Being a woman in photography
We were recently approached and asked to provide some perspective about what it’s like to be a woman in photography and the unique experiences and frustrations we have as female photographers. We asked around in some of the groups we’re involved with and the answers while unsurprising, were pretty depressing. We’re sharing some of them below, to raise awareness of what it can be like to be a woman shooting weddings and events.
In the era of #metoo there is still very little protection or support for self employed women who work at weddings, events or parties. So many people minimise inappropriate behaviour that wouldn’t be tolerated in other environments because they don’t want to kick up a fuss or spoil someone’s wedding day.
If you’re looking for some advice about how to stay safe as a female photographer, please do check out this post.
Here are some of the experiences female photographers shared:
When I have a male second shooter everyone assumes I'm HIS assistant. SO ANNOYING. Why is it impossible to believe that a man could be assisting a female lead?
Being ignored or mansplained in a camera/equipment shop.
Constantly being talked down to by men who try and out-spec you and geek at you.
Mansplaining and being talked down to, for sure. More by male amateur photographers than anyone else though. If the industry would promote the fact that there are loads of amazing female photographers out there of equal standing to (and better than many of) the men on the pro photography circuit, perhaps the Uncle Bobs of this world would get over themselves. But they are being sold the idea that photography is still about showy bits of kit and scantily clad young women, which is what they want to buy into. I don’t think it’s right to perpetuate that though. Also general sexual harassment at weddings. Nothing the industry can do about that, society as a whole needs to just buck its fucking ideas up on that front.
I don’t use male seconds/assistants as I have one female who work with me full time but when there’s a male videographer on the scene so many people assume that we work for him.
I have had guests and wedding party members put their hands on me at several weddings. Other vendors I have talked to have had similar issues. They (often correctly) assume we won’t make a fuss because we don’t want to ruin anyone’s wedding. I have the coordinator handle it, or if no coordinator, the bridesmaid I have been hitting it off best with (usually MOH).
As a street photographer I find I am less intimidating and more invisible than a male street photographer. So for me being a woman is an advantage! Although on the other hand the street photography world (and probably the photography world in general) is still a bit of a boy's club and as women we need to fight for recognition and acceptance.
I’ve been followed by men in cars recently when I’ve been working on a community project and had men come up to me in the street and really creep me out. I don’t feel safe doing it any more. I used to weirdly, but I feel like slowly there’s more suspicion and aggression going on. Like they feel it’s ok to do what they are doing.
I feel like there's a notion I can't do stuff when I'm at work because I'm a petal...
Feeling safe is an issue.
Things like drunk male guests trying to take my camera out of my hands so they can “take a picture of me”. Being touched and called “the f***tographer” by groomsmen. Being rammed into by a male guest with a full body slam on the dance floor TWICE and ON PURPOSE because I wouldn’t dance with them.
Last week the grooms brother tried to tongue kiss me in front of his own girlfriend.
Going to trade shows and it being over run with straight white, middles class, cis gender men. Particularly so on the speaker agenda and the brand ambassadors on the company exhibition stands.
Attending national photographer conferences and being asked if I’m there to model.
I feel like one of my biggest issues is sometimes having to hold back on being my normal goofy self because people feel like they can take advantage of that, or I have to cut back on the banter, touching/hugging without giving out the wrong message.
Sexual harassment during my drone training. The guy put his arms around me, hands over mine and the controller, was up tight against me and said 'I tell all the guys to imagine your caressing a woman's nipples, nice and gentle'.....the whole training the whole training was geared to men only, listing men's toilets, 70s sexist examples....I scored top in the group and was discounted as it being a fluke because I was a girl.
The Nikon test drive for the D850 being completely male and that whole storm....
Venue staff and videographers assuming I am assisting when I use a male second. When being corrected by my second, you get a "Ahhhh you're in charge, so sorry" and then being spoken to in a patronizing tone.
Harassment and inappropriate comments at weddings.
People noticing I have my children's names tattooed on my arm and being asked questions like "Don't you miss them while you work?" & "Who is looking after your children?".
