I received a great question via email the other day regarding a situation that most of us have experienced at some point, but have either shrugged off or bottled it up inside of us. I’m talking about the photography naysayers out there. The people who, for some reason or another, feel the need to tell you that you aren’t doing something “right” and put you down as a photographer or even worse – as a learning photographer.
The Naysayer Effect
It is an unfortunate fact of life, when people (who don’t personally know) us see us taking photos, there is a tendency for them to think, “Look at this guy/girl taking photos… Who the heck to they think they are, some pro or something?”. Couple this with another unpleasant side of human nature that some people feel that their opinion is “expert” in anything and everything, and the result is an all too familiar situation not only as a photographer, but also in life. Believe it or not, there are negative elements in this world that compel some people to put down others, challenging our shooting technique, our gear, our creativity, etc… They like to tell us that we’re amateurs for not using manual mode, or that full frame cameras are better, or our lens is too cheap… What’s amazing to me is that 99% of the time, these people are not holding a camera of their own. They either claim that they “used to do photography” or they “have a friend who is a pro photographer” and that somehow entitles them to a baseless opinion.
Now, I’m not against opinions per se; we all have them and we are all entitled to them. I expect people to share them (hint hint, leave your comment on this post below!) and I expect us to sometimes agree and disagree. However, I do have a big problem with people demeaning others when they are in no position to do so. Believe it or not, this happens a lot in photography.
How to Deal With Them
It’s probably crystal clear how I feel on this topic, so I’ll end the naysayer bashing here and move on to how I believe you can effectively deal with them. The one thing you can count on with complete certainty is that no matter how right you are, you cannot change someone else (or their opinion). What you do have complete control over, is how you choose to deal with the situation. Communication has become more of an art form than a means of delivering your sentiments.
Our mother’s all taught us never to stoop to someone’s lower level, and this couldn’t be more true in these types of situations. From personal experience I have learned that the “kill them with kindness” approach has been 100% effective for me. If someone has the nerve to approach you while you are shooting and give you an opinion which initially makes your blood boil, take a breath and introduce yourself to them in a friendly manner. Be polite and professional, and even if you KNOW they are wrong, don’t bother engaging in an argument with them. Of course it would be nice to tell them to mind their own business and just put them in their place, but why ruin your day or your shoot by having a heated debate with someone when ultimately the end result isn’t going to change anything? It just doesn’t serve any useful purpose and can stifle your creativity. Hand them a business card, invite them to your website, give them a smile and just move on. It can be rather disarming when people are expecting you to react strongly and you still treat them with respect. Present yourself professionally at all times because you never know who else is watching; your perception from others is important, but even more so is how your perception of yourself. Like I said, it’s an art form these days, but it works.
Knowing who you are is important here too. If you are just beginning and are in the learning process of photography, that’s absolutely fine! Everyone starts at square one when learning a new craft, hobby, and/or profession. There’s absolutely no shame in knowing that you are just starting out, knowing that more expensive gear is our there waiting for you someday, and knowing that you still have a lot of room for improvement. As long as you are self aware, negativity shouldn’t dissuade or discourage you; don’t even allow it to ruin your day. You have control over your emotions, your reactions, and your responses. If you are an experienced photographer, then you are fully aware that you know what you are doing and that is all that matters. Professional photographers, you already know you are successful. You’re living your dream and nobody can change that, especially not with an opinion. Stay positive and enjoy your photography experience. Focus on your craft and your own determination will help you to continuously improve and enjoy photography – which is the whole reason we do this in the first place!