Handling a Pro Photog - A rant/question
Hey all, I wasn't sure the best area to put this and I didn't want to put in the pro forum since I'm not a pro, just a guy learning photography. I'll give a little background to better understand my dilemma/problem..

I was shooting some pics recently of my family at my alma mater. The campus is nestled right in the city of Houston (private university) and b/c of it's expanse of green space (grass, trees, etc) and impressive architecture, it's a fairly popular spot for shooting wedding photos, quinceneras (sp?, it's a Mexican tradition for when a girl turns 15, coming of age type thing I guess, but it seems liek a big deal), etc. One part of the campus in particular is very popular for it's architecture, columns and great background (you can see some of it on my flickr site). I've never run into an issue before but I dont' go out and shoot on campus too often. My wife and daughter volunteered to be models for me so I took them up on it on a beautiful afternoon!.

On this particular day, I did have an issue w/ a professional photographer and my particular question revolves on how to best handle this type of situation. The event that set me off was a culmination of things having to do with this particular photographer. When I first got to campus, I wanted to get a pic of my models sitting on a large expanse of grass with the academic quad in background (very nice building). However, I couldn't b/c the photog and the girl/her fam that he was shooting had illegally parked right smack in the middle of the "main arch", makign any shot including it impossible. However, I kept quiet and figured I could get this at another time of the day when we were leaving. I walk in and find all the "prime" spots taken by this photog either by himself actually shooting pics or his equipment (lighting, etc).

Instead, I posed my family in a less "prime" or optimal spot to take some pics. There are prob. just a couple of good spots to take pics and they (the pro and his posse) had taken all of the best spots. What really angered me was that they were too lazy to park legally and walk a short distance so they took up one great spot by their cars! Anyway, I find an area where I can shoot. Not 5 minutes into my shoot, I guess the photog moved locations and started whistling, didn't know it was at me at first.

At this point, I lost it. If he would have asked nicely, I probably would have moved over and maybe been a little annoyed, but nonetheless I would have moved over and not said much. But the fact he said that caused me to yell back and "confront" him (non-violently or threateningly of course) about the fact that he is taking all of the spots to shoot either by his vehicles, his equipment, or the spot he is actually shooting in. I told him that this was NOT his studio, I'm not his employee and he doesn't tell me to move. I told him that this was my alma mater, I have a right to be there, and told him I would be much more willing to work with him if he would free up areas he's not moving. It didn't go anywhere.

He said he did and asked if I had one. I told him if he had a permit, he would probably realize that I, as a non-commercial photograher do not need a permit from the University as per their policy. I then told him that I felt he was being unreasonable and I was going to call the campus police to help straighten this matter out and if I am wrong and he has complete jurisdiction over this site via permit or policy, I would apologize and step aside. I was very angry, so I stepped aside (also my daughter, being 5, was exploring other parts so I went after her). I guess his assistant spoke to my wife and was really nice and apologized for his boss' behavior and that they would work around me.

Anyway, b/c of that and also I really didn't want to ruin the girl's photo shoot either, I decided to back off and just go somewhere else. Unfortunately, it was largely wasted time as I didn't get to capture the shoots I really wanted. it was wasted in terms of photography, but the fam had a great time exploring the school and buildings, so it wasn't a complete loss..

If you've read this far, thank you. I'm sorry for the verbosity of this post, but I wanted to give a little background and get advice/opinions on how to best handle this. My opinion is this: just b/c someone is a pro, if they are in a space outside their studio and don't have the complete rights over that land (say if they rented out the whole space), I think it's unreasonable to expect everyone else to bow down to your wishes. I'm a reasonable guy though and a budding photographer (i'll prob. never be a commercial/pro though) and I understand people have to make a living and do a job and I'm willing to work around people. I think if he hadn't taken over all of the good spots, things would have played out differently.

How would you guys have handled this? I felt I had to balance between a stand-off with the photog and totally ruining the girl's shoot. At that point, if it was just the photog, say taking arch photos, I prob. wouldn't have moved. Any advice? Shoudl I have demanded he move his cars and equipment so I could shoot in the other areas? I don't know why some people think they own a place. Thanks in advance!.

Just trying to learn.


Comments (18)

PS - I hope not to get flamed by the pros out there. But if I am in the wrong, I would like to hear why. From my point of view, I tried my best to accomodate, but maybe I'm being too biased since it happened to me..

Just trying to learn.


Comment #1

You are asking the wrong people. Go back to Rice and talk to the security department. Ask them what the photography permit allows the pro to do. He may have been correct? I don't know....

I too have had conflicts with pros. They can be REAL jerks!.

