You Must Have A Really Nice Camera. -You Betcha!

You’ve probably heard it before, you take really nice pictures, you must have a really nice camera.

You Must Have A Really Nice Camera. -You Betcha!

As photographers we get quite angered by statements like this, and often compare it with other insults like “you make really tasty cakes, you must have a great stove” or “you build really great furniture, you must have a great screwdriver”.

Neil van Niekerk offers a different approach, suggesting that the other party is not insulting you, and that they are actually giving you a compliment and that this is their way to initiate a discussion or break the ice:

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.

The stove comment (or similar ones) came up a few times on Jeff Guyer’s Crop vs. Full Frame rant and I thought to bring on a different approach that some would call more open.

if you head over to Neil’s blog you can find the idea in a meme form, as well as the original stove story.

  • JT__photography

    I never get insulted by the “you take good photos you must have a good camera?” line. I hear it most weeks with clients, what it does is open up dialogue with them, more often than not they are just wanting some advice! I get more angered by the “oh you use a *insert brand of choice* ignorant brand v brand comparison chatter.

  • $23041497

    I don’t take it as an insult, but I really hate discussing equipment. I am definitely not an equipment fetishist, so if I can perry that into a discussion about photography, great. But if they actually want to discuss my camera, they can bugger off.

    • Kay O. Sweaver

      Yeah this is where I get annoyed. I was shooting an event once and an amateur came over and started talking lenses with me, or rather AT me.

      The technical aspects of photography are great, but its not super stimulating conversation to me, I don’t connect with people over it. Art, emotion, beauty, that’s way more interesting.

      • Palash Karia

        Shout out citations then, when used. 😛

  • mike

    “you build really great furniture, you must have a great screwdriver”…said no one ever

  • Otara

    The thing is there’s no ‘auto’ mode on a screwdriver. The person involved is probably used to using that on their camera, so they assume much of any picture improvement is due to a better camera.

    Its not really as unreasonable an assumption as people make it out to be, and it is complimenting the work, its just a misunderstanding of how it happened.

    • creamofmeat

      A common (flathead) driver bit in a shitty drill with no speed control is the epitome of a cheap camera with a bad auto mode.

  • Jon Peckham

    No, its insulting I always correct their errors. Only ego centric sociopaths say this. I have direct experience with it. I let them know it is incorrect and verbally abusive.

  • Jim

    What The Duck has a much better reply: ” Thank you. Your mouth makes very nice compliments”

  • Tim

    I don’t much care for either side of the argument. If you’re proud of the effort and vision you put into your work as a photographer (particularly as a professional?) then it’s selling you short.

    Therefore a simple `it helps’ is probably the best response.

  • Tobby

    “Great photo, you must have a great camera” “Yes I have, and I told it everything I know about photography…”

    • creamofmeat

      Haha I like that, I’m going to steal it (and change “and I told” to “I taught”)

    • Alex Minkin

      that’s the way to go

  • Chris Hutcheson

    I just say “thank you.” I think a lot of people see this as a compliment, and I’d rather just accept it as such and move on. For a lot of my work – event and performance shooting – equipment, as well as my being able to use it to achieve what I want, does make a difference.

  • Charles O. Slavens

    You have to understand that people who make comments like that are not artists. They’re simply trying to make a nice comment and don’t know what else to say. It’s really no big deal at all. My reply is usually, “Well… just remember, it’s the singer, not the song.”

    • creamofmeat

      Hey I like a lot of songs that I don’t know the lyrics to, I like the singers voice and the music, but that’s kinda like enjoying a photograph with your eyes crossed only being able to see blurry colors. Sure it’s pleasing to the ears or eyes but it’s lacking some context.

      The other way around too, there are songs I LOVE! but I hate the singers voice and technical ability, the lyrics are just so powerful.

  • creamofmeat

    Have you ever tried using a craftsman tool and a snap-on tool side by side? Or a cheap drill bit and an expensive one? Or an ergonomic knife with good quality steel (or ceramic) vs the dollar store knock off? How about an economy car vs a luxury car? It’s a compromise with the cheaper tools every time.

    I think it’s pretty pretentious to think “what the fuck, they should be admiring my skill not how much I paid for my camera”. They LIKE your picture, so get over it, they just don’t know how to express it in technical terms about lighting, composition, sharpness etc, so they probably say the first thing that comes to mind.

  • I own nice camera

    Okay then, go take the same picture with this 1.2MP camera phone

  • martin

    why do great photographers have expensive cameras? its always people with nice cameras that claim that its not the camera that takes the picture. i´ll trade your canon d5 mark III for my nikon d60 any day because you take great pictures with any camera.

  • fetanugs

    Why are photographers such prima donnas. Someone complements your work, say thank you. Is that really that hard?

  • Tyler Evert

    As a photographer I could really care a less what the general public thinks or much of anyone else, as long as my client values the work, who cares…

  • Dario Toledo

    Actually you can make conversation either way you respond. Making examples like the one of the stoves doesn’t necessarily make you look vexed if you use the right tone.

  • David

    Hmm. Anyone who gets upset over that comment has issues better reserved for a good counselor. Why can’t you say, “Yea, it’s a fabulous camera. It lets me push my creativity & compose really great shots. Great artists chose their tools wisely.” I mean, would Rembrandt be upset if someone complimented him on the oil paints he used?

    • disqus_8BOe8BHzwF

      Too true, especially since the pigments that Rembrandt used are still prized amongst painters.

  • Andy

    I agree with Neil for the most part. One place I DO take offense is when other artists say that. I shoot slides for people with some regularity and often hear “oh, I would do it, but I don’t have a nice camera.” Granted, it’s not that hard, but these are artists who know their craft quite well and mine not at all. That’s offensive. The worst part is that I think it’s a cover for not knowing photography.

  • Paweł Buderaski

    I like this one “Yes, we’re great copule!” 😀

  • Jampy Joe

    ugh. this again.
    seriously, who cares? they’re just trying to say something nice. any photographer who genuinely gets wound up about this is probably an unpleasant person to be around.

    not everyone understands that a camera is only as good as the person using it. just accept it and move on.

  • kassim

    Indeed, I said.

  • Ted D

    I also do woodworking and have found that better tools allow me to produce better results. So now my response is I have no technical excuse for taking a bad picture. My advice has always been to buy the very best tool (camera) you can afford to allow the very best of you to come out.

  • ‘Stuart Kahler

    I’d be shocked if anyone could build a beautiful dinner table with the tools lying around *my* house. And I would be hard pressed to build anything the least bit presentable if I were dropped into a carpenter’s workshop. It takes tools *and* skills, and it’s pretty hard to get the skills without having access to the tools.

    ‘You Must Have A Really Nice Camera.’ is just an icebreaker to talk about photography. The person doesn’t know anything about lighting, bokeh, or depth of field, or raw vs. jpg, or especially what the MASP modes are for. But they’re showing an interest in something that they probably think *you* are an expert in, and want to learn a bit about the tools that you use. Because people wouldn’t be complimenting your photos if you had taken them with the iPhone that they use for *their* photos.

    Try to be happy that they’re not boring you to death with the details of their fantasy football league.

  • fceexp1

    why not say something along the lines of “well, the camera really helps me make my “choices” come to life when I made this photograph. Here is what I did….and that gives you a teachable moment opportunity instead of coming off like a snob

  • ajfudge

    I’m from a small town and my typical clients are not well-versed to photography jargons and they ALWAYS compliment my umbrellas. They’re really curious why I would use such things to shoot them. Sure they’ll sometimes say that my camera is “pretty” but my shoots are never awkward because my umbrellas never fail to impress. :)