Please welcome Holly Montgomery from BrindleBerry Custom Pet Photography based in Calgary, Alberta as a guest author on Hair of the Dog!
It can be overwhelming starting a photography business and there is often an unspoken code of conduct between photographers that you may not be aware of when you are starting out. I hope that this list can help you build new and lasting relationships within this great community.
1. Comment on a competitor’s social media page with your personal name, not your business name.
If you are a direct competitor in the same market as another business, commenting or liking a page as your business name can be seen as kind of slimy. They may have spent a lot of time, or dollars, or likely BOTH, accumulating fans and putting what is essentially a link to your business on their page is just not right. If you are just following as a fan, it’s better to participate using your personal name.
2. Don’t ask a photographer for access to their suppliers.
I get asked A LOT from other photographers, and sometime clients, where I get my products printed. Very often this question gets asked in full view of the public (my followers). To remain competitive in a VERY competitive industry I personally have chosen not to share this information with people I don’t know. My products and packaging are what makes my brand my brand. I try to be different. I don’t want my clients to know where I purchase my products.
There are a lot of photographers out there that are very generous with this information (often they teach photography, so it’s a good idea for them to do so), and that’s ok too. Many of us belong to groups that opening share information back and forth – but it is a choice. It should not be an expectation for them to disclose this info when they have spent many long hours finding these suppliers for themselves.
3. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery is so not true.
Inspiration is one thing, but imitation is just plain lazy. I can’t explain to you how gut-wrenchingly-aweful it feels to be so excited to have created something new, and different one minute, (believe me in the age of internet, this is very, very hard!) to the very next feeling defeated and unoriginal because someone saw your work an did the EXACT SAME THING. 🙁
If another photographer’s work inspires you, take some time to figure out how to make it your own instead of asking them for details on how they do it. I have even seen people inadvertently copy just because it was something they saw in their feed and it didn’t really register as another person’s work. It can disguise itself as your own original thought! LOL.
To avoid this, when I was developing my style, I tried to follow other photographers that were not pet photographers. (Side note from Nicole: I find lots of my inspiration from tv and movies. Have you seen House of Cards? Oh the lighting.)
4. Look for answers to your questions yourself before asking the photographer.
If you can find it on Google yourself, do try before asking a busy person to do it for you. This goes for ANY profession. Plug your question into Google and see what you can find yourself! If it’s a specific question like “what camera body do you use?” check the photographer’s website first. Many have FAQs that they’ve put together in an attempt to save time for the questions they get asked over an over again. Just takes a minute to look!
5. Find fun new locations yourself, instead of asking your competitors for theirs.
Location scouting is one of the most time consuming aspects of being a photographer! Trudging through bushes, long drives on the weekend, hours and hours of time that photographers could be spending with family, all to find a unique spot to photograph their clients. Then, someone decides that they too would like to use that location, and not only that, but instead of finding it, they expect photographer A to TELL them where it is.
There are SO MANY beautiful places in every corner of the planet; take a minute to go find your own special spot!
6. If you do “cold call” a photographer, be polite and say thank you!
I have had colleagues tell me TONS of stories about people making inquires that are totally rude, disrespectful, and out of line. Things like:
“Hi. I am a pet photographer too – where do you get your albums?”
And, that’s…. IT. This does not motivate me one bit to even take the time to answer such an impersonal and abrupt email. How about:
“Hi Holly, I have been a follower of your work for some time and you have been such an inspiration to my own photography. I saw that you recently posted a photo album on your facebook page. It looks amazing! I have been struggling to find a good supplier here in SOMEWHERE FAR AWAY FROM YOU TOWN. I was wondering if you would mind sharing where you got yours from? If not, I totally understand! Thank you for your time either way, yours, SOMEONE from SOMEONE’S PET PHOTOGRAPHY.”
Ahh, now that’s better!! You took the time to find out my name. You paid me a nice compliment. You told me you are not a direct competitor, and you respect my time. Much, much better!
7. Free information is lovely! But, don’t expect it.
When I started in pet photography, there were two pet photographers in Calgary (including me). There was no one to ask for information in this type of photography. So, I learned myself. I sought out mentors, and I took workshops. AND I still do! I try to set aside money in the budget every year to learn.
Just because in photography we don’t NEED an education, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be seeking one. Paying another photographer for their years of experience to teach you techniques and methods is well worth the money. I have found that the biggest benefit to these workshops and mentorships has been the friendships that last for years to come. Then you have a colleague, or perhaps many, to bounce ideas off of and ask questions.
Here are just a handful of photographers offering workshops and mentorships:
A few great Facebook groups to join:
Some of my favorite books:
I would have DIED for either of these books starting up!
It really does just come down to manners. Keep in mind that most working photographers are really busy people. Just have a little respect for their time, just as you would with anyone in any other profession. There is no such thing as “quick questions” (especially when you get 10 of them a day!), so if you don’t hear back in a timely manner, or at all, please don’t take it personally.
Happy learning! Drink in all the amazing info out there!! I know, I really can’t get enough of it myself.
Holly Montgomery is the owner and photographer at BrindleBerry – Custom Pet Photography. She resides at BrindleBerry Acres in DeWinton, Alberta, Canada.
Holly is a full time, pet exclusive, photographer that offers both studio, and on-location photography. She is best known in her area for capturing the unique expressions and individual character in every pet she photographs.