• Why Help?

I first started this business, there weren’t many of us around…. and when I say “us”, I’m referring to young, new, female photographers ready to take on the world. Nowadays, that isn’t the case. In the last 5 years, the photography industry has exploded… big time. In our friend group from college, there used to be two photographers… me and my great friend Jessica. Today, there are at LEAST 6 of us. In the last 4 years I have had over 6 of my brides become photographers and I have 2-3 new photographers signing up for coaching sessions every single month. People are referring to this profession as just the “thing to do”…..

because it seems like everyone is doing it.  Well, the truth is…. everyone is doing it…or at least it seems that way.  Think about it….the economy isn’t great, jobs are scarce and so for some, this is the perfect season to give their creative dream a shot. Why not right? Why not try this….what do they have to lose? So what happens next? They either already own a starter SLR or they go out and buy one.  Then comes the Facebook fanpage and maybe a blog. They’ll get a makeshift logo to have some kind of branding and then someone will say to them “Hey! You have a nice camera! Will you shoot our wedding? We’re on a really tight budget”.  They’ll charge $500 and they will shoot their first wedding without ANY experience…. then they’ll book another low budget wedding and they’ll launch a website. Do you see what’s happening? The economy is giving creatives the chance to pursue their dream but the economy is also taking a toll on wedding budgets which employs the new photographer.

If you’re a photographer and you’re reading this… you’re either feeling one of three ways, 1. You’re saying “Yea! Preach it Katelyn! There are WAY too many faux photographers out here! It’s ridiculous”, 2. You’re saying “I’m one of them. I’m one of those new photographers that you’re talking about who has a dream of running my own business.” or 3. You’re an established photographer and you’re saying “Right, the industry is over saturated…. but we can’t change that…. so now what?

Hopefully, if you’ve ever read my blog, you know that I’m not that first option.  If you’re familiar with my story you will know that I’m not the second option either.  I’ve shot over 100 weddings, I’ve been trying to perfect my craft for over 4 and a half years and I’ve become an established wedding photographer in Richmond, VA. So now that means I have to be the third option… I’m an established wedding photographer and I’m left with a decision….. do I HELP the new photographers grow into professionals or do I let them figure it out on their own??

Well, both options have their own risks. If I HELP new photographers, there is the chance that I’ll create a MASSIVE amount of competition for myself.  If I don’t help new photographers…. something worse will happen.  If established photographers choose to hate instead of help new photographers grow into professionals, the whole INDUSTRY will suffer.  Not only will the industry suffer, I’ll suffer.  I would become extremely BITTER and resentful towards ANYONE who tries to enter the field after me. I would work in my own little world, in my own little office and the idea of a “photography community” would be non-existent.  The title “Wedding Photographer” would have no value, no standards and no respect.  When the educated decide to keep their knowledge to themselves, it only hurts the future of the industry.

Some will disagree with this. Some photographers who are established and have worked SO HARD and for SO LONG to have higher prices and a respected brand will disagree with this. But my question is this…. how did they get to where they are? Photography school? Books? Online forums? A business degree? …. Maybe even…. another PHOTOGRAPHER? I like to think of it as a “Bieber/Usher” situation.  Usher is at the top, he’s made it.  He’s talented and he knows how to make music.  So when he sees a young, inexperienced musician who got online and started promoting himself for free on Youtube, what did he do? Did he say “There are way too many talented people in the industry, how dare someone new try to make it?”….. No. He befriended Justin. He took him under his wing and he trained him to be a super star.  A HUGE superstar. What happened to Usher? Did he crumble from the competition? Did he lose his place in the industry? …… OR did he become known as a teacher? A respected teacher that helped a young, talented kid who’s dream was to be a super star.

So what am I saying? Well, I’m not saying that EVERY established photographer should teach, host workshops and openly share ALL of their secrets.  I understand that teaching and sharing is not for everyone. However, I do think that there is GREAT value in shifting  one’s attitude towards the newer generation of photographers. It’s just a happier way to survive in this industry…… maybe “surviving” is actually the wrong term.  “Thriving” would be a better way to describe it. When I decided to share and serve instead of resent the new photographers in the industry, I saw amazing things happen. I experienced a community of like-minded entrepreneurs, I gained dozens and dozens of new friends and my business moved forward….. quickly.  My business didn’t move forward because I started hosting large scale workshops or coaching sessions, it started to grow when I began offering simple encouragement and education via a blog post or two. Every now and then I would share something that I thought may help someone else….. and it did.  Some may say that sharing knowledge will hurt me as a small business owner…. but I’ve actually never seen that happen yet. I’ve only seen GREAT things come from this shift in thinking.

When I was in college and I offered a VERY beginner workshop…. like, REALLY beginner, I had a somewhat established photographer friend say to me “Oh great, so you’re jumping on the workshop bandwagon too?”.  You see, back then was the start of the “shift”.  Experienced photographers had to start choosing to help or hate…. and I’m thankful that I chose to help.  My life and business have been enriched because of this aspect of my business.  I didn’t get here on my own…. I grew my business with the help of other leaders in the industry and I’m so thankful for them. They helped me and so in turn, I need to help others.

So what does this look like for EVERYONE? Not everyone is in a place to teach….and not everyone SHOULD teach. When there are great BOOMS in any industry, not everyone makes it. Some people just aren’t cut out for this and that’s ok…. it’s not my job to make that decision for them… time will tell if this is the dream they are supposed to be chasing.  So for me, my job is to make those who are serious about this career, more professional.  This ultimately enhances the entire industry! If everyone was being elevated to the next level of professionalism, our whole industry would grow and standards would be raised.  I’ve decided to help instead of hate. I help first through having a good attitude towards new photographers.  I also share information freely on my blog and then lastly, I teach in the form of workshops and coaching sessions.  For some of you, deciding to help instead of hate looks like answering that one email from that newer photographer that just wants to know what light stand you use. For some, it’s sharing about what you’re learning about photography on your own blog. Maybe some established photographers are ready to offer some type of mentoring…. or maybe the next step is just changing your attitude. Not everyone is supposed to help in the same way… but if the attitudes of everyone aligned, this would be a much happier industry. Don’t you think? Do you agree? You don’t have to agree with me, this is just my opinion…. but it’s an opinion based on facts.  I grew the most when I stopped trying to elevate myself and leave everyone else in the dust…. Justin’s road to stardom wasn’t easy…. Usher didn’t hand Bieber his fame on a silver platter….. he worked HARD for it. (“Never say Never” anyone?) Usher was his teacher, his cheerleader and his mentor. Justin still had to LEARN and fight for this on his own… but he had support… and that changes everything.

So I just wrote a small novel and I apologize…. but this is my heart for the industry.  I want to see my amazing friends succeed… and I want to succeed too…. so instead of doing this on our own, lets help each other out.  Lets join forces and take this growing industry to a new level! I realize this was a HEAVY post… it wasn’t much FUN to read… so to lighten the mood, here’s a little pep talk for ya!


xoxo, Katelyn
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