10 Things Photographers Hate Hearing People Say

No, you can't have the raw files. Go away.

These are all things I (and I am sure many of us) have heard at some point. They still drive me crazy, though I have learned how to deal with them more effectively over time. 

1. "You can just Photoshop that out, right?"

Yes, I can. That does not mean I want to spend an extra hour staring at my computer because you did not listen to the pre-shoot advice I gave you. In fairness, clients rarely understand just how much of our work happens after the shoot, much like I might not understand just how much prep work goes on behind the scenes before that delicious meal arrives on my plate at a restaurant. I have found that the majority of people are actually quite understanding and respectful when you educate them on what you do. 

2. "Can I have the raw files?"

No. Never. Go away. I have found the best way to explain this to clients is to tell them it is like asking a chef for all the uncooked ingredients for the rest of their recipes that you did not eat. You are probably noticing I think in terms of food a lot. I like snacks. Once in a while, I get a particularly persistent wannabe photo editor, and I have to be firm. 

3. "Hey, can you bring your camera and just take a few shots?"

Am I physically capable and technically apt enough to bring my camera to your event and take photographs? Yes. Do I want to? No, unless I can bring my financials and you can just do my taxes while we are there. Again, in fairness to the non-photographers who ask this, it is normally said more out of innocent ignorance than out of a desire to take advantage of the situation. People generally assume that since we love taking photos, it is something we always want to do. Normally, explaining to them that just like how they would not want to do their job at a party, I sometimes just want to enjoy myself is enough for them to understand.

4. "Can you make everything black and white except her eyes?"

Cue gentle crying on the inside. I normally just give a gentle response about how part of the reason they hired me was for my personal style and that things of this nature are far outside my aesthetic. I don't mention how horribly cliche these ideas are unless they press the issue, at which point I normally frame it as something that might seem novel in the moment but that they will come to regret in the long run.

5. "Can I have all the photos we didn't pick too?"

No, you can't have the unedited photos.

Nope, you can't. This is normally followed by: "but they're just sitting on your computer, aren't they?" I have found the best response is to explain that the edited photo is the finished product that represents my work, and I don't want unfinished work with my name attached to it out in the world. Occasionally, they will say they can edit the unfinished photos for me, at which point my answer becomes a firm no. 

6. "I have a really nice camera. How much would you charge if you use mine?" 

I'll admit this one made me laugh when I read it. This was after he had tried haggling me down from my already very generous student discount several times, so I wasn't really feeling too keen on working with him at this point. I just told him he was purchasing my style and skills, not my camera. He got a non-photographer friend to do the shoot with his really nice camera instead, and the pictures turned out as amateurish as expected. 

7. "I saw this on Pinterest! Can we try it?"

This one is always annoying, because you are basically being asked to cast your creative vision aside to copy what's probably some cringe-worthy social media trend. That being said, clients have their own visions and things that excite them too, so I normally try to respond by explaining why we can't recreate the vast resources that went into that shot they saw, but that I am happy to incorporate elements of it. That makes them feel excited and like I care about their involvement in the creative process (and I do). 

8. "Do you mind if I get some shots too?"

Yes, I mind. This seems to happen most often at weddings, where everyone wants to document the day on their phone over your shoulder. Given the time constraints, this is not the time to tiptoe around the issue. I tell them we are on a strict schedule and they will have to wait until the reception. If that doesn't work, I spritz them with a spray bottle (I don't do that). 

9. "How many megapixels does your camera have? My phone has that many."

Let's see your phone do this.

That's cool. I normally just smile and tell them their phone sounds really neat. If they persist, I will give them a quick lesson in physics and why their phone's megapixels are not the same as my camera's megapixels.

10. "Wow, you have a really nice camera. It must take great photos!"

Wow, that is a really nice Steinway. It must make your Debussy sound so good. Wow, those are really nice knives. They must make your steak taste so good. Wow, those are really nice scissors. They must make your haircuts look so good. 

I have found the best way to deal with this is to immediately flip it back on the client using whatever their occupation is, delivered with a wry smile and a wink. It's a gentle indication of their faux pas, and they normally laugh and apologize, plus it normally fosters a bit of respect for what a photographer does. 


Every occupation has annoying misconceptions associated with it; it is human nature to underestimate the complexity of things we have little knowledge of. I try not to take any of it personally and to let it just roll off me or issue a gentle correction if necessary. What are the most annoying things you hate to hear about your work? 

