Photographers need photographers. There’s a large and diverse ecosystem of us in Cardiff, in Wales, across the UK and the world over. Barriers to entry continue to fall with developing technology, meaning more affordable cameras capable of capturing great images, and more people trying to make money from photography.
As a medium, the visual image has exploded alongside the ubiquitous tentacles of social media. It is no longer anything like a niche interest, hobby or profession. It’s everywhere. You can barely walk down the street without seeing a casual selfie being taken, a tourist snapping feverishly at everything in sight, or someone practising street photography.
People from the old world of photography can bristle and get defensive, but there’s not usually much to be gained by it.
Media models have changed, and this makes matters harder too. Major news outlets rely mainly on subscriptions or customised ‘pay as you go’ type arrangements with the big picture agencies, in turn often marginalising smaller agencies and making national newspaper publications much harder to win. This means a rapidly shrinking marketplace. Pessimists might say a ‘dying’ marketplace; optimists might say an ‘evolving’ marketplace. In any case the slices of profit pie are being shared amongst humble togs increasingly thinly.
It goes some way to explaining why a number of photographers can appear guarded, or at times a little sniffy towards other photographers. But the truth is that sometimes we need each other.
While there is a spectrum in terms of individual ability with a camera, and some have vast reserves of experience over others, many of us share a roughly similar level of skills.
The individual manner of a photographer is a huge element in the overall photography service on offer. Whereas media outlets will simply be judging images against other images and whether they’re of use and affordable, businesses and individuals will invest (or not) based at least it part upon how photographers communicate and present themselves.
As with many things in business, a basic element of trust is essential. You have to trust that whomever you’re contracting will conduct themselves professionally, not embarrass you in front of clients or colleagues, or deliver a substandard service.
This recently all came home to me again. I was getting married in Cardiff and found myself needing a photographer. Timers and remote shutter gadgets can only take you so far. A selfie stick was never an option.
Of course I already knew who was out there well enough, and I knew what I wanted – which is a key thing for any couple. And the answer to the latter was ‘not all that much actually’. As a couple, we’re not tremendously showy (or rich) people, so we weren’t having a huge lavish bash with loads of guests.
Luckily, I know several great photographers from the football photography circuit across South Wales who offer other photography services including wedding photography. One of these is Mike Griffiths, a club photographer at Cardiff City. As well as being an accomplished pro who consistently produces top drawer images, Mike has a really relaxed and amiable manner when working with people, perhaps honed from work in the corporate hospitality boxes down at Cardiff City Stadium.
Plenty of people from my wedding party mentioned afterwards how good the photographer was – and not having seen any images, they obviously meant how good his manner was. I knew Mike would be great, and I knew the images would be great too, and my wife (still feels strange to type) and I think he totally delivered. He was also good enough to provide the RAW image files so I could edit and process the images how I wanted.
Many photographers are competitors, vying with each other and big agencies for what we can get from media outlets – which usually isn’t much. But we regularly work alongside each other, so that sort of makes us colleagues too.
Sure, there are lots of people doing all sorts of photography and, you know, everyone is different – you can encounter nice seeming folk and not so nice seeming folk; people having a crappy day and people having a not so crappy day. Either way, you might as well try to be civil, friendly, nice and decent, because photographers need photographers. One day you might need another photographer to help you out.
And if you’re not a photographer seeking a photographer, remember that searching extensively online, swish websites, glossy studio portfolios with lots of famous people, zillions of Twitter and Instagram followers: of course that all matters to a degree. But never discount a photographer’s manner and how they appear to you as a person. Will they make your guests or event attendees feel at ease, or will they unnerve them? Can you detect a big strident ego about them? Or sketchy disorganisation? It’s worth considering these things as well as the quality of images on a website.
Images in this blog post courtesy of Mike Griffiths.
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