Firstly let me say I have to say that we are fortunate to have a lot of really great Raleigh photographers who are very kind and helpful to others. When I started my journey of photography several years ago, I never could have thought what kind of adventure I would endure. I never once imagined the disgrace and behavior of some other photographers both local and across the country. It is as if this industry is like a bucket of crabs – people pulling others down to try and make sure they don’t reach the top and succeed. What is worse is that they sadly put out the desire in upcoming photographers who pot images that are made fun of. Who are called copy cats, who had the courage to post their work only to find themselves becoming a laughing stock. Let me tell you from experience, it takes a lot of courage to start posting images and although we all need cc (constructive criticism) I do believe there is a right and wrong way to give it. And, what is important is to only give it if the person has asked. Again, this is part of learning and this can make or break a photographer who is starting out. I agree we need to have thick skin and hear the truth, there is a way to say everything properly, kindly and encouragingly.
Now clearly I am not talking about every photographer, we have plenty that are very inspirational and helpful and uplifting. So this is not to imply every photographer is this way, we have tons of great resources and mentors who want you to do well and want to see you succeed and will be your guiding light; some will go on to even become trusted friends. Unfortunately though some are not as nice, some can be very cruel and unkind (I understand the truth hurts, but we can be gentle with our students and help them). I have seen people go from looking up to a photographer to being blasted by that photographer, dreams are crushed and desires die.
Like probably 90% of professional photographers you get a camera, you love taking pictures – you find a logo and get some editing software and you start your journey. Of course just like any other profession it takes time to learn all the skills required to be deemed “professional” and even then photography is art and art is perceived differently by everyone. Don’t expect everyone to love your work regardless of where you are in your career. What really is a professional photographer and who deems this? I will start by saying if you call yourself a photographer and you are charging clients you should know your camera and most importantly the light you are shooting in. You should know all about white balance and the temperature of light. You should know that light is THE most important part of photography, you should know how to use the light be it natural light or studio light. Your client is paying because you are selling yourself as a photographer and they trust you, to produce a clean, properly exposed and composed image. To be honest, in my own opinion you should be licensed and have some kind of insurance and legally be a sole proprietor or an LLC company. I truly believe this tells your client that you are responsible and take your business seriously. I know for my first year or so I did neither of these as many do and that is okay, I think it takes a couple of years to figure out if this is the career you truly want before investing in all the legalities. But, if you plan to have a legal business then these are things that should be considered as soon as you possibly can. And of course always pay your taxes! Even if you are not a “business” if you are charging and making an income then that money is taxable income.
Now eventually you may decide to invest in some classes or a workshop to better your career, you may spend $1000’s yes thousands of dollars learning from those you admire and those who offer mentoring be it online or in person. This is honestly such a great way to learn and it is great that so many photographers offer these workshops to help others. There are so many amazing artists with different styles who offer these workshops for all types of photography ranging from newborn, child, family and wedding.
As you find yourself getting better and better, you do start to notice small flaws in other photographers work, especially in those who are where you were a year or so ago . Now this is the important part – remember where YOU started out! Remember how it was for you when you were learning, it is so unfair to talk badly of others when you also followed that same path in the beginning. It was not that long ago that you were also calling yourself a “photographer” probably well before you really knew what you were doing. I certainly did, and I know others did too. Nothing to be ashamed about it’s a starting point and as of right now there is no legal classes you need to take to receive a license so honestly anyone has the right to call themselves one.
There are so many different photographers with different styles and more than enough clients for everyone! There is no need to bash one and other for their work or prices. There is no need to talk badly or make fun of those who may be less knowledgeable. Some may be charging $75 for a portrait session and fifty images but you know what, it is not your business to put them down for that. Maybe that $75 is enough to buy groceries for their family for a week, whatever the reason; it is absolutely no one else’s business on how a photographer prices themselves and what they include for their prices.
Every photographer has a “target” client, this is the client that they are wanting to sell to – So if you charge a high session fee then don’t complain at the photographer who doesn’t have a session fee, most likely their clients would not be your target clients. Some people find they want to invest $1000’s for portraits, and some are just fine with spending less than $100 to get a family portrait. Typically when a photographer becomes more confident with their work their prices will go upward. Not always though, some are quite happy staying in the medium and having a very fair price for excellent photography. Pricing with photographers is the Pandora’s box , it is vast and again anyone can charge whatever they want. When you are looking at photographers work and see one photographer is charging more than another, take a closer look at their images, maybe what is the difference in price is the knowledge and experience of a photographer. Maybe one values their work more than another . Once again, remember where you started out, what you thought was your starting out “fair” price.
