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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.

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EDM photographer meet-up in LA during the Rukes.com 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

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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?

 

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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

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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

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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.

 

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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.

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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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94 Comments

Previous comments
FStopPostingCrap's picture

Competition is ruthless, the client either hires you OR them, never both. You're a fool if you think otherwise.

You'd never make it in the photojournalism world.

CurrentCo's picture

yes, because there's only enough jobs, styles and categories for one photographer in this world.

Tim Krueger's picture

Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change. Your mindset is one of scarcity.

Mbutu Namubu's picture

Wisdom is scarce, but common sense is plentiful.

CaptQT's picture

Then you need to work with better people...

Eva's picture

Competition isn't a bad word. It's actually a good thing. Areas with higher competition bring in more clients. Know your competition, understand who it is and is not. Best thing I learned from a free business class.

Mr Blah's picture

That's very "Adam Smith" of you.

Try reading John Nash's approach... ;)

Mbutu Namubu's picture

There seem to be a lot of people in this thread that don't understand the difference between friendship and business. Kant taught that friendship was a relationship that required no calculation. in other words, friends enjoy each others' company without any ulterior motives. Photographers that want to make "friends" with other photographers in order to network aren't creating friendships at all. They are making business connections in a calculated manner. In that sense, Adam Smith economic theory and John Nash game theory are equal to each other because both are calculations.

Anonymous's picture

An informative article, just what I needed as a beginner. Thanks Fstoppers

Steven Rosas's picture

Hmm drama, drama, drama.

Andrew Griswold's picture

This is so great Rebecca, thank you for posting this! Really great advice and tips on what to do and what not to do also. I have to say the social media one is under played just a little with only mentioning Facebook. Though I will say Fstoppers and the writers own webpages have been one of the biggest places I have found inspiration and tips/tricks. I have found that a HUGE portion of my learning from other photographers has been from, wait for it, Instagram. With a little help from Facebook of course. I use Instagram to connect with photographers and creatievs in the industry I may not have reached other wise. Not many use IG so its easier to chat or connect with them while they have a small following or just a few comments per photo rather than FB where they have tens of thousands of followers and comments per shot. I have connected with NatGeo photographers on there and talked about tips and how they got to where they are. I then follow them on Facebook after a few chats and then I can direct contact them via FB Messenger to ask a few other questions or possible meet up with them in their city while I am traveling. I find it much more personal to meet these people in person rather than online of course. It also helps if its one on one. Cant name the number of photographers in the industry I have connected with and met over the past 2 years thanks to just a little social networking. Its incredible! DONE! Haha

Blake Weber's picture

I'm a family portrait photographer (maternity, new-born, kids, family, engagements, etc.) and my business is less than 6 months old.

There is another family photographer in my area that has a VERY similar style, approach, and even price point who has been around much longer than me. She even offers photography teaching workshops which is something that I've always wanted to do and would like to start soon.

I'd rather have a positive working relationship than be enemies, but I'm not sure if I should try to approach her or not. We are clearly in direct competition for the same clients.

What do you think?

RichyRich's picture

I think approaching as someone who wants to learn is fine, but learning to encroach on their business is poor etiquette IMO.

Also, you've been in business for 6 months, and you are considering teaching workshops. So, you expect people to pay to learn your business (that you've been doing for 6 months) yet want to pick another photographers brain for free?

Don't take that in a vindictive way, I'm just pointing out something you may not have thought of yet.

Blake Weber's picture

You obviously completely misunderstood my question in the context of this article, which is networking. I am not interested in trying to pick their brain, just get to know them for the sake of acknowledging other professionals in my area.

I may be new to this business, but not to photography, or business in general. Also, the purpose of my workshops would not be to teach the business of photography, but rather the basics of camera use, which I have plenty to offer after 15 years of experience. The audience would be hobbyists who have never used manual mode, etc.

Maybe I should restate my question. We are in direct competition... should I offer a friendly "Hi" of some kind to show respect, or not? And if so, how can I do it tactfully?

I'd like to hear the opinion of the author if possible... thanks!

Jon Snow's picture

Nice article. BTW check out my website. Ha Ha.....

ilmcb's picture

stunning!

