I have seen lots of internet blog posts giving what to expect if you date a photographer, etc, and they are partly true, but usually have too many over the top attention seeking parts which are not really that true.
I have met many photographers over the years, and have had the privilege of shooting with them, and I think I have a lot of insights into what makes them tick, and how they behave.
So here is my take on how a photographer becomes hard wired in their brain which then controls how they relate to people, how they interact with the world, what inspires them, and why you should try to understand them – because they do not behave like the rest of humanity and you should take some care not to make false assumptions about their behaviour and their intentions.
1. They are creatives looking for inspiration
Just because they might occasionally stare at you or other people, this is NOT a signal they want to date you or date someone else!
They are almost certainly looking at the photogenic features of the person, cheek bone structures, eye socket depth and shadows, nose shape, jawline, their expressions, how light is falling on their face, does a short-lit or broad-lit light work best for them, how about Rembrandt or Hollywood styles of lighting, or perhaps loop or side or even rear lighting might work best.
If they are sitting or standing, they may well be also looking at their pose to gain inspiration as to what looks great so they can use these ideas another time.
They tend to treat most people the same, and generally do not care much for what others think of them or their photography as they have learnt one of the truths in life – what others think of you is none of your business – unless you are trying to run a business.
2. They generally don’t participate in living life as others do
Photography is about observing, looking for inspirations, finding interesting vignettes and graphical elements and textures where others see nothing.
They are often characterised as nerds but they are actually participating in mindfulness 24×7 – except when they are on the computer.
They take time to seek beauty in even the simple things that the rest take for granted, and beauty is not so narrowly defined as society’s version but appreciative of flaws, individuality and uniqueness. They look for the good and bad even in places where there seems to be none.
They take time to try to understand themselves better, why are they drawn to certain aesthetics or imagery, what emotions do they feel and why? They understand that the meaning of life is just to be alive, nothing more, nothing less, and that there is no need to rush around trying to achieve the impossible and that it is pointless looking for perfection, as one will never be content in doing so.
They understand you don’t need a reason to do everything in life, you can just do it because it gives you enjoyment, inner peace and satisfaction with just being you.
They are keen observers of people and nature and understand that life isn’t what is given, but it’s what you create, what you overcome and what you achieve, and what you can remember that give it meaning.
They understand there are only a finite number of autumn colours one will live through, so make the most of each season as it comes. They understand they need to take opportunities as they come and to make opportunities where none seemed to exist.
They understand the simple truths, that if you do not ask, the answer will always be no, and that, to get a time critical shot, you may have to ask afterwards and seek forgiveness if it has caused issues.
Whilst they seek out unusual places to go, love travel, often love getting out in nature or the grotty urban areas where most avoid, they generally do not have the time nor the inclination to actually participate in life – sports, weird adrenaline-rush activities such as bungie jumping, or even sex is no longer a priority, for they are generally loners more akin to a buddhist monk’s ascetism than normal humanity.
When they are out and about they take time to soak up the ambience, take in the smells and sights, continually looking around for the little things that people miss, how light is falling on objects, how would the scene look through different eyes by using different lenses and pre-visualising the scene in black and white with contrasts or even in infra-red instead of just being restricted to natural visual characteristics.
Most people love social connections and being in crowds of people, many photographers find solace and inspiration in being alone, perhaps with a muse to inspire.
They understand that they must never stop dreaming, for dreams provide nourishment to the soul and inspiration for their creativity and motivation to keep on living when otherwise this may be lost.
And perhaps what motivates them is as Albert Camus wrote, “A person’s life purpose is nothing more than to rediscover, through the detours of art or love or passionate work, those one or two images in the presence of which his heart first opened.”
And just like the monks, they come to know that just being away from everything, in a remote place, they become one with nature and connected with everything.
They understand that what they see is their choice – do they wish to see the dark side or the light side?
They understand that art is not what you see it is what you can allow others to see, and that an artist sees what others only catch a glimpse of.
As they mature, they then come to understand that no one is truly free until they have no need to impress anybody.
Unfortunately, this means they are generally overweight and they need to be continually coerced into exercise.
3. They are obsessive compulsive hoarders addicted to everything photographic
Whether it be physical objects such as photographic accessories, cameras, lenses, lighting equipment, props, etc, or it be virtual objects such as inspirational imagery downloaded on the computer and neatly categorised.
