At this point in time, I have lost track how many photographers I have run into who view other photographers around them as mortal enemies. Don't be that person; instead, realize that your camera-laden peers can be incredible sources of friendship and reciprocity.
Yes, I'm talking about both taking pictures of other photographers and having them take your picture in return. Realistically, in a world that is gaining more and more photographers each day, it's important to realize that you are simply powerless to stop that. It's a fact; get over it. Instead, use the change in the market dynamic to your own advantage. There are several advantages that come from connecting with other photographers. In fact, I would say that you are probably going to be better off in the long run by knowing and interacting with as many as you can. Here are a few reasons why.
By organizing shoots specifically with other photographers, you are literally creating an exchange with a positive motive for all parties involved. Who could get upset with you for that? It's a fantastic opportunity to connect with other intrinsically like-minded individuals and to collaborate on things of which you are both passionate. Ideas just happen and you'll walk out of each shoot with a fresh set of eyes and outlooks that you might not have gotten on your own.
Everyone has their own network of other creatives, friends, and potential clients, and by working with such people, you are simply growing your own network in a very positive manner. Your reach gets larger each and every time. At this point, I have lost track of how many times a great collaborative (trade, tfp, whatever you want to call it) shoot between myself and another photographer has turned into a great friendship as well as a valuable business connection.
Every single photographer with whom I have worked has had their own unique sense of style and approach to photography. When it's me taking pictures of them, it has been interesting to get insights from them as someone in front of the camera but with experience behind one. Sometimes, I don't have to help much with posing, while other times I do, and every time, I get to see how other photographers not only see themselves but how they see the art form.
But without question, I learn the absolute most when it's my turn to stand in front of their camera. Being the model for someone else really helps ground me in my own work. I have a renewed appreciation for what I have other people do on a regular basis. It reminds me that it's a pretty intimidating place to be at times. Plus, working with other photographers almost always turns into an experience where I get new ideas for how to pose, shoot, and work with those who end up in front of my own camera.
Yeah, I know, this may seem like it should belong with the learning opportunities chunk. But I think critiques belong in their own segment and here's why: they're a chance for you to take a look back at your own work. It's not about developing a brand new skill, it's about taking a good look at the work you already do with someone else and really diving into what it is that you (and they) both like and dislike about it. It's a chance to reverse engineer processes that you've already developed to see if there's something that could be done better or maybe just differently.
Working with other photographers has been incredibly eye-opening simply because I get the chance to hear about things they do and why they do those things in the ways that they do. It's helped me see how some of my processes are really time-consuming and unnecessarily so, which in turn has helped me work out new ways to go about the exact same process but save inordinate amounts of time while doing so. In short, yes, it's all part of the continued learning process of being a photographer. But taking advantage of working with other photographers can have some huge payoffs.
Really, there's more than enough work out there. It just comes down to maximizing your input routes. Don't be too hasty to try to beat one photographer or another. I am a big believer that what goes around will come around. Passing on work to other photographers has had an amazing impact on my business. It's made it easier for me to focus on what I'd rather shoot because I'm passing on the stuff that doesn't interest me to other photographers. These photographers then learn quite quickly what it is that I do prefer to shoot and that's when referrals start coming back my way with the work I truly want.
Word of mouth and referral business is typically the best way to acquire new clients, but who said that it could only come from your actual previous clients? Why not expand that to include the other photographers in your area who will not only appreciate the referral reciprocity but will also have a keener knowledge of the styles of imagery that you specialize in? It's been one of the things in my experience for which I am truly grateful each and every time.
Maybe you already work with other photographers on a regular basis, maybe you don't. Either way, it's only ever an opportunity that is just waiting to be put to use. Sure, there are bad eggs out there, but you'll weed those out super quickly, leaving you with a solid network of people who will not only become great friends but amazing business allies. Try it out for yourself; you'll be grateful for both the business and friendships.