This is a fun rant I've been thinking about writing for some time. Over the years I've been bothered by the actions and bad habits of a few other photographers. Read it with a sense of humor. The list below of the 16 most annoying things other photographers do is meant to help readers become better by breaking bad habits. Just between you and me, I'm guilty of a couple of these myself ; ) In order to become a better photographer and avoid irritating others in the process, please don't...
1. SET UP TRIPOD AT EYE LEVEL ONLY
You've paid for a decent tripod, camera, lens, books, workshops, photography classes, spent countless hours researching the location, making a shot list, spent the money to get there, and got up before Christ to arrive during good light. So, why would show up on location and only set up your tripod at eye level and not move it?!?! What are the chances that eye level standing provides the most interesting composition? Slim to none. What are the chances that the first and most obvious place you set up to shoot is the best? None. Your tripod is designed to do more than hold your camera conveniently in front of your eyeballs. Try various angles. Get low, really low (take that blessed center column out!) and see how that looks. Don't like that? Move your ass! Use your feet! Don't simply walk up to a scene plop the tripod down and consider it done...
2. TAKE ONLY ONE LANDSCAPE SHOT
A lot of landscape photographers these days are under the impression that they're going to create a beautiful body of work and somehow make a living from landscape photography by taking only one shot and moving on. I would be out of business fast if I only made one shot in the morning and one shot in the evening and called it quits. When I'm shooting landscapes, I milk the scene for all it's worth. I do not pick one composition and go home for a whisky. I'm not done until the light is gone. Before it is, I'm running around like a crazy chicken with a tripod trying to get as many great compositions as possible from as many different vantage points as possible (the Galen Rowell method). Maybe I'll only come away with one great shot of the lot, if so, that's fine, but very rarely is that first composition I pick the best or the one that is sold.
I do appreciate personal projects like Jim Brandenburg's one shot a day series and I have emulated that approach on occasion. I also understand that large-format film photographers don't want to waste film, and they already spend lots of time walking around to find the perfect composition before shooting. As a "stock photographer", however, I have to take lots of quality pictures in order to get paid. One image a shoot just doesn't cut it for me.
3. ASK EVERY NEARBY PHOTOGRAPHER THEIR SETTINGS
"Are you shooting in aperture priority?" "What f-stop?"
There is always that one photographer who, bless their heart, isn't very confident about what they're doing yet. That's fine. A good way to learn is to ask questions, but an even better way to learn is to make mistakes and figure out what works best for you on your own. It's part of the long and arduous process of developing your "style." If another photographer tells you the formula they're using, it's not going to help you do much more than emulate the look of their images. Read your camera manual, learn the exposure basics, and go make some mistakes. It's the best way.
4. ASK "HEY, WHAT ISO ARE YOU USING?"
This goes along with the previous annoyance, but because this specific question is asked to me consistently, especially when shooting wildlife, I thought it deserved it's own spot. So, what ISO am I using? I don't know. That's usually the answer. Modern DSLRs are so great now I don't really think much about ISO anymore, especially when photographing wildlife. I often shoot in manual mode with auto-ISO turned on and let that value float between 400-1600 (maybe more) with moving wildlife. That's because I'm more concerned about using a fast enough shutter speed so that the animal isn't blurry. When it comes to landscapes and still subjects, I'll use ISO 100. Essentially, I try to keep that number as low as I can, but if ISO 2500 is what it takes to get the shot, then that's what it is. Instead of worrying so much about exposure settings, try and ask yourself why you're photographing the subject and what it's significance is to you or your audience.
5. ASK QUESTIONS DURING GOLDEN HOUR
No, I don't know what lens you should get. Yes, I like my lens. Yeah, large format is cool. No, I've never been to the Galapagos. Please let me shoot this scene before the light goes away.
6. USE FOCUS ASSIST BEAM WHILE TRYING TO AUTO-FOCUS AT NIGHT
The other night I was photographing the northern lights at a lake with about 50 others. Several of them were using built in focus assist beams in order to focus in the dark. This was rather annoying because the lights from their cameras interfered with some of my exposures. If you would like to know the right way to photograph the northern lights, click here.
