Last week, I stood at the counter of a local specialty boutique and had a short conversation with another local photographer. We discussed a few things, but the main topic was regarding morals and ethical decisions of other photographers—or the lack thereof. That short conversation sparked the idea behind this blog post. In short, if we are all going to survive this industry and to be able to make a living doing something we love, we have to learn to exercise certain professional courtesies to each other. This post isn’t meant to call anyone out or point fingers in any direction. I’m merely trying to bring to light instances in which we can work together… positively and in a better way. Over the years, I’ve developed a few pet peeves. Here they are in all their glory!
- No stealing. As well as the obvious, this pertains to setups, locations, and ideas too. Ironically, I once had a fellow photographer steal my idea of shooting from a certain location during an event—an idea I had contemplated out loud in front of the photographer and well over five months before the event. On the day of, the photographer quickly announced that they would be shooting from that location. Since I had already decided I was not going to shoot from there, it didn’t really matter to me. My GENIUS second shooter already had devised a better plan to get those shots. Turns out the location was extremely hot and noisy, was not very comfortable, and was not the prime place to be shooting the event. It also made some of the event’s guests question the photographer’s judgement. I’ve also had people approach me and tell me so-and-so is going to take their portraits but they want to know where I shot a particular session. Although my locations are no secret, this isn’t cool. As an alternative to stealing, ask if there’s any room for collaboration or give me call yourself. I’m always willing to help out other photographers.
- No butting in. If you’re well aware that another photographer has an official photographer agreement with a certain organization or entity, don’t show up to shoot from the outside and sell your prints (or Heaven forbid, give them away!). Instead, reach out and ask if there’s anyway you can help out the official photographer. Maybe, just maybe there’s another way to help or become involved.
- Defend us. If you are an official member, employee or representative of an organization or entity that has an official photographer agreement with someone, do what you can to protect your interests… and their interests. If you have knowledge of someone else bootlegging (for lack of a better word) images from an event covered under the agreement, let the offending party know that they are infringing on someone else’s territory. Ask them to stop.
- Recon—as in reconnaissance. Always be conscious of your surroundings. More than once, okay.. at least 100 times, I’ve been blatantly ignored when I’ve been set up for a shot. Always be aware if there are other photographers (amateur or otherwise) and don’t get in their way. If you discover you’ve accidentally been in the way, apologize and MOVE. Find a new perspective to shoot from. A good rule of thumb is to shoot right beside, in back of or at a 90° angle from other photographers.
Here is an example of a photographer either not being aware of her surroundings OR not caring. She ruined my image. After I captured this frame, I moved.
If you know someone has sent you a referral, thank them. If the referral books with you, send a note or even a small gift to the person who sent the referral. I’ve sent many referrals along the way. I’ve received very few acknowledgments. 🙁 But seriously, when a potential client inquires about photography work I don’t specialize in, I always refer them out. Always.
The world of professional photography does not have to be cutthroat. I do believe we can find an amicable way to work together and make our jobs even more enjoyable. There will always be the bad apples and the non-conformists. But, if we stop with the photog wars, work with integrity, join forces and view each other as allies and not enemies, not only will the world be a better place, but the photography world will be a better place.
What’s your pet peeve about professional courtesies in photography? How do you think we can work together to make the industry a friendlier place from within?
Until next time, be positive, happy, and healthy, and don’t forget to be photographed.