Photographer Etiquette: A Guide to Networking With Your Peers

Photographer Etiquette: A Guide to Networking With Your Peers

Anyone with good business sense knows how strong networking can influence the way you build your career, but how about the rest of us who may not be as networking savvy? Proper etiquette says much about the way you conduct yourself and your business. Here is a guide on how to appropriately interact with your photographer peers in and out of your area to insure that the relationships built are positive and productive.

Why is Networking Important?

Networking allows you to build beneficial relationships within the industry that you work in. We all need a little bit of help, encouragement and camaraderie from time to time. It helps keep your morale up and gives you an outlet to other photographers that you can relate to. It also has benefits business wise. Good networking can boost your business by having others recommend your work. Perhaps you only shoot family portraits and a wedding photographer is asked if he can do a family portrait. If you have a good relationship with this photographer the likelihood of him recommending you for the gig is a lot higher than if you just kept to yourself.


EDM photographer meet-up in LA during the exhibit.


How to Get Started

When you feel you're ready to start spreading your wings and are comfortable enough to start reaching out to your peers there are several avenues that you can use to begin networking. From social networking to personal meet and greets the possibilities are pretty much endless. Here are a few ways that you can start getting your name out into the industry.

You can first start by getting your photography business in order. If you plan to reach out as a true professional, make sure that your business reflects that. Create your website, social networks and make sure you have your business properly registered with whatever state you reside in. A professional isn't going to treat you as a fellow pro unless you are conducting yourself and your career as a legitimate business. In fact, several photography groups require that you present your Tax ID before granting membership. If you're putting yourself out there as a hobbyist you'll gain more respect by saying so.

Once you have that in order you can look to see what kind of photographer meet-ups are in your local area. There are several well known photography associations that sponsor photographer meetings including Pictage User Groups and PPA groups. If there's not one in your area you can either create one or just start your own general meet-up. Photography conventions are also another great place for networking. Fstoppers every year has a really awesome FS party that photographers of all levels of experience and specializations attend to network and let loose, as the featured photo of Peter Hurley, Zack Arias, Jared Polin and a few others above shows. Meet-ups can be a really fun way of getting to know people in your industry.


What to do When You're There



Make sure you bring along enough business cards to pass out at the meet-up. Don't be a wallflower. It comes off as being aloof. Start by introducing yourself and making small talk. Ask smart and engaging questions, but tread carefully you don't want to come off as too eager or as an annoyance. Save your business cards until either they ask for it or towards the end of your conversations. If the group is hosting a presentation pay attention. Even if the subject is something you feel you may already know or don't shoot you'll be surprised by what you can learn, and you don't want to give the impression that you're disinterested.

Once the event is over make sure that you follow up with the people you've met. Add them to your social networks and invite them out to lunch if you want to get to know them better. Remember in several states a lunch or dinner with another photographer is considered a meeting and is actually tax-deductible. Even if it is a small percentage. Every little bit counts, right?



EDM photographer meet-up at Ultra Music Festival 2013 in Miami


Photographer Etiquette and Ethics

Manners are incredibly important when working with other photographers in your industry or area. The majority of people are taught basic manners in kindness and respect in their formative years. Most would consider the points below to be plain 'ole common sense, but lately I have seen more and more photographers crossing the line of good manners and ethics and not even realize the gravity of their poor behavior.

Copyright Infringements

It's painful to see a client or unknown person stealing your images and using them without your permission, but it's especially hurtful when the offender is another photographer. I'll never understand why some photographers use other artists' images to market themselves. It's happened to the best of us, including Fstoppers' own Lee Morris, when his wedding photography was hijacked at the beginning of the year. Whether you use the stolen images on your website, a craigslist ad, a Facebook banner or a post requesting models for a shoot it's wrong, plain and simple. Not only will you quickly gain the ire and disrespect of all of your peers, but eventually your client base will see right through it. It's a slap on the face to your peers and under no circumstances is this acceptable. Did I forget to mention that it's illegal, as well?


Learn to Play Nice



If you're on a gig that requires you to work with another shooter or several other shooters, like concerts, events or weddings learn to work together and become a team player. I have heard countless of stories of photographers fighting for 'the shot' and literally wrestling to get better angles. This is just piss-poor behavior in general.

If possible meet with the crew before the event and lay out some ground rules. Share the stage or angles that you will be shooting from and be aware of your surroundings during the shoot. Never purposely get in the way of another photographer's shot. You'll quickly come off as a jerk and word will spread that you're hard to work with. Remember your reputation is one of your best selling points. Don't ruin that by being difficult to work with.

