Nobody cared who I was until I brought out the DSLR

A few weeks ago, I actually got out of the house for a second and went to an outdoor Farmer’s Market. I usually am not a person that goes out much, but in pandemic times I usually keep to myself because people don’t know how to behave. Sad but true.

Having not used it in a while, I also brought along my DSLR–A Nikon D7200 that I got as a birthday gift back in 2016. Poor thing’s been criminally underused during the pandemic. I decided to just roll with my 35mm prime lens and nothing else to keep it lightweight.

I had a good time with it! It felt great actually taking pictures with it, getting back into the groove of shooting full manual and making adjustments on the fly to get the best shot, something one doesn’t think about when using phones for photography. I’m not trying to shame anyone who uses a phone to take pictures (I do it too!) but there’s just some level of satisfaction I get from just dialing in things manually.

It wasn’t until I got home and threw the pictures into Lightroom that I picked up on some, uh, hostility. Most people didn’t seem to care that I was taking photos with my D7200. But I noticed as I was going in to crop that a few people just…looked at me with utter disgust on their faces that I was taking a picture with my DSLR. I finished my edits and just…sat on the pictures for a while. Because this is a thing that I’ve dealt with before, and it kinda sucks.

Because–for whatever reason–the minute you bring a DSLR into the picture, people look at you differently. If you snap pictures with your phone? Oh, that’s completely innocent, go for it. Recording a TikTok in public? Totally innocent (for the most part). But some guy brings a DSLR up? You suddenly attract the ire of people around you.

When I actually first got my D7200 in 2016, I took it to a mall parking lot, away from anyone else, and took pictures of my car. Someone didn’t like that, and called security over to hassle us and tell us we weren’t allowed to do photography on their property. Which was strange because if you walk up to the mall proper they actually encourage you to take pictures (implied to be with your phone) and post them on Instagram and use the mall’s hashtag. So they allow photography, but if you have a certain type of camera that they don’t like, it suddenly isn’t allowed. 

Bite me. A camera’s a camera. But again: Taking photos with your phone is assumed to be innocent, but if you have a DSLR, people act like you’re carrying a gun.

Another instance was actually in a thrift store some years ago. I was with friends, and there was something cool that I wasn’t going to buy, but I thought was neat to show off. A staff member got very angry at this and told me to delete the photo and never to take a photo in there ever again.

One final instance occurred during a trip to Portland in 2018. I brought my D7200 along, as I do, and people were ridiculously hostile over it. Things were fine when using my phone, but bringing out the D7200? People around me looked visibly angry with me, one even going so far as to shout at me to stop taking pictures or they’d get violent. Yikes. (And I wasn’t even taking pictures of people, either.)

Now, you’d think in the age of TikTok and Instagram that people would warm up to there being people with cameras everywhere. And they have! (For the most part.) But it still feels like bringing out a DSLR feels like you’re bringing out a loaded weapon with how people look at you while you’re handling it. So long as you take pictures with a phone, you’re golden. But you take out some dedicated camera hardware, some people assume you have malicious intent and look at you weird or treat you with hostility.

It’s a good portion of the reason why even though yeah, I have a lovely D7200 and it takes some great pictures…I never really take it anywhere anymore. I just opt to use my phone. Because my phone is safe, no one assumes malicious intent when I’m snapping photos with my phone, and I don’t get bothered. My D7200 only goes out when I know I’m going to a place that has little to no people. Like beaches. Or cemeteries. Or nature spots.



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