Pet Peeves of Professional Photographers

It’s the bottom of the ninth. The score is tied and the bases are loaded. The coach, catcher and pitcher meet on the mound to discuss the throw that will mean the difference between being national champs or basement bums. Suddenly, from the third base line runs an overweight, out-of-breath fan who staggers to the meeting on the mound.

“I’m Jake,” the fanatic breathes out heavily. “I’m coach of the Jayhawk Little League team and I have some advice I think can help you fellers out.”

Sure, that’s a strange scenario. You never see an amateur anything interrupting a pro at work. At Wimbledon, the amateur players stay in their seats. During the Super Bowl, a devoted admirer with a question about what socks a player wears doesn’t barge into the huddle. No one dares interrupt a Kenny Chesney concert to ask the megastar for a speedy class on the guitar.

It happens to professional photographers though. All the time. So often in fact that pros have developed some pet peeves about those people who think that possessing a camera makes them a photographer.

With that in mind, here’s some pet peeves of the pros about the amateurs — or faux-tographers.

See a Pro? Ask Them to Take Your Picture

Don Chernoff makes his living photographing wildlife in the nation’s capital. On more than one occasion, Don has had his gear set up in front of the U.S. Capital when he’s been approached by tourists handing him their camera and asking him to take their picture. Don’s conclusion: Stand in front of an important tourist attraction with a tripod and fancy gear and people will think you know how to take great pictures. So the next logical step is, well, get the fancy equipment guy to take your family shot.

Uncle Bob

Amy Zellmer, owner of Custom Creations Photography,, in St. Paul, has been a wedding and event photographer since 1997. During the 18 years, she has seen it all. Two of her favorite occurrences involved amateurs with cameras.

To support the local food bank one Christmas, Amy set up a winter wonderland in her studio. For a can or two of food, local parents could get their children’s picture taken with Santa Clause. Parent after parent insisted on stepping in front of Amy with their iPhones, Smartphones and point-and-shoots and made the image they wanted with their kid. Taking a break, Amy put a sign on the door asking parents to not bring their cameras into the studio.

“Uncle Bob” shows up at many weddings that Amy, and other wedding photographers, are paid to shoot. Everyone knows an Uncle Bob. The problem is, Uncle Bob never sees himself for the person he is.

In case you don’t know, Uncle Bob is the person who has fancy camera and, but really doesn’t have a hint how to use it. They never take the camera off of automatic and they shoot away. The Uncle Bobs of the world jump in front of the pro photog to get the shot, or immediately step into the photos space to grab the same shot.

So You’re a Professional Photographer, eh? No, What do You Really Do for a Living?

David Llewellyn, writer for the Hampshire Review, understands the frustration professional writers and photographers have when someone asks them, “What do you do for a living?” While there’s nothing wrong in the question, it’s the response he gets when he tells them that he’s a photojournalist. “Really? I am too!”

David finds that 90 percent of the faux-tographers he meets call themselves photographers because they take pictures of their grandchildren, pets and tourist attractions. Using weird angle and out of focus shots they feel they’re a photographer because they have a camera.

As for “writers,” they have, in their mind, the world’s next best seller. It just needs to be written.

David listens patiently to people tell him all about their book as they show him out of focus images on their tablet or Smartphone — aka camera. As David tries to extricate himself from another mutton headed wanna be, their eyes glaze over as he tells them — for the second time — that he is a photographer. Not believing that being a writing and image making pro is a real profession, David is considering starting to just tell people is a circus clown. He feels they may find that easier to believe.

Respect Space

Travis Levius, an American professional writer and photographer, now based in London has found that the respect to space someone gives is a sign of their level of professionalism.

“As a Fashion Week photographer, I can gauge whether someone is an amateur or pro by the degree of consideration shown when working in those notoriously tight spaces. An amateur will tend to barge right in with no thought of who may be behind him. Pros, on the other hand, are considerate enough to ask others if their view might be obstructed.

