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The Dangers of Photographers Being People-Pleasers

I'm sure you've heard the old saying that if you try to please everyone, you'll please no one. Not only is this something to think about in our everyday lives, but it's an approach us photographers should really be following too.

The team over at The School of Life are back once again with a fascinating video on the subject of being a people-pleaser. Philosopher and Author Alain de Botton goes into great detail about the origins, the effects, and the dangers of trying to please everyone. de Botton talks about how as children, we are less equipped to express ourselves and maybe go with the flow because we either don't know any better or don't want to risk upsetting someone. As we get older, however, we form much stronger inclinations and are also much more able to articulate tactfully our feelings and preferences if they don't match others around us.

While I appreciate behavioral patterns from earlier on in life can be tricky ones to shake, it's dangerous for us photographers to try to please everyone. Copying the style du jour which is currently popular on Instagram, saying yes to every job no matter how removed from your field it is, or not speaking up when a client suggests something you know will look terrible really doesn't benefit anyone in the long run. I understand that it is a bit of a balancing act when it comes to working with others, but by not being authentic to yourself photographically, you may just find your work or career following a path you really never wanted it to go down.

Are you a people-pleaser? Have you ever not spoken up on a shoot for fear of upsetting people? I'd love to hear your experiences in the comments below.

Lead image by Wouter de Jong via Pexels, used under Creative Commons.

Paul Parker's picture

Paul Parker is a commercial and fine art photographer. On the rare occasion he's not doing photography he loves being outdoors, people watching, and writing awkward "About Me" statements on websites...

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I understand what you mean, Paul. I am an amateur photographer, as a professional my role was providing advice to businessmen, and one of them only seemed to want me to say that I agreed with whatever he was suggesting. In the end, I took him aside and told him that "life is a game of choice and consequences - your role is to make the choices, my role is to advise you what are the consequences - and if you don't like them, don't ask me to change them for you - just change your choices, and we'll see if you can find one where you are happy with the consequences".

To my astonishment, he appeared to rise in the air (I'd always thought that was a metaphorical description, until that moment) and literally turned purple, which I'd previously thought was the prerogative of beetroots.

There was no point in worrying about him. He'd clearly decided he knew everything and that was that. But at least I was spared the risk of being sued, for being involved in what was looking like a very dodgy business proposal. And in the end, my good name was more important to me than his business.

It's a great story to hear Pete, regardless of the industry, saying the opposite to people when your head or heart are telling you so can be a good way to gauge people & filter out the ones you shouldn't/don't want to work with.

Your story is a perfect example of how you can challenge someone without being an ass about it. I think that's where many people who are stuck being people-pleasers struggle to break their pattern of behaviour. They mistakenly think if you don't people please then the only other option is to be aggressive, mean, or confrontational.

Your businessman aside, quite a lot of people will actually respect you more for not being an obvious "yes" man...

Thanks for the share :)