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Business / Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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Being Told What to Photograph
Old 08-08-2015   #1
JChrome
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Being Told What to Photograph

Let's say your sister in-law comes into town and tells you that you have been nominated to photograph her 7 year old daughter in a white dress with tulle around the city of NYC.

How would you feel?

Also, it may be important to note that this sister in-law is very interested in her daughter's beauty and puts her into pageants and such... So the intent of the photography is relatively clear.
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Old 08-08-2015   #2
John E Earley
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I get the feeling you aren't interested in photographing the "princess."
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Old 08-08-2015   #3
Santtu Määttänen
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With that intent, I wouldn't do it. But that's just my priorities and principles talking. Otherwise, it would depend on contract and money involved
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Old 08-08-2015   #4
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Depends on your relationship.
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Old 08-08-2015   #5
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"I just don't do that sort of thing I would make a mess of it." Send it as a text message.
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Old 08-08-2015   #6
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Bonus: you have at least one family member who knows that having a cell phone doesn't mean one is a Photographer.

Now she needs to learn about specialization. Just have her look at your blog, and ask her if that's what she had in mind, because it's what you do. Best guess is that she doesn't want her daughter looking like a camping stove left with the garbage on the curb :-)

Or do what photomoof said. When people ask me to do weddings, I just politely respond "I don't want you to hate me."
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Old 08-08-2015   #7
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When my granddaughter got married I told her that that isn't the type of photography I do and that I'm not good at it and to get someone who was because she deserved better than what I would be able to do. She accepted that.
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Old 08-08-2015   #8
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Accept it as a challenge! God knows what you will be able to achieve. And if it's a catastrophe (but how could it be?) she will never ask for your 'help' again .

I see no downside.

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Never Miss an Opportunity
Old 08-08-2015   #9
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Never Miss an Opportunity

Best thing that could happen: you get some cracker shots.

Next best thing: You have a bad shoot and they go away.

Most uncomfortable thing: they like what you do and ask you to volunteer forever. (what happens to me)
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Old 08-08-2015   #10
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Go ahead and do it. Sounds better than mowing the lawn.
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Old 08-08-2015   #11
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is your sister in-law a supporter of your photography work? does she take interest in it?

if so, i'd take it as a compliment and make some nice portraits for her.

if she has no interest in your work and is simply looking for cheap (family-discount) portraits, i'd politely decline.
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Old 08-08-2015   #12
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I would have fun making the photos.
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Old 08-08-2015   #13
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Seeing as how you appear to strictly shoot film, if you're going to do it, and on film, stipulate that she is to cover your film and processing costs. I would guess many people now equate photography with digital, which in their minds means no consumables costs (of course there are costs)... So they assume they'll just be using you for your 'free' time.

In general, whether to do this or not, IMO, would boil down a lot to your spouse. How will it affect your relationship with her? Also, what is the relationship with the SIL in respect to how you use each other for favors? Do you owe her for anything, like their hospitality during past visits to their place, etc.?

Maybe also stipulate that if you're going to do images in the style she wants/likes, that you also get to do images in the style you like. I could see this being rather interesting with the various settings NYC offers... Whether or not a 7-year-old will like this and play along is another matter.

FWIW, my GF has nominated me for a variety of baby, engagement and portrait shoots of her friends, etc. I go along with it since it usually means not having to spend actual cash on costly gifts (I am strictly a digital photographer, so no film/processing costs). Yes, sometimes the gifts would be an easier out, but the photos are so much more personalized than anything that can be bought off the shelf.
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Old 08-08-2015   #14
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"No." is a complete sentence...or if you want to be a little more polite..."No, thank you."
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Old 08-08-2015   #15
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Just because you shoot a photo doesn't mean she gets it. I'd probably try to decline, tell her that it isn't your subject matter. If she's pushy, consider doing it but focus on the shot of the kid being a kid. Give the mother the shots you think are good ones and hold on to them.

Who knows - 15 years from now that kid may want some innocent, normal shots of their childhood and it sounds like the parent may not be the type to keep those photos around.
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Old 08-08-2015   #16
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I only do nudes...
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Old 08-08-2015   #17
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"Thank you for asking but no. I don't do that sort of photography."

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Old 08-08-2015   #18
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I don't do weddings or portraits. I have made exceptions to my 'no weddings' stance twice in recent years for a couple of my cousins who really, truly couldn't afford to hire photographers. I have a good relationship with both of them, so I was happy to help, and they were very appreciative of my help.

There are others in my family who try to get free work for me, even though they can afford to pay someone, and I turn them down. Partly because they have plenty of money and partly because they're assholes who would nitpick the photos to death and bitch about them till they die. Hell, NO!
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Old 08-08-2015   #19
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think the alternative. she try snapping the photos with a samsung or iphone. I'd do it.

as Frank mentioned, depends relationship as well.
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Old 08-08-2015   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zauhar View Post
Accept it as a challenge! God knows what you will be able to achieve. And if it's a catastrophe (but how could it be?) she will never ask for your 'help' again .

I see no downside.

Randy
+1 to what Randy said. Pushing the boundaries is how to learn. Accept the challenge and amaze yourself !
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Old 08-08-2015   #21
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I've noticed people get manipulative when they're trying to get you to take pictures for them. Trying to manipulate me into it is a dealbreaker. I tell them it's more trouble then I want to bother with.

