Photography is an art that many may have had tried their hand at, some point in their lives. With each smartphone being equipped with an in-built camera, it becomes easier for the regular Jane and Joe to deem photography as their strengths, so much so they would include them in their CV without a blink of the eye.
However, those who pursue photography as a career would go the distance to share that it isn’t so much as a click of the button that makes one a “photographer”. It is passion that drives photographers to do what they do, and what they do requires skills, time, knowledge about lighting and angles, and basically so much more than just snapping the picture itself.
There is the process of dealing with clients, editing images after they have been taken if need be, and other nitty gritty details that comes with the line of work and that is the daily life of the craftsman (and lady) behind the lens. Still, as the job is one that closely deals with human interaction, with that, there are bound to be some pet peeves that arises from photographing others.
Here, 6 photographers based in Malaysia share their inner most pet peeves on the job and what stigma they often have to deal with as part of the job.
1. Jeremy Choy
Jeremy is the founder of rice | photo and pursues photography full-time.
“I guess the biggest pet peeve is when you have friends and family, sometimes even a friend’s friend, who invites you to a party and EXPECTS you to take pictures for them, not being told upfront. So, I was invited to a birthday party, the birthday boy was a friend’s friend of mine, so basically I don’t know him, I’m going just because my friend wants me to accompany her.
Upon arrival, the birthday boy recognised me from my Instagram, and instantly he said, ‘Wow, you brought a photographer to my party? Can he take some photos for my party now?’ Luckily, I didn’t bring my camera with me, but I wasn’t treated well with comments like ‘How can a photographer walk around without his camera?’
A misconception that many people have about photographers is that they think taking pictures is just a few clicks on the camera. You know, just pick up a camera, point, press button, and voila—beautiful photos. And when the photos are not beautiful, don’t worry, Photoshop is there to the rescue. But when you use Photoshop, they call you a cheater.”
2. Yong Joe Kit
Joe Kit is the founder of Faces of KL, a project to document the reality behind KL’s easily deceiving grandeur.
“Iphone-o-graphers. Last week, I was shooting a wedding and OMG, I almost missed the ring moment, the bride crying, the registration signing and the mom crying—all because the iPhones were blocking me everywhere!
I totally lost it. I just went over and went full-on shoulder tapping. ‘Excuse me, I need to shoot this ONCE IN A LIFETIME MOMENT’, like a whisper kind of rage. The bride and groom can’t hear me but that person sure can.
I mean, okay, technology is great, everyone can be a photographer; I admit to using my iPhone in place of my work cameras sometimes. But your BFF here hired me, for an obscene amount of money, for a reason, okay? Don’t get in the way of my job and ruin every photo by blocking it or by standing in the background with your iPhone and half hung glasses, ruining what might have been a super awesome shot.
The biggest misconception that people have about photographers is that the net value of my equipment equals the net beauty of my photos. The equipment is a tool, a means to an end, it does not define the quality of my work; I could be using a RM100k camera and still take absolutely shitty photos; or how I started off my days with a RM2.5k camera and shot some of my most iconic photos with an amateur beginner grade camera.”
3. Jaz Khai
Jaz is a student and freelance photographer at Jaz Khai Photography.
“I have come across clients who requested for a day shoot, which to my rates would cost over RM1500 but the client only has budget below RM1000. If I were to accept the client’s request, it will not be worth it. Apart from that, there are clients who request for shoots in return for free exposure for me, which will not be of any worth to my rice bowl. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s totally fine if it’s a mutual agreement for a sponsorship.
The biggest misconception about photographers, would be having the impression that photographers are just low class paparazzi, and others would disrespect them by trying to get free services, thinking their job is only to take photos. Therefore, clients always wonder why is it so expensive even for just a couple of hours of shoot on location of the event.
A photographer is a professional and a photographer’s job does not end when the event ends. He or she has to go back to work on editing and finally deliver it to the client.
I believe regardless of what profession we are in, we should do it with much passion and love, and not let people of the world define our values based on what we do. Even a jobless man is born with high values, which no one has any right to devalue in any way.”