No matter how much they are nagged to store their cameras and gear, it is not long before they are laid out all over the place so they can better access them.
4. They push boundaries to get that something different
This means they often will flaunt the law and enter into dilapidated buildings looking for unique imagery, and some will cross fences stating Private Property, although the wiser ones will seek permission first to avoid being shot.
Why enter without permission? Time and effort in getting permission is one factor, but another factor is that seeking permission places public liability issues on the property owner which he may well not want to be exposed to and thus inclined to decline permission – going onto the property without permission can thus be seen as a win-win scenario – avoiding the legal responsibilities for the owner, and risks being placed on the photographer who then manages these risks. However, this may expose the photographer to risks he is not aware such as asbestos, deep shafts, etc.
Photographers view the human body as artists have done so for millennia, the nude human form is not regarded as sexual, evil or criminal but as a graphic design subject from which aesthetics can be created from their natural curves and textures which interplay with the environment and light and, just as importantly, the shadows. Hence many will have their nude models posed anywhere that they can get away with and will allow a creative outcome, be it at the top of a cliff, in dilapidated buildings, on rural properties, in the city – the more unusual, the better for the photographer and model.
5. Travel and events are ALL about the photographic opportunities.
Travel destinations and timing of travel will generally be primarily determined according to photographic opportunities and not romantic or other ideals of travel.
Airline cabin baggage will be primarily camera gear and not books to read on the way.
6. They generally hate sunny days and love to get out in the weather.
Unlike the rest of the world, if they wake up to a sunny day, they groan and go back to bed.
Sunny days make for boring photos in general.
Photographers love the moodiness and ambience of cloudy days and inclement weather – some even go to extremes to chase storms.
7. When night falls, it is not time for a romantic interlude in front of the fire
No, it is time to get out and take more photos, or if this is not possible then it is time to post-process photos, and if there are none to post-process, then there is always time to search the web for inspiration.
They may not find as much time as you would like for romance, but the upside is, they will not judge you harshly for your supposed beauty flaws, and will love you for how you are, as they have had the privilege of seeing behind the curtains, and discovered that unlike the deceptions of society’s portrayal of women in the media, very few women indeed have flawless beauty without the help of the photographer and Photoshop. Just accept that they may be too honest if you ask them about your flaws.
8. They are very pragmatic in how they spend their money.
If there is spare cash it will not be spent on silly, sentimental objects which will only clutter the house.
They will not waste it on fancy, expensive cars or houses – they do not need these for status as they are generally loners who do not care about such things.
No, they will spend it on yet another lens or backpack, or perhaps even a tent if they a really serious about getting back into nature for their imagery.
And if they have deluded themselves or have finally come to the realisation that they are happy for the time being with what gear they have, they will spend the spare cash on another travel adventure.
So don’t expect roses, unless they can be also used as a prop on a shoot that week.
9. They will generally not talk to anyone that compliments their images by saying they must have a great camera
This is a major insult to their photographic skills akin to telling a great cook they must have a great oven, or a concert pianist they must have a great piano.
But don’t worry, you won’t have the camera thrown at you, as the photographer is so used to hearing this that they wouldn’t dare risk their precious camera on something that should not exist – someone who does not understand the creative process.
They will also avoid newbies who ask them what camera to buy so they can take great pics too.
The exception to this may be other photographers who are envious of their gear, but that is another story, and one that the more mature Buddhist photographer monk will disregard as being a sign of a wannabe who is far too engrossed in gear acquisition rather than image creation, or perhaps is just trying to gain leverage into the photographer’s knowledge base and photographic secrets.
10. They will only photograph what they want to photograph.
Your cousin is needing a photographer at her wedding to help her out – forget it, it is NOT going to happen unless the photographer is actually a wedding photographer and will actually be remunerated.
Everyone else knows how stressful such an assignment is – all risk and almost no gain, and hours wasted photoshopping on imagery they don’t really care about.
The above does not apply to all photographers and may not even apply to me!! But if you want steretypical internet meme material then there is a lot here to feed you.
Many are extremely social creatives who may not even understand much of the technical and theoretical aspects of photography, let alone their gear.
Many just use photography as a medium to connect with others, or just to ensure their precious memories are able to be retrieved later.