This person doesn't simply ask you. She comes to you with a decision made for you, by others (nominated implies multiple voters), who you would presumably upset if you refused.
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Old 08-08-2015   #22
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It should be about the girl, not her mom. Take the challenge on the premise that the mom does not come along to stage manage. 7 year olds like dressing up and being the center of attention. They don't like their mom hovering, telling them where to sit or stand. If you can make it a fun adventure around town for her the pictures will turn out fine.
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Old 08-08-2015   #23
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I can understand your feeling. Yesterday my wife came home & told me about the wonderful opportunity I have before me to photograph a Semi-Pro football game Saturday afternoon (today).She couldn't understand that my lenses aren't the right focal length to grab the type of shots I'd hope to get. My longest lens is a 135mm. Plus I shoot film & don't even own a DSLR. The cost of processing the film would be on me & really my heart had never been into shooting a football game. Not soccer but American football.
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Old 08-08-2015   #24
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Well if the obnoxious little **** is gonna pull on your nose and kick you in the shins then I'd take a pass as well.
More than likely the child is not the devil's spawn but rather a sweet kid with an overbearing mother. No mom on the photo shoot. Get to know your subject, forget what her mom thinks, take photos.
Let us know if you get anything.
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Being told what to do...
Old 08-08-2015   #25
David Hughes
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Being told what to do...

Hi,

As I see it, anyone with a sister-in-law must have a wife and so the experience shouldn't be new, nor the solution; meaning say "yes dear" and walk off muttering...

Regards, David

PS Or as has been said, see it as a challenge.
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Old 08-08-2015   #26
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Getting told what to photograph is what I do for a living. Of course I get paid for it, and my extended family pays me for family portraits, at a discount from my normal fee. They know and appreciate that this is what I do for a living.
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Old 08-08-2015   #27
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I'll feel fantastic. Someone asks me to take pictures. WOOOOW!
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Old 08-08-2015   #28
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Well, Mr Chrome, I see a lot of people here who say they would be jumping at such an opportunity. It seems that your next job is to start sending personal messages to see if any of them live in NYC and are available on the desired day.
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Old 08-08-2015   #29
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It depends on the relationship and the vibe I had with the S-in-law. If they truly like the way I photograph and keep it casual and fun, sure...why not. However, if I'm getting bossed around and they expect too much (unrealistic expectations), then hell no.

I've done this stuff before and had fun. The person was truly happy and I learned that I could photograph something I generally never photograph (exercise / dancing). Of course, they do not think about the time you gave them, but ....sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do for (extended) family. Also, they will expect to see every photo and will not understand the concept of editing down to get the best.

However, if you're not confident in your skills, and it causes you anxiety, then politely declining isn't a bad option (and I mean this in a positive way).
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Old 08-08-2015   #30
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I wouldn't like it, and would probably say, "I'm just not much of a people photographer. If you need a picture of a steam locomotive, let me know."
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Old 08-08-2015   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JChrome View Post
Let's say your sister in-law comes into town and tells you that you have been nominated to photograph her 7 year old daughter in a white dress with tulle around the city of NYC.

How would you feel?

Also, it may be important to note that this sister in-law is very interested in her daughter's beauty and puts her into pageants and such... So the intent of the photography is relatively clear.
Just say "No". I've done it and "no" works just fine.
Let people get as pi$$ed off as much as they desire.
So what.

(Obviously I have a problem with people taking me for granted and assuming that my time and work are at their disposal).
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Old 08-08-2015   #32
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Ha! I see nothing BUT downsides. Never accept a challenge. Life is too short and in-laws are not wanting a challenge performance.

Like Chris, I no longer do weddings or portraits. Same reasons. I also broke my own rules to help a friend who could no longer afford an expensive wedding, twice!!! I am glad I did but it is a lot of work with a lot of risk.

I politely decline similar requests.
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Old 08-08-2015   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
I'll feel fantastic. Someone asks me to take pictures. WOOOOW!
haha

Hey, she's only 7, how long can she last?

If you are burnt out with photography, then pass. If you have gear you like and enjoy shooting it, why not?

As to the beauty obsession, potentially very interesting aspect.
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Old 08-08-2015   #34
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I'd be petrified.
In your shoes, I'd make a recommendation rather than taking it on myself.

In my case, my wife takes excellently interesting people portraits. I on the other hand take pictures of unconventional landscapes and "cityscapes", and old, dilapidated stuff.
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Old 08-08-2015   #35
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Quote:
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Hi,

As I see it, anyone with a sister-in-law must have a wife

Wouldn't a married brother create the contingency as well?
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Old 08-08-2015   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
Hi,

As I see it, anyone with a sister-in-law must have a wife...
It does not work that way, my brother has provided me with two sisters in law.

No wife ...
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Old 08-08-2015   #37
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Quote:
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Or do what photomoof said. When people ask me to do weddings, I just politely respond "I don't want you to hate me."
That's usually my line
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Old 08-08-2015   #38
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From the way you portray this I don't feel a lot of love.

A simple no would be enough for me.
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Old 08-08-2015   #39
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It's all very subjective, and depends how you really feel about it.

I work in a hotel and some photos they take are strict and not my kinda thing, but I have to follow rules...and this I why I have MY photography, and then there's photography for other people......
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Old 08-08-2015   #40
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....."sorry dear sis, but all my gear is being serviced and repaired, would have loved to..maybe next time"
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