Talented Photographers Are 99% A Pain In The Ass To Work With

- - Working

From the wish I’d said it category:

“It is no surprise that talented photographers are 99% pain in the ass to work with. They have strong opinions, are stubborn, reckless, and most of the time have an extremely bad character. But that is simply because they are constantly challenged by a reality that annoys them. Like being assaulted by mosquitoes, all the time. They don’t have an attitude problem, it’s the world that lacks one.” — From that goddam Bohemian.

My favorite was always when the editor would come stomping into my office all up in arms because the photographer had made all kinds of unreasonable demands on the writer and/or the subject. And, at first I was concerned but then I’d investigate and maybe the subject wasn’t told there would be a photo shoot (a magazine is pictures, words and design you want to write a book go somewhere else) or possibly the writer expected a photographer to follow in their shadows (we need time with the subject to make great pictures) and more likely it’s because creative people are difficult and demanding and it’s not like your writer isn’t a neurotic basket case on deadline, the photo shoot is our deadline. Get over it.

There Are 74 Comments On This Article.

  1. If you’re an Ass then you’re a Ass, period. No excuse. I know many talented photographers who aren’t Asses. I just think that once people become big, they forget how to treat other people.

    • @Quavondo,

      Wow. Miss the point(s) much? Did you read the linked blog post? Your statement is very after school special like.

      • @Anthony, Yes I read the blog. Ideas like this perpetuates the rudeness that I see around me. A true photographer always goes above and beyond to capture “the image”, but there are ways to do this without being an Ass. It starts with communication and treating people with respect.

        I know photographers who don’t follow guidelines, think they’re the shit, do their spin on the assignment, and it ends up badly.

        When I’m working, my lines of communication are wide open. Clients and I are in dialog the entire time thus creating trust, comfort, and ideas are constantly flying around to produce the art.

  2. I’m nice to everyone, clients etc…and I tell my assts to be the same. If you’re cool, you’d be surprised how receptive clients are to changes etc…just sayin’! I have a feeling that guys like Terry are pretty chill to work with, anyone know?

  3. People, people. RTFA.

    ‘Photographers are 99% a pain in the ass to work with’ is just the opinion of those who either a) are 1 of the 20 cooks (sous-chefs, really) in a kitchen on a photo shoot, all of whom have their own agenda, or b) too lacking of creative spirit to appreciate a talented photographer’s worldview. He’s explaining why that is a good thing.

    Most of the photographers I know are, in person, really nice, interesting people. There is a huge difference between being a jerk, and being tough to work with. If you’re a jerk just because its in your nature, you will crash and burn.

    • @Mason, Bullshit…Annie L. is a fucking jerk…she hasn’t crashed?And i know plenty more…What happens is this..A person has the “ASSHOLE” gene to begin with…add a cup of fame and many teaspoons of Money,Tons of pressure…u get Big asshole!

      • @Dumbass,

        Do you know Annie personally? Do you have dinner with her family? Or were you just on the receiving end of her on-set wrath?

  4. I often find in all areas of life that ‘Assholes’ is often a description that certain people use to describe people who are secure in who they are, what they do, and with people who have confidence. It’s often misconstrued as arrogance or ‘being difficult’ when someone knows what they want, need or think should happen on a job. Of course manners are paramount, but often in the fast paced action of a critical shoot there is no time or need for being polite for the sake of it, and certainly not sycophantic. Leave the emotion and egos out of it and get the job done.

  5. Wow! I followed the link and read a description of myself.

    Sadly people think photographers just hold this thing up to their faces and push a button — easy.

    If this were easy, everyone would do it. I think it takes a special kind of a person to do that thing we love doing. And sometimes, we need to assert ourselves as we rage against mediocrity.

