Top Ten Annoying Things To Say To A Wildlife Photographer

June 1st, 2010 by Paul Burwell

The other day I started to think about things people have innocently said to me about my photography that have annoyed me. Now, I know that most of the comments were meant without any malice and were well intentioned.  I get that.  But, that doesn’t stop them from bothering the heck out of me.  I’ve taken the liberty of compiling the top offending comments into a top ten list, presented in the traditional descending order for your reading pleasure.  I also decided to annotate each of the comments with my own thoughts which would not normally remain safely ensconced in my brain.

10. Will you photograph my wedding?

  • Okay, I know that I should take this as a compliment.  But unless the bride and groom are going to wallow through a swamp on all fours, count me out.  Brides and their mothers scare me more than coming face-to-face with a mother bear and her cubs while hiking.

    Female Black Bear and her cubs walking on a trail

9. Why can’t I get pictures like that with my cell phone?

  • Hmmmmmm.  Tough one.  Could it be that the miniscule image sensor and cheap piece of plastic they call a lens can’t quite compete with quality glass and the resolving power of the sensors in modern digital SLR cameras?
8. Digital is okay I guess, but it’s too bad it doesn’t have the quality of film

  • Hello?  1995 called and they want their camera back.  Seriously, the quality of digital cameras surpassed film several years ago.  Seriously.
    Northern Pintail flying over a golden pond

    Northern Pintail flying over a golden pond

7. That picture would be amazing as a painting.

  • Why in the blue hell is photography held in such poor regard when compared to sketching, painting or sculpting?  I get that these days everybody has a camera of some sort and there are literally millions of images captured each day.  But, I’ll put a great image up against a great painting or sculpture any day in terms of “artistic” merit.

    Black-capped chickadee perched on the branch of a pine tree – Converted to simulated oil painting to garner some artistic merit

6. That image looks like it could stand a bit more sharpening.

  • Probably the most common bit of “advice” you find on Internet forums when folks post their images.  This age of pixel peeping has lead to an increasing number of people wayyyyyy over sharpening their images.  In my humble opinion.
5. Did you Photoshop® that?

  • Yeah I did.  So what?  Do you realize that folks used to “darkroom” their images, remove flaws, lighten areas, darken areas and even completely alter the image?  Manipulation of photographs goes back to the advent of photography.  A famous example from 1920 is when Stalin had Trotsky removed from an image.
    Stalin and Nikolai Yezhov, before retouching.

    Stalin and Nikolai Yezhov, before retouching.

    Stalin and Nikolai Yezhov, after retouching.

    Stalin and Nikolai Yezhov, after retouching.

4. You were so lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

  • In the same sense that I was lucky to be up an hour before sunrise for a week to arrive at the location in time only to be disappointed 6 out of the 7 days, I guess I was lucky.
    Long tailed weasel looking for baby gophers

    Long tailed weasel looking for baby gophers

3. How many megapixels is your camera?

  • 200 bazillion.  I know that the marketing folks at the various camera manufacturers have worked their butts off to convince folks that megapixels matter.  But, I’m here to tell you that you may be able to get away with bigger crops on a high megapixel camera, my “old” four, six and eight megapixel cameras still make great pictures
2. That’s a really great snapshot.

  • Maybe it’s just me, but I find the term snapshot pejorative in the extreme.  Call it a great picture, image or even capture, but not a snapshot.  Please and thanks.
    Sectored Plate

    Sectored Plate

1. Wow, you must have a really nice camera!

  • Yeah, and that painter must have had a really great easel.  Seriously, a nice camera?  Are you referring to my new K-Tel Autocapture 3000 that not only takes care of all of those confusing exposure calculations, won’t let me make an image that isn’t optimally composed and automatically chooses the perfect instant to make a photograph?  Sure, quality tools will help produce a quality photograph.  But until the Autocapture 3000 actually ships, it is still the photographer who makes decisions on exposure, subject, setting, timing, and composition.
    Yellow-headed Blackbird singing from on top of a bullrush

    Yellow-headed Blackbird singing from on top of a bullrush

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you heard some innocent comment or question about your photography that just bugged the heck out of you, take it in stride.

I hope some of these comments gave you a laugh!

You can find out more about Paul at his website and blog: Paul Burwell Photography

Follow Paul on Twitter here:  link

Check out Paul's Wildlife Photography Academy Workshops here:  link



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11 Responses to “Top Ten Annoying Things To Say To A Wildlife Photographer”

  1. René Damkot says:

    Hahahaha. How very, very recognisable :)
    Nice writeup.

  2. Patrick Smith says:

    I love it! I have heard these things so many times. I agree about weddings. I’d rather face a 20-ft wave at close range than a bride and mother!


  3. Karen Johnson says:

    Especially #1! I just smile and say, “Yes, yes I do.”

  4. Bill Bean says:

    Back in my large format days if there was anyone nearby when I set up the wooden field camera I would bet the mortgage that at least one of them would ask “Nice camera…is that an antique?”

  5. DJ says:

    Excellent article; made me smile and laugh!

  6. Chris Bates says:

    I hate the comment “That would make a great Postcard.”

    These comments made me smile for sure. Especially number 1 (Family Portraits can also be used instead of Weddings. hehe)

  7. Sidney says:

    Hilarious. Well done, Paul! I’ve been asked on several occasions to shoot weddings because people see me with a camera/lens and tripod and think: BRIDE?! Reasons I will never do it: #1 I’m not a professional. #2 I prefer to lay on the dirty ground, waiting for bison, moose or elk to appear. #3 If I can’t wear jeans and a ball cap, I don’t want to be shooting. :P

    One other comment I’m sure you and many others get on a very regular basis when spotted out in the field with gear in hand: “Are you a photographer???”

    Love it! :)

  8. Gerd Jaunich says:

    Great article.

    What still blows me away is when the camera companies compare the lens to be equivalent to the 35 mm something or other. Never had a 35 mm camera. Used to have Kodak Instamatic. Other stuff too complicated for me. I just take a ton of pictures and pick the great ones. Setting? I don’t know what they mean. Take picture and see if it looks good under the condition. Use bracketing to get HDR….but that’s me..

  9. Haddon Davies (magicsnaps on Twitter) says:

    A little while ago I was in an about-to-open restaurant, just as the snagging was being completed, shooting commissioned photographs for the owners including plated food – camera on a tripod, several monolights around the place, tables laid & decorated etc etc. One of the builders wandered over and asked me “Do you do this for a job, like?” For once I was speechless.

  10. Deepa Mohan says:

    And…”I bought the same camera as you have, why am I not getting the same kind of photos?”

  11. David bentley says:

    Soooooo true!

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