A few years ago, I photographed a swim meet for Aran, a talented 13-year-old multi-sport athlete. Aran adopted my son Alec as his big brother and Lacrosse mentor. While I was waiting for him to compete, I watched their team’s photographer taking photos of the kids.

There were two things I noticed. First, he invested A LOT of money in his camera gear. And second, he was holding the camera WRONG.

Should I say something or let it go?

I turned to Jeff, Aran’s father, and asked if he knew the guy and is he open-minded to suggestions. Jeff just smiled knowing the teacher in me is about to come out. I waited until I made eye contact with the stranger. I smile as I introduced myself and we chatted about photography.

When I found an in, I asked if he was open minded to photography suggestions. He hesitated and said yes but his face said, “Who the H&!! are you!” I paused and said nevermind, but he pushed me for more information.

I proceed to show him a “different” way to hold his camera. Noticed I said “different” to avoid offending him. Plus, I made sure nobody was around — it was just the two of us.

I explained how when you hold your camera, especially with a long telephoto lens, to cup the barrel and bring your elbow tight into your body. Look through the eyepiece as you firmly press the camera to your forehead. You just made a steady tripod. This will reduce the risk of camera shake, which causes blurry photos. Reaching over the barrel is causing your elbow to be out, weighing the barrel down.

How did he take the advice?

In my opinion, not well. He proceeded to say I’m doing fine the way I’m shooting. Besides, when you shoot at 1/4000s it doesn’t matter. His arrogance almost made me say, IT’S BAD FORM and bad form is just that — BAD. You spent all this money on camera gear but your ego won’t let you take a class on how to use it? How can you hit a baseball if you don’t hold the bat properly or play golf if you don’t know how to swing a club? The answer is you can’t!

I just smiled and said OK and reminded him he said he has an open mind. He mellowed a little and said he’d give it a try the next time he’s shooting at a slower shutter speed. He then made an awkward exit.

Normally, my unsolicited advice is received well. I make sure I don’t make a person feel dumb or inferior. To avoid possible embarrassment, I speak to them when no one is around. My purpose is to help. What better way to help than to teach the first basic lesson in photography, how to hold your camera.