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Saturday, 8 March 2014

Professional Photographer Column - April 2014

Attitude Problem?


I get to meet lots of you these days – photographers who make the industry what it is now and what it will be in the future. It has been very interesting because I have been exposed to a spectrum of attitude – positive to negative.  And the negativity seems to get blamed on the fact that our industry is experiencing a great deal of change.

But isn’t that just an excuse?  It’s the easy way to explain negativity rather than accepting that attitude is everything. Your attitude governs the way you perceive the world and the way the world perceives you.

You might wonder why I’m mulling this one over?  The truth is that every other day or so I see or read something that makes me literally shake my head in surprise and disbelief.  Sometimes it is related to my business and sometimes I am merely a third party observer – which is so often the case on forums and social networks.

For example, last week I was out and about when I received an email enquiry which read, “Hi Kate. Love your work! Could you please provide a full cost breakdown of your collections. Thank you X”.  I replied saying thank you for the lovely comment and asked whether they were interested in weddings, portraits or boudoir and they responded to confirm portraits.   I had cc’d Becky (my studio manager) so that she could reply with the information.  A little while later I got an email from Becky who, having had some strange sixth sense, had googled the hotmail address and found it linked to a Facebook photography page and business.

So I wrote back to X and asked if he was interested in a shoot or just wanted the full cost breakdown to compare to his business.  I politely caught him out in other words.  He responded with an email lamenting the attitude of his clients, the market need for digital images and the effect of the north/south divide.  Without an apology about his intent he was asking for my advice on various issues.  I responded by saying “If I’m totally honest with you the way you tried to get my pricing information has bothered me – I know photographers do it all the time – but I don’t like it. That’s why I train for myself, Nikon, The Guild and Aspire – because I’m very happy to share my experience and knowledge that way. I wish you all the best, Kate”.  His email back to me was something else – but this was my favourite bit “Sometimes it's nice to share; not everything in life is about money you know? I guess you're still to learn that though!”.

Head shake. You see the truth is entirely different.  In reality if you are lucky enough to have some influence in the industry you absolutely must be prepared to give back.  A positive, generosity of spirit is a pre-requisite to success amongst your peers.  Of course I gain financially by writing columns and training but I rarely earn a penny for industry talks like SWPP, The Photography Show or the camera clubs that ask me to speak.  I fill in lengthy questionnaires for students on a weekly basis – in the hope that I will give them a commercial perspective to compare to the theory they are studying.
You see I believe that attitude is a choice – good and bad things happen to all of us and it’s how we choose to respond that matters.  Truly understanding this does mean you are forced to accept responsibility for your situation – you can no longer blame anyone else for where you are and what your business looks like.   Log on to any photography forum and someone will be blaming weekend warriors, postcodes, Groupon, burning to disc etc as the reason their business is not successful. Running a photography business is HARD and like restaurants many will fail. I have no doubt that if an outsider was sent in to a stuggling photography business Gordon Ramsay styley (think Photography Nightmares) they would soon unearth the boxes that are left unticked.  Think about what those boxes are: technical competence, professional level kit, vision and a good compositional eye, effective branding and positioning, a consistent and recognisable portfolio, business and admin skills, web and social media presence, work ethic , ambition and people skills. 

That last one really matters – in many ways more than the rest.  My clients would tell you that I am always positive and engaged with a real concern for their well being and satisfaction.  I don’t always have the right energy to deliver this – of course I can have a negative attitude sometimes because I’m human and stuff happens in my life like it does in yours.  When my attitude is less than positive I am aware of it and I don’t answer the phone or respond to my email.  I have to shut the world out, maybe edit with music on and get my head back into the right space to run a people business.  What I don’t do is log on to a forum and have a moan and a bitch – it’s just not cool and it leaves others with a bad taste in their mouth.    I know I am not alone in my feelings about the attitude problem in the industry and some could argue that my role is to be only positive and encouraging.  However many people have told me that they value my honesty in this column and this is something I feel quite strongly about.  Together, individually, let’s make ‘photography’ a nice place to work.


  1. Head shake indeed, I can only say that for every negative person I have come across in my photography journey I have met at least 5 positive ones, I've met some of the nicest, friendliest people and the positivity I get from sharing knowledge, tips and ideas is what makes the photography world a better place and inspires me to keep trying to improve. Kate, you make photography the nicest place. You inspired me many, many years ago when I came to shoot for you wet behind the ears, you taught me so much, you filled me with confidence and if I'm honest you are always in the back of my mind - particularly as I'm about to do this full time. You're genuine love of photography shines through so ignore the negative attitude, luckily they are in the minority. xx

  2. Hello Lovely Lady. Thank you for taking the time to share - you are right of course - there is much positivity. The problem is that it only takes one bad apple to change an entire forum thread or knock someones confidence. You will be amazing and run a wonderful business because of WHO you are and what you believe. Best of luck on the journey and I'm here for coffee.... x

  3. Hi Kate!
    I am currently on nightshfits on my "day job" (not quite able to leave it yet), and thought I would cheer up my night by reading your blog. I seriously cant believe the myster shopping that some people do. Please rest assured that YOU DO SHARE SO MUCH. If I hadent have gone on your 'All About Weddings' course in December 2012, I wouldnt be on the Aspire Bespoke programme now. I felt so inspired by you and have had an amazing year meeting lots of really and truly lovely photographers. I second what Becky says about the vast majourity being so lovely and inspiring, just like you.
    In 5 weeks today (June 6th) I will be marrying my best friend, so as a bride to be and a photographer I know just how important people skills are. I have a friend from my Bespoke couse photographing my wedding, she is not only a fab photographer but an amazing person. A photographer isnt just someone who points and shoots, but someone who is creative, personalble, with passion and caring. The day I loose my positive attitude and just seen bride and grooms as a convayer belt of cake toppers is the day I down tools and walk away. I hope that day never happens coz, wow I love my job.
    Thank you Kate and Becky (Yes I follow you too) for be such inspirations and making our industry a nice happy place



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