How to Relate To and Learn From Other Photographers

Written by:

This past weekend, the community where I live and work held their annual art festival. It’s not large by art festival standards in central Florida and vendor participation was probably negatively impacted by the weather and another art festival going on the same weekend in downtown Orlando. Nevertheless, a photographer friend of mine, my wife and I decided to go check it out. Scattered among booths with oil paintings, acrylics, pottery, hand crafted jewelry, etc., there were seven or eight photographers that had booths set up and were displaying and trying to sell their work. Most of the photographers were displaying very nice images but nothing really spectacular. That is, until we approached the booth of a nature photographer. His work really caught our attention and we stopped to look closer at his work.

Rick and I were carrying a camera and I guess we had the look of knowledgeable photographers. While looking at his images, the photographer approached us and started talking about photography. The photographer is associated with a small group of photographers that from time to time goes out as a group to photograph the natural environment, mostly in central and northern Florida. As we asked him questions about his work he became friendlier and eventually invited Rick and I to join with his group on a photo expedition.

Since this article is about how to relate to and learn from other photographers, note some of the things I mentioned in the paragraph above. We were carrying equipment that marked us as more than casual photographers and of course that really is a help. Not one single time did either of us criticize the work we were viewing. He approached us and started talking about photography. Every time he asked us about what we did, photography wise, we answered and then steered the conversation back to him and his work. Where was this taken? How did you get this shot?

What did I get out of this? The opportunity to exchange stories with another photographer. An invitation to join him and his group of photography friends for a photography outing. The use of his photos in this article. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Why is it such a big deal to go on an outing with other photographers? Besides, getting to know new people with common interests, you also learn where their favorite locations are for getting the best photography opportunities.

The photographer’s name is Greg Stephens and he shot all the images in this article. You can see more of his excellent work by clicking on the link above.

Here are some tips to help you relate to other photographers and hopefully have a similar experience to mine.

1. Keep in mind that photographers are just people and like people some are super nice and some you wish you’d never met. If you have a bad experience, don’t get discouraged. The good people outnumber the bad ones.

2. Golden Rule. Think about how you’d like to be approached by another photographer, especially one not as skilled as you are. Or another way of saying it, if you were to be introduced to Annie Leibovitz you would want to learn from her, not teach her. Talk about her work, not yours unless asked.

3. Be friendly and patient, not pushy. Don’t expect another photographer to download all their information in five minutes. I learn some little something every time I’m around other photographers. I don’t expect or even want to learn everything at one sitting.

4. If you want to get into studio work and you know a successful studio photographer, offer to assist – pro bono. Or offer to help schlep someone’s gear out in the woods. The worst thing that can happen is for them to say thanks, but no thanks.

5. Join a local camera club and become active. Camera clubs are a great place for meeting other photographers. Many clubs have formal mentoring programs. Those that don’t usually have members that want to mentor others. Many of their meetings are educational in nature. There are some clubs that frankly are all about competition and you may be put off by that at first. But if you’re patient and pay attention to the critiques of the photos, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll learn. In time, you’ll probably get to the point that you enter your work as well.

6. Attend photography seminars and workshops. You’ll be learning from photographers and you’ll meet other photographers that are in attendance. Make friends, exchange business cards or email addresses.

7. Read Tiffany’s article about Camera Etiquette in a Crowd and while you’re there, read the comment made at the end of the article by John Kosak. It kind of follows number two above.

8. Don’t profess to be an expert. There are three steps to becoming a good photographer. Step 1 is I don’t know anything and need all the help I can get. Step 2 is I know everything about photography. Step 3 is I learn something new every time I pick up a camera or talk to another photographer. Do yourself a favor and skip Step 2.

9. Keep in mind that photographers and are just people and people are social animals. Engage in casual conversations with other photographers and you’ll be amazed at all the tidbits you’ll pick up.

10. If you see some of their work and you like it, say so. If you don’t, don’t say so. And, don’t ever say, wow, you must really have a nice camera.

Some of the tips are a little tongue-in-cheek, but remember, photographers, for the most part like to share. We all understand that a photograph is but a fraction of a second in time. Once that fraction of a second is past, it can never be repeated. I’m more than happy to share what went in to capturing a particular image or how I might approach particular photographic situations. I believe that most photographers are the same way.

On Thursday, Tiffany will post an article on the same subject, giving her views and insights.

Photo Credits:

All photos by Greg Stephens

Previous Post:

  • Gary Crabbe

    Nice post. Many times at art fairs, I try and act like I’m not a photographer, ‘cuz many of them just turn off the moment they sense you’re just pixel peeping. Nice to hear you found the exception.

  • Steve Russell

    Rest assured, Gary, that I found the other kind too.  But the guy I mention in the article and who went to the trouble to send me his photos to use is a real professional and not threatened by other photographers.  Visit his site and note the credentials of his photographer friends.

  • Pingback: Oxford School of Photography