The 5 things event photographers hate to hear!

I just finished another full day of shooting only to get home at midnight to start the download process. As I waited for the images to make their way from my memory cards to my computer, I started thinking about the 14 previous hours. I had worked really hard to make sure that I captured the entire day for my client. I was running around, climbing up on things, getting down on the floor, bending my body in all kids of ways, and I was physically and mentally exhausted. The majority of my clients fully appreciate my work, which is a great feeling. But there are still some people who think that we just hit a button on our camera, and that is the extent of our talents. It was at this point that I started to think of the top 5 things clients say that drive us event photographers crazy. Here is what I came up with:

Great camera... yeah... it was the camera.

1. “Nice pictures. You must have a great camera.”

This is the grand daddy of all of them! I have heard this so many times that it makes me cringe. People assume that a good camera takes a good photo. Really? Would you tell the chef in a restaurant, “Wow, that meal was delicious, you must have really good pots and pans?” It is our job to remind people that cameras are our tools from which we create art. It is also our responsibility to control that camera to create amazing images, to prove our point. People ask me why I share my techniques on my blog. I share them for two reasons. First, I believe in teaching others like my mentors have taught me. Secondly, when I explain the thought process behind an image, and describe the settings that I chose for that shot, it helps my clients (who do read my blog) further understand that I am creating the photo, not the camera.

Friend with a nice camera... ugh!

2. “We would hire you, but my friend has a DSLR and he/she can shoot it…”

I am sure that every event photographer has heard this countless times. This goes right back to my first point. Just because they have a DSLR, does not make them qualified to shoot your event. Now when people say this to me, I actually smile at them, pause for a couple of seconds, and then try to explain the challenges of good photography. But, I do so in a couple of seconds. If they seem to understand my reasoning, then I will continue talking to them. If not, I end the conversation immediately since there is no reason to continue talking with them. (And then I walk away, cringing at the thought of a novice trying to shoot the first dance in a very dark room with no knowledge of how to use their camera or flash.)

3. “Can't you just give me your unedited images? That would be easier right?”

I know that some photographers have no problem in giving away their unedited images, but I refuse to do so. Why? Because I feel that these images are only half done. When a client gets my finished products, I want them to be perfect. Those images represent me and my brand. It is true that it would be very easy to burn a CD and hand it over to my clients. But this also means that they have images, which they are going to show to all their friends and family, that do not show my best work. Would Mercedes or BMW sell an automobile that is half built? No way!

4. “Do you mind if our friend shoots too?”

This is a tough one. I have had clients ask me this question, and although I am not happy about it, I usually end up agreeing to this (with some words of warning). I have seen this situation go two ways. First, the friend is respectful of my work and makes sure not to interfere with me and my shots. Then there is the second scenario where the friend (or family member in this case) followed me everywhere and tried to capture images of the same groups that I had posed. This is really irritating because it means that I end up with photos with half of the people looking at the wrong camera. Ughhh.

Outdoor weddings are VERY tricky--especially if it's at a bad time of day!

5. “Can you shoot my wedding? It is outside at noon.”

This one always gets me. Yeah, I know…people are going to plan their weddings whenever they want, and as professional photographers we are trained to handle any situation, but it still pains me to think of the potential shadow and light mixture that I could be fighting against. Can’t we just make a national law against mid-day outdoor weddings? Enough said!

Runners up:

“Those are great images. You got really lucky.”

“Can you remove my wrinkles, removes the bags under my eyes, fix my hair on every image?”

“I saw you shoot thousands of images but only see 400 on our gallery. Can we see the rest?”


52 thoughts on “The 5 things event photographers hate to hear!”

  1. @Stephen – I can’t imagine the law pertains to ALL of the photos. With no knowledge of the law, I would venture a guess that it pertains to the pictures you release to the client provided you aren’t keeping great pictures for you to sell or use for marketing. If you were required to hand over all pictures regardless of quality, then that same law would seemingly require a commissioned sketch artist to hand over all scrapped sketches even though they were unfinished attempts.