Also, if you're attending an event (a wedding, concert or another event) and you're not the hired shooter leave the business cards in your pocket unless someone asks you for it. Trying to push out a house photographer is a sure way to not only get a bad name, but be banned from a venue quickly. If you're at a wedding then let the hired wedding photographer pass out their cards, it's their gig, and they should be treated with respect.


Be Grateful

If you reach out to another photographer for help when you're first starting out or to help with a shoot please show your gratitude. This is another touchy subject that comes up with photographers. An amateur may ask a professional for guidance or to intern for them so that they can learn from the best only to later break away and try to steal the clients from said professional. Instead of showing their gratitude for the person that taught them and nurtured their growth they show their true bad behavior.

It should be common sense not to go after clients you know that your mentor has. This is a gross example of distrust and ill-business practices. When you show your gratitude it displays your sincerity in learning and wanting to be in a positive place in your industry. Also, recently scientists have learned that showing some gratitude can actually affect your own happiness by increasing the joy in your life. So, start expressing your gratitude for your peers. It will make both of you feel good about working together. Saying, "Thank you," goes a long way.


Recommend Your Peers



If someone inquires about some work that you don't specialize in, instead of just letting them know that you don't shoot that type of photography and sending them on their way go ahead and recommend someone you know will be able to take care of that client. This is the best way to forge positive relationships in your industry. On the same note if a photographer hooks you up with a gig show your gratitude by returning the favor. I myself am constantly inquired on whether I shoot weddings or family portraits, I don't, but I always take the time to recommend people from my area that I know will be better suited for the job.

I even took the time to write a personal blog post recommending my favorite wedding photographers in my area. You might get a few photographers that are offended that you didn't recommend them, but instead of being pressured go with your gut. You know best on who you feel will properly handle the client.


Social Network Etiquette

This is the breeding ground of both positive and negative behavior. What makes social networking such a delicate place is that since everything is written sometimes intent and tone can be hard to gauge. Here's a few points on how to interact with your peers on social networks including the gargantuan Facebook.

Critiques on Facebook and Misc...

Giving and receiving constructive criticism is a great way to learn and grow as a photographer, but where do you draw the line? There are a ton of appropriate places to give CC (constructive criticism). There are groups and fan pages dedicated to just that including our own Fstoppers Facebook Group. I'm not going to explain how to give CC, you can find more information on the subject HERE and HERE.

I will say though, that you should only give CC when asked for it, and NEVER give CC no matter how positive you may word your comment on a photographer's fan page or profile. Those areas are open publicly to their clients and friends. The last thing you want to do is embarrass the photographer you're giving CC to. Also, be wary when a fellow photographer asks on their photo, "What do you think?" This may just be a way for them to open a dialogue between them and his/her clients or potential clients. If you have anything to say keep it positive. 'Hey awesome shot!' suffices. If you don't like what you see, then keep quiet and just move along.

Social Network Fauxpas

Here's a few examples on how never to use Facebook to network. These I have experienced myself and was not too pleased to see the offending photographer encroaching on my little internet bubble. Don't ever use another photographer's page as a way to solicit your services or scout for models. Again, you would think that this is common sense, but alas just this week I witnessed this happen, and it's incredible to see just how clueless some of these photographers are.

If you see a professional photo of a model and would like to work with them, don't express that desire on the photo itself. It may be attached to the photographer's page. This is also good advice if the model has posted it on her own personal page. If it's obvious that the photo is professional it's better to just send them a private message.



Click to see larger.


Soliciting your services can be walking on a fine line, as well. If there is a company or client that you want to shoot with and you already know that they have a photographer and are happy with them, then in my opinion it's best to walk away. Never solicit your services on another photographer's client's photo album saying you can shoot for them. That's disrespectful to the photographer who shot those photos and the client will probably blow you off, as well. It comes off as desperate, and that's never an image you want to portray.


Click to view larger.

In Conclusion

Networking can be a valuable asset to not only your business, but your social life, as well. It's not just about gaining more clients and work, but it's also about forging awesome and powerful friendships with people that share the same passion for photography that you do. I have a ton of people that I hang out with in my area that are in my field of work and some of them are my direct competition, but I never see them that way. They're simply my friends. This is just a simple guide to get you thinking about the way you interact with other photographers. It's all just a matter of respect, common sense and consideration.

Feel free to write about any experiences you've had with badly behaved photographers below in the comments.

I'd like to thank Diego Acevedo, Doug Van Sant, Justin Nizer, Frank Martinez III and Lee Morris for letting me use their images.