  6. Oh please! The day of the prima donna ended back in the 80’s. I can’t believe that the Bohemian wrote “So, next time you hire a photographer, make sure he/she is a trouble maker. Chances are, they will also be very talented.” What he seems to be missing is the reason great photographers want to step outside of the parameters given to them is THEY WANT TO MAKE A GREAT PHOTO, and not something that has been done already, and not because they want to be difficult. These are creative people, not troublemakers, and you don’t have to be difficult to be creative. The best photographers are the ones that are creative, and can get their own viewpoint across without being assholes. Who wants to continue working with someone who is 99% a pain in the ass?

  7. There are talented people that are a pain and others equally as talented that produce brilliant work without being a head case. I see no need to glorify bad behavior. It’s possible to be talented and professional.

  8. hmmmm, appareantly, the point went wizzing right over some people’s heads. it’s a really simple equation,

    asshole = anti status quo.

    • if more photographers were assholes, as described in the blog, perhaps we wouldn’t see so much work that all looks the same.

  9. From where I sit on the commercial side of shooting, the easier you are to communicate with, the better the work is. And, if repeat business means anything to you, the cooler you are to me, the creative team, acct people and clients, the better your chance to be rehired. I don’t spend weeks searching for the right shooter and drop big budgets on photographers that have attitudes.
    There is too much at stake for the client and the agency to have a shooter go rogue. I’ve had situations where creatives and photogs don’t see eye to eye, that’s fine and we make an effort to take every opinion into consideration and see if it works. But if you want to throw cameras, yell at assistants, walk off set, etc, good luck somewhere else. The best don’t need the attitude, they prove it with there camera.

    • @Art Buyer, I agree with what you said, but what APE is describing is totally different. I’m sure that, since it’s part of an Art Buyer’s job to facilitate the photographer in making the best work they can, you don’t do the things APE described in his post, but there are clients who do.

      ABs often act as a buffer between the photographer and client – but there are some clients who make unreasonable demands or just plain don’t understand creative, production, shoots, and the process that goes along with it all.

      This is more along the lines of what APE is describing… not a photographer “going rogue”. He’s talking about a client “going rogue” and not allowing the photographer to do the job they were hired to do.

    • @Art Buyer, I think that is exactly right. The problems come when expectations aren’t managed properly – true?

      Photographers are hired to produce works that match the qualities you see in their portfolio of past projects. If results are demanded without letting the photographer do their thing, you’ll witness an ass emerge 99% of the time.

      Experienced photographers (with the help of good AB’s and PE’s) use preproduction to avoid finding themselves in that untenable position. Yet, it still isn’t easy to avoid 100% of the time.

    • Erica Chadwick

      @Art Buyer,

      Some photographers think they are “great to work with” because they are with the art director and art buyer. But Art Buyer brings up the point I wanted to make- watch yourself around your assistants, your stylists, your agent. If you are lovely to the art director and turn around and yell at your photo assistant, stylists, etc- the client will notice. Don’t underestimate that what your crew says about you will create a lot of your reputation out there. This includes when the client is not around.

  10. Shane Kislack

    Seems to be that the phrase “pain in the ass” is being confused with the adjective “asshole”.

    He didn’t say hire and asshole. He said hire someone who is a “pain in the ass”…very different. Doing the dishes in a pain in the ass. But it has to get done. A pain in the ass challenges you and your resolve. Scoring a touchdown is a pain the ass.

    • @Shane Kislack,

      Yes, this is what people are missing. There was no mention of assholes or divas or yelling at assistants or throwing gear.

      I’ll add that photographers are some of the touchiest people I’ve ever known. So quick to be offended or jump on the defense.

    • @Shane Kislack, True. I stand corrected from my previous post.

      pain in the ass = anti status quo.

  11. el cinesajista

    this all reminds me of that great Timbuk 3 song “assholes on parade”.

    from which all sorts of great words of wisdom flow from each verse… i.e. my favorite line… “assholes get elected because assholes get to vote”

  12. “(we need time with the subject to make great pictures) and more likely it’s because creative people are difficult and demanding and it’s not like your writer isn’t a neurotic basket case on deadline, the photo shoot is our deadline. Get over it.”

    yes, thank you…

    although there is crossing the line to have your way as i have seen from some photographers.

