How to deal with people telling you what you should be taking pictures of or other unsolicited advice?


Code Monkey 🐒
Nov 3, 2018
Pennsylvania, USA
At a family social event this past weekend I had a situation where somebody went out of their way to make a point of, and then nearly insist, on a few things that I should be taking pictures of. It was an extremely uncomfortable situation for me for a number of reasons (let's just say that in the real offline world that I'm an extreme introvert and leave it at that).

It got me thinking though that I've seen this scene at other public events, where somebody would take it upon themselves to give unsolicited advice to whomever was toting a camera. Weddings seem to be a popular event for guests approaching the photographer.

Our Camaraderie community has a wide range of photographers so I'm sure that some of you have been on the receiving end of this situation. How do you respond? Do you play along or give a curt but polite response? Has somebody's unsolicited advice helped? Have you missed shots because you were interrupted? Have you been the one giving out the unsolicited advice? What was the reasoning behind it?


Mar 23, 2015
Andrew Lossing
When you say a family social event, was this someone you know, or a stranger? It seems pretty weird for someone to push you that hard with a "suggestion" but folks be weird.


Top Veteran
Apr 18, 2014
Boston Burbs
Had it happen to me at a family event. Someone didn't like the way I was posing a group. I took the picture my way and their way, it was just easier.

Over the years I've had it happen at events I've been working. Most of the time I've gone along as long as it hasn't interfered with serving my client. I can't really remember a situation where that hasn't worked.
My "curt" response to strangers would be "Excuse me but you obviously don't realize I could care less about your opinion/advice".
And no, you couldn't call me introverted in any sense of the term.


Aug 29, 2018
Shenyang, China
People say and do stupid things all the time, so don't let that affect you too much. It'll be better if you can do as David suggested, or you can be like me, just say no or ignore them, you don't owe them an explanation.

That said, becoming a better photographer is how I gained more confidence and security for me to deal with those difficulties.


Oct 27, 2010
I’ve not had that situation before. I must look like I know what I am doing!!!

I guess how I would react would depend on a) how attractive/charismatic I found the person; b) if I thought they had a point; c) my relationship with the person and, probably more importantly, d) what side of the bed I got out of in the morning.

I’ve not given out advice to anyone unless asked but even then I wouldn’t force it upon them.


Zen Snapshooter
Jul 13, 2011
Lexington, Virginia
Had it happen to me at a family event. Someone didn't like the way I was posing a group. I took the picture my way and their way, it was just easier.

Over the years I've had it happen at events I've been working. Most of the time I've gone along as long as it hasn't interfered with serving my client. I can't really remember a situation where that hasn't worked.
Usually this.
Aug 27, 2013
Talent, Oregon (far from the madding crowd)
Miguel Tejada-Flores
I think if I were in a similar situation, my slightly-tongue-in-cheek response might be to raise my camera and take several random and candid 'snaps' of the person offering me advice. They say a picture is worth a thousand words .... possibly in this case, taking one or two 'pictures' might replace some (many or most of) the other words I would otherwise be tempted to utter.


Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
I've never had that happen.

Once or twice some people have told me how I should write code. I explained to them how computers work and that I wrote for absolute speed.


Feb 12, 2014
New Jersey, USA
The Bassman
I've been on both sides of that, but never saw the problem. When I'm making the suggestion (and it's always just that) it's because I've seen something at a party that I think the hosts/clients would want a picture of that the shooter didn’t notice. I’ve never had anyone push back. Similarly, if I’m shooting a party or something and someone points out an opportunity to me, it’s usually welcomed. After all, the point of photographing the event is to get the best images that the clients would like and perhaps buy from you.

On the other hand, I’ve never had anyone try and direct my shot setup. Nor would I do that to another.


Jan 28, 2014
Helsinki, Finland
Helping and pointing opportunity is another thing than directing the setup. I've done the first one and respectfully been given a opportunity. However, I always make my own picture. If someone tries to direct me, I smile and continue what I'm doing. Simple as that. Never had bigger problems, luckily


Trying to focus
Dec 25, 2010
The Netherlands
I guess I’d say “yes, that would be an option” and go on with my business. If they’d keep pressing I’d explain that I try to only capture images I see in my head. Images that are sometimes different than those by others. Which is fine by me.


Hall of Famer
Nov 29, 2010
Melbourne, Australia
I was in the middle of a photography gig a few years ago. I was busy shooting the event when a guy came up to me and asked if he could borrow my camera to take some photos of his own. In my best "bro" voice ("naw I can't do that, bro.."), I politely explained I was hired by the client to photograph the event. He actually got mad at me and tried to make an argument out of it. I politely declined and moved away.

Later in the night, I was at the edge of a dancing crowd shooting the band when I felt somebody repeatedly bump into me to throw me off balance. It was that same guy, he locked eyes with me and made it clear he was intentionally doing it, probably because he was pissed off at me.
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Super Moderator
Jun 20, 2012
Hood River, OR
Short version: what Bassman said… I’ll happily take or give a quick hint, if it helps. If I think the hint is garbage, I’ll smile/say “cool thanks” and just keep goin’ about my business. But nobody takes my camera from my hands without my permission, and nobody takes over a shoot I’m getting paid for. If some jagoff started bumping into me on the dance floor because I wouldn’t hand over my gear, I’d quietly knee cap him.

Recent examples: If someone’s giving me advice, it’s probably my wife, and she’s probably right. She’s got a great eye for composition and avoiding distracting backgrounds, and even at my best I can’t be in 2 places at once in a crowded room, so if she sees a good opportunity, I listen. I may disagree with her, but I listen.

On the other end of it, I did suggest a shot for a guy taking pictures of the same thing I was shooting, last week. Went to pick up my daughter from mountain biking camp out in the woods, and stumbled upon a big team tent, chairs, people, and free beer. A bike parts brand was doing a pop-up event. I happily took a beer. Daughter arrives with her friends, they climb up onto a big yellow gate arm, and pose for me. The brand’s “Instagram guy” came over with a compact super zoom, asked permission, and was snapping a few. I said “if you get low over here and shoot up, you can get their bikes in the shot.” He thanked me, shot that as well, and later I saw it on Instagram.

M. Valdemar

Aug 5, 2013
New York City
In the 1990's, I was an editor in chief of several magazines.

I had hired a fairly well known photographer to take photos of a model and some props in his studio. I was at the shoot, and I was getting annoyed because the photographer seemed to be lacking the "eye" for the shot I wanted. His exposures kept missing the shot and I could see I would not get what I wanted.

Normally, I would not interfere, but I was really getting frustrated, so I started to say things like "shoot now", or "take a bunch of shots so you catch that". I kept explaining the concept to him, but he did not "get it".

Understandably, the photographer got angry and basically told me off. He said "You hired me for this shoot so I will do it my way, stop telling me what to do".

Of course, he was right, but on the other hand, I could see that my magazine was paying a great deal of money for the shoot and we were not getting what we were after.

Finally, and after a couple more angry exchanges, I got the photographer to hand me the camera, and I shot off a roll of Kodachrome after posing the models as I wanted. This caused a rift between the photographer and myself that lasted a long time.

We ended up using my shot for the cover of the magazine and very little of what the photographer shot.

Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. I realize that interfering with a professional in the middle of a job is not kosher, but in the end it was my money at stake.
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Super Moderator
Jun 20, 2012
Hood River, OR
^ Fascinating. And a key difference there was that you HIRED him, to do a specific job. The original post was just some random person stepping in and "offering their vision" without being asked. I totally get you. Too much ego at stake for the photog there to be able to shrug and say "sure, tell me how you want this done." It would take a saint.

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