My heart was so full after second-shooting this past Saturday with my old intern now professional photographer of awesomeness Emma York. It made me think about how much I freaking love having friends that are photographers. It's the bomb. So it's only natural I share my heart in the matter. First though, a backstory.
When I started photography in 2008, I knew very little about the industry. I was a girl with a camera with hopes of going places, whatever that looked like (insert inspiring pop song here). So naturally, I went to the Googs, photography forums, and literature in hopes of combing the wealth of information available to me and becoming the best photographer I could.
However, one big factor was missing: community. Not only did I need community in the general sense (the church, a cup of sugar from my neighbor, etc....), but I needed it from fellow photographers. Here are the top three benefits I've found from harnessing a photography community.
When I joined a Facebook group of local photographers, I found it a safe way to improve the quality of my work through asking others for critiques. It was both encouraging and painful but almost always helpful. It allowed me to see my work through the eyes of another professional. Once I picked up my camera I was more mindful and shot stronger.
Those opinions coming from the faceless Internet would've had less bearing, but these were coming from people I had met in person and grown relationships with. They had more weight than a fleeting remark from a stranger. At the same time though, there were plenty of people I received comments from that I didn't know. I gladly listened to them because the online community was established as a place of trust.
One of the first times I met another photographer in person I ended up finding a bosom friend (oh yeah, we're talking Anne of Green Gables status). I was floored. How had I been a photographer for four years and never discovered the joy of a like-minded creative? Let me tell you, my eyes were opened! Why edit alone when you can have editing parties? Accomplishments became less about me and more about celebrating the collective achievements. That ideal senior client she was wanting finally showed up in her inbox. Instead of being jealous, I got to be thankful with her. And she felt the same for me! It was a sweet and redeeming time for me, as I felt for years that the industry was dog-eat-dog and that community was not even an option. Clearly that was business advice from an evil source and is not the truth.
A Support System
When tough times surfaced, being able to turn the others that knew my plight was invaluable. Whether they were client issues, pricing complications, general questions, or just a shoulder to nap on during the middle of wedding season---I had so much less stress than when I was trying to do things on my own.
All that goes to say---while it might be scary (especially for us introverts!), don't hesitate to make new friends in the photography pool. My growth was seriously impeded in my initial years, and I would hate to see others make the same mistake I did. We are no doubt stronger together than we are apart. So find that Facebook group, make that coffee date, and have yourself some c r a z y editing parties. Then get back to me with the results!
If you're already in community, remember to reach out to the outliers. Don't forget you were in their shoes once too. Show them how great it can be to have other photografriends on their side. Feel free to share what's helped you build community!
Go get 'em Wheaties!