Male domination - There is not enough female photographer representation with manufacturers or any activity to encourage or change the status quo bar Sony recently but that was Stateside only. I did email them and ask them to extend to the UK which they acknowledged but never replied with an update btw. And manufacturers actually launching 'women' cameras in this decade ... WTAF?!
I've been totally blanked in shops many times over waiting male customers until someone waiting tells them I am next. I've actually walked out of a shop and taken my 3.5k elsewhere before.
Not being asked if I was a previous customer at another store when purchasing over £400 of goods and having to prompt the sales person for a business receipt who then replied "Oh you didn't say you needed one." This question never gets missed at the end of any purchase by a man that I am standing right next to.
Once I was second shooting for a male, and the father of the bride was doing a speech. Me and the main had been switching places basically making sure we were both covering different parts of the very tight room. We were close but in that venue no choice. Primary had been there focusing on the dad for the majority of the speech and he’d obviously noticed him, but said nothing. Shortly after we switched where we were covering, the dad decided to point me out to the entire room and said something like moh here she is, the photographer, you alright down there love?’ And it was so embarrassing no one had noticed me, I was crouched down and people were just letting me do my thing, just like the dad had let the male photographer do his thing. But the second I stepped in he decided to ridicule me. It sounds like nothing but honestly you could tell he picked on me because I was female, the tone of voice the fact he felt the need at all when I’d only been doing my job, and the primary had been going all around him and way more in his face, yet nothing said. I felt really uncomfortable and really under delivered compared to my usual work on that wedding.
Obviously shit loads of sexual harassment too. But sometimes the smaller things I can do nothing about make me feel even worse. I dread groom prep if I’m second shooting most times though.
When I was working at a large, well known camera shop, during our sales training we had to do a role play while I practiced selling a camera to a sales trainer. He pretended that he was buying a small easy to use camera “for the wife”.
There was the time that a guest loudly asked me to fellate him as I was kneeling in front of him (with my back to him) to shoot the first dance.
One time I went to a fashion photography lecture and as the speaker was talking through his work and showed us a picture of a female model where you could see her nipples an older man in the audience shouted “WAY HEY NOW WE’RE TALKING”. 😡
Drunk, borderline grope-y ushers and male guests (and the odd groom) are commonplace. Arms around you, getting in too close, hands starting to wander, trying to insist you stay for a drink, let them give you hand with your stuff out to the dark car park.
Drunk older male guests getting in close and looking down your chest to 'see what equipment you're using'.
Guests trying to put hands on you without any remote prior warning or necessitation, guests trying to chat you up, neg you, pressure you to stay late n drink etc. (Sometimes i do drink, fine when its …See more
“This is your full time job?!” Yes. "Wow! Really... so you don't do anything else ... at all"
Getting lifted up on the dance floor and getting thrown around by very tall guests. Never fun especially when you have an injury and the dance floor is already an intimidating place.
When I was second shooting for a male photographer a drunk male guest asked if I was f***ing the male photographer.
I recently shot a wedding where at the end of the night the father of the bride said to me "Well I hope you've got some good experience from today". I was like WTAF do you know how many weddings I've shot. He wouldn't have it....was insistent I was some kind of newbie. That and men constantly questioning the kit I use, if it's my main job....do I actually earn a living from it. Oh and this is a weird one and I am not sure if it's relevant but guests constantly asking if I have kids, am I having kids, why don't I have kids and telling me I'll change my mind.....I mean....c'mon!!!
I’ve had a few bad experiences with starting a family. I was covering for another photographer who was ill. I was 5/6 months pregnant at the time and had a bridesmaid telling me how “I bet your brides must have been pissed” and “you picked a good time to get pregnant”. I’ve also had a bride ask if they should cancel because they’re concerned about how much mat leave I’m taking.
A female videographers perspective:-
"How long did it take for your husband to train you up"
- "What's it like working for your husband?"
- "I assume you do the administrative side for Sam then?"
- *Most frequent comment* "Your husband's videos are AWESOME" (even though I shoot and edit most of them)
- "I wish Sam could teach me how he makes his videos"
- "Can you get Sam to capture this?"
- "Interesting, I didn't know women can do video"
Etc, etc... If I'm honest, these remarks make me feel worthless.
