Why Help?

The Hating vs. Helping Dilemma
help-vs-hate

Back when

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!

 

Comments (95)

Comments

  1. Heather: ( )

    Bravo, Katelyn! It’s good to know that there are photographers out there who are thinking about community and not just competition. I fall into category #2 and sometimes I feel really Unlucky that I have this dream now. If I had been pursuing this dream 15 years ago, the market, the demand, all of it would be a different story. There have been new photographers entering the industry every year for ages – there just happen to be a ton right now. That doesn’t mean that none of them should be allowed in, that none of them have something new to offer. You are right, if it is for me then I will make it with enough hard work. If it’s not, then I will move on and try something else. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Rachel Kolb: ( )

    I am one of the new photographers you talked about…and I have to say that I am SO thankful for your mindset. I began shooting about six years ago and was so hurt by some of the “leaders” in the industry around me and so overwhelmed with feelings of insecurity and fear that I stopped shooting. I have just now gotten to the point where I am willing to push past the fear and go for my dreams.

    I am so thankful to have found a community of photographers who care about the integrity of their craft and who are willing to offer help to those of us who are just beginning. I know I am new to this industry and have so much to learn, but I am willing to put in the time and HARD WORK to make my dreams come true. And I can’t wait to be able to be at the point where I can encourage and help others to do the same.

    Thank you for being a true light, Katelyn. You were one of the photographers that inspired me to pursue my dream and I can’t thank you enough for that!

  3. Justine Cirullo: ( )

    referencing Usher & Beiber made my day and is such a good depiction of having a heart to see others succeed! Loved reading this!

  4. Amanda: ( )

    Yet again you leave me speechless with way you are so willing to put what you think out there. I am daily blessed by what you do and I know that without you and other amazing people in this industry I would have quit long ago. You have obviously been blessed by your attitude to help and not hate!

  5. Taryn: ( )

    I love this. Very encouraging!

  6. Eryn Kesler: ( )

    Great post katelyn. As someone who’s getting established, I am both inspired to value my work, and help others a step behind me. Thanks for always being a leader!

  7. katie yuen: ( )

    Katelyn… That was an incredible post. You are so inspiring and your attitude about helping others in this field is so encouraging on so many levels. Thank you so so much for every workshop, coaching session and blog post that you do to help others… it means so much more than you think!

  8. heather: ( )

    great message! I am also right there with you and believe that helping others will come in benefits (not always in more business) and that it only betters the industry! Hopefully there are enough of us to shift the market :)

  9. Leanna: ( )

    Katelyn, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for writing this post!!! I would be the #2 that you mentioned. I shot my first engagement in Nov. 2012 and have been asked to do two weddings. I just found your blog not to long ago and i’m so glad that i did. I’ve hestiated to ask the help of established photographers because i was afraid that they would resent me trying to get into the industry, even as a side job/hogbby. so photographers like you that are willing to share thru blog posts,videos,etc have been such a great help to me. Totally enjoyed your “novel”! :)

  10. Danielle: ( )

    Thanks for this, I am in category #2 and I didn’t realize when I started to pursue this dream that the market was already so saturated. I have two friends in particular who have been such an encouragement to me. I thank God for them! And everyday I am finding that more and more photographers feel just the same as you. I don’t know if this is what I am supposed to be doing for forever, but I do know that it is what I am supposed to be doing now. Until God leads differently, I’ll just keep truckin’ along! And thanking him for sending people along my way to lend a helping hand!

  11. Kayla F: ( )

    Wow!! What a fantastic post about such a hot (and passionate) topic. I love your “novel” and hope that it opens many eyes that have been shut to the change in our industry that is currently happening. We strive to document and share feelings and moments with our clients, why can’t we do the same with our business and such? I hope many read this and take it to heart. I know I will if I ever become not a #1 and a #3 instead! :D

  12. Carrie Logan: ( )

    it is MUCH to your encouragement, wise insight, and huge heart that my business is where it is today. i will always be so very grateful :)

  13. Rosa: ( )

    Like Mary said “we can’t shoot every single wedding, so why not teach others to shoot well” Justin, Mary and you are doing a very good job at teaching others. Thank you :)

  14. Kimber Wassenberg: ( )

    My photography is much richer thanks to you and your help. I totally agree with everything you said in this post…how thankful I am that the Lord put photographers like you around! :)

  15. Blakely: ( )

    AND THATS WHY YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL! Props to being kind, and just plain loving people! exactly what we are made to do. and someday will you please shoot my wedding? great!

  16. Blakely: ( )

    oh and i LOVED the justin/usher shout out

  17. Bonnie Armendariz: ( )

    Awesome article!! I am a newbie you could say. I don’t have a business,do not have a facebook page. I love taking photos. I know I’m not ready for the business aspect I have much to learn first. I have been extemely fortunate to belong to some wonderful photography groups in Hawaii and here in Oklahoma . Laura Fleming is an amazing photographer as well as a teacher. http://www.lauraflemingphotography.com/ Laura is like yourself..she has been so generous with her knowledge to me as well as countless others. Thanks so much for this atricle totally describes Laura. Very grateful to her as a friend as well as a mentor!!