    For the most part we need to be neurotic and have control sometimes we only have 15min with the talent.

  13. I do have to say sometimes coordinating massive amounts of individuals (and artistic egos),can be a challenge. Each with their own vision.

    When I am up on ladders, the view is very different 3 feet higher than another person on site of the shoot. Although they are trying to be helpful to the overall shoot, it can be very disruptive and distracting.

    I could see how a photographer, working on a tight schedule could move to be aggressive about become an alpha male/female in the paradigm. Otherwise it could be a free for all.

    I would be curious to hear how others deal with multiple directors who are compulsive about shooting demands to the subject as they are ready to click the shutter……

  14. Oh give me a break. “Creative people are difficult and demanding”? What is it, a given? a must? No difficulty = no creativity? I am afraid a simple as day “I caught a star in my head and from now on I will just be a snobby piece of…” is more appropriate as a description here. Photographer’s creativity and talent are, excuse me guys, subjective. However, good attitude and professional work ethics are universally the same everywhere. There are jerks and there are good solid people, and each category has a certain percentage of talented artists. But let’s not think that Oh uh he is a photographer and he is a real biach = he is awfully talented and creative. Because it’s bull.
    Pain in the ass in terms of diva mentality and “superior” behaviour = challenge? I don’t think so. Nuisance. Not every challenge is equally rewarding – if you want to do dishes until you are blue in the face, go ahead, I will just shove them in the dish washer and spend my valuable time on something else. Producing editorial content is a team effort. If you are not a team player, no matter how freaking “creative” you are, you are in the niche until somebody who does what you do just as good but is more talented in getting the job done by communicating better and being easier to work with.

  15. Difficult to work with. Sometimes I think that I am. Sometimes I think that that’s a good thing. Sometimes I think it’s not so good.

    Of course, we all have to pick our fights. I know for sure that I have some jobs where any amount of pushing back is just stupid. I go in, take the shots and pay my mortgage. No biggie.

    Other times I will dig in my heels and fight the good fight. I believe that that sometimes costs me clients (but we’re both better off, in that case). I also believe that pushing back gets and keeps me clients.

    But I do agree that there’s a difference between being a “pain in the ass” and being an “asshole”. In the end it all boils down to being true to yourself. And anyone’s “self” is never just one thing, is it?

    And, @ Debra Friedman, asking how to deal with multiple directors: This is what I do (but it won’t work for you because you’re a woman)…..I hold my head in my hands, look around and say: “I’m a man, I can only do one thing at a time. I’m gonna do this here, what I’m doing, first. Then I’ll listen to you (pointing) and then I’ll listen to you (pointing at someone else).” Of course, there’s still a difference between listening and acting.

  16. Sorry that some have misunderstood my blog entry. I was writing about talent and not attitude. Being a pain in the ass doesn’t make you talented. Nor does it mean you are a DIVA or that you are rude with people. It means that that person is very, very demanding, challenging, inquisitive, curious, and so on. That makes them difficult to work with, but in a good, creative way. They are a pain because they might generate more work, more questioning, point you at directions un-thought about.
    But the result is all worth it. For everyone.

    • @The Bohemian,
      The folks who won’t listen to and understand your differentiation between asshole and pain-in-the-ass just see the word “ass” in there and go blind and deaf. Those who matter, understand and those who don’t understand, don’t matter.

      Every pain-in-the-ass shooter I’ve worked with made the project better than I expected – and isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day? More than anything, I’ve gotten on the plane from shoots inspired and a little embarrassed when I reflect on their work ethic and constant push for the betterment of the craft.

      A true pain-in-the-ass photographer makes me better at my job.

  17. totally! These writers +++ goddamnit! Can’t live with them can’t live without….

    But: actually I think photographers are usually quite nice people. Some are stupid arrogant violent jerks allright but I wouldnt say thats the rule. A lot of people photographers at least have to deal with so differnt kind of persons that they are usually quite nice persons. Now the other people who are in media, doing their office jobs (that includes writers usually) of course are naturally not of the same breed then the photographers. = conflict.
    Is it the fault of the photographer if they have no clue of life?

