Every so often, I come across photographers who are completely disconnected from the photography community. They don’t attend events and workshops, they’re not involved with photography clubs or photowalks, and they don’t engage with photographers online. You’re missing out if you’re one of these solitary shooters, and I know this because I used to be one.
The Sole Photographer
For too many years in the beginning of my own photography career, I was the only photographer I knew. Nowadays, that’s hard to believe.
I’ve always had an eclectic mix of artistic people in my life. I was a theatre kid in high school and dated music producers through the college years. I’ve known painters and writers, potters, glass-makers, jewelers. Everyone surrounding me was highly creative but I was the sole photographer in my circles. And I wanted it that way.
To associate with other photographers felt redundant and uncomfortably competitive in my small hometown. It felt like there wasn’t room for more than one. I have always been the go-to photographer for my loved ones: I shoot portraits of my musician friends, I’ve captured weddings for my cousins, I’m even documenting the birth of a friend’s new son next week. I’m honored to have this role in my friends’ lives. But for too long I was needlessly protective of it.
The Pivotal Month
A few years ago, I flew to South Africa to participate in an intense photography bootcamp hosted by world-renowned stock photographer Yuri Arcurs. I booked an entire month in Cape Town, planning to live and shoot with a diverse mix of passionate young photographers from around the globe. I had never attended a big photography event before.
From the very first day, I realized I had been missing out all these years. I felt such immediate camaraderie among this great group of like-minded people. We were all instant friends because we spoke the same language: we spoke in exposure and composition, pixels and glass. We had nearly identical passions and goals and dreams. We ‘got’ each other, and we made one another better photographers by exchanging knowledge, assisting with shoots, sharing gear, and observing each others’ styles and approach. Any competition between us was all in good fun and pushed us to become better photographers. It was invaluable. But most of all, it was incredibly fun.
Months later, having moved to Amsterdam and missing my fellow photographers, I started hosting photowalks in the city. This progressed into larger photowalks in more cities, hosting workshops for aspiring shooters, and building lasting friendships with photographers whose work I respect and admire. My only regret is that I didn’t reach out sooner. Knowing other photographers has made me a better photographer.
A Vast Community
Today I have countless camera-toting pals from San Francisco to Singapore and everywhere between. If your career is in photography, networking and socializing with other photographers is one of the best things you can do for your professional advancement, and for your own happiness. It’s important to surround yourself with those who understand your lifestyle and your work. We all need people who ‘get’ us.
Knowing fellow photographers will benefit your personal life and improve your skills. There are so many ways we can help one another and make photography more fun and rewarding:
- Socialize with fellow photographers on local photowalks and outings
- Attend photography expos, workshops, and conferences
- Swap and share compatible gear with one another
- Trade helpful photography/post-processing tips and tools
- Assist one another on shoots
- Scout models and locations together
- Collaborate on shared projects
- Get valuable, honest feedback on your work
- Hone your own skills by sharing knowledge with newcomers
Like so many photographers, you may have an introverted personality, but don’t let that hold you back from forming lasting and meaningful friendships with your peers. It’s easy to get involved in a photography community, even if you’re just starting out.
Meetup.com is a fantastic website for forming and joining local groups with shared interests. Photography Meetup groups are hugely popular there—right now I’m a member of the Dutch Photography Meetup group with over 1,000 photographers and fun events every week. If there are no meetups in your area, start one yourself! You can also find socially active photographers, photowalk events, and photography groups on Facebook and Google+.
Get out there into the community and befriend fellow photographers. Share, learn, and grow to become a better photographer. Be sure to check out my upcoming photography workshops and photowalks in your area, and come say hello!