behind the scenes, giving away the secrets

When I started shooting with other photographers, I found myself being drawn to shooting behind the scenes pictures. I, personally, have loved when photographers catch me taking a shot of model or during a wedding. So much so that I created a compilation of all of those photos as well as the pictures I had taken to create a slideshow to reveal how I shoot and then what I captured. You can view it on youtube here.
So, I was driving in my car the other day thinking on how passionate photographers have been lately and while some (most of the ones I work with thankfully) are very giving and share knowledge freely… others can be quite cut-throat. One of the things that crossed my mind was behind the scenes photos. In my growing group south of Atlanta, taking BTS shots are quite common and we have actually turned into something of a fun part of the shooting. I do know a few people who are skiddish about being shot while they are taking their pictures. I would assume a few things but that is why I am writing this blog. Are you a photographer? Do you have a problem with behind the scenes photos being taken of you? Is it because you are afraid of ideas being stolen or secrets revealed?
Should I feel honored that someone wants to “try my shot” or do I feel like something has been stolen from me?

I have my opinions… I just want to hear yours. Please retweet this post and I encourage your comments and replies!

and just for fun…

bts of a newborn session
me from a recent shoot with a newborn

23 Responses to “behind the scenes, giving away the secrets”
  1. Ney says:


    This reminds me of a certain photographer I assisted when I started getting into photography, a couple of years ago.

    This particular photographer was so paranoid about people “stealing” his style/ideas/techniques etc. that he went to the extent of filing down any identifying markers on his lenses so noone could tell right away what he was shooting with. And mind you these were lenses for a Hasselblad!!

    Another quirk of his was that noone could take any kind of pictures once in the studio without his consent. No behind the scenes shots, period.

    Ironically, he did take an idea of mine for a book, and ran with it.

    I guess the ones most paranoid about being stolen from are that way because they themselves would not be above stealing someone else’s ideas.

    I personally don’t mind others looking over my shoulder and learning something from it. If others hadn’t encouraged me to learn that way, I probably wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have today.


    • julieharnage says:

      yea I’ve never understood that whole “taping” up the brand name… I’ve heard several reasons why but still doesn’t make a lick of sense to me.
      its nice if someone refers to me/ my work if they do borrow a pose or a photo but I doubt I would get all upset about them doing so.
      thanks for sharing!

  2. BrianMC says:

    My theory is, as long as it doesn’t distract the model or the photographer, it is fine. Assuming it’s flattering to the model and photographer.

    I like the BTS shots you have. To me, they tell a story rather than divulging secrets.

    But, I can imagine that there might be some photogs that might not want a special/secret technique shown on the interwebs. Or just not want their photo taken at all.

    Maybe it’s as simple as at meetings, photogs use a single sign-in sheet and check a box whether they mind being photographed or not. Or the group gets asked at the beginning of the meeting, if anyone would rather not be photographed. Show of hands.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • julieharnage says:

      lol yes flattering to the photographer! (very good point… )
      we have taken a few at SAF that weren’t quite so but never posted… just threatened. (but only in fun)
      I can respect that some photographers might not like it… I’ve actually only had ONE say anything to me in the three years I’ve been shooting with the Atlanta group and beyond.

  3. Julie –

    I am flattered when someone takes a BTS shot of me (it doesnt happen that often). Sometimes its just photogs playing, but more often than not, a bts shot is the ‘how to’: how the photog got “that look” on a particular shot. Its how we all learn the techniques of creating the individualized art we do.

    Each persons photography has a particular style to it thats evolved from the learned toolset they use – one of your signature looks for example is the ‘down low’ shot: getting below the subject and shooting upward. Mine for example, is more of a traditional eye level portrait style leaning toward Rembrandt lighting.

    We all strive to continually learn & improve with each shot we take. And learn from each other. To me, the bts shots are equal or more sigificant than the finished product itself. I try to learn something from everyone around me. If I can share what Ive learned with others, so much the better.


    • julieharnage says:

      I don’t know why I like it or started liking it… I guess maybe because honestly I thought it was cool .. lol
      Maybe thats just the dork in me… 🙂 and also maybe because that was one of the only times my photo was taken.
      thanks for the response mike!

  4. Michael Mitten says:

    I’m like you. I like to take the BTS shots. When I went to my first lighting class with Trent Chau last month, I did a lot of it. It had nothing to do with getting ideas, or stealing anything. It was just to take the pics of photographers. To me, it’s like the ‘Extras’ part of a DVD.

    Unfortunately I’m such noob that they didn’t come out all the great, but I had fun none the less!

  5. Eric Murphy says:

    Not sharing of knowledge and not wanting to be photographed are both rooted in hypocrisy.

    Think about it. God forbid a photographer has…gasp…their picture taken while taking a picture. There’s no chemical compound to break down and deciepher. No trade secrets. We all push a button and let light in a box.

    Why would anyone not share the knowledge the have learned from someone? If the person you had learned from had the same attitude where would you be?

