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Photographers Ettiquette – A Discussion About the Entitled Attitude in the Photography Industry.

This was a hard post to make the decision to write, because it has the possibility of offending some, and that’s never anything I want to do. But I feel like much of what I’m about to say has to be said. When I first started wanting to learn more about photography I did so by contacting several established photographers who answered the many questions I had about the craft. I spent time shadowing and learning from them and becoming somewhat of an apprentice, and eventually took a course that one of them was offering on the subject. I bugged my father in law who owned his own photography business to soak me in all his knowledge and teach me everything he knew. I scoured the internet and youtube looking for all of the information I could get my hands on and went to the library to read every book I could find. I was, in essence, just like all of the new photographers out there today who are seeking knowledge about how to enter or become better in the industry.

Since then I myself have been contacted by several aspiring photographers who have some of the same questions I did, and I am  more than welcome to help them because of the experience that I have had. It takes time to answer those types of e-mails. I’ve spent nearly an hour of my time on several occasions giving as much information as I could on a certain topic. Sometimes I receive very little thank you in return while others have been enthusiastically grateful. I do this out of the goodness of my heart because I remember what it was like to be there and not really understand where to turn for my questions. I want to be able to give back like those before me have, and I honestly enjoy helping others in their quest for knowledge. But lately, I’ve been seeing a troubling trend in the photography industry that I think is worth discussing, and that is the sense of entitlement I think is permeating the air within the industry.

I admit, I am a self taught photographer (meaning I did not have formal training in a school setting). I relied on other photographers to teach me and my own research skills to get me through the beginning phases. But there are many established photographers out there who did not learn in this manner. They might have spent a great deal of money on educating themselves whether it be through formal training or expensive workshops, and they may feel a little more hesitant about so freely offering up the information they sacrificed money and time to learn on their own. I completely get this and respect their decision. In fact, if I were in their shoes I would probably feel the exact same way. I have massive student loans from my MBA, and I’m not sure I could sit down and spend hours teaching everything I know for free. There are also times when established photographers are extremely busy and just don’t have the time to devote to giving free mini lessons to every person who e-mails them with questions. They would rather use that time  to spend with their family or to invest in their own business. This should also be respected.

What I’m finding more and more disturbing are the amount of posts I’m seeing in the photography forums from new photographers becoming upset about the fact that an established photographer didn’t e-mail them back, wanted to charge for their information, or just wasn’t willing to part with their information at all. I’m seeing comments like “They should remember what it’s like. They should give back. They should be willing to help. This should be a cooperative industry”. Whenever I answer an e-mail with a list of questions my husband gives me a crazy look. He says that this is the only industry where it seems you can write your competitor and ask them to train you, and he’s absolutely correct. In most other industries this is not the norm and it is not acceptable. If I want to open a restaurant or bakery, it would be somewhat inappropriate for me to contact the successful baker down the street and ask her to give me her recipes and tell me how to ice the cakes the way she does.

When I contacted the photographers I did, I was praying they would answer me back. Some didn’t, and I was sincerely okay with that. I understood why they didn’t. I was honestly shocked when I received a few responses and felt overly grateful to these photographers for giving me their time and information. That was several years ago. Today, if you don’t respond there isn’t any understanding by most. You are instead labeled a newbie hater if you aren’t available or just simply don’t want to train your competition. It seems to be slowly turning into an obligation rather than something someone does out of the goodness of their heart, and that is where the problem lies. I spoke with one photographer recently who spends the majority of her time helping new photographers build their businesses, who informed me that she has felt more used and abused lately than she ever has. She feels as though she gives and gives and there is becoming much less of an attitude of gratefulness that comes back to her. It’s because of the ever increasing idea of entitlement and obligation that is permeating the air. This idea that the photographer is just doing their job, what they should be doing, when they answer these types of e-mails.

So the overall point of this post is not to deter anyone from contacting established photographers with your questions, but it is to encourage you to do so with a humble heart, realizing that you are asking a professional who may or may not have the time to spend with you, who may or may not have the desire to train their competition, or who may or may not have formal training they paid for and don’t wish to part with. These attitudes are okay and normal, and not evil like those on photography forums have stated. Be very grateful to those who give you their information. Make sure you go out of your way to let them know how thankful you are that they took the time to spend with you, and please let’s stop the negative postings complaining about those who choose not to partake in this knowledge giving. Let’s not make this about entitlement, obligation, and finger pointing. If a photographer you are inspired by doesn’t send you an e-mail in return take initiative and self teach yourself what you are trying to learn, and use your own spin to make it unique to yourself. This will ultimately help you as an artist, and it will save the industry from the ever increasing negative barrier between newbie and professional that has sprouted up in recent years.