  2. I have encountered everyone of these!!! I love it when the person with the $$ DSLR never takes it off auto mode…I’m like “you should put it on p or tv, or av and play with it..” They’re like oh no I like it like this…grrrr…And..because I have do have a nice camera people want me to take wedding pics…I’d really rather not, I know how hard those folks work!

  3. too bad you hate 1. i still agree that newer dslr takes better image quality picture. and you cant compare photographer to a chef. pans didn’t evolved like the camera wait until it become like star trek like you just say the name of the food and voila its in your plate. the difference is always on experienced. experienced photographer hit it better than novice. its annoying but that is how they compare it nowadays

  4. Scott G: I think your wrong. If I commission you to take pictures, the pictures are mine. All of the pictures are mine, not just the ones you choose to give me. Any contract we agree to can change the bargain of course, but basically the phototog is just hired help and fruits of your labor are mine.

  5. Ray, it’s very possible (or even likely) that I’m wrong. However if I am wrong I feel that the law is wrong but that is my opinion and we are all entitled to our own opinion.

  6. As a hobbyist photographer, I have a deep and abiding respect for anyone courageous enough to shoot weddings. I shot some photos at my step-daughter’s wedding (and, I didn’t get anywhere near the professional photographer!), and it’s a butt-busting job. Thanks for your honest comments here! I’ll pass ’em along! Especially the bride, picking her nose! LMAO at that one!

  7. Can I add another “Hate to hear”? This has happened only a couple of times but it is an irritation. I handed over some (I think) very good prints to a young lady and BEFORE SHE’D EVEN LOOKED AT THEM said, “I’ll let my dad have these because he’s really good on PhotoShop”. It’s one of those occasions I’d willingly exchange a British stiff upper lip for a stiff right hook…

  8. #5 – and the sad thing is, even if you do the best job you can under the circumstance, it still won’t look great. Oh well. At least the job is booked and paid for.

  9. Re: So what do you say to customers that want to see the 400 pics you took versus the 100 you edited and presented.

    Put it in the contract before the photo shoot.
    for $$, I’ll give you 100 photos
    for $$$, I’ll give you 250 photos
    for $$$$, I’ll give you 400 photos

  10. While I agree with the issues raised here, in the back of my mind, I wonder how an amateur with some talent is supposed to break into the field. There is so much resentment ( from BOTH sides) to us DSLR-wielding amateurs that it can get downright depressing ! I’m agonizing over agreeing to do a co-workers daughter’s Sweet 16 party as it is, reading these comments doens’t help; Weddings ?? No way,(maybe as second camera)

  11. Have had your site linked for a long time, but have only come over every now and again. Though I understand the commissioned thing, I have a hard time believing that someone could be entitled to EVERY shot taken.

    I’ve shot AT a couple of family weddings, steering clear of the hired photog, not wanting to get in his/her way. They have their job to do, and the thought of my trying to copy his work is reprehensible to me. I get enough of that with the photos I take around town.

    As to someone’s comment above, I recently was contacted to discuss shooting a wedding, and I declined. I’ve never done one before, and didn’t want the responsibility of covering hers as my first.

    Love the site!!

  12. I told someone who wanted all my unedited images so they could reedit my work that is would be like rewriting a play your way. If people want me to do the work up front then they vget my images MY way or they can go to someone else but I gave over my work a few times and found no matter what you do you can’t please people. It doesn’t matter whether they pay or not. They are paying for my time, my skill, and my edited work. Not my soul.

  13. As for #4, my old boss used to very obviously & politely step out of the way of the friends & relatives trying to capture the group shots after he had posed the subjects but before he got his image. He looked gracious to the clients and people pretty quickly got embarassed slowing everyone down. He always had the group’s full attention.
    Here in the states, copyright is actually a Constitutional issue. The law here in the States is that unless the photographer is an employee of a company, the photographer owns the copyright from the moment the shutter is clicked. (If the photographer is an employee, the copyright belongs to the employer.) You can sign away your copyright, but the default position is that you own it, unless the contract you sign specifically says it is transferred to someone else. There is almost NEVER a good reason to sign it away, but since wedding photographers usually provide the contracts, it’s pretty easy to avoid doing that in these situations. It can be more difficult in editorial or corporate situations. For more info check out (I’m not related to them in any way, but that old boss of mine is passionate about this issue, so it’s been drilled into my head)

  14. This was a great read, very recognisable and also very amusing. Number five might be a nice one for a ‘Top ten tips for …’ post, the accompanying image already showing one of those tips.