Everyone, pros and amateurs, want the same great shot, but it takes cooperation to get it.

Travis’ advice to beginners? Ask nicely — and quickly — before moving in front of other photogs working for the same shot. Being assertive is ok — being aggressive will cause you problems.

Stay Out of the Way

Nicholas Purcell, is a destination wedding photographer who finds himself frequently in the position of trying to do the job he’s been paid to do while competing with 200 amateur faux-togs for the same shots.

“I’ve had numerous key shots ruined by amateur photographers,” Nicholas says. “Frequently, they step into the aisle before or after the bride and almost every wedding I shoot I have a problem with guests getting in the way,”

Guests, you’re there to be a — wait for it — guest. Sit down and let the pro photog do what he’s being paid to do — photograph the wedding.

Every Combination Known to Man — and Woman

Gary Arndt, is probably the best-known travel photographer online. Gary has either been to every top tourist attraction in the world, or it’s on his list to be there soon.

“My biggest pet peeve are persons who feel the need to take a photo with every possible combination of people in their group in front of an attraction,” said Arndt.

First, the amateur photog with the group takes individual shots of every person in the group — even if the group has 20 people in it. Then they take turns stepping into — and out of — the group so that another person with a camera can take an image. Then all the men get their pictures made, then the women, then the women with the children, then — well you get the idea.

Put the Damn IPad Down

Cheryl Richards, a wedding and portrait photographer in Boston, finds the people that stand in front of her with an iPad as she’s trying to get the cake cutting photograph among the most frustrating. Always in the way, people with iPads and point and shoots are about as bad as the “Uncle Bobs.” Another pet peeve of Cheryl’s are the faux-tographers who ignore the wedding officiant when they announce “no photos during the vows.”

That’s like saying sic ‘em to a dog. Just tell the rookies that no picture taking is allowed and the ones without the sense God gave a goose will pull out their iPads and “snap” away.


Mark Mennie is an acclaimed commercial photographer specializing in rotary wing aviation photography. Mark shared a list of ten things an amateur should be aware of to avoid pissing off the pros.

10) Amateurs that walk around with their camera around their neck and not their hand, as if to say….“Look at me…I’m a Photographer!” 9) Amateurs always mentioning they had a cover published recently. Pros these days know that “covers” mean imagery was more than likely submitted for free. Just ask National Geographic… 8) Amateurs who offer up their Flicker account addresses first, as we all know they are free to set up. Pros have websites first and then they eventually get flicker accounts. 7) Amateurs always mention that they won a contest recently. Whoopty-do! Pros know that that is a form of work for spec, and don’t enter contests often, as they worry about their clients work first, and may be limited by agreements to not share images on social media or contests. A pro always reads the fine print on these contests. 6) Amateurs don’t understand the importance of light, or even artificial light, as some claim they don’t own lights, and don’t need them, when they walk up to your set wanting to borrow yours. 5) Amateurs who think that TMZ aggressive Paparazzi capture is accurate most times. Pros don’t and sometimes we have stars as clients. 4) Etiquette when approaching a pro? Probably be humbled and realize the pro is getting a good image, and if the amateur would listen instead of talk, they’ll probably learn something to attempt at a later time. 3) Get out of the way. If in a setting where pros and amateurs are mixing, amateurs have to suck it up and eventually get out of the way and let the pro do their job. 2) Turn your flash off when the sign says “No Flash Photography” Ironically this means you too! And 1) STOP WITH THE SELFIES!!! Don’t ever do a selfie with a pro working in the background, you’re liable to get barked at…or even worse…ignored.

Sadly, the individuals that need to read this, and learn from it, will never recognize themselves. Others, though, do and maybe if you have a friend who is guilty of thinking they are a photographer simply because they have a camera, you’ll share this article with them.

Jerry Nelson is an internationally known photojournalist Busy on assignment in South America, Jerry is always interested in discussing future work opportunities. Contact him today at or follow him on Twitter.

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