Wedding photography can be a lonely pursuit. Most of the time you’ll find yourself sat at home, or in your studio, alone. Finding yourself sat editing, or searching for receipts for your accountant is far more often the reality than the perceived glamour of actually shooting a wedding. With many photographers operating as a one man band it’s easy to see how one could find themselves feeling isolated or detached from the working world and their peers.
So how important is it to have relationships with other photographers?
Socialising, camaraderie, letting off steam
From a purely social perspective, maintaining friendships and relationships with other wedding photographers can be incredibly convenient. Wedding photographers have an odd work pattern compared to most. As such trying to nail down plans with friends or family members can be tricky. Whilst most of your friends will be at work at 11am on a Wednesday, photographers schedules are usually a little more fluid. This is especially the case during the week. Because of this, having photographer pals means there’ll likely always be someone on hand for a dinner date or coffee catch up. It can make missing out on weekend plans with other friends that bit more bearable.
Sticking with the social side, it’s nice once in a while to remind yourself that you’re actually a part of a fairly big industry. It may not feel like it when you’re sat in your pants chomping on digestives at 2am, but it’s true none the less. So whilst bus drivers cross paths in the canteen and teachers enjoy adult company in the staff room, it can be good to experience some camaraderie every so often.
Along similar lines, letting off steam with someone who understands where you’re coming from is priceless. Particularly if you find yourself struggling with difficult clients or job related issues. Wedding photography is a unique job. No one will quite understand how mentally challenging or exhausting a wedding can be like another photographer. No one can relate to the bizarre client requests or the “i’m on a budget” emails like another photographer. Sharing experiences, the good and bad, makes us feel like we’re not quite so alone.
Relationships with other photographers from a business perspective.
Of course, when you’re running a business, there’s always another side to the coin. Acting in the best interests of your business will usually dictate many of your decisions.
Whilst the social side can be a motivating factor also, one of the best reasons to maintain or establish relationships with other photographers is so your business has the very best chance to flourish. This can mean many things.
Friendships or professional relationships can mean shared referrals. It can mean having people to turn to in the event of an emergency. People to ask advice from if you’re having technical issues. Reliable sources of information if you’re seeking recommendations. It can, for some, be the very foundations of someone’s business. No doubt many businesses are built based on the advice, recommendations or referrals they’ve been passed by other photographers.
When the networking side crosses over into genuine friendships, you also hit a sweet spot. You reach a middle ground that sees other like-minded professionals actually supporting your business. Liking or commenting on your social media posts for example. Little things that stem from friendship, but also help celebrate your business. How much value this has in real terms is open to debate. Many would argue that other photographers are not the one’s booking your services and therefore it’s ultimately pointless. Even so a virtual high five is usually appreciated and can make someones day a bit brighter.
When it’s all laid out as above it’s clear to see why networking and making genuine friendships with others in your field can be so beneficial. There are social, practical and possibly financial incentives too.
But what if you’re not the type? What if you’re shy, introverted, or just quite happy as you are?
Well that’s fine too! Networking and so on is by no means a must. One of the things that some photographers love so much about the job is the total self reliance and independence. Working alone allows them to stay “in the zone” and get things done. Some relish the alone time and the opportunity to step away from an otherwise hectic lifestyle.
In the 6 or so years that we’ve been working as wedding photographers, we can count on one hand the number of other photographers we’ve ever met with socially. Even then, it’s only ever been a one off. I have always been quite a big advocate for trying to keep my personal and professional life separate. It’s difficult enough for me to switch off and step away from work, without then basing my socialising around my work too. I try to maintain separate social media profiles for personal and business use for example. At the end of the day, when my work is done and I want to forget about it, I don’t want my facebook feed to then be full of other work related stuff.
That said I do try to actively engage in certain photography groups when I can though. Mostly to maintain a presence and so I do have resources to call upon should they ever be needed. From a business point of view, our business model doesn’t rely on photographer to photographer based referrals and working as a husband and wife team means we have one another to share our experiences with.
So if you aren’t the networking type and socialising, participating etc isn’t for you don’t force it. If what you are doing is working for you and your happiness, focus on that.