Thursday, April 8, 2010


I shot this during a walk through Downtown Flagstaff the other day. The photos in the post have nothing to do with the topic of discussion...

It seems to me there are two major camps among photographers: Those who jealously guard their secrets, their clients and their time, sit in one camp. Across the river sit those who freely give away everything they know, who refer clients to other photographers, and who aren't afraid to sit down with young photographers looking to start their way into the world.

One of these camps has a future. The other does not.

It seems to me that in the current "tough economy" we are all so familiar with, a lot of people have been temporarily moving from one camp to the other. When asked about their reasoning, they cite tough competition as their primary motivation to defect. You know what? The competition really isn't that big.

IF you are looking to get any old picture from anyone who owns a camera, the competition is fierce. Everybody is a photographer these days. Everyone has a camera. 99% of the population is smart enough to look at a screen and press a button a few hundred times. Most people can download Picasa or even Photoshop and apply some generic actions to make some photos look decent. Because there are so many of these people out there, competition for this quality of work is insane.

IF, however, you are looking for quality photos from someone who really knows photography, the competition isn't that huge. Sure, there are gazillions of wedding photographers out there. But not all of those photographers have a style that appeals to me, and what appeals to me doesn't necessarily appeal to you.

Shot at sunset in the alleys downtown.

Lets take 100 photographers in the same industry - weddings. They all live in the same city, own the same expensive camera gear, and are all available to photograph your wedding. The only differences are the prices they charge and the portfolios they display.

You as a client need to first look at their style, and then the prices they charge.
If you don't like the style of photography they put in their portfolio, the bottom line is that you aren't going to hire them regardless of their price. If you find a few whose style you like, you'll chose either the cheapest, or the one that you think gives you the most VALUE.

The one thing every photographer has that is unique to them is their style. Their gear, website, techniques, client list, whatever. All of that comes down to nothing because photography isn't about all that. The end picture depends entirely upon the VISION that the photographer has.

So, why the hell would I as a photographer keep any secrets? There is no way you or anyone else can copy my style. If you buy the same gear I have, use the same software, even the same photoshop actions, my pictures are still going to be MY pictures! Clients will hire me because they like the way I SEE the world around me, because of how I interact with them while I'm shooting, because I'm professional and fun to work with at the same time.
As such, I am more than happy to share everything I know about photography. It's why the big name photogs out there are happy to do the same thing. Chase Jarvis gets a bazillion hits every day not necessarily from paying clients, but from photographers who want to see how he does things. The more people that know about you, the better off you are! Chase knows that so he attracts gazillions of people to his website, flickr, facebook, twitter, etc. Lots of people want to copy his style but they CAN'T!
David duChemin: same thing. Joe McNally: same.

These are some of the photographers who have "made it." And they made it big. You would think that these people would be the ones sitting alone on the other side of the river, guarding everything they know about photography. Instead, they give it out! They write books (to make a little $$$ on the side), they write blogs for free, do behind the scenes videos, show off their entire workflow sequence because they understand that the competition for high-level photography is minimal - nobody is going to steal their clients! Nobody two people have the same vision - so who cares if their technique is ripped off somebody else? If you aren't original, nobody is going to want your work.

When it all is said and done, if you know your photography and your business skills, the competition you face from other photographers is so INSIGNIFICANT compared to what you can teach them, and most importantly, what you can LEARN from them. If we can keep the doors of education open inside the industry, it gives all of us a chance to continue growing and learning (and making more money).

That's my rant for the day. What do you think? Comments are always appreciated - I love a good discussion!