It’s no secret that social media can be leveraged to monetize your reputation as a photography expert. But there is a dark side to this: a whole new generation of photography role models coming up who are unfit to be role models.
The Internet gives people the ability to self-publish and craft an online image. And there is no rule that says in order to be an expert influencing others you have to run an ethical business or have good business practices. So it’s buyer beware.
I’m not suggesting that it is a bad thing to have a photography mentor or role model, but you need to choose wisely. Don’t be afraid to question the advice you get from another photographer. Hear what they have to say, but make your own decision using sound judgment. If something doesn’t add up, then it probably doesn’t.
Bad Advice that No Beginner Should Read
I bring this up because a former wedding photographer / influential figure recently released an online guide giving his 10 steps to starting a wedding photography business. He advocated building a wedding photography brand even if you don’t have the requisite photography skills, because, he said, your brand is more important than your product.
Advice like “spray and pray on P mode” if you are so overwhelmed you forget how to use the camera is so irresponsible that no beginning photographer should ever read such advice.
My own advice if you are too overwhelmed by a photo shoot and forget how to use the camera: Stop shooting weddings (or any other paid assignment) and spend a few years learning how to be a good photographer so you don’t ruin a couple’s special day. Ask yourself: Is this a level of responsibility I am ready to handle? The first rule of customer service is to put the customer first, and sometimes that means turning down a job for which you are not yet qualified.
Further advice advocated spending as little time as possible editing a wedding photo shoot because you have more important things to do. (Like cashing the $6,000 check and not doing work?) He said that you should spend no more than two hours editing a wedding photo shoot and batch process everything. No need to open your images either because it’s a waste of time.
I suppose that strategy makes sense if your business is geared around placing a higher priority on your own image than those in the photos, but that is not the way to go about being a professional photographer. If you take paying jobs, then you need to be able to deliver the goods. This is not the time to be lazy.
Beware of the Hard Sell
Stuffed in the content was the constant reminder to use his products. It turns out that the photographer only had four or five years of actual wedding photography experience before getting out of the business to lecture and hawk products several years ago. There is an old saying that applies here: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” If you are going to seek someone out as a mentor in person or online, make sure that they have legitimate credentials.
The sad part is that he is just one of a bunch. Despite all the great things photographers have done with the Internet, but there are a lot of toxic characters out there who have far too much visibility. And people without the experience to discern right from wrong tend to flock to those who shill the most. Those who shill the most usually do not have your best interests in mind. These “industry leaders” know that and exploit it for all it’s worth.
To these shady photography mentors I say if you got into professional photography merely as a get-rich-quick scheme or to be famous, then do your clients a favor and tell them that first. The let them decide if they still want to hire you.