7. PUT A $9,000 CAMERA/LENS COMBO ON A $100 TRIPOD
If you have a spankin' new Nikon D5 and 300mm f2.8 VR and you put it on a $100 travel tripod, you're nuts. That is all.
8. OWN A $6,500 SPORTS CAMERA AND NOT KNOW HOW TO USE IT
I see an increasing number of people freshly retired that have suddenly discovered their love of photography and thus have invested in brand new flagship DSLRs with pro lenses - combos that total more than my college tuition. I have also seen these folks miss opportunities or struggle with camera gear in the field. I observed a couple nice pensioners attempting to shoot a sunset a few weeks ago and not only had they forgotten their tripods, but had their faces down while pressing buttons and flipping dials on their Canon 1DX Mark II's. By the time they pointed their 24-70 f2.8 lenses up, the light was over.
9. SHOOT OVER THE SHOULDER OF ANOTHER PHOTOGRAPHER
Just don't do that. I've walked around all day, scoped out the scene hours before, and waited until the good light to take my shots. Don't walk up behind me and shoot over my shoulder...
10. THINK THEIR GEAR ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH AND SO THEIR SHOTS WON'T BE
My first digital camera was an 8 MP Canon Rebel with the kit lens I bought 10 years ago. That's what I shot for two years until I bought anything else. Photos I made with that camera are still being licensed today, and I have prints of several that look great at 11 X 14. Don't fret if your gear isn't as new or fancy as the next guy's. That's the wrong thing to focus on. Remember that our great photography mentors (Steve McCurry, Galen Rowell, Ansel Adams, Jim Brandenburg, etc.) made their most iconic images with way less sophisticated equipment than we have today.
11. TRY TO CRAM A CAMERA BACKPACK INTO THE OVERHEAD COMPARTMENT WHEN IT'S OBVIOUSLY NOT GOING TO FIT
You probably don't need 3 camera bodies, 6 lenses, 2 flashes, a full size tripod,19 filters, a GoPro, and a drone for your weekend trip to Paris...
12. SPEND THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ON PHOTO WORKSHOPS
$8,000 plus airfare and accommodation to be crammed in and shuffled about with 10 other photographers for 6 days is probably not the best use of funds. That's the cost of a semester of photography classes at a good art school. That's the cost of airfare for 8 trips to Iceland for two on a budget airline. That's the cost of a trip to Antarctica for one. For half that you can spend a month in Alaska photographing brown bears on your own, including hiring private guides and transportation. For a quarter of that price you can spend two weeks exploring Patagonia all inclusive.
I'm not arguing against reputable photographers teaching workshops. It's hard to make a living in this industry, and I don't blame anyone for teaching workshops, but leave the high dollar workshops for doctors and lawyers. Instead, plan your own adventures or choose a day or weekend workshop for a few hundred bucks.
P.S. Just because you did pay thousands for a workshop doesn't mean you have any more right to shoot a location than anyone else who isn't part of the class!!!
13. ONLY SHOOT IN BURST MODE
There are times you need 12 frames a second- like say football games....and times you don't- like landscapes.
14. DEBATE NIKON VS. CANON, FUJI VS. SONY, OR FILM VS. DIGITAL
That horse has been beaten to death, shot, set on fire, and rolled down a hill into a river and swept away...
15. ONLY REVIEW GEAR ON THeiR YOUTUBE CHANNEL
Isn't there enough of that? Show me some pictures, not just what you shoot with. And I don't mean pictures of teddy bears at ISO 3200 or paint cans, or brick walls, real pictures!
16. MAKE AMAZING, HIGH QUALITY YOUTUBE VIDEOS, BUT THEIR PHOTOS SUCK
My YouTube Channel is not great. I'll be the first to admit that. I'm on the fence about whether I'm going to continue it or not. The reason is that it is very difficult to shoot a good quality video of myself out shooting and make the images I need in the process. A few guys are pretty good at this, but only a few of the lot. If I feel that filming a YouTube video is distracting me from what's important, I won't film.
There are a lot of really popular, million subscriber-strong channels that have high production value, yet never show us the images the dudes are making, or if they do, they're not that great. I'm not interested in your channel or your advice unless you can show me you can make incredible shots to begin with. Don't just tell me the specs of the latest gear and whether I should buy it or not, show me some awesome photographs!