  15. I’ve always been a landscape photographer, but I’ve gotten roped into doing a number of weddings. Friends almost force you or pressure you to do their weddings or their friends weddings because you own a DSLR and know how to use it (granted, not for what THEY want…). The first time that happened to me I really felt awkward, the wedding and reception were right smack dab in the middle of the day, and needless to say, the pictures turned out AWFUL (at least they looked awful to me). No amount of Photoshop could get rid of all the horrible shadows, and the more I tried to get rid of them, the worse the pictures ended up looking. After doing several more weddings though, I really started to get the hang of it, and now I do them pretty regularly, mostly just because the money doesn’t hurt. Nowadays, hearing line number two always makes me laugh, because one time a girl called me up and asked what I charge for a wedding package, and when I told her, she told me her grandma just bought a nice new camera and she was probably just going to have her do the pictures. Well guess what, 4 weeks later I got another phone call, a girl sobbing on the other line, and she told me how much she wished she wouldn’t have been so cheap, because her grandma did a horrible job and she wished she had just hired me. I always laugh now when I hear that line.

  16. Oh, and here’s another line that DRIVES ME NUTS…”It’s been 4 days, why aren’t my (500) pictures edited yet????”

  17. @Edward O’brien ” I wonder how an amateur with some talent is supposed to break into the field. There is so much resentment ( from BOTH sides) to us DSLR-wielding amateurs that it can get downright depressing !”

    1. If a pro poses it, don’t shoot it. They spent years and bucks learning how to do that. Don’t steal. You might not look at it as stealing, but put yourself in their shoes. You find a great spot with great lighting, get the right angle, pose the shot using all the things you’ve learned, and someone shoots the image from over your shoulder. ** At the very least, ask first.**

    2. Ask a photographer if you can be their assistant, for free. I know it sounds bad, but you are getting better than a college education, one on one time, for FREE!

    3. Search for “Photovision” by Ed Pierce. Great educational videos every couple months. Cheap.

    4. Join your local professional photographers guild. You can join as an associate most of the time. They have good local monthly meetings, workshops, etc.

    5. Join Professional Photographers Association. Cheap for what you get.

    6. Reconsider your decision to be a professional photographer. With a down economy, there are fewer potential clients with discretionary income. To make matters worse, there are many more photographers out there undercutting each other in an effort to get experience and build their business. It is a tough profession.

    As a full-time professional of over 20 years, I would do it different if doing it all over. Especially the past 5 years. Last year I realized that I had to find a part-time gig that pays decent residual income that I can count on for a retirement. Unless the photo world turns around, my photo income isn’t going to be enough to carry me through retirement. That sucks, and wasn’t the case 10 years ago. But it is reality. Most full-time photographers are having a hard time retiring these days. I can tell you of amazing photographers who’ve been at it for decades who are in horrible straits.

    Enjoy the fun of photography, and let the photo-sharks fight over the financial left-overs.

  18. Edward M. O'Brien


    Thanks for the input; I certainly appreciate it. Shooting for money will only be a part-time thing for me, I’m still working at my day job. I certainly know my limitations, and don’t look at Weddings or the like as a vehicle for me – ( maybe as Second Camera) – but I still feel that there is a niche ( babies, sweet 16 parties, etc.) that someone in my position can fill. There just seems to be a lot of resentment to people in my position; not amateurs, but not pros either. Thanks again!

    1. “Can your camera record videos?”

      This is one that I get all the time. Yes it can, but I’m a photographer and not a videographer. The two are completely different things and being a good photographer doesn’t mean you are a good videographer, too (and vice versa).

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