Having An Honest Dialogue.

I've thought about this blog for almost a week now. Usually I write my thoughts on a topic as they come, but I wanted to do this one justice. Now that all of my available slots for photo sessions have been booked, I feel a certain amount of freedom to say what I really want to say.

So out with it.

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I've been accused, indirectly, of producing "underqualified photographers" who are undercutting the "real" professionals in the area and basically helping to ruin the industry. There I said it.

Actually, someone else did.

I read through the comments on one of my "Facebook friends" in the area, who is a photographer, and a fellow photographer in the area made this statement, or something extremely similar because I refuse to go back and read it, not naming me personally. I can only assume, since I'm the only independent photographer in the area currently doing workshops, that it was me that person was referring to.

If you know me, you know it took everything I had not to fire back.

I have so much to say on this topic. This blog could be an 8-part series if I really wanted it to be. But because I believe in keeping things simple, I'll whittle my thoughts down a bit. You're welcome

Just to preface my standpoint, I've been in business now for 3.5 years. I started my business in the beautiful-weather-year-round state of Hawaii. A perfect paradise with perfect weather and perfect backdrops available to use for photo shoots year round. I co-taught one workshop with my friend and colleague the entire time we we're there. One. Mostly because it was her idea and it seemed like fun.

It was fun!

But I knew that organizing that workshop was a beast and I had more interest in shooting, not teaching. So I spent the rest of my time in Hawaii doing just that. And loving every minute.

Then came Oklahoma, with it's unseasonably hot Summers and unseasonably cold winters. Two times of year not suitable for outdoor photo sessions. Two times of year I wouldn't be making the income I made the rest of the year. Unlessunless I taught workshops. I had constant emails and messages from clients, friends, and people I didn't know asking to teach them or asking advice for taking indoor photos, outdoor photos, photos in direct sunlight, photos in shade.the list goes on. These people wanted to learn and I needed something to fill my hottest and coldest months of the year.

And so the workshops we're born.

I spent a long time working on the format for my workshop. At the time, there was only one on the schedule. A basic, hands-on class teaching people how to use their DSLR cameras in shutter priority mode, aperture priority mode, and manual mode. Because AUTO mode just doesn't cut it.

The workshop was insanely successful and people who took my workshop and we're in my private online group we're consistently asking for a follow-on class. And so the other workshops we're created. People we're eager to learn! They weren't satisfied with AUTO anymore! Our message, as photographers, that it takes more than the click of a button was getting out there and people we're noticing a huge difference between my photos and their photos. Win, win!

And now, after 17 workshops, someone is saying nasty things about them. Here's what I have to say to this person, and anyone else who shares that viewpoint:

1. Some, not all, of the people who take my class decide to start a business. So what? I can't photograph everyone in Southwest Oklahoma and neither can you. There are plenty of clients to go around.

2. Who says they're underqualified? The ones that become photographers have been trained. They care about their art and about our industry. Isn't that what we want? Don't we want people to become educated BEFORE they decide to take on a photography business? The fact that they come to a workshop or two is not going to sway them one way or the other. They already know whether this is something they want to pursue, otherwise they wouldn't invest the money. So let's be glad that a professional has talked to them about what to do, what not to do, and given them the reality check that this ain't easy!

3. They can find what I teach anywhere! If you're mad at me, you should also be mad at camera manuals, colleges, and YouTube. Because they all teach the same thing I teach. Only difference is that I provide hands-on learning, and that I get the privilege of making personal contact with each and every student.

4. If you we're secure in your business then you wouldn't be the least bit concerned about the "underqualified photographers" I seemingly produce. That's right. If you are providing a great experience and turning customers into loyal clients then you have no reason to worry yourself with the newbies in the area. My clients come to me for me and my work. Your clients go to you for you and your experience. Unless you are doing something wrong or unless this year's budget has significantly changed you have no reason to worry. So stay in your lane.

5. Everyone starts somewhere. I bet when you started out, your work was not as polished as it is today. Your workflow was not as professional. Your prices we're not as high. Don't forget that. Don't lose sight of the fact that everyone starts somewhere and you we're once just like today's new photographers. Nervous. Excited. Wide-eyed. Eager. Underpriced. And now you're too good to help them along their journey? That's too bad, because you're missing out.

It is a wonderful thing to be able to watch someone who bought her camera a week before her first workshop flourish into a true photographer. Someone who uses her camera on manual, took the time to file for a business license and build her portfolio, invest in good equipment and good education, and slowly navigate through the industry with a teeny bit of guidance from me. It's absolutely gratifying.

I started out doing workshops as a business decision, one of the best I've ever made, and it's ended up so much more than that. Putting on weekly photo challenges in our group, reading about their excitement when they took a photo of their baby and got an amazing shot, answering questions when they don't remember where their ISO should be set.

I've made friends, and even more than that, I'm helping to build this industry stronger, not cheaper. I am helping to keep them hungry for more knowledge by doling out resources and I'm honest when, at the beginning of my basic workshop, I say "This course will not prepare you to start a photography business".

But they know that if they want to pursue it, I'll be there. Cheering them on and helping them out. Not rolling my eyes and upset that our industry is becoming more "saturated" with photographers.

What I do in my life and my business isn't for everyone. But as photographers, we are all working toward a common goal here. If we raise the tide, we raise the ships with it. In other words, if we ALL continue to raise the standards together, the others will have no choice but to come up to our level. So my belief is that my workshops and my students are not bringing down the standard of our industry, rather, it is your attitude that is doing so.

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. ~Henry Ford

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Posted in Photograph Post Date 10/02/2017