4. Nelson H. Benignus
Nelson is a full-time assistant architect during weekdays and a part-time photographer on weekends. On the side, he is also a health and supplement distributor, specialising in breakfast nutrition.
“There are many challenges, but in terms of being annoyed by requests, I guess it rarely happens. Mainly because before taking up a job or event, I would have made all expectations clear upfront. I would mention our scope, what we can do and what we won’t do, and I usually choose my clients carefully. Normally the clients that I work with, we have mutual chemistry, in terms of personality.
There were maybe one or two clients so far (in 3 years) that I’ve worked with who were slightly demanding. They tend to boss around, and tell me where to shoot, what sort of angle, etc., with a less friendly tone. They are also constantly checking and asking to see my shots after few clicks. It was rather annoying because he made it look as if I don’t know what I’m doing.
The biggest misconception about photographers is that we get more ‘exposure’ and ‘experience’ and it is a win-win situation for both parties. Thus, we are expected to receive minimal fee or sometimes no fee at all, for the sake of ‘experience’. People also often think that anyone with a ‘high tech DSLR’ can take good pictures, thus comparing freelancers with hobbyists and amateurs in terms of pricing.
Just because their nephew with a DSLR can help them take a few shots for their wedding, for example, then they think that photographers aren’t expensive as well.”
5. Siti Aminah Mohd Ramli
Siti runs MinMohd Photography alongside her other half, Azlan Low. Whilst Siti is pursuing photography full-time, Azlan pursues it part-time. The pair focuses on newborns, and family lifestyle photography.
“I do come across clients who are really interested in my lifestyle photography and they would love if I could capture their moments. Quality work does comes with a price though. Don’t be cowed to spend for something that you would cherish for a lifetime. You might not know if that moment may come again or it is just too late. It is a matter of priority. We will spend on what we love or want most and sadly photography usually ends up at the bottom of the list. The bitter truth is that some might love your work but they are just unwilling to spend.
The major misconception about photographer or photography is that the best equipment will give you the best result. Equipment is just a tool to assist you. You need to firstly know what you are doing. I am using my 4-year-old camera and believe it is still enough to serve me and allow me to create my art.
Bear in mind that as an art, it should always be aesthetics over technicals. We do not not ask Leonardo da Vinci about the brush he used to paint Mona Lisa, do we? Another thing is people mostly think that photographers are making a lot of money. Photographers are normal people. They have a family to feed, have bills to pay and has a business to run. Running a business is not something photographers do just for fun.
Just like any other business, income gained will be well spent on marketing campaign, equipment, softwares, petrol, phone, electricity and etc. What more if the client asks for a discount. There will be times when someone will come up to you and ask you to provide a free photoshoot because ‘it will be good for your portfolio’. Please be considerate.
Not all photographers are desperate. True enough someone will jump at the chance. I am stressing that photographers must know their worth but to be worthy we need to develop ourselves. By hiring a photographer, one must know that what they are paying is actually to compensate the photographer’s experience, equipment, training and learning process so that your next session will be an enjoyable experience, and the most important thing of all is that they are paying for the photographer’s time.”
6. Paulius Staniunas
Paulius, or better known as Paul is one fifth of the team of photographers known as All Is Amazing. All Is Amazing is known for being the pioneers in capturing shots of the Asian night life scene. Paul has been living in Malaysia for the past 4.5 years and is originally from Lithuania.
“I guess the biggest pet peeve is not the clients, but the attitude of photographers themselves—that their skills and craft can be traded for nothing. Meaning, for free. This undervaluation of the skill (not only among photographers, but among all creatives, especially young ones) damages the value of creativity.
In my opinion any creative, including photographers, should be proud of their skills and not be afraid to value it properly. Then not only the creative will be happy, but also the level of creativity and client education in terms of business and creativity will increase.
Biggest misconception that people have about photographers? I guess it is that the quality of the images depend on the camera (not even the lens). So many times I’ve heard this, ‘Oh, such a good photo, your camera is amazing!’
But you don’t go to the chef in a restaurant and say ‘Your food was amazing, you must have a really good oven!’ Of course, don’t get me wrong, the camera does matter, but not even near to your creative skills. A camera is just a tool that translates your creativity.”