Aww don't you feel bad leaving the kids with their dad after he works all week? (Because I obviously spend weekdays sipping champagne and getting massages....)
Aren't you lucky to have a husband who supports your hobbies and looks after the kids
I bet I could take fab photos with a fancy camera like that.
Oh is that full frame camera? Is mine full frame do you know? Would you mind me standing behind you during the portraits so I can direct you...
Where is the main photographer??? That would be me... ah oh.. isn't that camera heavy?1
Literally yesterday an older man asked me if I was a professional 🤦🏻♀️I’d been there taking photos literally all day. This may not be directly linked to the fact I’m female though, it was a stupid question either way.
I did an Instagram live yesterday on my business page and a random man sent me an unsolicited comment telling me how sexy I am.
A group of wedding guests once sang "who let the dogs out at me" while I was photographing the dancefloor.
Practically every wedding I am asked (by a man ) if I do this professionally/ full time. And the person asking is always surprised that I do this for a living . I dunno if it’s because I’m female , or just come across as an amateur !? (Also touching / grabbing unnecessarily particularly the drinker the guest)
I tend to only put on a minimum amount of make up just to look passable but I don’t want to actively make myself look more attractive because I don’t want any of that kind of attention at a wedding.
Whenever I work with a Male for the day, guests, and vendor staff always approach the Male first for info etc.
I find it super frustrating, and it’s made me even reconsider hiring Male second photographers
I think because I look young (even though I'm 30) people often think wedding photography is just a hobby for me and (usually men) ask what else I do etc, when it's actually my full time job!
The mansplaning in fb groups discourages many women from asking advice in these groups
Loads of weddings this year I've had male guests when I'm filming tell me to f*** off or give me the V's if I point the camera in their direction- this has happened to me multiple times but has never ever once happened to my husband at a wedding (we are a husband and wife duo). `
I was at a trade show and a guy on a framing stall assumed my friend and I (both professional photographers) were not trade and refused to quote us for frames. At another stall, my other friend was looking at outdoor weatherproof clothing. It was all clearly designed and labelled for men, she asked where the womens was and the guy said 'oh it can all be unisex'. He then told her that the show told them there would only be 20% women. I don't know if that's true or not but I was surprised they didn't expect more. On the other hand, I was impressed that they got Jasmine Star there this year and loved seeing other female speakers about the place.
I get asked whether this is my full time job at Every. Single. Family. Session. And always by the dads.
If I have a male second or videographer, they ALWAYS go to him assuming he's my boss. Having groomsman make inappropriate comments/gestures. And always the male guests come and ask if I know what I'm doing, or if I've had any bad experiences?!
Every judge I’ve had in photography competitions has been an old white man. The people who head the photography group I am in are all men. Every time we have someone come to talk to us or give a workshop guess what? All men! Photography seems to be a boys club.
“So is this your actual job?”
Where’s the other photographer?”
“I really like how you took that photo you just posted in this group, let me explain to you how you took it, and then how I would take it so it would be better.”
“Wouldn’t you like to take that picture over there where the light is better?” 😳
And finally regrettably, I’ve left two weddings early due to insanely inappropriate behaviour once by a male guest and the second unbelievably by the father of the bride, who even after I finally snapped, told him what he was doing was fucked up, slapped his hand away and told the bride in front of him that I was leaving, then followed me to my car and stood in front of the door so I couldn’t get in.
Thankfully the latter are in the minority, but nevertheless an issue that I shouldn’t be facing when I’m at my god damn job.
Dealing with the large egos of other male photographers
I’ve had men touch me on the shoulder, lower back, arm. Call me sweetheart, darling, love. The venue removed one guy at a wedding because he was so drunk and made threats towards me and kept trying to touch me.
There are some advantages, I find it easier in my portraits work (especially bumps and babies) and harder at weddings and events. I have always had the question "so, do you do this part time?" from guys and was never offended by it (assuming everyone got asked). Until I chatted with some guys about it NOT ONE (out of about 15!) had ever been asked the question. Also occasionally male guests think taking pictures of my bum whilst I am shooting is totally hilarious. In the industry - SO much worse when I first started over 12 years ago, to be fair huge advances have been made (ways to go, but). I joined the committee for my local photography group as I felt it was a"boys club" and then other ladies joined too and it really doesn't feel like that anymore. I never love seeing all male line ups at workshops etc (or all female!) and have been dismayed by massive companies having 20 male ambassadors and none or 1 female ambassadors.