  18. Holeigh Vincent: ( )

    What an INSPIRING and uplifting post katelyn.. I am one of “those” photographers…who started out shooting anything and everything. But Guess What? I reached out to photographers in my area, and they helped, ALOT! My work has grown & and continues to due to photographers like you & others who are willing to share their talents. Without them, I probably would’ve given up on this dream a long time ago.
    Thank you for putting it all into perspective! Creative professionals & students ALL benefit from teaching and learning.
    Thank you for being you & pushing our industry to become it’s BEST (:

    XOXOXOX

  19. Rosie: ( )

    Well written and thought out. You are a very special person; kind, generous, giving and leading your life with an intelligent mind and an open heart. Thank you for what you do. You inspire me almost every day.

  20. Shannon Pray: ( )

    This is so great, Katelyn, thanks so much. i’m not sure which category I fall into right now, but I k now it is not “professional”, and I have been made to feel so badly about that, so I make sure never to advertise it that way. Truth is, I just LOVE photography and want to pay for my schooling with it, and while I’m at it, I want to be as good as I can be. Thanks for being such an encourager for EVERYONE. I live in Hershey, PA, and would love to make the quick drive to VA for one of your workshops at some point!

  21. Meg Courtney: ( )

    Love this, and LOVE you!! Thank you for being you, for setting a standard and an example for others to follow, and for being an incredible blessing to our industry. So proud to call you my friend, and so proud to be right with ya for all of it. Amazing post Katelyn!!

  22. anna CejkA: ( )

    SO HAPPY TO SEE ANOTHER PROFESSIONAL WANTING US NEWBIES TO SUCCEED INSTEAD OF FAIL! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! WE NEED MORE PROFESSIONALS WITH THIS ATTITUDE!

  23. Sharon Elizabeth: ( )

    oh i just love everything about… ALL of this!

  24. Carmaleta: ( )

    And this is why you are my absolute favorite photographer!!!

  25. Lisa: ( )

    I love your insight into the business. My sister in law is just starting out and is an avid reader of your blog. I know she will really appreciate your insight and thoughts on helping vs hating.

    I have one comment in your new website and layout. First off – love the layout! Great job! My only suggestion (more like personal want) is if you can create a mobile friendly website. Some of the features don’t work on my iPad and I’d love to get the full experience when not by my computer.

  26. Kristi: ( )

    Hey Katelyn,
    I just started out in photography and I’ve always heard ‘study successful people if you want to be successful” So I went looking around and found your website and blog and I just loved it!! And it really did cross my mind several times – wow I can’t believe she is so willing to help everyone!! So I just wanted to say thank you for doing what you do. It’s so encouraging to know that amazing people like you are out there!! Thanks for being such and inspiration helping just one more photographer (me) :) believe that she can do it.
    Take care,
    Kristi

  27. ashley link: ( )

    you are the bomb diggity! seriously, such a blessing in this industry and to so many photographers trying to make their way out there. THANK YOU!!! :) also, i feel like you’re doing what God would want you to do. He would want you to be kind and help others. you’re paving a path and showing His love. thanks, girl! :) <3 <3 <3

  28. Nicole: ( )

    Thank your for this katelyn!!! I AM that new photographer working hard towards my goal and am feeling very shut out from those established photographers around me. I have even been chastised for my efforts and the way i go about things, to which i merely respond, “Thank you for your words of wisdom”. I understand that while we are artists, that this is a business, and I try very hard not to devalue the industry by charging extremely low prices. you are absolutely correct, when you say not everyone is meant to teach, coach or mentor. I personally, at this point in my business, cannot afford workshops, which i’m sure are quite beneficial, but I learn where i can. I read blogs and ask questions of those photographers i admire. Mostly with no response, but nothing beats a try than a fail. I was fairly surprised upon entering the industry and attempting to be guided, if not mentored, to see that it’s a very, almost catty environment. Discouraged as I may be by it, I refuse to give up on my dream and I keep my head down and try to figure it all out on my own. So to you, I say THANK YOU for your coaching and guidance. I hope to one day be able to attend one of your workshops and learn even more from you. You inspire me!

  29. Ann Hester: ( )

    I am in category 3, and I applaud you, I feel the same way you do about helping others. May you be blessed beyond your wildest dreams. Thank you!

  30. Ashlyn: ( )

    Katelyn… Thank you! I definitely fit into category two. I’m so thankful for people like you- and many others like you. I’ve had a love for photography for… 8 years? Ever since I was 7 or 8 and went to Florida and had a film camera. Its three or four cameras later, and I’m so thankful for all the investment people have done for me. Whether its my parents and them nurturing my love for it, a well known photog replying to a question, fAQ posts…. So many people have helped me and that’s what I love best about the photography “community”!

  31. Annetta: ( )

    Well said, katelyn! It’s because of you and your insight, sharing and caring attitude to other photographers that has helped me get where I am today. Many Thanks!!

  32. Annetta: ( )

    Well said, katelyn! It’s because of you and your insight, sharing and caring attitude to other photographers that has helped me get where I am today. Many Thanks!!