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Richard Twigg's picture

I need to get a spray bottle.

Ian Browne's picture

Yep; all of those plus two words too often used in photography imo--- SHOOT and SHOT . How did those word get into photography . SHOOT a wedding -- PORTRAIT shoot --- he SHOT the prime minister, or president, or the queen .
three kids were SHOT and the police are looking for the SHOOTER --- must have used a canon :lol:

I personally hate reading / hearing those horrible words in relation to photography . In fact if the words are used too often I usually stop reading or listening .

Well I'm off to SHOOT our prime minister; I hope I don't have to shoot his minders too before hand :loL:
Whoops ; the federal police are at my door already :lol:

Miha Me's picture

Word police! Shoot = Murder? that's just horrible word context comprehension on your part, and you know it!

Owain Shaw's picture

Sontag wrote about this in the 1970s. A lot of the vocabulary around photography is very reminiscent of hunting - shoot, capture, Bruce Gilden being a 'big game' street photographer, etc. Even the verb 'take' commonly used with pictures, compared to make which implies creation, is more about claiming possession, seizing. Why this happened is, if nothing else, linguistically curious.

That's probably enough on this subject for me to be branded a millenial snowflake so I'm going to leave it there. I'll repeat before closing, Sontag wrote about all of this in the 1970s - starting at about page 12 of 'On Photography' but do read the whole book. Sontag was years, decades ahead of our time and much of what she says about the consumption and over-saturation of photography and imagery pre-dates the Internet and Social Media but is as true for these media as it was for the media of the time of writing.

Nada Ivanova's picture

you forgot , during wedding ,and usually this is motther of the wife : hey you should go make photo there , you know this way it will be nice" well your daughter hire me because i know what i do. about raw file i have somehow same reply like your ," when you go to restaurant you dont jump in kitchen asking for ingredien to cook it home yourself"

Jon Kellett's picture

For #10 - Thank you, your mouth makes nice complements. ;-)

Appreciating their innocence does little to quell the hurt, but responding with anything but kindness won't help them to learn.

Hmmm. I think I need coffee!

John Ellingson's picture

I enjoyed the read. things have not changed. Other than megapixels and photoshop, etc., some version of these same comments have been around forever. They are part of the landscape of being a photographer. On the other hand, maybe I am just old school because I've been doing this for 65 of my 78 years -- but I still think of "shooting" photos. I frequently go to a nearby national park for wildlife shots - If I have a new ranger at the gate when I go in they will ask me if I need a map etc., after I give them my lifetime pass. I tell them no, I'm just there to shoot deer (or whatever). There will be a momentary panicked look on there face. I will say that I brought my big guns with me - then I will hold up a camera with a 600mm lens on it. I will smile and get a look of relief. If there is a regular ranger on the gate that I know he or she will ask how it went last time. I've learned a lot about stalking wildlife in the parks. I once won a bet that I could get close enough to touch a deer -- it takes time but you can do that. I find that when taking "portraits" of the deer that I don't get inside the close focus limit of the lens that I'm using.

Jacques Cornell's picture

[On seeing my rolling case full of gear] "I thought you were just going to bring a camera and, you know, make a few photos." This from a client who's producing a corporate event costing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars and paying my pro rate for me to show up early, stay late, and make hundreds of images in between for their online campaign to promote the event for next year.
"That's why I get the big bucks."

JetCity Ninja's picture

This is why I wear earphones. I set them to let in ambient sound and pretend I’m listening to music. I’ve found life is more enjoyable when I can pretend to ignore others on purpose and still hear what’s being said.

Tom Fuldner's picture

It does my soul good to read in this article a dialogue I have experienced more than a few times in my professional worklife. I appreciate how the author has stood strong in the face of innocent but sometimes offensive requests, Great article.

Glem Let's picture

Don’t know if anyone else has had to deal with point number 9 but I have... twice and on both occasions I respectfully told them that with such a mega phone and photography being really easy these days that they really didn’t need to waste money on hiring me...

I mean my camera is so old, it came out in 2014 (D810) you’d be better off doing it yourself, you could even make a career out of it if you watch a few YouTube videos...

Go on... enjoy.... be a creative... save money..

I could see cogs whirring inside the minds of both people.., 😀🙏.


