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How to Compliment a Photographer

On occasion, you might want to compliment a photographer on a beautiful photograph. Or you might want to encourage a budding photographer with a compliment. Or you might just have to be nice.

What NOT To Say

The worst thing you can say is "What a beautiful picture, you must have a really good camera".

The photographer might properly return the compliment in one of these ways:

She might come to your home for a meal at which you work extremely hard to make perfect. Afterward she says "What a delicious meal, you must have a really good stove".

He might admire your latest painting and say "It's stunning. You must have some fantastic brushes".

She might think the chisel with which you sculpted the new statue in front of Town Hall must really be talented.

He might say he's going to buy a pencil and ruler just like the one you used as architect on the new University Library.

You get the point. If you don't, just smile and walk away quietly.

What to Say

Compliment the photographer on the artistic elements of the image. Anybody can shoot a snapshot (except my grandma, but that's another story). That's why they're called snapshots. But a photograph requires consideration of the composition and lighting, the perspective and position, the time of day. A careful eye decides what gets included or excluded, the patterns and colors to use, and dozens of other artistic elements. As with cooking, painting, sculpture, and architecture, it is both an art and a skill.

Compliment the photographer on the work that went into the image. Most really good images take a lot of preparation, thought, skill, and hard work. There is location, hiking or hauling a load of equipment. There is lighting (setting it up manually or waiting on nature). There is procurement and planning. There is study and technical practice. There is the development of the eye and the mind. I could go on, but you're getting the idea. Again, as with the artistic abilities mentioned above, a huge amount of work goes into developing the skills to make it look easy.

If you don't know what to say about the photographer's artistic talent or skills, simply appreciate the scene itself. If it's beautiful, say so. If it's ugly, well, you'll have to write your own essay for that one.

Dale Keller

Last updated December 2007