A Photographer’s Toughest Competition…

The only real competition we face is ourselves.

PhotographerDon’t hate your fellow photographer for being more popular than you. The odds are they are not “better” than you, they’ve just figured out how to garner more attention on the internet. I was once one of the many photographers brainwashed by the idea “competition” was the source of my unpopularity. Perhaps I still am brainwashed. For the most of my photography career I have been the victim of self-doubt. In my early days, I would routinely sabotage myself by making excuses like “if I had this camera, then…” and “if I had the opportunities that so-and-so has, then…“. I eventually gave up trying to be a professional photographer and just started to shoot what I wanted to shoot and was pretty happy for a long time.

In the early 2000s I decided to give pro-photography a try again. The internet is a new monster to face. I joined a social-photography site called Photo.Net and I learned a lot about the art of photography, but I also learned about gear-lust. I was also intimidated by all the great photography on the site. This is also where I discovered internet trolls. I had no experience with them, and they managed to get under my skin. However, the jealousy didn’t really come until I hit Facebook.

The years went on and once social media took hold of the internet, all hell broke loose. I come to realize that being cool was more important than being talented. I built up a lot of negativity for these cool-kid-photographers that were popping up everywhere. I wasn’t the only one to feel that way, and the internet turned many reasonable photographers against each other.

On more than one occasion a photographer actually stepped in front of my camera while I was taking a picture at a show. Another time in Portland, a young photographer walked up to me and informed me that he was the official photographer for this show. My brother’s band was headlining the show. I replied, “good for you, but my brother is currently on the stage and I’ve never seen you before.” He walked away and didn’t say another word to me. I found a lot of negativity over the years, especially while shooting live music. I’ve also met some great photographers and I’ve made some solid friends along the way.

It’s gotten so bad that our petty jealousy has spilled over to our subjects’ perception of photographers. The other a day, a friend and his band were playing a show in Portland and naturally I showed up with cameras. He didn’t realize I was in town and came over to me and apologized because he invited another photographer friend to shoot. I was not surprised by the apology though. I wish I were surprised. A few years ago I may have been a little jealous. If I were in a band, I would want as many photographers at my show as possible. I would not want too many photographers at my wedding though. Photographers have no grounds for such petty jealousy. I suppose a lot of this jealousy is fueled by over-inflated egos.

PhotographerThere are photographers out there being showered with undeserved accolades. That’s just the way it is. I do believe that the average Facebook viewer doesn’t know the difference between good and bad photography. It doesn’t matter though, we as photographers just need to be honest with ourselves and the work we are producing. Viewers become more educated on photography and are more likely they hire photographers on merit, not popularity in the long run. There are always going to be clients that are seduced by aggressive A-Type photographers. We don’t want them as clients anyway.

Hate spewing “trolls” are constantly trying to sabotage us. We can’t let them bring down our industry. As long as we continue to engage in the negativity, they will succeed in bringing down our cohesiveness.

I had to learn some hard lessons. I guess we all have hard lessons to learn. There is always something to learn from other photographers, there is no reason to hate.

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