Photographer’s Entitlement

Spencer and MurphyWhen my son, Spencer, was two, my wife and I took him to the Georgia aquarium to see some sea creatures. He was having a blast and absolute awe of all the animals we were seeing. Throughout the course of our visit, we wandered into the Georgia Explorer section which is geared toward children. It has petting tanks, a playground, and educational resources written at an elementary school level. If there was anywhere in the aquarium where kids should be given priority it’s here. In fact at most exhibits any of the adults that were there would gladly stand back and let Spencer stand up front so he could get a good view. At the Sea Turtle tank though, there was a guy with a fancy professional camera and lens taking pictures, and he didn’t seem to care whose view he was blocking, he was going to get his shot. At one point, shortly after the above picture was taken, Murphy (the loggerhead sea turtle) was swimming up in the tank presenting a perfect photo op. The photographer decided he needed to get that shot, so he stepped in front of me, and pushed Spencer to the side so he could have an unobstructed view of the tank. I was furious and told the guy so. He gave a less than sincere “sorry”, and  held up his camera as though that somehow excused his behavior.

Murphy the Loggerhead Sea TurtleNow, I was shooting that day too. It’s how I got the photo above and the one on the left (one of my best sellers). However, I wasn’t jumping in front of people to get the shot, and I certainly wasn’t treating my camera as a license to be rude. Far from it, if I felt that people were stopping to avoid getting in my shot, I would often lower my camera so they aren’t stuck waiting on me.

I had mostly forgotten about this particular incident, until recently when Scott Kelby made a joke on Google+ about why tripods weren’t allowed inside a particular tourist attraction. As he quipped, he thought that by photographers having tripods in the attraction, the site would lose the 50 cents it makes selling postcard prints of the exhibits. In my opinion, it had nothing to do with cutting into profits on card sales and everything to do with keeping the 99% of their patrons who don’t show up with a tripod happy.

I’ve been to numerous places where I’ve encountered rude photographers who will setup their shot in prime viewing locations, blocking other patrons, and disrupting the flow of traffic all so they could get the shot. For some reason they feel a sense of entitlement to get a shot. Even though they didn’t pay any more than anyone else to visit that attraction, yet, they have decided that their having a camera and tripod gave them license to be inconsiderate of everyone else. No, it seems more likely, to me that  “no tripod” policies often come about as a result of all the other patrons complaining about these jerks.

Most places like this will gladly allow press and other photographers access to the attraction. The problem is that most photographers would rather spend money on gear than access to a location that would get them incredible shots, so they pay the regular ticket fees and act like they own the place.

As photographers, there is no license to interfere with others’ appreciation of a place; far from it, we should be especially conscientious about not disrupting others. A photographer and his gear can be a major distraction to others, and it should be our goal to adhere to rules of common courtesy and be as unobtrusive as possible.


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