Think Different! (dear Photographers)

During my hikes in Yosemite National Park there were multiple occasions on which other hikers said something like: “Nice camera, you must be getting some good shots!” to me – long-time readers of this blog know that I try to avoid the word “shoot” in combination with photography, but other than that, why would I mention this? (and if you’re a photographer you already know, but please read on.)

Tenaya Lake Morning, Yosemite NP, California, United States
Tenaya Lake Morning — a thin mist wafts over the calm waters of Tenaya Lake as the sun peeks over the mountains and warms the air. Yosemite National Park, California. September 2015.

We all know that it is not the camera that “makes” the photo. It is merely a device that captures whatever you point it at on one or the other recording medium – in the digital world, I consider this simply “data”. But more often than not, you see photographers go on a rampage about the common layman assertion “big fat camera = great shots!”. Usually then, the old old story about (some famous) photographer saying to an (equally famous) chef that he must have good pots and pans since the meal he cooked was so good is warmed up. It’s pretty much predictable. At some point in time, I was probably one of these disgruntled, whining photographers: “Nobody understands our art!” Boohoo. ;-)

Today, it doesn’t bother me anymore as a photographer when people say that. I’ve built enough confidence to know that I’ll probably come home with some decent photos. So when people say something like that to me, my reply is simply “I sure hope so!” or something like that. And that’s it. Yes, maybe I could come up with a smart-ass reply to make them think a little bit about what they just implied – but who wants to be a smart-ass on the trail, out in nature?

And most of all, you have to ask yourself: is that implication really intentional? Most likely, it’s not*. People don’t mean it that way, so you shouldn’t be offended.

One might wonder where that thinking comes from of course. And I guess if you ever had a little compact film camera, you know it. Today’s compact film camera is undoubtedly the smartphone. Everyone makes photos with their smartphone, all the time. I think that the association people make when they see “big camera” is: here is a person who is more serious about photography and their photos. So… if you are the person that has been identified as such, is there reason to be offended then? Probably not, right? :-)


*) though I must admit that, as a photographer (in disguise, ie. without carrying a camera), it would be tempting to say “Nice camera, you must be getting some great shots!” to someone who’s hauling big photography gear around. ;-)

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7 Responses

  1. “…but who wants to be a smart-ass on the trail, out in nature?”

    So true. I always prefer to wait until I’m back in a more urban environment before being a smart-ass.

  2. I also have what I call the “Law of the Tripod.” It’s funny to see how people interact with you in the field when your tripod is set up. Tourists, casual photographers, you name it.

    1. I didn’t experience that in Yosemite because after the first hike to North Dome, I left the tripod in the car. It was more about the hiking than about the photography for me this time. :)

  3. Good article! Yep, it draws enough comments to set up a camera, tripod and maybe add some filters in a National Park. I just tell them that I hope I get one or two good photos!

  4. More often than not, the comment we get while hiking with our big cameras is phrased “Nice camera(s)! You getting some good shots?” which seems pretty innocuous. On the rare occasion we get the comments that sound like “good pictures are the result of good equipment not necessarily skill,” I always just figure the person is just trying to make conversation. Chances are pretty good they don’t actually care about my pictures :) People are thinking about you much less than you think they are.

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