I’ve been blessed with a dual career! For over 30 years I’ve been teaching the Martial Arts and for over 20 years I have been a professional photographer. Over the years I have learned to merge the two skill sets. In that time I’ve come to the realization misguided Black Belts and misguided Photographers have rude egos.

It’s all about ego

Some confuse ego with pride. Pride is a form of inward content, which shows itself in action, deeds, and personality. Egotism requires an outward show, as if to test its worth. Having control of your pride is what makes you a great photographer.

So how do we deal with a rude photographer? The same concepts I teach my martial arts students on how to avoid a bad situation can easily be applied to dealing with a rude photographer.

  1. Make sure you are aware of your own mood before you snap
  2. Assume the photographer doesn’t mean any harm
  3. Ask if you offended them in any way because you feel tension
  4. Kill them with kindness
  5. If all else fails, politely ignore them

Let me set the stage

It’s a cold morning the day before Photoshop World in Washington D.C.. I have one morning to get a shoot in before my schedule gets crazy. On the spur of the moment, I head to the Jefferson Memorial at 4 a.m. alone. I have no idea how to use the Metro, I just know I have to get there before sunrise.

Let’s just say, directions are not my strong suite. I finally get to my destination. Out of breath, I scout the location, then realized no tripod! Instead of getting frustrated, I waited patiently for God to shine some rays on the Memorial and Cherry Blossoms. I steadied myself on a tree to get at least a decent shot.

As the minutes ticked pass, more photographers appeared. Suddenly photographers were everywhere and one was in my shot. By now, you understand my mind set. I rushed to get to this location, I only have one morning to shoot, no tripod and now this lady is standing in my shot. I knew I wasn’t in a pleasant mood so I didn’t approach the lady, I decided to wait her out.


An incredible tool

I thought the lady was going to move once she took her 50th shot. Nope.She just stood there, swiveling her body all around snapping shots with her flash. So many thoughts went through my mind.

Finally I caught a break. A photographer in the distance off to my left smiled at me and gave me a “Hey watch this” look. Smiling, he walked over to the lady and showed her the back of his camera. He took a shot of her with the monument behind her. She loved it.

He took a few more and then walked her back to his location. He motioned for me to take my shot. I almost died. What an incredible way to diffuse a situation. After I got my shots I walked over to the guy as the lady walked away happy.

I thanked him over and over again. He gave me an incredible tool to politely get people to move. After some small talk, I learned he was in D.C. killing time while his wife had business meetings all week. I invited him to Photoshop World as my guest. I met his wife at Midnight Madness; a must attend event at Photoshop World and she thank me for giving her husband this opportunity. I told her after the lesson he taught me, it was the least I could do!

Yeah, but what if they are really rude?

The same Photoshop World I tagged along with Joe McNally on his pre-conference. We headed to a studio with 50 photographers to capture portraits of interesting characters. After Joe gave a demonstration, attendees were able to rotate among the different stations and photograph the models.

Everyone was getting along great except for one man with really expensive gear. He was monopolizing a station and looked frustrated with the model. I stepped in and directed the model for an expression. Everyone loved it, including the model, except for the man.

With a crooked smile he said. “I got this.”

Oblivious I thought he meant thanks, keep doing what you’re doing. He looked up and said, “Hey knock it off, I got this.”

You could hear a pin drop. I smiled and said awkwardly…. I’ll stop. Then he went on and said some rude things. I looked stern and said sir, I didn’t mean to offend you, I thought I was helping and I apologized. Please continue to shoot we will talk after.

I walked away and waited for him to finish. I approached him and said from the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry I thought I was helping. Before he could argue, I said I see you don’t need help but if you change your mind I’ll be over here. Please don’t let my mistake stop you from approaching me with questions. I smiled and walked away.

About an hour latter I see him in the corner looking frustrated with his camera. I walked over, smiled and asked if everything was ok. He broke down and said I’m sorry for being rude, I just got this camera and paid a lot for it. I don’t know why I can’t get it to work. I checked his settings and fixed the problem. We walked to a free bay and I watched him photograph the model. Smiles erupted from his face. I even got a hug.


If all else fails, politely ignore

If a photographer, or anyone for that matter, is uncontrollable rude there is not much you can do. Politely ignore them, let them have the last word and walk way. Remember, Pride is a form of inward content and Egotism is an outward show to prove your worth. You don’t need to engage in an argument.

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Join the conversation! 8 Comments

  1. Powerful advice. I work in the corporate world, and I deal with super egos on a daily basis. It’s challenging at best. Thanks, I can apply this to many different scenarios in life.

  2. This lesson will make us a better photographer and a better person.

  3. Thank you.

  4. You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din! I don’t think I have it in me to be kind to someone who was rude to me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like confrontation so I probably would have walked away and been seething for days. Next time something like this happens, I will try your advice.

  5. Good points Vanelli. We’ve all been in one or more (or all!) of these situations at one time or another. When I lead model workshops, I try to have photographers rotate their positions after they get their shots, so as not to capitalize on one angle that others also want for their images.

    Of course on your last point, I usually get the last word in — but it tends to be under my breath, or in my head as I’m walking away. Oh, but he temptation to say what I’m thinking out loud at those times! You’re right though, it’s just not worth it.

    See you next week at PSW!

  6. I don’t know why, but lately this advice is so appreciated. Egotism is on the rise? Pride a lost art? I can’t say.

  7. Pride is a form of inward content and Egotism is an outward show to prove your worth. That statement just settled into my soul in a warm fuzzy place. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!


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About Vanelli

After a successful career as a three time Triple Crown Karate champion, Robert Vanelli turned his attention to teaching. As an educator for over 30 years, Vanelli has created several photography and digital workflow program including a special program, Click for Kids. Borrowing concepts from the martial arts, Vanelli instilled values such as integrity, and goal setting using photography as a vehicle to motivate children. As the lead photographer for Exposure Photographic Art Studio, Vanelli has had the opportunity of capturing images of special VIP’s, including the President of the United States, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former president of Toyota, Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda, CEO’s of companies such as Yahoo,the Oakland A’s and several martial arts legends.


Opinion, Photography