Bullying – It needs to stop! I have seen people spend $1000’s on a workshop only to get bullied by the person/mentor who taught them. For those who are selling editing videos, those who offer workshops – stop complaining when people “copy” you. Be proud and happy that they admired you enough to want their work to look like yours. You cannot teach a person how to shoot and how to edit a picture and then get upset because that person is now doing work similar to how you taught them. If you don’t want people to copy you, stop offering workshops – stop teaching others your unique set of skills, because if they invested in you and learned, It is very likely that soon enough their work will look similar to your own. Don’t complain about it – be happy – this means you did your job and taught them well.
I know that blatant copying, i.e., using the same clothing or locations and completely copying is not okay. No one should copy you down to the last tee, I know that can be aggravating especially when you as their teacher (or possibly they never hired you to teach them and they are still copying you with every single shoot) and they are not giving you the credit as “Inspired by” … I can totally understand how upsetting that is. Our art is our own, our minds are our own and we often come up with these amazing ideas for shoots. And yes when they are copied.. well it is upsetting. I don’t agree with copying to this level, but remember no one can get inside your mind and when you are a true artist you will have unique ideas for shoots often. I know my own mind never stops and I am always thinking of something new and exciting to come up with but we are all inspired by something, be it an old photograph, a book cover, a movie, we find inspiration in many ways. And no one can take your inspiration away.
I have seen and I have experienced the bullying and I am ashamed to say that I have been a part this, I have now apologized to other photographers for things I said in defense of friends, I myself have been part of the argument or called names or got caught up in the drama and I realize it is not fair and it is not nice and I do not want to be associated with this behavior. I have made my apologies and moved on because I know I am a better person than that and I should have stayed out of other people’s business. I always remember hearing Dr. Phil saying “Even a pancake has two sides”, you never know what the other persons story is if only one is talking and has a huge fan base to talk too. There is no need to cause drama, no need to cause scandal, just be a bigger person and walk away and find a breath of fresh air. Don’t waste time with drama.
There are big “celebrity” photographers who bully, in a very unfair way.. who use their fans and followers to get together and start in on a photographer who has “copied” them, I have seen them attack and attack and ridiculed others. Name calling, arguments and being flat out hateful. I think it is so sad now when I see and hear about things like this. You never know who is seeing your post and what they are saying, and these top photographers can be relentless. What I hate about it is that they are stepping on people’s dreams, they are stamping out other people’s passions and desires, they are making sure all their followers know, in clever passive aggressive way and stand behind them. The under dog hasn’t a chance, they will be completely disliked, and this needs to stop.
To those big named photographers who complain that others copied them, who call names and make fun of others, who sell workshops and then get angry with people for copying – It is time to stop, be happy they paid you a lot of money to learn from and be happy they look up to you. You were the person they admired and the person that contributed to them wanting a career in the same field of photography as yours. You were their idol. Continue to be their inspiration; continue to be a great role model for them because without them you would not make the $1000’s you do from your workshops. I am not saying all those who offer workshops act in this manner but there are a few. This doesn’t stop at the top photographers, or the workshops. Sadly this also applies to the photographers who bash other local photographers, who mock them and dislike them when they don’t even know them. They don’t know their circumstances or they are not part of the clicky local group. They hear a rumor and run with it, and create, you got it… drama. We as a whole in the photography industry need to come together and support each other, not pull each other down.
To those who are starting out – Keep going, never give up on your dream, never let anyone put your flame out and stop doing what you love to do. Everyone goes through times of self-hatred with their own work, when you want to quit. I call this “cocooning” because I believe if you can make it through the hard times then you come out better as a photographer. When those times hit and you want to quit, DO NOT. You have to keep going. I promise you will look back and see your own personal growth; no one should have that taken away from them. Remember it is a long journey and it can take years to create the images you wanting, but it will happen, you can make it happen by not giving up. Keep learning and keep asking questions, join forums and use all the resources available to make yourself the best you can be. Understand this.. what one person can do, so can another! Be your best and keep learning, save up for that new lens, just don’t stop because of some unkind rumor or comment. I heard a quote a long time ago, it stuck and it is true and it is how I will end this.
“The only photographer you should ever compare yourself to, is the one you used to be”
Nicola of Nicola Lane Photography is a Raleigh photographer located in Raleigh, North Carolina. At Nicola Lane you will find fine art newborn, maternity, child, family and baby photography in Raleigh, Durham, Cary and the surrounding areas.