Recognizing the Difference

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have spent the last two days in the mountains working on a special project with our friends Buddy and Jill. Bud is an organic Chicken farmer and Jill is a wedding photographer. Our conversations over dinner in downtown Lexington turned towards the industry and how it’s changed so much since I first started shooting in 2008. I started in college and went full time when I graduated and so I never experienced the corporate world or ANY other world for that matter. I never worked in a cubicle or had a boss. I also never experienced what it’s like to work with colleagues that were striving for the same promotion as you.

Jill worked in that world for some time after college before starting her business and so she’s seen the difference between our industry and the rest of the working world. As we chatted, we realized just how unique the modern photography industry is compared to the rest of the business world. In what other industry can you go learn from someone who is successfully running their business? Sure, there may be a few exceptions but for the most part, there aren’t many industries like ours. If you adopted someone else’s practices, business plans or any ideas in general, you would be in trouble. Businesses go to GREAT lengths to make sure their products and services can’t be replicated.  It’s cut throat. In the corporate world, you have to lookout for yourself and no one is fighting for you, you’re on your own. If a chef opens up a successful bistro downtown, the other chef down the street isn’t going to expect that successful chef to share his tips, tricks and business secrets…. that’s just not how the business world works.

However, the modern photography industry is different. Some photographers (ourselves included) that grew their businesses successfully and quickly have started teaching because 1. We love helping other photographers and enhancing the industry and 2. It’s secondary income.  This idea is kind of crazy when you think about it. When we host workshops and coaching sessions, photographers from all over the country leave with our business strategies, marketing plan and basically everything else associated with our business. They know it all and if they wanted to go home and start a mini “Katelyn James Photography” business, they could! I would hope that they would just take their new knowledge and apply it to their own businesses but you always run the risk of having someone copy you directly.

My point is this, we are a part of an industry (for the most part) that is very giving of their knowledge and expertise. I’m not patting myself on the back… I’m really just trying to say that I’m thankful for the industry that we’re a part of.  I’m thankful for those that taught through their blog and then offered workshops that I could attend and learn from. I’m thankful for the numerous emails I’ve sent that leaders in the industry didn’t have to answer but they did so willingly.  I’ve been so blessed by photographers that have cheered me on throughout the years and as I compare our world to the rest of the business world, I’m grateful. I’m grateful because I realize that those leaders didn’t owe me anything.  They didn’t have to help me…. I had NOTHING to offer them. They weren’t going to gain anything from cheering me on except maybe a future competitor!  Sure, I paid for a workshop here or there and they made money off of me but when you think about what they’re sharing, it’s invaluable.

So if you’re in the photography world and you think that those that are successful should be answering all of your questions and teaching you all of their industry secrets, you’re wrong. Teaching, sharing and giving is something that some leaders choose to do and I’m so so thankful for people that have given so freely to me in the past 6 years.  They don’t owe me anything and I realize that I don’t deserve their kindness…… but I’m grateful for it.  I’m also grateful that I’m currently blogging from the road and just spent two days in the mountains with friends because Michael and I are our own bosses. We love working for ourselves and when things do get crazy and a little overwhelming, I remember how wonderful this job is and the freedom it brings. So today, if you’re in the industry, be thankful that this world is full of givers and leaders.  Be thankful that there are photographers that desire to form friendships and not just self-serving networking connections and remind yourself the rest of the world doesn’t work this way…. we are truly blessed.  Happy Friday everyone!!

Ps. If you’re in a location where there is a lack of love in the industry, don’t give up!! There was a time when Richmond didn’t seem that inviting to us but over the past 3 years, the community that has emerged is just incredible! It can happen!!! …. You just may have to be a part of making it happen:)

Thanks for reading!

— Katelyn

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