Be the Change You Want to See…

I don’t often post directly to other photographers, but over the last year I have seen so much division and ill-will in this industry I feel like I need to add my voice to the discussion.

The photography industry is undoubtedly in a period of drastic change.  In the last ten years we have gone from most professionals using film to an almost exclusive digital population, from boring flip phones to smartphones where everyone has a camera at all times, and from a few simple photo webpages to millions of photographers online, on Facebook, on Twitter, etc.  It’s a changing world, my friends, and it does not look like its slowing down anytime soon.

So, the industry is changing, so what?  Well, the people in the industry are changing as well.  When I first started nearly ten years ago, I was an easy to spot minority- a young woman in a field dominated by men in their 40s and 50s.  Now, I am in the vast majority in my industry as a young tech savvy woman.  Having sat on both sides of this divide and now residing somewhere between the “newbies” and the “old farts”, I hope I can lend a voice of reason to the ranker between the factions.

I hope that whichever side of the divide you fall on you can stop for one moment and think about why you don’t like the other side.  To the “newbie”, you begrudge the “old farts” because they preach the importance of technical photography and of the “rules”.  You want to be creative, free and have a fun job.  You don’t want to hear about ratios and color balance.  You are pursuing photography for the creative freedom and because it fulfills you.  You struggle to charge much for your work because of your love, passion and excitement for it.

The “old farts” are a generation of photographers who did not have the luxury of an LCD screen.  They had to get it right the first time and every exposure on film had a monetary value that they had to pay for the film and processing.  There was little room for error, so they learned their craft to an exacting level.  They generally learned from an established photographer, who taught them the craft and also the business.  They did not have a hundred or even a dozen photographers competing for business in their town.  They were one of a few, respected artists that families loyally trusted for decades to capture their memories.

Now, repeat after me, “They are not my enemy”.  The struggles that you encounter are ones that your counterpart is excelling at.   The newer photographer struggles with how to create the images they imagine and how to run a successful business.   The established photographer struggles to innovate and compete in a world of digital and social marketing.

Blogs, social media and message boards are filled with hate coming from one side to the other.  There are faux-photo-celebrities who seem to spend all their time posting satire and snarky comments at newer photographers and established photography groups have their membership numbers dwindle since the newer photographers don’t want to come associate with the older ones.

So, what is the answer?  Be the change you want to see– if you are an established photographer, you probably got there because someone more experienced helped you along the way.  You now need to pay that forward and give advice, mentor or teach to newer photographers.  Help them learn where they are making their mistakes and they will become our industry’s future.  For  the newer photographers, learn to hear what the “old farts” are trying to tell you– the rules are there to make you better, not to tear you down.  Give back to those who give to you.  While that Master Photographer may know volumes about studio lighting and light ratios, he might struggle with making his website SEO friendly or how to have an effective social media presence.

When you give, you receive.  It might sound very kindergarten, but its God’s honest truth.  If you teach someone to better their business or to improve their art, they will respect you.  They will admire and appreciate you.  Better than that, they will return the favor and give you guidance for your weaknesses.  Its time to put on your big girl panties and accept that we all have weaknesses. If we can just manage to check our egos at the door, we will be able to spend our time doing what we love– PHOTOGRAPHY.  Not snarking at each other on the Internet, or putting pins in a voo0doo doll.   So, the next time you encounter the “opposition”, think to yourself what they have to offer you and what you can offer in return.  The answer, and hopefully the ensuing friendships might surprise you.