Charlie DavisNikon 5700 & Sony R1HomePage: http://www.1derful.infoBridge Blog:

Comment #2

In every field there are good and bad; there are people with big egos who think the world revolves around them. Sounds like you met one of those..

Recently at my niece's wedding, the pro photographer shooting the wedding always waited for me to finish a shot, as I did for her. I tried to be considerate because she was getting paid for her work; I was shooting for fun. Pros and amateurs can work together if both are considerate of one another...

Comment #3

Thanks for the replies. I actually found Rice's policies online regarding photo shoots. I'm fairly certain he didn't have a permit to shoot or he wasn't following the rules. I read that you have to register, and you are only allotted one continuous hour of shoot time max and the blocks are only on the hour. Ie, have to start at 4, 5, 6PM, etc. Can't start at 4:30PM for instance, have to reserve time on the hour and only one hour max.

I think I'll follow up with their security and photog dept and tell them about my problems so maybe they can work on enforcing the rules. I agree, everyone can work together. Looking at the policy site, it does make specific mention about certain policies in place b/c it was being abused and the policies are in place so as to continue to make the university available for professional photo shoots. But yeah, I'm very willing to work around someone getting paid, I understand they have a job to do, but the only issue I had was that they had taken up every place that was desirable to shoot, even when they weren't using it. So I'll do that..

I guess people can just be jerks. I remembered about a time years ago when my sis was still in high school, she was at a cheerleading competition and I went there along w/ my fam. After the girls did their routine, their was a pro photog who was taking the group shot. He was very testy and he was getting mad about parents snapping pics while he was taking his. I guess the other people's flash was screwing with his photo which is completely understandable. But you could just feel in the air that something was going to happen.

My mom had her film SLR and I was watching to see if anyone would snap a pic when he did and sure enough some guy did. The photog flipped out and literally got in my mom's face (even though she was honoring his request and didn't snap a pic). It became a little physical between me and the photog. Of course, the coward who snapped the pic walked away. I was going to tell the photog who actually did it but I didn't b/c the guy just flipped out.

Again, I understood his request, but he blamed the wrong person and his actions were way too aggressive anyway to do that to a 50 year old woman. He did send us a letter of apology that seemed sincere, I could kind of understand his frustration as I was sure he was dealing with parents snapping pics while he was taking his all day. He just got aggressive with the wrong person, someone who was following his request and it was prob. over the line anyway. I guess people can get stressed and flip out.Just trying to learn.


Comment #4

It is important not to let something like this spoil your day. They have no more right to be there taking photos than yourself unless specially commissioned by the University. Try to understand that pros need to be assertive in order to get the kind of shots people are happy to pay for. If you think one of them is hogging the best site for an unreasonable amount of time or asks you to move in a bumptious manner you need to say something like: "We will be back here to set up our shot in 15 minutes, that will be OK won't it?" If when you return you still can't take the shot, that's the time for a resonable argument..

John.Please visit me at:

Comment #5

Just please, please, please remember. Not every pro is like that..

I'm a photographer. Period. Yes, I work full-time as a photog, but I am just a photog., like every other photog. I always share the space with everyone else. At weddings, sporting events, etc. I always let the friends and family have the time to get their shots, then when I ask if everyone is done, I take mine.Scott W.


'You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day and you only get so many days on the planet. A good photographer does the math and doesn't waste either.'... The Late Galen Rowell..

Comment #6

Thanks again! I agree that most photogs are not like that. I think it's more to do with "people" rather than the chosen profession. These two guys could have very well been an lawyer, police man, or what not and probably would have the same attitude. I run into it all the time in my line of work, but it manifests differently..

Probably were it comes from, I know photogs have to be somewhat aggressive and probably when you are in the "heat" of the work, you may take it too far or not be fair since you are workign against time, light changing, etc. I sort of know how it is. It does get frustrating when you are trying to get a shot in and someone walks in front or is in the way. I'm not a pro and not as much of a "perfectionist" since my pay is zero, I am only competing against myself. Perfect example, on same outing, I have these perfect pics of my wife and daughter: except someone happened to walk behind them. I remember seeing him but don't remember capturing him, that's the novice in me..

I think this situation would have played better if I would have asked them when I first arrived to move their vehicles, I could have spent a good amount of time out there. That kind of started the downhill thing, I was a little perturbed b/c of that, then they were in a spot I really wanted to get to, I went to another spot and they had lighting set up so I couldn't get what I wanted, so I finally went to prob the least desirable spot, still nice, but not quite what I wanted. Next time, I'll probably approach first before people get upset or angry, usually that's the best way to handle things and when people are more reasonable..