  18. easy killer

    Lots of super talented easy going photographers that maintain their vision without being an a-hole. James Wojcik comes to mind.

    • @easy killer,

      Yeah, I remember working with James and if I recall correctly he wanted to find a new way to shoot meat. He didn’t want to do any of the pictures from his website that my editor was attached to. He was real nice about it too but we then had to go convince the editor to just let him do it and to just trust us on this one. It worked out great but that’s the point here. He didn’t want to do the same old safe picture.

      • @A Photo Editor,

        but that’s not being a pain in the ass is it? Editor’s don’t really want the “same old safe picture,” do they? I wouldn’t call this example making trouble, I would call it diplomatically suggesting an alternative to the assignment specs. And the results were “great,” so would the editor, after this situation, consider Wojcik a pain in the ass?

        I’m confused about this: are we talking about good photographers that get away with being assholes (yelling at people, being disagreeable, mean, etc), or are we talking about good photographers that don’t follow the status quo, but are polite and diplomatic about it?

  19. Tomas Stargardter

    Amen Brother,

    Most trouble happens when, as you say the subject has not been told about the photo shoot or the writers or editors have no idea what as a shooter you need to get a good image that will sell the photo.

    When trouble happens and an editor or writers marches to my office to complain, it’s usualy one of the above that is the source of it.

    In order to be effective you need to have all of these things sorted out beforehand so that things run smoothely at the shoot and everybody comes out happy.

    TS

  20. An action in itself doesn’t make someone an a-hole; it’s the interpretation of the action. For example, offering a fresh perspective on a shoot could be interpreted as adding value to a project, or it could get a person labeled hard to work with. It’s up to the individual art director to decide how to react.

    As a photographer who, hopefully, has a unique vision to offer, I’m all for anyone who will suggest to art buyers out there that they should give *spirited* photographers the benefit of the doubt and let them in on the conversation, in particular when the fight-or-flight moments pop up. We’re all on the same team here.

    CB

  21. “A special thanks to one of the best in the business; to date, I’ve been unable to find a model, client, little kid, old lady or stray dog that doesn’t like the easygoing, ultra-talented Cudney.” – Doug Ottewill/Publisher/Haas Rock Publications

    I’ve heard of and worked for a few of these a-holes … aside from a few assistants that I’ve pissed off in the past … I think I’m a nice guy? – Don

    Clients and subjects will give us many reasons to freak-out and get pissed off, you just have to be a professional and suck-it-up! “No budget … um … no problem? No hair and make-up … well … ok ! No craft services … oh my god !!”

    • @Jason Lindsey,
      Please see #19.

      BTW, love the goats – that’s pretty much what my version of Heaven looks like…

  22. Actually, I think this applies to more than just photographers. People who are very good at what they do tend to be quite arrogant about it.

  23. I think being intense and a tad pushy at times comes with the territory. For fuck sake we ALWAYS have to prove that we’re willing to go the extra mile. AND we have to do whatever it takes to make our editors very happy as there are a lot of us out there.

  24. Thought provoking comments. All the best photographers I know are assholes.

    It is all subjective though, one man’s asshole is another man’s vaginahole, just as one man pain-in-the-ass is another man’s pleasure-in-the-ass.

    Here’s a question for the group, if most people hate the truth then does that make the truth inherently antisocial? A lot of people who speak the truth are considered to be assholes for being correct.

    • @P. Money, The photographers i have known and know of that are assholes were assholes to begin with…unhappy queens,unhappy lesbians,unhappy people,flavor of the month woes,drug&alcohol problems…too much pressure etc.
      Has nothing to do with truth..has to do with insecurities coupled with the aforementioned, and the pressures of success.