Paul Smith's picture

heey you forgot one major thing. You must wear an apple shirt, shorts, hat, pin, machete, bazooka, chaingun, or mouthwash while consorting with everyone. ; )

Jonas Karlsson's picture

Great article!

Im getting into wedding photography and have been thinking about how to approach other wedding related businesses. Photographers is easy, you can refer each other for weekends already booked or jobs that you feel you are not qualified for/interested in etc.

But what about jewelers, bakerys, venues, hairdressers etc?

What can i offer in return so that they will be inclined to refer me to wedding clients?

Kirk Wilson's picture

reading the comments reminds me why NOT to network...."photographers" are the biggest bunch of cry babies

John Horner's picture

A great editorial and a lesson there for us all, lest we forget.

Brian Reese's picture

COULD NOT AGREE MORE Kirk.

James Photog Ravenell's picture

Great article. I think some do take this for granted.

Richard Spears's picture

Great article Rebecca... stuff needed to be said.

Mike Lee's picture

If you attend a wedding as a guest, do you wait until the couple gets their pictures from their official photographers before you share, post the ones that you took? Or do you not think about it? Are there any unwritten rules about this?

Damon Webster's picture

I love the discourse. The headline brought me in from FB. The bitter infighting held me for a bit. True pros have a respect for each other. They usually discuss the business, how the money has gotten crappier, except for advertising, which has still changed.
But there is a passion for the imagery.
Teaching and workshops are another way for a shooter to make money. God bless em and the people that buy the DVD's.
I produced one in the mid 80's (VHS) with a Playboy photographer that did quite well. Were the buyer gonna become pros?
Doubtful. But they had some photo secrets that hopefully improved their photography.
No real competition for the workers.

Think about the Photo League of NYC in the 30's, 40's. Amateurs and pros gathered together to have a good time, create photo contests, have parties, teach each other.

I started my photo website in 2005. I've seen plenty of "homages" and concepts borrowed.
So what. Its about sharing.

If we all love what this is, we can at least agree to discuss the the merits of a master like Elliott Erwitt, who thankfully is still here, as well as the mirrorless craze, and do we like it.
AND why every editorial or doc photog wants to be in the Wedding photog Business.

I enjoy FStoppers, and the info they bring to the community.

But if relationships were all about business, I may still be married.

cheers
damon
photoinduced.com

John Stevens's picture

It also allows you the chance to snoop on your competition, find out what they offer, how much they charge and how they do what they do. Then you can tweak your business model to better compete. Don't kid yourself if you think this isn't the case or isn't going on in mass. Those saying they are there to help are there to help alright, just not you!

darshanaraj's picture

I recently shot at an engagement event, and had to work with the event management's team of photographers/videographers. My jobscope for the engagement was clear - to focus on one side of the family, ie. groom, and take more candid, natural, spur-of-the-moment shots. I suppose because the event team are quite established themselves, they didn't quite pay much attention when I introduced myself before the shoot so we could all as you said, lay out the ground rules. Also, I was hired to shoot alone (no second shooter), so they may have just thought I was an amateur or beginner at this. To cut a long story short, at one point I was literally grabbed by the arm, and shoved out of the way. Too many times over, I found photographers in my frames, and angles.

So what did I do? I worked around it. I thought it wouldn't make any sense to kick a fuss - I was here to get my job done, and that's what I did. I did speak to the client after the shoot, just to let them know that such an incident had taken place and it was very unprofessional, despite the fact that the event team was quite well known.

The rewarding part was the client loved the selection of shots I had uploaded after the engagement, and sent a long email and Facebook testimonial on how they loved every shot. That to me, was the best reward after a long shoot.

I think when such things happen on shoot, the best is to keep the anger in check, and continue to act as professionally as possible. I did not confront the event team as I thought it would be a waste of time, so I just proceeded to shoot from different angles and changed the game plan. Speak to the client afterward, so you don't get distracted midway. The key is to deliver the best to the client, regardless of the circumstance.

Thanks for writing this article. I learnt some new things here on networking!

George Perez's picture

Wow, I'm quite shocked about the other photographer's behavior. I'd be so upset. Seems like you handled it well, though, and it payed off. That's great!

juggular's picture

Warning! Major pissing contest in the comments section! Alert! Alert!

hysyanz's picture

Hey that's me in the top photo. yay!!!

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