I witnessed something all too familiar, tonight. In one of my photography forums, there was a group of professional photographers venting about the horrible newbies in their hometown, who bought a Canon Rebel and suddenly thought they were a photographer. There were all of the usual remarks, like “They are giving away sessions for FREE, this is ruining my market” and “These pictures are TERRIBLE,….My Instagram photos look better”. Quite a few people had stories to share about their similar situations and who was the laugh of their local market. If you’re a photographer, you know what I mean. You’ve probably seen very similar conversations, maybe you have even participated in them…or worse, been the subject of them.
Because you are reading this, I’m assuming you are either expecting some profound advice about stomping out the competition….or you’re just waiting to see how much of an egotistical jerk I am, for calling out beginner photographers. Am I right?
Well, my grand advice for dealing with people in your area who are becoming photographers overnight, is…………NOTHING.
Because the truth is, fretting over those people who you refer to as “fauxtogs”, says a lot more about you than it does about them. I know it sounds harsh, but if you spend your time concerning yourself with the affairs of those who you describe as so “below” you, you’re probably not too sure of your own worth and stance in the industry.
How do I know? You’re talking to the guiltiest of the guilty, when it comes to this. I spent a good amount of my first two years in business being a secret “Newbie Hater”. And how ironic, when I was hardly more than a newbie, myself. I vividly remember spending hours scoping out the websites and pages of anyone in my area who thought they were a photographer. Whatever sense of entitlement I had somehow found, I leveraged to convince myself that I was better…more professional. A few months ago, I even found a business journal from my first year, where I wrote a few pages venting my frustrations about other locals who were starting up in photography. I actually closed out the entry, telling myself to stop worrying about it and do my own thing. Even then, a part of me knew how petty I was being. Reading it now, I was both mortified and sympathetic. It was SO obvious that these words were a cry for help, written by a true newbie, trying to find self-worth through comparison. I might as well have written “I’m unsure of myself!!! Please tell me I am a good photographer!!!”
But I’m not trying to give the impression that I am preaching from some saintly pedestal of love, support, and total confidence. It’s not as if I went through some 12-step program that forever cured me of any ugly thoughts. At my lowest times, filled with the most self-doubt, I still occasionally revert to those old feelings. When bookings are slow and new photographers are popping up all around me, it’s hard to NOT feel that way.
I know first-hand that the more you feel threatened by your competition, the less confident you are feeling in your own capabilities. But, the good news is, the “fauxtogs” were never a problem, anyway. If you are running a business with a GREAT product and an AMAZING experience, no one who truly values that is going to suddenly change their mind for a lower price. There are plenty of ideal clients out there for you and if you are offering something amazing and unique, they are not going give up on their hopes of working with you, simply because there is something cheaper. There are more things to a photo business than just numbers. While we’re on that thought, don’t judge the people who are going to the new photographers….for those people, it might mean hiring them, or getting no photos at all. Not everyone can afford you and not everyone is going to hire you….. even if you were the only photographer in town!!! It’s not your job to educate every single person about what you believe a “real photographer” is….your only job is to work hard and be the best one that you can be. Lead by example. Your ideal client will know the difference.
So the moral to this story, is…. the fauxtogs aren’t your problem, you are your problem. Every minute you spend worrying about what that beginner photographer is doing, is valuable time that could be spent on your own growth. Turn that negative energy inwards and become a better YOU. Nothing that you think, feel, or say about others can change the circumstance. No amount of kicking, screaming, and ranting about the new photographer who is charging $200 for a wedding, is going to stop them from following THEIR dream. And why would you want to? You had to start somewhere too and probably have some embarrassing stories of your own. They are probably inspired by you, try to show a little grace as they find their way…whether they are friendly to you or not. If you are truly the leader and the big dog in your area…prove it! Not just in your work and the number of fans you have, but in the things you say about others and the integrity of your business.
Stop bashing the newbie. You never know if they will be the one you are lining up to see at WPPI, in a few years ;)