It’s something you hear a lot from new photographers: “I really want to second shoot, but I can’t find anyone who will let me shoot with them,” or “I really want to get to know that photographer I love, but I don’t have $500-1000 to attend a workshop or conference right now.” I hear you! You just want a chance, one chance, to prove yourself, or to get that experience, or to learn from that photographer you so ardently admire, and all you need is for one person to say “yes.”
From a photographer who’s been in the game for about 5 years now, I’ve learned ways to genuinely ingratiate myself toward other photographers… and ways to seriously turn them off from ever wanting to get to know me. And in an industry of small business owners who seriously benefit from working together and being for one another, turning other photographers OFF is not the right way to go. This industry, like any other, has nuances and subtle social norms that are hard to know without having been in the business for a little while.
So if you’re new, it can be hard to know that something you’re asking for might be considered imprudent, and sometimes even rude. Because you haven’t had a chance to learn otherwise, even though you’re desperate for knowledge. I totally get it! And if this is you, then YOU are exactly who today and tomorrow’s blog posts were written for, dear friend. This post is meant to encourage you, not to condemn!
We’re breaking this down into two parts. Today is Part 1: The nature of the “I want to learn, somebody please help me” dilemma, and the reasons behind why more experienced photographers respond the way they do.
**In an effort to get a bit more insight on the topic, I reached out to a few friends in the industry for their take on the matter- any paragraphs in italic text + quotations are feedback from other talented vendors! **
1. Recognize that there has to be give and take in any healthy business or mentoring relationship. Be mindful that you’re not the one who’s only ever taking, failing to give. In the same way that a pitcher of lemonade can only fill up so many glasses before it runs dry, creative small business owners can only give so much without return before they start to burn out. If there’s something you can offer a photographer in return for extending you an opportunity, throw it out there! Maybe that’s shooting or assisting for free a couple of times, or helping them out with photos for their blog, or asking what their rates are for coaching.
Also along the lines of give and take, it’s important for you, the person doing the asking, to understand just what it is that you’re asking for :
2. “Remember that the photographers you admire are succeeding because of how much they have poured (and continue to pour) into their own businesses, which leaves limited amounts of time for coffee dates + long lists of questions. And rather than feeling rejected or ignored, find ways to reach out to other photographers in a spirit of community and support. Not a ‘PLEASE HELP ME! I have a list of 20 questions you owe me answers to even though you haven’t had time do your laundry in 2 weeks,’ but rather a ‘How can I help you, you inspire me, keep rocking girlfriend!, love that blog post- here are a couple ideas for future ones because newbies like me are curious!’ sort of way. — That spirit of service that so often stops me in my tracks and has encouraged me to bring so many girls onto my own team!”
3. Don’t gossip. Just don’t. This world of wedding/creative professionals is a lot smaller than you’d think, and if you talk smack about someone behind their back, it’s going get back to them. And the people you’re saying those things to? It’s going to damage your professionalism in their eyes, and no one likes to be associated with gossips in the workplace. Because gossips are the ones who drag you down, the ones who eventually become dead weight that no one else is willing to carry. Don’t become that person- I’ve been her, and she is no fun at all to be or to know.
Also, let’s be honest- aside from the business repercussions, gossip is toxic. It’s toxic to the person you’re talking to, it’s toxic to the person you’re talking about, and it’s toxic to YOU. Gossip poisons you from the inside out, and though you can try to mask the bitterness the gossip stems from, it’s going to come out in one way or another. Again, don’t become that person. I’ve been her, and she sucks. No one wants to work with, for, or around her, and she’s a miserable person!
Hopefully this was helpful for those of you who are still in the early stages of your business! Come back next Friday for Part 2: The Etiquette of Asking!