If you clicked this story, then this was probably said to you a few times. Photographers will let out a sigh of exasperation. Non-photographers will not have any idea as to why someone would be bothered by this. But yes, you have a nice camera. And it’s very capable of taking great photos. In today’s world, no one is making bad cameras. But there are tons of awful photographs made with the cream rising to the top in certain situations.
Why would someone tell you that you have a nice camera? Well, I’ve learned to understand it more over the years.
First off, they’re not saying anything bad. Instead, we as photographers are trained to take it in a bad way. Mix that in with the way society works, and we likely can’t take a compliment or accept words of affirmation and adoration. These folks are trying to make conversation with you. Otherwise, they’re just giving you positive energy and how we take that is up to us.
Second, you probably really do have a nice camera. I’ve often gotten this compliment in different ways. When I’ve got a refurbished vintage camera, a Fujifilm, Leica, or an Instant film camera, someone will tell me that I’ve got a nice camera. The way they say it is chock full of adoration. They look at it like a fancy piece of jewelry, a nice car, a beautiful scarf, etc. It’s genuinely meant as a compliment to what you’re wearing. In this case, you’re wearing that nice camera.
The other way that people say it has to do with it just being a compliment. When I’ve used a Nikon z9, someone at my yoga studio told me that it was a nice camera. But the compliment was left wanting, empty, and just for conversation. I ignored it, though she thought it was a professional piece of gear and it looked pricey. I eventually said thank you to her. Again, it was her way of sending positive energy in my direction.
That part of the statement probably doesn’t annoy photographers as much as the fact that it can take nice pictures. Sure, the photographer takes the photographs. But some photographers can only take good photographs with certain pieces of gear. Have you ever seen a photographer who only uses autofocus work with a manual focus lens? It’s sometimes a bit comical. “I’m sure it takes nice photos,” is stated when the person is trying to make the compliment go further. I’ve seen it offend photographers because we’re often in our own world. Instead, a lot of us need to be present. Your mind can be both your greatest ally and your worst enemy. You don’t have to be inside your mind when all of this is happening. It’s not traumatic. Instead, you can present to the environment around you. That’s the point of street photography in some ways. However, it’s also just the point of photography. You have to find a balance between what’s outside and what’s inside.
If you have a nice camera, be proud. Show it off. Start a conversation if you’re comfortable and don’t feel like you’re in danger. If it’s a genuine compliment, keep it going. But use it to start a deeper conversation and connect people. Make it more than just small talk.
Here’s a bigger tip: ask people what they’re excited to take photos of.