Just trying to learn.


Comment #7

I'm a native Houstonian (although I moved away a couple of years ago). I've shot on the Rice Campus as well, but have not encountered anything so rude..

Threatening to call the campus cops was probably your best move as that undoubtedly got the photogs attention..

As for dealing with prima donnas like that in public, about all you can do is explain that polite people can share resources. And if he doesn't want to cooperate, you can make his life there just as unpleasant as he's making yours..

Don't for a second yield your ground just because he's a "pro" photographer. That doesn't mean squat where manners are concerned..

When I'm shooting a wedding, for instance, I have no problem with guests shooting along side me even for the formals. I have but one demand: Let me shoot the setup first, uninterrupted. Then the guest can get their shot. It adds less than a minute to the setup, even if several guests are snapping away. (Of course, my slave-flashes are probably wrecking their exposures, but that's their problem .

I am always very polite to guests and other people and always very aware when someone in public is framing a shot so that I do not interfere. I just wish more people were more aware of their surroundings in all aspects of life: driving, pushing a shopping cart, walking on a busy sidewalk, etc. Alas, it's often not to be..

Dpreview & pbase supporter

Comment #8

Somehow, I don't reckon this pro will be in business for long if they keep up the attitude..

When you are with a client, it's not only how you deal with your client, but how you deal with those around you that counts. If you are professional, polite and businesslike to all those around you, generally you get treated the same way back, and you will go up in esteem in the eyes of the client. If you treat the client like royalty and everyone else like dirt, some clients may love this, but the rest will think you a toadying creep..

Now, it may be that this particular photographer had a bad day, had been plagued by people interrupting the work, playing with his gear and so on... Tough. I've had people who magically appear in a location I have selected for a shoot and sometimes it can be extremely frustrating, especially when you are under time pressures. However, every time this has happened, I've either found a nearby secondary location or approached the 'interloper' EXTREMELY politely and asked if they could move on... and nine times out of ten, they do (or rather, nine times out of ten they move a little then hang round for a few minutes and ask a few photography-related questions, or do the "it's not raining" joke when I put up an umbrella). So far, though, I have never yet 'lost my rag' with someone in public, be it a client, an assistant, a journalist (although I got close), a PR (got even closer that time) or a civilian..

You name it, I've broken it...

Comment #9

First off, this guy was not a PRofessional..

Learn now, there are Professional Photographers (few and getting thinner every year) then there are GWC's. (Guy's with Camera's)..

Probably well over 90% of the people you see in the phonebook..

As for your actions, showed alot more restaint than I expect I would have. When I want to do something, and can'tt, because of some other idiots inconsiderate actions, I tend to get mad, confrontational & prone to violence. In that order..

I've a much longer fuse now, in my middle years, than in my youth, but it's still far too short. I would've called the Campus Police, bare minimum. If for no other reason than the one who calls first, usually does not get arrested..

Bottom line, you had no obligation to insure that this person can earn an income..

Dave'When the light and composition are strong, nobodynotices things like resolution or pincushion distortion'Gary Friedman..

Comment #10

I just wanted to add my two cents that I think you did exactly the right thing. You were very nice about him being rude (by parking and having equipment setup). You moved around him as you could. When he pushed his luck further, you explained to him the legal issues, as well as politeness issues. Even though you were totally in the right, you were even nice enough to step aside once you had explained that you were right..

I think the world needs more people like you, and less people like him..

I usually have way more problems with normal tourists than pro photogs. I do my best to step out of peoples' shots, whether they're pro or not. I can't believe how rude some people are..

Take for example some sort of statue, a common thing to photograph. So many times I've seen a family take photos of kids next to the statue, with other people waiting around for them to step aside. After the shots, the family just sits there in front of the statue. I'm not talking about sitting on a bench in front, or sitting on a ledge. no, I mean just standing there for no reason. There can be six people with cameras, waiting for their turn, and they don't seem to care.


Comment #11

Firstly, congratulations on your restraint in that situation!.

I can't believe the guy left his bags and equipment around the place, presumably to 'reserve' the best shooting positions. Depends on how far away from him these spots were but what if someone had stolen them!?.

As a minimum, I would have moved his gear a couple of metres out of the way of my shots. If he complained I would have explained in the nicest possible way 'that he wasn't using that space at that time, I will be gone in 2 minutes. I'm sure you can survive without it being here for that long.'.

If he got narky about it, a call to campus security about 'bags left lying around' would have seen them moved pronto, permit or not!.

