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Disclaimer: This may seem harsh at first but hear me out and read the WHOLE post

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This industry is growing at an unbelievable rate.  When I bought my first SLR, it was $1000 and came with 2 standard (crappy) lenses and a bag.  Today you can buy a Canon Rebel for under $600! It’s crazy!  The more popular they become, the more “Photographers” start to emerge on facebook.  It seems so easy. You get an SLR, you put it on “P” and make a Facebook page and wa-la! You’re a photographer! …… right?  Isn’t that it?

It seems so simple.  The truth is that ANYONE can do that.  I’m letting my little sister BORROW (It’s not yours Emy!!!) my old Rebel right now and if she wanted, she could start a fan page and Emily James Photography would exist! Just like that! So what does this mean for the photographers that have been doing this for years and years? What happens to the photographers who are extremely talented and trying to make a living but everyone is settling for the $500 wedding photographer from facebook who is shooting on automatic!? Don’t get me wrong, not long ago I was the $750 wedding photographer on Facebook with a bludomain website and no clue what I was doing. I understand that that is where you have to start if you want to enter this industry! But there is a common misconception that this is easy…that launching a business is just fun and that anyone can do it.  That’s just not true.  Building a business from the ground up has probably been one of the hardest, most stressful adventures I have EVER taken in my life thus far and I’m still not done! This job never ends! Growing and maintaining a business is demanding and requires CONSTANT innovation and dedication.  If a photographer is going to make it in this industry, they’ll have to fight for it…. myself included.

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Now that all of you newer photographers are all depressed and frustrated with me, please let me continue! I have struggled with how to handle the fact that ANYONE can just decide to become a photographer whenever they want. Social media enables people to do this so easily! I think that for people like me who are still new but have a couple of years under our belts, it’s hard to hear people automatically called themselves “Professional Photographers” when they really don’t have any idea what that entails. I STILL have a hard time telling people I’m a professional wedding photographer sometimes! Somedays I don’t feel like I deserve that title yet.. but that’s a whole different story!  If this is hard for me, I can’t imagine how it must feel to those who have been doing this for 5,8,15+ years! However, (I promise this gets better so stick with me!) I have recently gained a lot of wisdom in this area from some amazing photographers who I’m sure struggled with this a ton!

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Basically, with the help of Jstar, Dane Sanders and Becker, I have realized that I have no control over this industry.  Different people are going to decide to become photographers, whether they are talented or not, and I can’t do anything about that, nor should I! Wasn’t that me just two years ago?! Wasn’t I the newbie trying to launch a new business and needing advice? The truth is, for those of us who have a little bit of experience and choose to turn up our noses at newer photographers, we are digging a hole for ourselves. We are actually killing the industry by not investing in other photographers because no one is teaching them how to become professional! If we would stop considering young photographers as competition and start helping them grow and enhance their businesses, we would accomplish three things:

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1. We would form community and support

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2. We would enable new photographers to grow their businesses & charge more for their packages. This eliminates the “$500 Facebook Photographer” issue.

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3. We would weed out those that aren’t serious about creating a business and whose approach to the industry could hurt the value of what it means to be a photographer.

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So what am I going to do about this?! I’m starting a new “Ask Anything” series.  Periodically I will answer questions that come from other photographers in hopes that it will help everyone! I receive several emails and facebook messages every week with technical questions, business questions and sometimes even personal questions! I don’t have all the answers and as a disclaimer, some of my answers are probably wrong! However, I want to share and I want to help because people poured into me when I first started, Jessie Smith in particular.  I could tear up just thinking of all the advice, encouragement and time she spent on me. It was a gift and I want to be that for others!

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I’m sure you are tired of my rantings and I hope I didn’t scare you off! Please know that I am NOT hating on the $500 photographers.  My whole goal of this post is to encourage experienced photographers to fight the urge to be bitter and resentful… that doesn’t end well for anyone.  If you want more information about learning to help instead of hate, you have to read Dane Sander’s book, Fast Track Photographer! It would be my number one recommendation for anyone just starting out or thinking about taking the plunge into full time photography!

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ALSO! Speaking of connecting! If you are a VA, MD, or DC photographer come hangout for our first ever Photographer’s Unite meetup in Fredericksburg, VA on June 4th! Join the facebook fanpage! I want to meet you!!!!! I’ll post more info soon! (Thanks Sarah for her help with this!)

11 Comments Personal, Photography
  1. Simply Natural Photography reply

    Great post. I often think about this, because, as a photographer just beginning my business, I’m afraid other more professional photographer’s will view me the way you described, especially because I’m so young. But I truly want to pursue this, and I totally understand how all the photographer names out there can make for less quality and leave the true pros struggling.
    Jessie has also given me great advice, bless her.
    When I think of a question, I’ll be sure to ask it :)

    thanks,
    Katherine

  2. Sarajane reply

    I’ve definatley been on both ends of that. I’ve majored in photojournalism and have been shooting weddings for over three years and still feel like a newcomer. (probably because i am. ha) But, at the same time I spent a lot of my second year frustrated with the $500 wedding photographer and as I start to want to grow my business I do realize that we need each other. I also am continually reminded about how much I still have to learn, everyday. good words Katelyn.

  3. Emily Scott reply

    love it, katelyn. you have such a good heart and i totally hear you, being only 1.5 years into this, i struggle with this issue. but i love that we are in it together. all of us.

  4. Korie reply

    FANTASTIC post! love everything about it. Seriously! I’m so excited to see your new series come about!! I know it’s going to be a-MAZING!! On another note, I live in Fredericksburg and won’t be able to make the Photographer’s Unite meetup :( I’ll have just left for Texas the day before! BOOO! Will there be more?! I’m crossing my fingers!! I hope the first one goes great! -Korie

  5. Sarah reply

    I know you aren’t knocking on people with Blu Domain sites right?! ; ) LOL! I have a Blu site… albeit temporary. I’m not a wedding photographer, a pet photographer actually, but I still didn’t just jump right in and call myself a “professional photographer”. My portfolio building went on for well over a year before I started charging. I’m in the process of launching officially. Site is up, working on blog. I can totally relate to how exhausting it is to build a business from the ground up, the right way. Takes so much longer than what you expect. The people that jump right in and don’t know what they are doing only make those of us who do and have taken the proper time, look better. I’ll forgive you for the Blu Domain dig ; )

  6. Chelsea Corinne reply

    GREAT POST!! GREAT POST!! Definitely turns things around, I have had MANY clients “start-up” photography businesses, because they think it’s just “point and shoot” when they know NOTHING about technique and compositing. Very true words that it’ll weed out the weak and keep the strong photographers. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR POSTING this!

  7. Lydia reply

    Sarah is awesome! So glad you two are connecting out there!

  8. Girish reply

    Very very nice post. Good to see an encouraging write up as this.

  9. Sabrina reply

    Thank you SO much for posting this. During the first lunch I ever had w/ a pro photographer before I started my business, she talked about not being in competition with each other but working together. And so many photographers lately have talked about learning from each other and I think it’s a fabulous idea. There are definitely enough clients to go around and if we work together instead of competing, think of how much better all of us would become? I’m no pro (yet!) but am more than willing to learn from others and hopefully more than willing to teach others too. Both sides provide good experience :)

  10. Jessica Horton reply

    This is so well said. I am one of those newbies, trying to battle against the $500 photographers also. We all need to value ourselves, and our work…. and at the same time educate people why we do what we do, and charge what we charge!

  11. Emily Rice reply

    You impress me. Very well put!

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