You Can't Do It Alone So Drop The Ego And Collaborate

You Can't Do It Alone So Drop The Ego And Collaborate

How many times have you heard the saying "if you want it done right you've got to do it yourself"? Well, that is not always the best mindset. This business we are in is all about collaboration, and the sooner you embrace what others have to offer, the sooner you will put out work that is competitive. Collaboration has many benefits that can take your work to the next level.

At the very beginning of my photography career I was a bit of a lone wolf. I worked alone. I was the team. I was your hair and make-up, stylist, set design, marketing department, sales force, retoucher, delivery man, janitor, assistant, and anything else that needed to get done. When I started out it was a necessary burden as I did not have the resources to outsource all these tasks. This is a common issue faced by many new photographers but it is also a trap that many remain stuck in for far too long.

While it is important to build up your photography skills, I believe it is also imperative to quickly recognize which tasks are beyond your abilities and find people who can take the burden off your shoulders as early as you can. There is no shame in outsourcing and it does not make you any less of a photographer. Many of the worlds greatest innovations, inventions, breakthroughs, and art could not have been accomplished by one lone individual. Working with a team has had a number of positive benefits for my clients.

Higher Production Value

Whether you choose to be a photographer, a stylist, or anything else in life, most folks try to become specialist in their field if only through sheer experience. I like to think of myself as a specialist in what I do. I do the same thing each and every day. I am always learning about it and seeking to improve. Though I have a lifetime of learning ahead of me, I am focused on learning this one task to the best of my abilities. I may know a little bit here and there about related fields, but I am far from a specialist in those. It would then be silly for me to assume that I could perform any of those other tasks as well as the one which I spend my entire day performing.

When you collaborate with other people what you are effectively doing is bringing people into your project who are specialists in their respective fields. They will understand the nuances of their task, and will be able to offer ideas and solutions which are beyond your scope of understanding. Each new team member is bringing with them a lifetime of learning experience which you would otherwise not have the time to learn. Ultimately this leads to a higher production value for the entire project. As each aspect of the project is tackled by more and more specialists, the result itself becomes more specialized.

More Creativity

I used to think that "too many cooks in the kitchen spoils the meal", and while I firmly believe that as the photographer you need to maintain some creative control over your work, it is also an incredible benefit to have specialists in their respective fields whose opinions you can trust and rely on. Sometimes I may have an idea and my hair stylist will say, "Peter, that's a great idea BUT".....and they always have a valid point. Be it a problem we might encounter the day of which I have not considered, or maybe a better way of doing things, or even a better look than I myself have conceived. It is not a bad thing to allow another mind to shape and influence your work.

Burn Out Be Gone

These days, although I have a lot of projects on the go, I am far more relaxed than I was years earlier. When I tackle a project I know I don't have to think of every minor detail. I have a team I rely on. People who take care of their part of the project which leaves me more time to focus on mine. This means I have more time on my hands to properly execute and pull off the work without being frazzled and frustrated by things that are beyond my scope of understanding.

Greater Networking

One major benefit of collaboration is networking. I have landed a significant portion of my paid work due to the fact that I work with a large number of people. Each of them has their own social networks which they manage. Though we may have a few friends in common, the bulk of their contacts are people I don't know, and those contacts are exposed to my work the more I collaborate.

Expand Your Range Of Offers

Collaborating isn't just about putting together the assignment on hand. Think about the bigger picture. Who else can you as a business collaborate with to offer new and exciting services for your clients? Customer service is the name of the game!

I personally deal with a lot of smaller businesses who are either new to the scene or looking to re-brand. Most of the time they hire me for photography because they are updating their website with fresh content and a new look. Since this is a recurring pattern I have partnered with a web design firm. Now when I am commissioned to re-brand or launch a company I can offer them more services in one spot. Services which I myself am not able to do.

Another collaboration to consider is offering an express courier service for your clients. I shoot a lot of product and some of my clients have small emergency batches that come up once in a while. While I can personally pick these items up, this is not always feasible. By partnering with a local courier, I am able to offer my clients same day pick-up/drop-off at their request.

How can you increase your customer service through collaboration?

Handle More Clients

Collaboration has also allowed me to take on more clients. The more tasks that I no longer have to personally handle, the more time I can spend on photography, and the more time I have to go around the more clients I can take on.

Collaboration with other photographers has also allowed me to build a trusted network of peers whom I can refer work to if I am overloaded. My clients trust me for a solid recommendation, and my peers always appreciate the work. Next time a job comes around that they can't fit into their schedule, maybe I'll be the first person they call. Sharing is caring after all.

Peter House's picture

Peter House is a commercial fashion photographer from Toronto, Canada. He shoots over 10,000 pieces of clothing every year for a variety of lookbooks. Clients range from small local boutiques to international brands such as Target, Winners, and Sears. In addition to that Peter runs one of the most popular rental studio's in the Toronto area.

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Loved this! This is exactly what I teach in an "applied psychology" class at ASU. Thanks for posting.


I'd love the collaborate with more people if they were more open to joining up. Some are so afraid of giving away "secrets"...

I think the backwards thinking of you can do it by yourself hurts more than helps us. Love this!

One of the lessons I have learned is when ever possible work with people who are more skilled and experienced than you. I know a lot of new shooters who find less skill people to work with to feel in control. Personally I like opportunity learn from people and it makes life easier if you can have faith in your team.

As a 16-year old photographer, I find it hard to establish a network of individuals. Most people do not want to work with someone so young, and they perceive me as inexperienced.

As a 15 year old photographer, I have had the same problem. I've made massive progress in photography since I started four years ago, but people still don't really believe that you can actually be good even if you're young. :P

Photographers go it alone for two reasons.
1. Can't charge enough to pay for all the "collaborators".
2. Fear of client poaching.
Swanning on about being inspired etc. sounds nice but IRL people do not choose to trust others with their livelihood.

Sometimes you've just got to stop! Collaborate and listen. Because you never know when some is going to come back with a brand new invention. It could be something that grabs a hold of you tightly and flow like a harpoon daily and nightly. Will it ever stop? Yo, I don't know but turn on some studio lights and I'll glow.