  25. scott Rex Ely

    I see a lot of projection and self serving justification going on here. Especially the Lonesome Dove ornery atmospherics presented by the almost romantic notions in the Bohemian’s post itself. Sorta self perpetuating myths about gifted children and their professionally accepted obstreperous behavior.

  26. Someone perceiving you to be difficult is totally different than being an ass.

    You can push the limits and ask for more. You can push the bondaries for something different. You can push for more time, more budget, a location that is hard to get to etc, etc.

    Sometimes when you ask for all these things you may be perceived as difficult but you can do all these things and not be an ass.

  27. Sometimes it’s necessary to be difficult. It’s often part of your job.

    A photographer, unlike a writer (Jayson Blair anyone?) can’t just go home and reconstruct things. Something has to happen in front of the camera, or more to the point, the photographer hast to MAKE something happen.

    Nobody here is questioning whether it would be inappropriate for a photographer to suggest to a writer how to conduct their interview, or to a subject how they should answer the interviewer. This is analogous to what APE is describing in his post. So why is it problematic to stick to your guns when you believe it will enrich your work?

    I’m sure, die hard right wingers called Katie Couric “a pain in the ass” when she pressed Sarah Palin about her foreign policy experience, but most people saw it as good journalism. She did her job and dug deeper (which is more than can be said for much of the journalistic community). Same applies to photography. You shouldn’t just necessarily accept what’s presented to you.

    Embedded reporters in Iraq? Sure. Casket photos? No way.

    So, it’s the same thing when, say, David Bailey shouts at models – it would get a reaction from them and snap them out of the poses and situations they were used to. Is he difficult? I’m sure he is a major pain in the ass. Is he a great photographer? Of course.

    • @dude,

      >>A photographer, unlike a writer (Jayson Blair anyone?) can’t just go home and reconstruct things.<<

      Oh, you poor, under-the-gun photographer. You’ve really got it rough!

      Yeah, you’ve got it right. I know that *I* always report a story safe in the knowledge that I can just ‘reconstruct’ things if the interviews (which I’ve taped, at the request interviewees) or situational sequences (which, you know, other folks are also witness to) don’t go exactly as I like.

      Seriously, kiss my a**. Writers can be difficult. Photographers can be difficult. But you might try avoiding generalizations about the ‘other side’ until you’ve, you know, walked a mile…

      Cripes, here’s hoping I never pull you as a partner on an assignment.

      • @Elvira,

        Wow, miss the point much? I guess in J-school, they didn’t teach you about sarcasm or irony. Maybe if you’d stop reacting, read what I wrote, and stop making assumptions you’d get something out of it.

        I’m not condoning Jayson-Blair-style fabrication. I’m saying that photographers don’t have that as an option. If it doesn’t happen in front of the camera, it’s of no use to us.

        A photographer can’t go home and photograph the lint in his navel and submit it to accompany your interview though.

        If somebody is giving you a spoon-fed press release of an interview, you can still go home, write something about the situation, their background, do some research at your local library or on wikipedia and still collect your paycheck.

        As for kissing your ass, no thanks. I’ll pass.
        As for not working with you, OK no problem.

  28. Also, here’s an inspirational quote, not that I usually quote people much. I’d bet Avedon could be a pain in the ass…

    “I believe in maniacs. I believe in type As. I believe that you’ve got to love your work so much that it is all you want to do. I believe you must betray your mistress for your work, you betray your wife for your work; I believe that she must betray you for her work. I believe that work is the one thing in the world that never betrays you, that lasts. If I were going to be a politician, if I were going to be a scientist, I would do it every day. I wouldn’t wait for Monday. I don’t believe in weekends.”

    Richard Avedon

    • Debra Weiss

      @elizabeth avedon, Thank you. This is the only comment in this thread that actually makes sense.

  29. i believe u need to be good person first and than u can be good photographer also..
    for example talent in the end dont count so much as hard work and respect u show to ppl u photograph..
    i know some talented photog. and they were the best photog i enjoyed shoot with or edit with or learn from them or work with them.. also cuz they were greate ppl aslo..
    maybe the sad thing is that some asswholes know how to push and have chances to come into bussines, those who arent and try everything in a fair way, need so much time more.. but the best ones are the one who are trying for years and are succesful for years laters.. hopefully in a fair world.. everyone deserve a chance..