    I’m gratful for finding a group of people that have no problem sharing their vast knowledge. I don’t think I’d be as far along on my path if I hadn’t found SAF.

    • julieharnage says:

      very true… which is why I can respect some not wanting their shoots revealed. that doesn’t make it right but … I know before I had the equipment, a lot of my “great photo” came because I knew how to use photoshop to help them along 🙂
      Im definitely grateful for small groups like APG & SAF in local areas to teach and share.
      thanks for sharing eric! 🙂

  6. Oscar says:

    To me it’s silly to try to “hide” techniques by not letting people photograph you while you work, or see what specific equipment you use or how your lights are laid out.

    Some of the most respected and admired photographers more often than not are very open about what they do, try to teach others and come up with new ideas to share and get feedback on.

    If a photographer thinks that because someone else takes a photo of their setup they will be able to reproduce their work, then maybe that photographer is more scared of not being really that good and people finding out about it.

    Now there could be legitimate reasons for not wanting others to be taking photos during a session, maybe models or yourself get distracted, but that’s a different story, doing it because you don’t want people to know what you do is just nonsense.

    • julieharnage says:

      especially when they could possibly be using such great equipment as what you offer 😉 show that stuff off! haha.
      yea and I agree about not shooting during a shoot because of interrupting. thats definitely not cool…
      thanks oscar for commenting! 🙂

  7. Mark says:

    If you’re good enough, people can’t even recreate landscape shots – which seems like it would be easy to do. But look at everyone who tries to copy Ansel Adams and don’t come close.

    There are qualities that people can’t replicate just by seeing how someone takes a photograph.

    • julieharnage says:

      very true. I think sometimes its just a matter of allowing yourself to be down to earth. I mean… what does it really matter in the long run? do you want to be the ONLY one? or do you want to leave a legacy of students behind?

  8. cory m. says:

    I dont usually mind behind the scene shots.. I am working on a project that i dont invite any other photogs over while im working on it.. but i’m also not posting the photos till the projects done so people arent tired of seeing the shots by the time it’s done.. actually i post my own behind the scene shots of it to peak interest in my project..

    But as for regular shoots when im with other photogs, i have no problem. We all look the same in them.. standing up, kneeling or possibly laying down with a camera to our eye… and anyway, there isnt really any new or different way of shooting, it’s all been done before.. All you can do is put your spin on the ideas..

    i will say, i feel sorry for your camera if you take BTS of me… haha

    • julieharnage says:

      yea see I can totally understand and respect that part of it… you don’t want to give up the goods before the big reveal.

      pfft. I bet I have a BTS of you somewhere 🙂

  9. Justin Kurtz says:

    Something I learned doing stock photography. . . “there is nothing you can take a picture of that someone else hasn’t already taken” with, for those that like to argue, the exception of SPECIFIC subjects .

    In my opinion anyone that has an issue with BTS shots or sharing their ideas, is hurting the art more than helping it. If you are worried about someone copying your shot, step up your game and start doing something new. It’s a “progressive art” one person can’t make it progress on their own, it’s done by observing adapting, and then reimplementing in your own way. If you are not coming up with something new and ground breaking you are simply following the progression of things, not copying someone.

    However, there is a fine line between inspiration and imitation. Watching someone shoot and then getting into the exact same position to shoot without moving models, lights, etc. is not inspiration.

    These are just my thoughts though, I am very open to sharing and growth so my outlook may be a little extreme. It’s the only way any of us get any better.

    • julieharnage says:

      totally agree with that. however I was quite guilty of it when I first started… cept I would have the model turn the opposite direction just to play it safe 🙂 but that was just two meets. now I can pose em pretty well.
      thanks for the input!

  10. julieharnage says:

    I am the first one who will share a tip or two and help someone along their photographic journey.. however when my helping turns into your business growing then I think you need to break loose and do your own thing. Don’t keep suckling when you already have a steak on the table.
    Fun, behind the scenes and set up shots are always okay in my opinion unless in the case like Cory’s where he is working on special projects that will be announced in due time.
    I’ve realized lately that I have personal issues with people using “my” props/concepts/ideas. Its honestly due to jealousy. I don’t want anyone coming up with a better shot when I came up with the idea. (ha, isn’t that honest??) Also, its about having duplicate images. I started a small group of photographers on the southside of Atlanta and also help run a group in Atlanta… I am used to all of us getting the “same shots” and I think I’ve finally gotten to the place where I want to have something more original. I know everything has been done before, but it helps when 10 other people aren’t using the exact same set up as I do. 🙂

    Thanks to everyone who responded! 🙂

    • Michael Mitten says:

      So try this, next meet everyone needs to bring a prop to work with. One rule: only the person that brought that prop can use it, or at least be the only one that can post a pic with that prop. It sounds like you bring several, pick one for just Julie…get it? Just….Jul….nevermind.

      One, it should be a lot of fun to see what each person brings…if they want to bring one. Two, your pics will be original.

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