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Mike Kelley's picture

Awesome article. Whoever the photographer was that tried to whomp on that facebook post with your photos is incredibly rude.

This is very well written. Great job Rebecca!

Fstoppers i love you, but there is something wrong with the chapter ''Learn to Play Nice''. The guy you see in the shot is a friend of mine filming FOR Nicky Romero (International famous dj). How do you know he is on purpose in the shot? Did Doug (the photographer) tell you? Did the cameraman tell you? I know from experience he wouldn't get in the shot on purpose because i worked with him! Next time do your research a little bit better, just a tip Rebecca..

ps. I'm sorry for my bad English
pss. What a shame you didn't see the filming light and the shoulder rig, being an so called EDM photographer.
psss. Even an amateur could see Doug wanted him to be in the shot.

Rebecca Britt's picture

Hun, it was just used as an example. I had permission from Doug to use it in this way himself. Maybe before commenting you should talk to Doug first. I take it you're not in the EDM Photographer's group where he posted it himself saying someone got in his shot. Perhaps he meant it as jest, but alas it's just an example.

I am the VIDEOgrapher which is shown in the picture and as Christiaan said, I work for Nicky Romero himself so I suppose I should have the best spots to shoot. Besides that, posting a picture in a bad context like this without knowing what's going on isn't really professional. Thanks for that!

And by the way, feel free to apologize;)

I don't think an apology is needed, I fail to get any negative context associated with you? From my point of view it was a cool shot with an unidentified videographer (well not anymore) that was clearly made intentionally. I think the image illustrates the point that there are times you will be working with others on set, and to always play nice.
In no way does it imply to me, that it is a shot of the videographer (you) getting in the way.

"I have heard countless of stories of photographers fighting for ‘the shot’ and literally wrestling to get better angles." -- First Paragraph. The photo and context it's used in based on the discussion looks pretty dang obvious to me. =)

But again, my point is... it wasn't that big of a deal to the photographer, who clearly composed this image (very well), and decided to edit it too. Now why would he do that? Either to illustrate a cool shot...or to point out people getting in the way.
I just took the "glass half full" approach to the article.

"This is just piss-poor behavior"

"You’ll quickly come off as a jerk and word will spread that you’re hard to work with"

Doesn't sound really positive right? Me in the picture is indicating this behaviour so before knowing what's happening in this picture I shouldn't post it.

Well we didn't know it was you until you said something, and now you are taking the quotes out of context.

I'm just saying, that from an outsiders perspective (one who doesn't know the sitch, and just read the article) I didn't take the meaning of the image to read "hey look at this moron who popped up in the middle of my shot"
But you did, because you have personal attachment to the situation.

So from joe schmo's perspective (me), all the negativity associated with this images is being created by you.

...just sayin'

It is obviously ment to show that photographers should not stand in each others way (which I was not doing on this picture). The text completely tells that. The writer of this article should show a picture where 3 photographers are fighting for a shot.

And yes i believe that if you are working for the artist, you'll have more privileges then other photographers. The artist is the boss of the stage. He decides which people can be where. I guess he find it more important that he gets a good video for himself then pictures of other photographers. At least, he tells me that, so should be true. You can say this is arrogance but it's just how it works.

The text in no way calls you out, or says "take the above photo for example"

I also do not disagree with your authority on the stage. I just think you are making a mountain out of an ant hill here buddy.

Sorry but Robbert Thoolen is absolutely right. This article does make it out to seem like the person in the photo is in the wrong. Clearly no one who works at FStoppers has any sort of Journalism background and this article is great evidence of that. If the photo wasn't meant to be related to the text why even include the image at all?

I've toured with many bands and artists for the past 2 years and I always have priority on stage / in the pit during their shows. Other photographers are there to shoot for external sources that are of little importance to the artists. The artists want their own coverage from someone who can create something that is within their style and appeals to them for promotional and personal use.

This article sucks and the guys in the photo are just photographers with internet fame and aren't very talented or creative (at all actually). They just have success because amateurs don't know any better. These guys are busy selling guides and t-shirts while the real pros are making a living shooting.

I've worked for some of the biggest festivals in the world the past 2 years. Never has an artist photog or videographer had priority over the official crew.

Sorry , but I've never seen a house photographer given personal access to a house photographer over his own. The artist's crew have the ability and right to follow him around wherever they please, it's really up to the artist and not the house.

What event have you worked for that has given you such special rights over the performer (who is the reason any event is going on in the first place?)