  30. So, was I naive to be proud of my A+ on my kindergarten report card for the category “works and plays well with others”? I also did well in the “naps” category.

  31. Here is Apple’s famous “Think Different” manifesto:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20010228171255/www.apple.com/thinkdifferent/

    Here’s to the crazy ones.

    The misfits.

    The rebels.

    The troublemakers.

    The round pegs in the square holes.

    The ones who see things differently.

    They’re not fond of rules.

    And they have no respect for the status quo.

    You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,

    disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.

    About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.

    Because they change things.

    They invent. They imagine. They heal.

    They explore. They create. They inspire.

    They push the human race forward.

    Maybe they have to be crazy.

    How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
    Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?
    Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

    We make tools for these kinds of people.

    While some see them as the crazy ones,
    we see genius.

    Because the people who are crazy enough to think
    they can change the world, are the ones who do.

  32. Sometimes, the 100% nice, extremely efficient photog can be seen as a PITA if they ask too many questions about relevant details to a shoot, at the exact time the PE is having a bad day, short on time, and an Editor bitching at them about 5 other things. (read: bad timing) At the right time, you’re detail-oriented. At the wrong time, you’re a PITA.

    – not that it’s happened to me, but file under: it’s possible….

  33. Well, lets be honest. When and why did picture editors first appear on the scene in New York and then spread like a cancer around the world, and why is it better and easier to work with an Art Director, it’s easier to work (A.D.) with someone who is visual and has a sense of history-not just the last five minutes, the last two hundred years. I think Photo editors first appeared in the mid 80’s, but to be honest I don’t remember. Are Photo editors visual people, I don’t think so, did they study the visual arts in the the same manner as a painter or a photographer did, I don’t think so-but, they are in a position of power. There lies the conflict. In my 30 years working as a photographer, I have only ever met and worked with three Photo Editors that I felt were truly both well read and also very bright, that is very bad for the magazine industry but very good for me to know the difference. Now it’s a common practice for a photo editor to pick a photographer whose work mimics an editorial, Art Directors don’t work that way-they want someone new-shake it up a little, being creative is what they are paid to do. Now most magazines are broken up into “Terrority”, that is also a problem and there is no fix. Those without a vision are here to stay, they have power-and you need the money. JPN

  34. I welcome this post and beg all photographers to follow the prescribed path. Please, all of you become consummate pains in every ass you can find, if you cannot discern a great moaning and bleating from the head end of every ass you are tormenting, please try harder. Make every effort to be willfully stubborn, reckless at every turn and above all I implore each and every one of you to foster an acutely bad character. If anyone at any of your imaginary shoots is smiling, your character is clearly not bad enough so go home and practice on your assistants. In these difficult days it would help us greatly if you all fell by the wayside and returned to stacking shelves at the health food store.

    • Erica Chadwick

      @New York Agent,

      So true.

      How about this for an idea? Let your photographs show that you are a talented bad ass. And be a delightful human being, just to make yourself that much more interesting?

  35. My last comment was a little facetious. But I was trying to make a point. As a photographer I am providing a service. I have a client who wants that service.

    My job is to make the client’s job of securing photography he or she can use as trouble free as possible. That is why I hire the talent, provide the catering, and all the other stuff I put up with; so that my client does not have to do it. When I finish a job I want the client to be H A P P Y. Thats my job.

    If my client wants me to stand on my head and shoot the camera with my toes, then by damn, that’s what I will try to do. I will give 110% because that is what I promise to do. If my client asks me to produce something I am not sure I know how to do, then I will learn how REALLY fast, and before the meter starts. And if my client is not comfortable through out the process, then I am not doing my job.

    I will smile, I will be happy, because DAMN it feels good to be paid a rather good living for doing my job.