Every professional photographer faces this at some point – a friend asks for photography advice. A common question is, “What kind of camera should I buy?”
The question never comes when you’re having a beer with a close friend. Instead, it tends to come from a “friend” on FB who went to junior high or high school with you and it’s always from someone you haven’t actually seen in years. They just assume as a professional photographer, you’re happy to take time out of your day to answer their seemingly endless questions about gear or cameras or techniques.
Here’s how I handle these questions. First, I tell the person to call me. The phone is much faster than email/messages/texts and honestly, 90-percent of people won’t call. For the ten-percent who do call, I tell them to go to a camera store and try out different cameras to see what they like best. I don’t sell cameras for a living and they’ll get a lot better advice from someone who does. Time spent: maybe 5 minutes on the phone instead of countless messages back and forth. Result: the friend gets a sense that your time is valuable and they really should go to a camera store instead of pestering you.
Another common question will be about websites. Again, best to defer to the experts. Same goes when a client asks if you know any freelance models with a specific look. Sure, but I’m not a booking or model agency. There are people who do that for a living and I’m more than happy to steer potential clients that direction. It’s a great way to separate the wheat from the chaff. Serious clients will actually contact an agency when looking for a model.
The irony is that if any of these people offered to take me out to lunch to chat for an hour, I’d be happy to do it. And you know how many times I’ve been asked to do that? Zero. Zip. Zilch. Clearly these people asking questions are just looking for free advice and have no concerns about your own time.
The reality is professional photographers need to spend their time marketing and working on images and updating various web accounts. There is no money in offering free advice so you have to nip those questions in the bud. If they’re willing to pay (or take you out to lunch) that’s a different situation. But they never are.
Photo in this post is a behind-the-scenes image from a product photo session involving women’s shoes. It looks simple but a lighting/set set-up like this takes about an hour to get right. And it took years to learn how to photograph products properly. So if you want my advice about photography, please respect the amount of time I’ve spent learning these skills and don’t assume just because we are FB friends that I’m going to share those skills with you for free.
© 2014 Pete Springer
Pete Springer Photography, Portland, Oregon