EDC, Ultra, EZoo, EDC Chicago, EDCNY, BPM, TomorrowWorld, Identity Fest, LIC, ASOT... All gave the official event photogs greater access and priority over artists photogs. The event is paying the bill, the event is hiring the stage managers, the event can dictate whatever they want in terms of access.

It doesn't just go for photographers either. I was hired to shoot an artist at Ultra and saw even his manager denied stage access. At the end of the day, the event organizers make the rules.

well, in MY experience, it's the complete opposite.

Rebecca Britt's picture

"And yes i believe that if you are working for the artist, you'll have more privileges then other photographers. The artist is the boss of the stage. He decides which people can be where. I guess he find it more important that he gets a good video for himself then pictures of other photographers. At least, he tells me that, so should be true. You can say this is arrogance but it's just how it works."

This is what I meant about not being a team player. So, you do admit to getting into his shot. I suppose the photo isn't so much out of context after all.

I always tell the photographers that they should do their thing and i'll always wait for getting in the shot until the're finished. You cant really say i'm not a team player. I'll never go in a shot on purpose. I just do the thing i am asked to do. Shoot some nice video's. I would love it when i am in a shot and photographers tell me but that never happens so how should i know i am in their shot? The picture is just used in a wrong way, that's all i want to say

If I'm hired personally by the artist to get coverage and content , then sorry, it's my priority and I need to make sure I capture something unique and different than those fighting for a shot. At the end of the day this isn't a "TEAM" sport, it's an individual business and you need to make sure you can stand out from the crowd.

I've worked for artist and I've worked for venues/festivals. I'm sorry, house always has priority. I just got back from TomorrowWorld. TomorrowWorld reserved the right to allow me on stage with my artist. At Echostage, my boss reserves the right to allow you on stage with Nicky Romero. My boss also reserves the right to pull your access. Just because you work for an artist doesn't mean you have priority.

That being said, yes, I was annoyed that a videographer popped up into my shot that I had already framed. But it happens all the time. And I know Robbert didn't mean anything by it. The point of the image is to illustrate when someone willingly puts their camera in front of another photographer who is standing there and has framed their shot. It is highly possible Rebecca could have found an image where I got in someones shot. The point of the image here is to illustrate the article, not the person in the photo. I would blame that one on Christiaan.

we all get in each other's shots on occasion.......but to willfully step in front of another shooter is being a self righteous jerk.

Actually, if you work for a large enough artist you will have priority... House usually has second priority to the artist's crew.

This is not true.

Tomorrow World. (The three stages I shot for artists at)
Main Stage 15 minutes of access for Artist Photog.
Full on Ferry Stage 5 minutes of access for Artist Photog (but the stage mgmt was cool there)
Club House/Water Front Stage. - 1 minute count it 1 minute stage access.

All the way down the line of small time artists to the headliners.
Tomorrow World TV and Photo had FIRST priority.

If you are working with the artist, it does't mean you cannot be respectful of other photographers working around you. Share the space, and stop acting like an entitled jerk.

WE are ALL working and trying to get shots. If the artist only wanted you on stage, or in the booth....he'd tell the stage manager to remove everyone but you. But if the artist doesn' don't have any more right to a spot than anyone else with credentials to shoot.

You are proving the point of the article very well. You feel entitled to the point where you don't care that you're fucking up someone else's job.

How do you know i don't have respect for other photographers? How do you know I would do this on purpose? How do you know i wouldn't care? Calling me a jerk for that before you saw me working is kind of childish. If there is someone in the world with respect for other peoples work it should be me. We should work together some time so you can experience how i work on stage

You do realize that the picture was just used as an example in the article and was not meant as a personal affront to you, right? This kind of stuff happens all the time because entitled people think they can walk into your shot just because their own bloated ego tells them they can. As a long time EDM photographer, I see it all the time, and it happens to me constantly by other "Professionals". However, I do my best to stay out of other people's shots and apologize when I do accidentally step into someone else's shot.

Don't trip on your own arrogance begging for an apology(seriously?), while you lose the point of the article. It wasn't about YOU. It was about people doing what you are doing in that image, whether it was OK with Doug or not, the article was pointing out that doing this is unacceptable in any capacity, no matter who you are or think you are. YOU just happened to be in the photo that was used to show that example.

If you knew anything about journalism and structure of articles and posts you'd be singing a different tune. If the image isn't relevant to the context of the article then it is irrelevant to include it at all.

An EXAMPLE image is meant to exemplify the context of the words, so again, the use of the image is FUCKING POINTLESS.