just attribute an image, but it is. So if a photographer gives you a photo with a watermark, don’t try and crop it out – it’s there for a reason. If it really bothers you, talk to them about it. They may be willing to provide a non watermarked version if you make sure the are credited. Whatever the their answer is, respect it. Watermarks are about image theft deterrent and brand recognition.

Photographer friends have I missed anything? What do you wish people understood about the industry? Let me know in comments.


Emily Pogozelski - Haha! You are grumpy, but that’s why we get along. I love this, nice list. I’ll update you if I think of anything to add. 🙂

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