  33. Amanda Manupella: ( )

    thank you for this post. i truly believe that one must learn and gain experience before preaching! there are sooo many people who love this craft, and there are so many people out there wanting to charge to help and they shouldn’t be yet. your blogs are inspiring. thank you for helping…not hating.

  34. Brandilynn: ( )

    Wow thank you so much for this post. It’s funny because just the other day a fellow photographer and I were talking about this how we should all be one big network help each other out. This is great!! Thanks a bunch very inspiring

  35. Megan Bennett: ( )

    THE INDUSTRY IS A BETTER PLACE BECAUSE OF YOUR HELP KATELYN, YOU COULDN’T HAVE SAID IT BETTER.

  36. Alison Snead: ( )

    Hi Katelyn!!
    I just wanted to let you know how much this has touched my heart, I am on the edge of tears running down my cheek. I have followed you for a long time and EVERY single time you post a photo I fall in love with it. There is just something about the simplicity and raw emotion that jumps out of your photographs and keep me entranced. This may sound cheesy or cliche, but honestly you are my favorite photographer. I just love all that you do and who you are! Not to mention you are a local photographer (I live in Spotsylvania County) and seeing you so successful has helped push me to keep learning and growing. You are an Amazing woman, so gorgeous inside and out. When reading your blog posts your sincerity and kindness really shine through. So this is my HUGE thank you for being who you are and such a beautiful role model. Your willingness to help is greatly appreciated and valued. THANK YOU!!

  37. Kristina W.: ( )

    I think it’s super great that you encourage other photographers! And that video is so cute!

  38. Michelle: ( )

    I don’t even know you, but i love you girl! I have learned a ton from you and I Do not even plan to be a wedding photographer. It is thanks to folks like you that I am able to grow on a limited budget. Thanks for all you do and all you add to the industry Katelyn

  39. Katie S.: ( )

    My friend told me about this post and told me to check it out…and well thank you! This post is awesome. I am a newer photographer and I say newer b/c I did it as a hobby before I became “professional” I recently wrote to an established birth photographer just aking for some advice (I live in MI and I think she’s in georgia) and she will not reply to me. I think it’s sad that others aren’t willing to help…i’m not looking to steal ideas or business from other photographers I’m just seeking photographers to look up to. So thank you for being that photographer that I can look up to and go to for help if needed.

    Luv,
    Katie S. of KIS Photography

  40. Caitlin Alexander: ( )

    YES YES YES. I so wish more people shared your view on this Katelyn! Seriously. I am still in that new-ish stage of the business and like many have been hurt by a few photographers in my area who weren’t willing to help me out and support me, but I’ve definitely found a few gems along the way who have been my rock for my business and answered any question I may have had with grace. Those people are the people that make all the difference, and I am beyond thankful for them- and for you. Thank you Katelyn!

  41. William: ( )

    Katelyn, While reading my daughter Amber’s Facebook blog ( http://www.groverstyle.com ) I ran across yours. I am not a wedding photographer (landscape, nature, and still life mostly). Your candid remarks are very refreshing. I’ve been a member of photo collectives and various clubs and know many professional photographers (of which I do not consider myself). You are correct in all you have stated. Spending time and energy passing on skills you have to new (up and coming) photographers is important if photography is to grow (not just exist). Having met other photographers who share their skills has made me a better photographer and I enjoy passing on what I’ve learned to others. There are more times when I feel I’ve been blessed by sharing than I can count. Even after 50 years of creating photos I enjoy learning more about all the wonderful, creative ways to express myself through photography. My daughter has taught me lot from attending the workshops she gives monthly and I’ve seen many blossoming photographers grow from the things she has shared. It is photographers like yourself and Amber that are making the quality of photos created by these new photographers better and causing them to strive to be better photographers.

    I don’t think we have to worry about those who just pretend to want to be great photographers; they quickly are weeded out and the cream of the crop rise to the top. Thank you for your posting and congratulations on your success. Giving to others by sharing your knowledge and skills will only give you greater success.

  42. Mary Marantz: ( )

    PREACH!!! So proud of you girl!! xoxo

  43. Mariella Hoffman: ( )

    Katelyn, thank you for posting and for being you! You are most definitely an inspiration!! That pep talk was just what I needed this morning, brought me to tears!! keep up the hard work, you are awesome!

  44. Logan (Ash Elam Photography): ( )

    Thanks so much for this! It’s great to see a positive voice and mentor in the photo business. There are so many haters out there now! I’m definitely frustrated with the people who really don’t care about the craft, but that’s not a reason to shrink away from everyone.
    Best Regards, Logan

  45. Elizabeth Cox: ( )

    Katelyn! I’m totally that rookie photographer.. like to a tee! I’m encouraged that there are professionals like you out there that want to help out young, ambitious, and slightly (or really) inexperienced photographers like myself. I want to grow, learn, and be the best i can be at this. i do this because i love it & God just so happened to open a door for me to share it with people who appreciate it. i feel very humbled & blessed but also slightly nervous/scared. It’s a new adventure for sure & I’m excited to see where it takes me. You are a constant source of inspiration & wisdom for me. So thank you for choosing to help instead of hate :)

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