You Should Collaborate Regularly With Other Photographers

You Should Collaborate Regularly With Other Photographers

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.

Utah Photographer Dan Fowlks

Utah Photographer Brianda Tyson

Networking Opportunities

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.

Utah Photographer Megan Leech

Texas Photographer Amanda R Grover

Learning Opportunities

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.

Utah Photographer Ryan Houston

Utah Photographer Renee Shifflet

Critique Opportunities

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.

Utah Photographer Emily Tatom

Referral Opportunities

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.

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18 Comments

Rob Davis's picture

It's kind of like saying race car drivers should collaborate with each other. It just doesn't quite fit the industry. All of my "friendships" with other photographers have usually revolved around asking me how much I charge and asking to borrow gear. Collaborating and befriending other people in different creative industries can be great though. Make friends with a painter.

Marc DeGeorge's picture

Agreed. Two photographers working together doesn't seem like it works. Any time I've tried to even have any sort of discussion about anything other than gear it's like suddenly a wall goes up and they start getting defensive. A painter is a good idea, so is a fashion designer, or a set designer, or a sculptor.

Sergio Tello's picture

I have to agree. Read just about any article here on Fstoppers and you will see photographers going after each other. It's a dog eats dog out there. For shame.

Quite often, people reflect what they see...

Rob Davis's picture

Sounds like pseudo-intellectual new agey nonsense. The genre attracts a certain type of personality. A lot of "command and control" types that simply don't play well with others.

In general, what happens when you smile at someone?

Kenneth Jordan's picture

I appreciate the article. There's a lot of truth there. I've found this approach works very well not only in my own small community but online as well. I always offer a handshake, so to speak. If the other person chooses to reciprocate or not that's their choice. A stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet!

I have a bunch of photographer friends but I have to admit that his photographer friends are better looking than mine. (No offense to my friends if you are reading this.)

jean pierre (pete) guaron's picture

I was astounded, as I started to read your article, Rex. All my life, I have had nothing but pleasure - and a sharing of knowledge, information, experience, whatever - as well as helpful guidance, training or advice - from the people I've met through my photography. "Met" both physically and - in more recent years - through the internet.

I can only imagine the thrust of your comments comes from experience as a professional, and contact with actual or potentional competitors.

Otherwise, apart from the occasional troll, photographers as a species are among the nicest people I've ever met.

In fact, the only nicer one was bodybuilders. Until I hit my 50s and had a heart attack, I used to spend 2 hours a day in the gym, 6 days a week. The image many people in the general public have of "meat heads" is an image of human gorillas who are aggressive and over bearing. Nothing could have been further from the truth, at least among the ones I met - including several "stars" of the sport who dropped in on a tour overseas. They were generally quite shy - extremey polite and well mannered - and would always notice if anyone needed help, and be there for them, to give them the help or advice they needed. So the public image was utter twaddle - the reality was 180 degrees away from the image they seemed to have in the minds of the general public.

Alex Armitage's picture

I hope this is the right place but I'd love to talk and collab with people online.

I don't get to shoot very often and don't live in a very big city so it's nearly impossible for me to find people with similar interest. Specifically landscapes as I live in northern Florida - not much going on here for landscape photography.

If anyone would like to send edits, photos, and just be friendly. I'd love to!

Are you sure you collaborate with photographers, not models? What's their role as a photographer in your photoshoots?

Dan Howell's picture

I would add stylists, make up artists and quite especially art directors. Hey, I have friends who are photographers. We give/take/share a lot, but collaboration with other aspects of a shoot has always had greater benefits in my experience.

Mark Niebauer's picture

Most other Pro photographers are jealous and hate me. Its almost impossible to have a friendship with them. I'm pretty much keeping my artwork to myself now. The rest of the world has gone insane.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Same here. Just tons of jealous photographers trying to stab me in the back.

karl johnston's picture

I also feel that way and generally avoid them.

Christian Santiago's picture

I think a better use of time would be collaborating and networking with creatives in other industries. Photographers are just so damn competitive, catty, and secretive with the details of their business that they're more "friendemys" than genuine, reciprocal friendships. Photographers will talk about gear all day long, but the second you ask them anything about how they generate leads or price certain jobs, they clam up. I find that too often, photographers adopt the mindset that others succeeding comes at the expense of their failure.

I do have photographer friends I've met online, but they're not in my market, so I guess they aren't as worried about accidentally helping their competition.

At the end of the day, whether we like it or not, we're all each other's competition. And while I gladly and freely give away any knowledge someone may find useful, I am the exception.

Plus photographers are control freaks. We love to do things our way. I can't imagine a case where two of those identical personalities would make for a great collaboration anyway.

I wish this wasn't the case. I wish we all realized that rising tides lift all boats and that by being more transparent with prices, we'd help the industry as a whole by hopefully reducing the wild fluctuations in prices that propel clients to say stupid shit like " but Bob over at Bob's photography said he'd do it for 250."

karl johnston's picture

I agree with the sentiment behind this and have benefited from rich friendships from other photographers. However there are a lot of photographers (negative mortal enemy types) i have met who have an adversarial view towards each other. As an introvert i find it difficult as it is; made worse by meeting too many of the aforementioned that is has lost lustre in participating at all. I nuked all my social media accounts and closed off from trying. Perhaps it was too reactionary and i need to give it another go, there is much to gain from each other and the creative friendships i still maintain grew into some of the best friends i ever knew. Great piece.

Sure I collaborate with other photographers - I'm mainly into fine art imagery. But I find it more exciting to work with artists OTHER than photographers. The primary reason, for example, being the images associated with this story. The images are attributed to different photographers, but they all have the same look and feel. Boring ! Why do I want my images to look like everybody elses! Working with non-photographer artists is much more stimulating.