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As far as I can tell, there are two types of photographers. The business people (A) and the arty people (B). It’s rare to meet a photographer where the two worlds intersect.
As a member of Group B, it can be quite hard to establish your business in the first place. When you have a passion as big as mine, you have to be strict on yourself to not basically work for free every chance you get. The moment where you have to ask for the cash can be a tense one which takes time to get used to. More on that in another post.
Photographers with a hobby-turned-business are often guilty of doing things which aren’t, well, ‘good for business’ simply because we think with our passion, not always with our brain. Although I recognise those faults, I wouldn’t change them because the day my business becomes nothing more than a j-o-b is the day I lay down my camera.
Having begun to interact with other photographers, I have sometimes noticed a shocking amount of competition, slandering and suspicion coming from others in the field. The ever present “oooh you shoot Canon. I’ll just go over there and stand in my own corner with my Nikon” attitude or the sharp breath in when a photographer finds out that you share all of your photos online. “Aren’t you worried about theft?”
I know that you probably came to this website for a grand tutorial or camera review and I don’t usually blog essays, but I really feel that you can have all the technique, talent or business brains in the world, but if you aren’t a nice person – if a photographer is stuck too far up his own…well…butt to enjoy the rich fulfilment that sharing with other artists has to offer, technique will only get him so far.
Here are some ways I think we can blur the lines between comrades and competition and make the world a better place:
I am a new Flickr convert. I have only just in the past year discovered the joy and artistic fulfilment of Flickr but I am completely infatuated. Having never taken a single class about photography, I can honestly say that there are only two places I have received any sort of photographic training, help, enlightenment or support. They are here at DPS (honestly!) and Flickr. Flickr is sooo much more than a dumping ground for ‘pics’. It is a community of photographers – hobby and professional – who share their art with each other, give away their textures, presets and actions and even give detailed ‘post production recipes’ for exactly how they achieved the look of a photo. They are not in competition, catty or mean. They don’t worry about losing money or clients. I can actually attest that one month of Flickr made me a better photographer than any other years I put into it. Why? Because the number one way any artist can learn more is simply to look at other art.
Give where you see a need. I’ve gotten so much better about charging for my services. But I still sometimes recognise the times when I should use my talent for the greater good. I’ve (sadly) fallen into the habit of knowing people who are facing the end of their lives and I give them the gift of lasting family photos. This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned it, but I think it’s so important that we use our gift to help people or our gift won’t help us back.
Share your mistakes and don’t be afraid to make them. I do. And then I tell you all about it! 🙂 I’m not going to let my shortcomings be in vain. We should be able to learn from each other.
Help a beginner. I sometimes have beginners in the studio to watch me do a session or take on a work experience kid for a week. And, yes, I’ve said no to people who want to observe my studio who live in very close proximity to myself. It wouldn’t be wise to train up a competing studio. But this doesn’t always apply just because someone lives near me.
Most of all, stop viewing every other photographer as your competition. Every photographer has a style unique unto himself. None of us is like the other. You can only get an Elizabeth Halford portrait from Elizabeth Halford. Simple as that. If a bride wants my style, they can only get it from me. If they want your style, they should hire you. There is plenty of work to go around.
I fully understand the need to be savvy in business and protective if photography is your bread and butter. But sometimes, this can become a bit overkill and do more harm than good, most of all to yourself. After all, just look at this website. What a shining example of Group A and Group B working together to help enlighten the masses in the ways of photography. Let’s see what we can do about blurring the lines between comrade and competition.