you must have a great camera

your photographs are wonderful – you must have a great camera

There is an amusing anecdote doing the rounds as a graphic on Facebook and elsewhere – it’s a quote ascribed to Sam Haskins. Now, if you consider the number of quotes that get propagated on Facebook that are ascribed to Morgan Freeman, I’m surprised Sam Haskins even got a mention. But I digress.

The quote relates a story where a photographer smacks down a socialite in New York for some comment about the photographer’s camera. Well, here it is, and it kinda rankles me …

Photographers on FB keep reposting versions of this idea, reveling in the put-down. People get all high and mighty about the perceived insult.  No one should dare snub the sheer Artistry of their work! It all sounds a little defensive in the end.

My take on this is entirely different. What I get from that comment by people is that they are just trying to make conversation. Now, if someone tells me that my photographs are lovely and I must have a good camera, then my reply is usually, “hell yeah!”.  Or if it is a client (or family of a client), then it’s a more polite, “yes it is!”. Then we chat about photography and stuff. We’re all cool.

Hence my version of how the anecdote should play out.

32 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. says

    I love that.
    Two things come to mind:

    One time on a photography forum, so people who should know more about photography than the average Joe on the street, somebody posted that if he had a pro-level camera he would be able to take the same pictures as the guy with the D3. I just replied that is the same as stating if you had the same golf clubs as Tiger Woods you would win championships. (This was at the time Tiger was winning almost every championship ;-) )

    Second, whenever I walk around with my D300 and 70-200 I get reactions on the street like “That’s one heck of a camera”, when it’s the D300 and 17-55 nobody ever says anything. Either way I’m fine and when they do say something I just politely thank them and a conversation is started.

  2. says

    Neil, I certainly agree it can be an entry point for a conversation and I don’t take it literally, or take offense. In turn I often respond provocatively with the comment “THIS IS MY SMALLEST CAMERA, YOU SHOLD SEE THE OTHERS”. best, Peter

  3. Trent Gillespie says

    Such a fantastic take on it all. I know it bothers photographers when they hear this, but at the end of the day, we want our photos and work to get noticed. If this is the lead people go with, so be it… its better than them saying nothing.

  4. Maxam says

    When I use my 70-200, people sometimes say “Nice lens, what’s the zoom on that?”, and look a bit confused when I tell them it’s a bit below 3x :)

  5. says

    Yep, I do it, every time! I used to get angry with this before, but then I realized that people are just trying to make a compliment, and to chat about it.

    Now I just answer something like “oh yeah! But this lens is also awesome!”. And then something about the flash, or bounce flash, etc. It always a nice conversation! I love to talk about photography and about equipment, so why not? And then, at some point, they always say something like “but you do have to know HOW to use this camera, right?”. Yeah, right!

    Great post! You are such a nice person, Neil!

  6. Ron S says

    I’m usually told that when carrying my d700 w/grip and 70-200 attached. My usual responce is “it’s ok, I have a small penis and I’m just trying to compensate”. Takes them completely off guard.

  7. says

    A few weeks ago I was taking pictures at an Event. Some other photog (a former pupil in one of my workshops) asked me what settings I used since her pictures all came out black or blurry. I startet “well, it’s really dark so I’m using ISO 4000″. She: “Duh, my highest ISO is 1600″. Me: “Well, and my lens is set to f/1.6″. She: “uh oh, mine only can do f/3.5″. Me: “this way I can get a shutterspeed of 1/125s, which is not really good since the dancers are moving a lot, but I can work with it”. She: “I’ll need seconds of shutterspeed to compensate for lack of ISO and aperture, no surprise I can’t take no pictures here!”.
    And I thought: “Damn, I really do own a very fine camera indeed!”

    So I don’t blame anyone anymore for this line about my cam. I just agree.

  8. Roger Williams says

    I always think it’s better to have someone say “I like your photographs, you must have an expensive camera” than “That looks like an expensive camera so why can’t you take better photographs?”

  9. Mary-Claire says

    Roger (14) and Ron (12), you made me laugh this morning! Thanks again, Neil, for spot-on comments…

  10. Matt says

    I was not aware of this post making the rounds from Haskins. When I read it, I laughed, because I thought it was clever and funny. I take the approach of landing a client, not being defensive. I saw a much more pronounced rant on cheap photogs on another well-known site and I left feeling insulted, and I’m a photographer!

  11. says

    I totally agree with this. They’re just asking a perfectly innocent and polite question. After all, how much (or little) do we photographers know about their profession?

    If you really must make your point, you can do it more subtly and without being rude by saying “well it’s a reasonably good one”.

  12. Jeff C says

    I normally respond with “Oh I’m only using a beginner camera, Actually, your camera is much better than mine =)”
    Then they would notice that they actually have a canon 60D and I’m only using 550D.

  13. says

    well….if i were a blacksmith, this would be my hammer, and that one with a big white lens, that would be my sledgehammer.

    they normally understand, we share a laugh and we walk separate ways.

  14. says

    Why would anyone get offended by that? I’m proud of my babies :)I love talking about my cameras to the guests at weddings :))) Oh I rub them & tell people how good they are & how much I love them :)

    And yes, VERY EXPENSIVE!!! i usually say that my photography equipment that I just carry on me is 140% the price of my car… that I’m still paying for… which reminds me…

  15. Paul Moshay says

    In the couple of photography groups I belong to we show our latest pictures for others to critique in order to advance our skills. Many times, when someone shows a particularly good image, someone will say, “you must have a really good camera” as a fun way of complementing the maker, sort of a left handed approval. Many people feel that the cost of the camera equals good pictures. I say, you buy a camera, you’re a photographer, you buy a piano, you own a piano.

  16. Steve S says

    I’m sure no one making that kind of comment intends to insult. And maybe some are trying to start a conversation, particularly if they simply comment on the camera itself (most photographers love to talk gear). But it’s difficult not to be a bit annoyed by the implication that expensive camera = good photos, i.e. “All you did to make good photos is buy an expensive camera. If I want to be as good as you, I just need to do that too.” Having all your education, practice, effort, etc. reduced to nothing is an insult, even if unintended. Still, there no point in responding with an intended insult. I usually just say “Yes!” or “Thanks!” or maybe “Yes, and after a lot of practice and effort I’m finally able to get good photos out of it.”

  17. says

    Apple products are behind some of the most innovative and educated articles I’ve ever read!! The single-piece, brushed aluminum keyboards with a built-in number-pad produce clean comments — though loaded with heavy sarcasm, comma-splicing and over-use of hyphenation. MAN!! I wish I had one, I’d be and AMAZING writer! :o)

  18. Chuck Lantz says

    Though I do enjoy Hoskins’ comment, in real life I always go with a variation of Neil’s substitute comment. When someone with a point & shoot camera at an event remarks about the DSLR and telephoto I’m usually using, I’ll tell them “Yeah, I love it. But in this light, you’re probably getting better shots than I am!” And it never fails. They’ll look at their camera, with a smile, and walk away happy. Everybody wins.

  19. Starkman says

    But…I really don’t have a nice camera…which explains why I don’t take really nice pictures. Oh well. Strike three: I’m out!

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