I must say the threat of terrorism in the UK/London has had a slight benefit in that selfish people don't just leave bags blocking doorways/hallways, on the underground, etc any more for fear of having them called in as a 'suspicious packages' and taken away and destroyed, or turfed off a train if no-one owns up to them immediately when the carriage-load of people is asked. The embarrasment of having security called is usually enough to deter rude people from leaving bags lying around, even if the person is there and get their bag straight back..

Apparently your guy had no fear that his bags would go 'walkies'!.


Comment #12

I also commend you on your restraint. It seems to me that there is a legally correct answer to this situation altho I could only guess it might be something along the lines of - if the property is open to the public and both of you entered the property as members of the public (rather than by some other specific invitation) you would have equal rights to act within the policies of the University. So the next question is how would you enforce your rights. I agree that the campus police would be the logical place to turn for this info...

Comment #13

Thanks for the kind words! I did read over the university's policy so next time it happens (hopefully it won't!!) I'll be armed with knowledge. From the university's site, it did seem to give the impression that photogs needed to be mindful of the policies in order to keep the campus opened to commercial photography, so I suspect they might have had problems in the past. Its a private university so they can very well have a closed campus, but luckily their policies are to keep it an opened campus for people to come and see. The architecture and campus is incredible so I hope they do keep it opened for photography b/c it's such a great backdrop..

Yeah my level of confrontation/aggression varies, depends on the day you catch me on. haha. I've mellowed out a lot since I've gotten a little older (in early 30's). If this happened a few years back, there probably would have been a much bigger confrontation. Also being with my young daughter keeps me motivated to show some calm and patience, at least to a degree, don't want ot raise a doormat either! Its a balance of cooperation and asserting your rights as well, so it's one I want to show her..

I didn't think about the bags being left getting stolen! He did have at least one assistant and maybe another who might have been watching them, but you never know. I did see them unattended at one point when I was looking for a place to shoot. very trusting! hahaha. digirob - you prob know exactly where I was trying to shoot being that you are a native houstonian and shot htere..

Here is a pic I got that day. I'm a beginner and wasn't completely happy with how I did, unfortunately my focus seemed off on too many pics, I need to watch that. Also, I may need a calibrator for my monitor b/c these look different on my laptop than when I postprocessed them. Enjoy and any C&C welcome!.

Wife & Daughter in academic quad.

Just trying to learn.


Comment #14

Image didn't work before, here is my second try:.

Wife & Daughter in Academic Quad - I think the pic is crooked and i'm not sure if I have the white balance right on this one. It looked right on monitor at home, but not on my work laptop..

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

Just trying to learn.


Comment #15

I was watching a wedding and a tourist kept hopping in front of the photographer who was shooting the wedding. He would get the bride and groom ready and, pop, in would come the tourist. They had rented a horse-drawn carriage and had to get in it twice because the first time, the hired photographer got a shot of the tourist's tush. Finally he asked her to stay out of the way and she screamed, "I have as much right to be here as you do.".

I went up and said, "He was hired, he's trying to earn a living, and that means he's entitled to a bit of consideration from you." The tourist stomped off which was fine..

I do defer to pros because they're feeding their family and I'm there for pleasure. They're also doing a job I couldn't do. I took some pictures of a friend at his request and he said, "You're pictures make me look old.".

I said, "It's not the pictures or the camera. You're old. You look old." If I'd been a pro I'd have been out of work..

I took another set of pictures at a friends request and the mother said, "These pictures make me look fat.".

I was a little more politic and said, "Imagine that."Patrick T. KellyOaxaca, Mexico..

Comment #16

This has nothing to do with being a pro photographer and everything to do with being a selfish jerk. A true professional wouldn't behave that way...

Comment #17

Steve Balcombe wrote:.

This has nothing to do with being a pro photographer and everythingto do with being a selfish jerk. A true professional wouldn't behavethat way..

One worth his salt wouldn't..

I've met a few really wonderful photographers. Especially those who know how to politely take charge of a situation. For exsmple: I knew a wedding photographer that would start out by giving a little speech, telling everyone that his slave strobes would ruin everyone's snapshots and their flashes would mess up his shots, and asked everyone to please wait until after he took his shots, explaining that he would then switch off his strobes and let everyone else get their photos before he repositioned the bride and groom for his next shot. It maybe took him 10 or 15 minutes more time, but it worked out very well... no family or guests getting in the way, and all the guests got to take professionaly posed shots of the bride and groom... they even lined up and took turns, and then thanked the photographer for being so considerate (some were impressed enough to ask him for his business card too)...

Comment #18

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This question was taken from a support group/message board and re-posted here so others can learn from it.


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