“Photography’s easy.” It’s a line that can inspire any number of things – a passionate defense of the craft, a blank stare, a glare, a shrug or anything else. I’ve heard it, and you’ve probably heard it, too. I’ll admit that on the occasions I’ve heard it, I’ve gotten a bit hot under the collar. How could someone so easily dismiss everything that goes into the making of a photograph? There’s the spatial awareness, the anticipation, the angle of view, the camera’s essential elements working in tandem to produce a properly exposed image, and once everything comes together, click. Of course, the click is all they ever see.
It’s easy to get riled up. It’s easy to condemn them for not understanding, for diluting all the mental and creative processes to a simple mechanical operation. The truth is much of what photographers do is mechanical. You’ve got to have vision and the technical know-how to make images happen. They only see the mechanics. They don’t see what’s cooking inside your head.
Recognizing that disconnect can mean the difference between railing them with invectives or calmly letting them know they’re wrong and why they’re wrong. Or, you can hand them a camera and tell them to take your portrait. Make sure the camera’s in manual. Or, you could have them approach a stranger and try to take their portrait. Or, give them an hour to make photos on the street. See how many they come up with.
There are better options than overheating. Besides, you know why you photograph, and it’s up to you to determine whether or not the person who reduced your craft to a button press is worthy of an insightful explanation. There are some folks who just don’t get it, but there are folks who, with some gentle nudging, will have a slightly more nuanced understanding of why you press that button.