Me providing specific information, an answer to a specific question, that swathes and hordes of almost unanimously men don't realise I'm answering/giving cos they won't even engage or click on my link/post. To the extent they prefer to ask a man who is, granted, a more ‘famous’ name... BUT HE HADN'T EVEN USED THE PRODUCT THEY ARE ASKING ABOUT (and they knew this very clearly). Why don't you ask one of the two people who have used the camera and therefore can answer your question?!?!?!?
“Are you the photographer’s wife?”
I interned with a fashion photographer and he asked what I wanted to do in my career and before I could say anything he said “well of course you’ll have to lower your expectations because you’re a woman”
A guy at a wedding on the dance floor pulled my long skirt up over my head when I was taking a photo
I had a guy try to pull the bridesmaids dresses up ‘for a photo’ because he thought it was hilarious. The girls laughed it off but you could tell they were really not comfortable with what happened.
Being forced to be hugged by an old male guest and have my photo taken with h with my own camera
A groomsman telling me a joke about rape
Conversations with other male photographers who think they’re better than you because the know the menu settings on every bit of kit back to front, and I don’t care about that - I know what I need to take the pictures I want
A really drunk male guest trying to grab my vagina on the dance floor.
Told him I was married and he said "aren't we all, but what goes on at a wedding stays at the wedding"
Male videographers trying to carry my bags for me like some inept fairy princess (I carry bags every single wedding because it's my kit and my JOB!)
Uncle bobs trying to out-gadge me when I don't care what big lenses they have.
Being scared leaving a city wedding, every. single. time.
When I first started out and in photographer groups constantly being spoken down to by male photographers with big egos but enough time to give newbs hassle in forums rather than get on with their "successful" businesses.
A constant feeling of inadequacy because there are very few women on judging panels or at conferences
A lot of the associations feeling like old boys clubs
Going to events where lots of amateur male photographers are taking photos of semi naked woman.…
Being an Indian female wedding photographer at an Indian wedding is the pits. So many older Male guests at asian weddings try to ‘marry me off’
With sports photography there is a MASSIVE imbalance of gender. With the Commonwealth Games there was 12 women out of nearly 400 photographers. It is the same with the room at Twickenham (40-2). If I shoot males I always get asked if I am dating or fancy one of them because I must be there so I can find a husband?!
There is also a practical element with the long lenses being really heavy transporting between venues is kinda tricky. I am 5’2” and a 500mm lens is nearly as big as my thigh, on the plus side after two weeks of shooting you are super fit.
I know that some people I have second shot with find some of the holsters difficult
because of having boobs.Everything from generally doubting my skills to full on sexual assault. It’s a veritable fairground
At a wedding last year, while quite heavily pregnant, I was taking group photos and a guy starting 'grinding' up behind me and then all of the 'lads' laughed... one of the bridesmaid told him "to stop because she's pregnant"
Which then pissed off me even more because pregnant or not you just DON'T do that! 😡
My husband has assisted for me in the past and the amount of time people assume he is the main photographer because he is male. At one wedding when we introduced ourselves to the vicar, they completely ignore me and just spoke to him, when matt explained he was just here to assist me, they looked me up and down ignored me completely and carried on telling matt about where to stand etc.
A lot of being groped too unfortunately...but less so now. I carry myself differently and assert myself differently with the men right from the minute I meet them
Shooting open day at my old work, bloke comes up and says "take that again and I'll stand here so you don't get lens flare"
I feel like when I suggest something in an fb group some people won't really acknowledge it, but then when a man they see as more experienced suggests the exact same thing more people like and comment. This doesn't happen in women's groups in any direction, I only find this in groups mixed where experience and status come into it a bit. A part of me thinks it's not that they don't think my advice was good but they want an excuse to engage with the person they admire.