You know those shirts/tags some employees have to wear that say, "Please ask me about (insert cool new item or service)!" Sometimes I wonder if I've accidentally put one on that says, "Please ask me about photography!" Then I look down and realize that it's not that I have a sign, it's just that lugging a camera around all day long seems to send the same message to most people.
Here are some of the most common things I hear nearly every day -
"I love photography. I'm a photographer, too."
"Oh hey, I have that camera!" After a few minutes of closer inspection, it changes to, "Oh, well, I have [entry level camera]. I love photography."
"Wow, what a nice camera! How much did that cost?" Sometimes I really do tell them, just to see them gape. This is interchangeable with my lenses, and often accompanied by, "How many megapixels is it?" I always answer with, "Enough."
"I love your camera, I've been admiring your [insert name of lens, grip, flash, etc. here] from across the room." This is not some terrible pick up line, though it is usually from middle aged men. They just want me to know right away that they can talk gear. Then they want to talk gear for as long as I'm willing to.
"Do you shoot family pictures?"
"I have a question for you. What camera should I buy?" - I get this question all the time. I have no answer. I don't know anything about the entry level cameras - nothing. Really. I don't even know the different models. I know my camera, and those above it that I'm eyeing, and that is it. I just don't pay attention to the lower end stuff, because it's not what I use or will purchase.
"What do you charge to shoot a wedding/family/event?" This always puts me on the spot - especially if it's while I'm trying to work on another job. And it's generally so much more complicated than just spitting a number out at them.
"[Derogatory comment about film, and how much cooler digital is.]" Me, "I still shoot some film, actually." Awkward silence.
"I'm ready for my close up!" *Poses silly* - this happens a lot. People get goofy when they see the camera, and all giggly, and then I feel awkward in having to be like...yeah...I'm not here to take your picture. I'm not going to, and I won't even pretend like I will. Alternate versions of this include, "I'll send you the bill for this modeling!" or sometimes just plain, "Take a picture of me!"
And then the opposite - getting really awkward and pretending to hide. "Don't take a picture of me!"
"So, are you a photographer?" I honestly do get this question a few times a week. Closely related - "So is photography all you do?"
"I love photography. I'm a photographer, too." Oh, I'm sorry - did I say this already? Well, it can definitely be on this list twice, since I hear it at least 3 times a day. Often followed by more detail on what they do, their amazing over-photoshopped side business and how they have such an amazing eye for composition and art.
Here's the thing: I really do like talking to people, and talking about photography. I'm fine to talk gear with people, and I will tell people all I can about buying a camera (it really is not much though.) However, I swear the majority of the people who want to have actual conversations are ones who try to approach me while I'm working - right in the middle of an event. Even some of the ones who just want to say, "Wow, what a nice camera/lens" want to do it right while I'm trying to cover something important that is happening. Sometimes it is purely just small talk and I am wondering what is it that makes people feel like they need to come over and chat. Occasionally I wonder if they feel like they need to make me feel included in the event and not just like hired help - especially at business receptions when nearly everyone wants to come over and say something. Or perhaps the events really are just that boring and I'm the only interesting thing going on?
It's another level of needing to be a people person and have a good personality as a photographer that I hadn't anticipated. I shoot a lot of headshots and portraits of people and I feel confident in my ability to start a conversation with them and make them feel comfortable so I can get a good expression. That sort of thing I knew I'd need-I just hadn't expected to need the perma-smile still plugged in while I'm actually trying to melt into the sidelines and background and document without directing.
I need better exit lines, I always feel awkward having to break off the conversation right when someone is really trying to get it going by saying things like, "That's great! I actually really need to go over there, bye!"
Sometimes finishing blog posts are also awkward. I'll just let this one end here now, cause I really need to go over there, so...bye!
Labels: On Being a Photographer