Our Industry vs. The World

  • Recognizing the Difference

have spent the last two days in the mountains working on a special project with our friends Buddy and Jill. Bud is an organic Chicken farmer and Jill is a wedding photographer. Our conversations over dinner in downtown Lexington turned towards the industry and how it’s changed so much since I first started shooting in 2008. I started in college and went full time when I graduated and so I never experienced the corporate world or ANY other world for that matter. I never worked in a cubicle or had a boss. I also never experienced what it’s like to work with colleagues that were striving for the same promotion as you.

Jill worked in that world for some time after college before starting her business and so she’s seen the difference between our industry and the rest of the working world. As we chatted, we realized just how unique the modern photography industry is compared to the rest of the business world. In what other industry can you go learn from someone who is successfully running their business? Sure, there may be a few exceptions but for the most part, there aren’t many industries like ours. If you adopted someone else’s practices, business plans or any ideas in general, you would be in trouble. Businesses go to GREAT lengths to make sure their products and services can’t be replicated.  It’s cut throat. In the corporate world, you have to lookout for yourself and no one is fighting for you, you’re on your own. If a chef opens up a successful bistro downtown, the other chef down the street isn’t going to expect that successful chef to share his tips, tricks and business secrets…. that’s just not how the business world works.

However, the modern photography industry is different. Some photographers (ourselves included) that grew their businesses successfully and quickly have started teaching because 1. We love helping other photographers and enhancing the industry and 2. It’s secondary income.  This idea is kind of crazy when you think about it. When we host workshops and coaching sessions, photographers from all over the country leave with our business strategies, marketing plan and basically everything else associated with our business. They know it all and if they wanted to go home and start a mini “Katelyn James Photography” business, they could! I would hope that they would just take their new knowledge and apply it to their own businesses but you always run the risk of having someone copy you directly.

My point is this, we are a part of an industry (for the most part) that is very giving of their knowledge and expertise. I’m not patting myself on the back… I’m really just trying to say that I’m thankful for the industry that we’re a part of.  I’m thankful for those that taught through their blog and then offered workshops that I could attend and learn from. I’m thankful for the numerous emails I’ve sent that leaders in the industry didn’t have to answer but they did so willingly.  I’ve been so blessed by photographers that have cheered me on throughout the years and as I compare our world to the rest of the business world, I’m grateful. I’m grateful because I realize that those leaders didn’t owe me anything.  They didn’t have to help me…. I had NOTHING to offer them. They weren’t going to gain anything from cheering me on except maybe a future competitor!  Sure, I paid for a workshop here or there and they made money off of me but when you think about what they’re sharing, it’s invaluable.

So if you’re in the photography world and you think that those that are successful should be answering all of your questions and teaching you all of their industry secrets, you’re wrong. Teaching, sharing and giving is something that some leaders choose to do and I’m so so thankful for people that have given so freely to me in the past 6 years.  They don’t owe me anything and I realize that I don’t deserve their kindness…… but I’m grateful for it.  I’m also grateful that I’m currently blogging from the road and just spent two days in the mountains with friends because Michael and I are our own bosses. We love working for ourselves and when things do get crazy and a little overwhelming, I remember how wonderful this job is and the freedom it brings. So today, if you’re in the industry, be thankful that this world is full of givers and leaders.  Be thankful that there are photographers that desire to form friendships and not just self-serving networking connections and remind yourself the rest of the world doesn’t work this way…. we are truly blessed.  Happy Friday everyone!!

Ps. If you’re in a location where there is a lack of love in the industry, don’t give up!! There was a time when Richmond didn’t seem that inviting to us but over the past 3 years, the community that has emerged is just incredible! It can happen!!! …. You just may have to be a part of making it happen:)

18 Comments Photography
  1. Rebekah Hoyt reply

    I love this! It’s so true – I think I’ve started to take our industry for granted with how giving and helpful most people are. There is a wealth of knowledge out there and I think that is part of the reason so many photographers have been able to be successful – there is so much to learn and people who are willing to share it! I love being part of this community – thank you for the reminder that it is truly a blessing :)

  2. Deborah Zoe reply

    Love this and love you!

  3. Stphoto reply

    Thank you for your words. You always write what’s iron your heart and it’s so inspiring. I will definitely take into consideration how you’ve come so far in Richmond. I for one, am in an area where it’s not so much a lack of love but where I feel lost as a newbie in a location where there are many photographer l. Katelyn- thank you, you inspire me.

  4. katie reply

    Katelyn, you hit the nail on the head! I am constantly in awe of the direction of this industry and the amazingness of so many photographers who give back and teach! You and Michael especially!!! XOXO

  5. Calee L’hommedieu reply

    Thank you for this post. I love this industry. The people (the ones I have come in contact with!) are so giving. Blessed, for sure :)

  6. Caroline reply

    love this post! I’m so excited and thankful to be meeting and learning from you on Monday!

  7. ahren reply


  8. dana reply

    Thank you tons for sharing Katelyn!! the lack of local love can be discouraging, but I’m so grateful when i can travel and learn or learn online from my mentors =)) happy friday!

  9. Kristina W. reply

    Awww, even as a non-photographer I love learning from you!

  10. Natalie reply

    AMEN! Oh my goodness, Katelyn. I remember leaving our mentoring day in Annapolis feeling like I was finally ready to share the knowledge that I’ve gained over the past five years in business. It’s scary to teach, to give back, to be completely open like you have always been – – And I’m grateful to have a friend and mentor like you to look up to! Thank you for always being a caring voice of honesty! Love ya, Girl!

  11. Joshua Minso reply

    I can totally relate, the few people that seem to care require cash to share their secrets and advice. I have gotten so much from some of them but I feel disheartened when trying to form friendships with other local photographers. Only a very small handful have welcomed me while most have given me a very cold shoulder. I am learning from this experience and when we become successful we will not be rude or cold to those looking up to us. I believe we are to love one another in all areas of our lives but many photographers (even family ones in my case) look at you as a threat and not a friend. If nothing else I want to succeed just so that I can offer a hand to those starting out. Thanks for the post.

  12. Amanda Hedgepeth reply

    LOVE THIS and i Love you for your big heart!!

  13. Jill Powers reply

    Amen and Well-said! :)

  14. Brooke reply

    Oh, how I wish this were true in our market! It’s so refreshing to hear your perspective. Even though I am relatively new to the industry, I try to encourage others as much as I can. There is always enough room in the market for new and fresh creativity. Thank you kaitlyn, you have been my mentor from afar!

  15. Maggie reply

    Thank you so much for this post. It is so encouraging to be starting a photography business with such giving and loving mentors, who are willing to teach and guide us up-and-comers through the beginnings of our businesses. You’re business is such and inspiration to me and you are incredibly talented, yet have such a humble spirit. Thank you for showing me that it is possible to successfully own and run your own business and honor the Lord in all your decisions.

  16. Carrie logan reply

    love this!! thank you for always having a heart to teach, love, serve, encourage, and help! you’ve really touched soooo many lives through that heart of yours (more than you know) and i personally am so thankful for it. :) love you!

  17. Annamarie reply

    Thank you for being so wonderful Katelyn! I’m so blessed to have received advice and direction from you…You are an incredible teacher and friend!! xo

  18. Chels reply

    thankyou for this post!! just what I needed to hear!

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