The person who is most responsible for my career in photography isn’t a fellow professional, tutor or even a buddy from a camera club. Any success has been down to the patience of my long-suffering wife, who never kicks up a fuss when I pick up my camera bag and head out the door at the first sign of nice light. But as understanding as she is, even my better half doesn’t really grasp why us photographers go about things the way we do. Let’s face it, from an outsider point of view, us shooters do have some strange habits. Here’s a rundown of ten things non-photographers find crazy about us…
One – “You spent how much on a camera/lens/filter?”
Yep, photography can be expensive and it’s not uncommon for us photographers to spend thousands on our shiny toys. But photography is a passion and we’re not totally alone in this respect. How much does a golfer shell out on a set of new drivers? Or a fisherman spend on a new lot of tackle? For the more serious photographers, spending big on a lens or new body is an investment in our careers that can improve the quality of our work. Personally, I don’t smoke or drink (well, not that much), so all my spare money goes on kit or travel to locations.
Two – “What’s this obsession with ‘backing up’ all the time?”
So, this follows on nicely from our first quote. So us photographers spend a large amount of our cash on gear, travel or other expenses to help us be in a position to take great images. It’s only natural that we are going to look after them – and this doesn’t mean leaving them to gather dust on an SD card, because as much as I credit my wife for all the encouragement, she’s been guilty of ‘tidying up’ memory cards in the past. To avoid these potential arguments, I mean situations, I think it’s best to backup images as soon as possible.
Three – “You got up at what time to take a picture?”
I remember being on holiday near the coast and I got up before daybreak, headed out with the camera, spent a couple of hours shooting landscapes, headed home and was back in bed before the rest of the family had even woken up. Yes, we do keep odd hours, but that’s just one of the things I love about photography. If you’ve ever been out on location at 5am, you’ll know the world is a different place at that hour. No traffic on the roads, fellow photographers chatting to you as you roll up to a location, the world just seems friendly and quieter when the dawn is breaking.
Four – “Why isn’t one camera enough?”
This one is simple; there are times when we won’t want to carry our heavy DSLR, complete with battery grip, around for long periods of time. Some jobs, such as street photography, call for a little more discretion and this means a smaller camera. Alternatively, family holidays often work out better when I take a GoPro rather than a DSLR. This is because the kids can drop/dunk the GoPro all day long without me pulling my hair out or shouting the hotel room down.
Five – “All lenses do the same, right?”
This is one of the times when I feel compelled to explain a little of the science behind photography to the non-shooter. Yes, we do need all those lenses because they do different jobs and allow use to be…creative! Different lenses offer alternative perspectives, opening the door to a new world of angles and compositions, so that’s why we need a bag full of optics.
Six – “Why do you always talk about the ‘right light’?”
Non-photographers, and even newcomers to the craft, think capturing brilliant images is all about buying the biggest camera, when the truth is it’s all about the light. Landscape photographers especially crave the warm, directional light of the golden hour, which is why we’ll pretty much drop anything to be on location at the right time. There’s been times when I’ve seen a great sunset developing and just couldn’t resist the urge of grabbing the camera to set up a shot and to be fair, it’s a recipe for domestic disturbance. Pulling the car over on a busy motorway, leaving a friend’s wedding to photograph the field next to the venue – yep, guilty as charged!
Seven – “Hang on, you’ve Photoshopped that – isn’t that cheating?”
No, it’s not cheating thank you very much! An unedited file is like a half-finished painting, especially if you shoot in RAW. What’s more, shoot in JPEG and you’re leaving decisions on saturation, sharpness and contrast up to the camera, so taking control and editing the file on the computer is actually a more hands-on part of the image-making process. Photoshop is an essential part of picture-taking so everyone is going to have to get over it!
Eight – “You hang out, in the countryside, in the dark….why?”
Yeah, the whole ‘being out after dark’ thing can look a bit weird and even attract the attention of nervous farmers and even the police. But capturing a star trail or a shot of the Milky Way can prove addictive and well worth braving the darkness for and to find the darkest areas means getting out into the countryside away from light pollution. Plus, taking calculated risks can be part of the excitement.
Nine – “Street photography…so you basically photograph people without them knowing, right?”
When art and sensibilities clash, you can’t blame non-photographers for struggling with our techniques and methods, but street photography is just capturing what is already happening and is an important art form that’s difficult to master. Laws are in place to protect people’s privacy and as long as photographers work inside these practices, what’s the problem?
Ten – “You learn all these skills and then share them with someone you’ve just met?”
This is one of the things I love most about photography. Sure, you can find the odd snapper who won’t give anything away, but the real pros are always ready to help a fellow photographer by explaining a technique or showing them how to set-up a light or use another bit of kit. I can’t think of another pursuit where professionals, who have spent years building their skills, are so ready to share their experience with those new to the game. So there we have it non-photographers, we love image-making, so you’re just going to have to live with the strange habits!