Sam David's picture

Most of my work is Fine Art Nudes. When someone asks if I'll bring a camera to something, I usually ask, "will the guests be taking off their clothes?" It may be nude, but it sure isn't going to be Fine Art.

Yannig Van de Wouwer's picture

Pointing at my camera: "Shall I take a photo of you too?".
If they are persistent I purposely misconfigure the exposure and focus (I use back button focus), and hand over my camera to let them take a photo of me. Next we evaluate the result 😆

Paul Scharff's picture

No. 10 should be No. 1. We always hear, "Wow -- you must have a really good camera." Chefs don't hear, 'You must have a really good stove," and golfers don't hear, "You much have really good clubs." But every photographer has heard this forever.

I was shooting an architectural job and the client was saying how glad she was to get this scheduled since all they had before were iPhone photos. To make a point, I got out my latest iPhone 7 and grabbed a shot to show her it's not the camera but the operator.

I was waiting for her to say, "You're right, it's not really all about the camera." Instead, she said, "You know, those iPhones are taking really good pictures these days." Note this was before all the computational wizardry we see in current models. I sighed and gave up trying to make the point.

David Bruno's picture

So, here is one that I get every so often at both Corporate and private events: "Hey, are you getting some good pictures?" Seriously, No, They are all terrible and I don't know what's going on.

Jacques Cornell's picture

Interestingly, in my corporate event work I often hear "You must be getting some great shots." This while I'm working with my dinky Micro Four Thirds kit.
Maybe folks are more observant that we give them credit for, because it's not the size of my equipment to which they're responding.

steven christie's picture

Another is "When we're finished, can you take some shots of my kids?" I'm a rock photographer, unless the're spitting blood or pulling a wheelie on a custom Harley, I'm not interested.

Don Risi's picture

I have never heard the majority of those. I have heard #1 many times, usually from older women who were self-conscious about their looks. I always reply, "Of course!! Not that you need that . . ." Of course, I do apply a little "anti-aging cream" to the photos anyway. Funny, I get asked back on a regular basis.

I have only heard #2 one time -- An art director asked for a RAW file so he could process it himself, but would not tell me why (although I suspected). My suspicions turned out to be correct -- he wanted it for the cover. Interestingly, it looked just like what I had submitted, so either he processed it exactly as I would have, or he went ahead and used the processed version I had sent. Either way, he's never asked again. Other than that, no one asks. And frankly if anyone did, my answer would be, "That JPG I sent you was straight from the camera." Chances are they don't know what a RAW file is anyway, it was just a term they heard somewhere.

I do hear #10 quite a bit. My answer? "Yes, it is a really nice camera, and it takes fabulous photos." I mean -- why argue with someone who obviously doesn't know better?

The corollary to #10 is the person who asks, "What can you get with that fancy rig I can't get with my phone?" The last time that happened I was shooting a waterfall in Yellowstone. Tripod, honkin' big lens, even bigger DSLR, the whole thing. So I showed him the frame I'd just shot. His response?

"Holy crap!! Hey, honey, you've got to see what the picture this guy took!!!"

He probably bought a DSLR as soon as he got home to take on his next trip . . .

Jeena Paradies's picture

As a photographer I kind of understand the sentiment with the RAW files but as a customer it's one of the things which makes me not hire one. We had someone take our band photos which turned out quite good, the posing was nice, the framing etc. But the editing was really not what we've been looking for, a lot of weird colors ta make it more artistic which prevented us of using them for many of the things we wanted to use it for. If we got the RAW files we could have edited them to fit our design on the website, prints for the newspaper, even print it and hang it somewhere in our rehearsal room. This way they practically only ended up on Facebook in a photo album.

Jacques Cornell's picture

In many (most?) markets, very, very few clients are capable of processing a RAW file without murdering it. And, if the result is associated in public with the photographer's name, that's reputational damage. As you probably are aware.

That said, clients will murder JPEGs, too, so it's worth the photographer and client having a clear and in-depth conversation about the implications. I will give a client RAWs if I can be convinced that they 1) know what they're doing, and 2) will associate my name with the resulting images only with my permission. First, though, I'd offer to process the RAWs to match the client's needs and taste.

I prefer to be hired as a photographer, not a trained-monkey button-pusher, and that includes producing the final images. When you hand over RAWs, you risk commoditizing your service and being undercut by $15/hour Rebel-toting wannabes.