 

Jennifer Lucia

 

 

14 comments
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  • I am so glad you posted this. I’m speechless. This is exactly what’s been on my mind lately. It’s crazy this photography world, huh? I love how you compared it to other businesses…like a bakery, it would not be appropriate. Thank you. Sharing this with the whole world! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Amen!!!ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa

    Im new and still learning and just want to say thank you!ReplyCancel

  • I loved reading this. It’s so true! I’ve had lots of people contact me for information, too and I feel a little hesitant to just hand out knowledge that I paid a great deal of time and money for. I’m all for helping people, but I don’t want to hand my livelihood away either.ReplyCancel

  • coley

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. It’s unfortunate that people take other people for granted. Time is a precious commodity and asking payment for that time is completely understandable. I really appreciate you saying that you haven’t taken formal classes to be a photographer, but are really an artist! Many professional photographers seem to think that photographers without a degree in that field aren’t “real” photographers. You are clearly an amazing photographer and proof that the talent comes from hard work and intuition regardless of the degree!ReplyCancel

  • heather hartlen

    very well said. I can’t believe people would be mad if they didn’t respond, that’s just crazy to me. I’m fairly amazed right now lolReplyCancel

  • Emily

    I’m not a photographer, but I’m an aspiring baker. I have been on the other side and when making my son’s birthday cake, I asked a woman, who runs her own cake business, for some tips. I didn’t expect her to give me many, if any at all, but she was so generous to share her thoughts and expertise with me! I told her how thankful I was because you should never expect anything in life, let alone professionals’ tips. People who complain about not getting what they want are just the type of people I talk about all the time. Disrespectful people. There is very little respect now a days, and it’s sickening. I love this blog because I couldn’t agree more with your points. I hope people learn from this because no one should ever be ungrateful for anything or expect anything.ReplyCancel

  • Shantall Cummins

    I’d like to ad that as an aspiring photographer, I too contacted Jennifer for help with getting started. To my surprise, she was happy to help and showed me so much that I just cannot put a price on it. It’s helped me tremendously and I am so very grateful to her for that. That being said, now that I know a little more about photography through her and through the endless number of sites, books, blogs, etc that I’ve read, I do feel that people need to stop feeling so entitled or offended when others don’t want to hand information to you on a silver platter. I’ve done double my share of homework compared to what I’ve been able to learn from other photographers as I’m sure Jennifer has too. So before you get worked up or offended because Jennifer or any photographer might not have the time to hand all of their knowledge on the trade to you on a platter, think about how hard that person must have worked to get to where they are today. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Thank you for stepping out and saying what was on your heart. I recently posted an obscure status on my personal Facebook page:”Thank you. You’re welcome. See how that works? Pretty simple, but sometimes people just want to be thanked for what they do.” That post was for THIS EXACT REASON! I spent an extra 90 minutes on my computer that day answering emails, messages, etc helping others who wanted to join the profession. Did I mind? Not at all! BUT, not one emailed me back to say “thank you”. It is difficult not to become hardened when others don’t show appreciation for your time, knowledge, and gesture. Thank you for posting this!ReplyCancel

  • This is the same in the interior design business with inspiring decorators or design enthusiast I have lots of people that ask me for advice or for help and if they ask me for specific questions regarding a post on my blog I always answer, if they are a friend and we talk about things other then interior design I love to help, I’ve learned over time though if someone asks for decorating advice for their room I wish them luck tell them there is lots of useful information on my site but I am currently not accepting free consultations at this point due to my obligations to my paying clients and this comes from being burned many times. In the beginning I’d put many hours into helping someone for free and not even get a thank you response in return. My craft brings money to my family and I have to treat it like a business. I think its a process everyone goes through that specializes in something especially art related.ReplyCancel

  • Amber

    I am an inspiring photographer.I totally agree that we shouldn’t expect tips from others. However, the issue that I am running into, is that professional photographers downgrade us newbies. I have been told I’m not a real photographer because I don’t have the same skills that they have. I am just learning, I don’t go out and charge people crazy amounts of money( mostly take pics for family and friends). I just don’t understand the entitled attitude. On the other hand, I really appreciate all of you that take the extra time to mentor and help us newbies!!ReplyCancel

  • Well said!! The manner or tone or timing of the request makes all the difference in the world.ReplyCancel

  • Melinda

    THANK YOU FOR KEEPING OLD SCHOOL VALUES!!! I LOVE YOUR WAY OF THINKING!! You’re the first that I’ve seen post on this. And do so correctly! This attitude in newbies is exactly why I will never help another in photography, unless they know me personally. The only advice I give is that there is not one answer to any photography question. If you really want to get better, learn your camera & read the manual first! I haven’t even advertised yet, still schooling, so I can not imagine how many “stranger-friends” will come out of the woodworks asking for help later. This is the perfect example of a reasonable, respectful response.ReplyCancel

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