Tuesday, January 31, 2012

For Photographers

Dear Friends,

 This goes against my better judgment to write, half of me says "It's bad for business" and the other half has reverted to 17 yr. old, cheerleader me because I've got S-P-I-R-I-T, SPIRIT, yes I do! Here it is though...

 Stop Talking Smack About Your Clients. Stop talking it on your Business pages and don't encourage your clients and friends to gang up on someone on your business page. As a consumer, this is a major turn off. Why am I going to give someone money for services if I don't know if later they will or won't verbally attack me or one of the individuals I have paid you to photograph. Your Business's Facebook page is not the place for you to slut-shame, provoke or threaten lawsuits because someone has expressed an unflattering opinion of your work. It is the place to try and be on your best behavior, lots of people are getting their first glimpse of you, your work and attitude there.

 And on that note, sharing an unflattering opinion or making an observation is not slander so please stop telling people you will sue them because of it. It's not slander if a dry cleaner ruins my wool jacket, it's a fact I'm probably going to be mad about and will give referrals based on. It is slander if I say "They deliberately ruined my jacket because they didn't like me for xyz reason!"

 If you have a problem with a client (or your client has a problem with you), address it privately. If you have a problem with another photographer, address it privately. It is easy to let tempers, and ill-tempered words, fly in the heat of moment. You will come across as calm, cool and collected though if you pull up your big girl/boy Underoos, take a deep breath, apologize for any misunderstanding and offer to discuss differences in private to whatever audience you have at the moment. I may still want to hire you for family portraits if you have rationally (and respectfully!) addressed a problem with another client in front of me. I won't hire you if I see you go bananas on someone else, and I'll tell 5 of my friends so they can avoid the same thing.

 Stop thinking every other photographer who has admired your work is a spy, out to get you. Stop thinking every bit of advice you're given by another photographer is useless, or given to sabotage you. They are likely giving it to you to stop you from hanging yourself with your words. As someone who has made just about every mistake in a 10+ year long career, I want to see newer and younger photographers succeed without hitting all the same pot holes I did, and I'm sure a lot of us feel this way. Try your best not to repeat mistakes. I must have really liked hitting brick walls and it kills me to think how much further in my career I could be if someone had just said "Hey, Jackass, let me help you out there!"

 If your client dumps you for another studio, it is not because that other photographer is offering great incentives to do it to you. It sucks, flat out, to see any of my previous clients post pictures from another studio on their Facebook. That does not mean that I have reason to be a vengeful, hate mongering jerk to the client or the other photographer. It just means they chose another photographer. And sometimes I find inspiration in those new photographer's images!

There are as many reasons for why someone may have hired you in the first place as there are for why they go to a different studio now. Price, location, schedule, flexibility, portfolio, accessibility, easy to talk to, fun to work with and customer service. While they may hire you for one of those reasons initially, you may get dumped for that same reason because things change. Their budget changes, your prices increase. They move or you move or a photography studio opens up a block from their house and it's more convenient. They took on a new job, or you're only open Mon-Thurs. instead of Sun- Sat still. They love your work but can no longer meet you on location at your favorite park 40 mins from their home between their kids' wrestling meets, dance classes, scouts and music lessons or you can't drive 30 minutes to shoot at their favorite, nearby park.  Am I getting my point across? 

 If the reason a client has left you is because of portfolio then force yourself to shoot just for fun for a week, or a month, or a year. Go brush up on your skills. Learn Your Camera! If you feel yourself burning out from 15 sessions a week, outsource your editing or sit down and write out a personal project you want to photograph. Last summer, I did my balloon series as a way to declutter my mind of the "formula" session. I feel myself itching to start a new project once this Buffalo weather defines the season we're in. (Natives, what is this?? I'd always heard of Buffalo being buried in snow from November to April and hadn't really known different.)

 If a client leaves you because of customer service, it is time to evaluate what went wrong and what you can improve. If you are openly name calling and encouraging others to get in on your fun, I think the answer is pretty obvious. If you maybe could have done a better job on that portrait session or event and your client calls you out on it, it is time for an apology and to correct the situation to the best of your abilities. Be humble, without our clients we are people with cameras who can't pay our bills. 

  I want to backtrack for a moment. A word about slut-shaming because it makes me angry and sad to see a photographer who offers boudoir and "sexy" sessions slut-shame other women, especially as the next thing they post after advertising them. Slut-shaming encourages misogyny, low self-esteem and a negative attitude regarding sexuality. I don't care how you dress, about your sexuality and sensuality or what you do in your free time because it isn't my business. It's not my business to know how many people you have been intimate with, why your children don't look alike, why you aren't married or why you dress the way you do. It is my business to photograph you in a way that makes you feel positive about yourself. If you respect me, I respect you and that is what matters. If you don't respect me, or me you, maybe it's time we privately address our differences.

 If you have such strong feelings about women, marriage, sexuality, dress, gender, etc. then maybe it's time to re-evaulate why you offer a service that is about boosting self-confidence and sparking a romantic fire in a new or old relationship. If it's for money, get out now before you not only dig your own grave but are buried in it.

 No matter how young or old you or your business is, these things make an impact. Yes, I am writing this on the heels of watching a lot of these "bad behaviors" over the last 24 hrs. It is not to shame that person or their business, but to provide food for thought and help them, and other photographer's, do better. Realize your full potential with your equipment, show gratitude to the clients who keep a roof over your head and stay grounded. Always remember there is room for improvement.


1 comment:

Renee said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you. And I'm glad you posted about it. This behavior is unacceptable, both as a professional, and as a human! Unfortunately, photography is an art as much as it is a science, and the results can be judged subjectively. A mature person would accept this.

By the way, you are well-versed, and altruistic. Not to mention, an exceptionally-talented photographer!