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Advice for Photographers

So You’ve Burned a Bridge: How to Fix a Mistake as a Photographer

So you’re a new photographer and you jumped into the wedding photography industry without being fully prepared and you may have made a few mistakes.  Does it really matter?  Does burning a bridge (or even a light char) really affect you later on?  The reality of the situation is that YES – it does.

Knowing how to fix a mistake as a new photographer, however, can help undo the majority of the previous damage and allow you the opportunity to put the past behind you.  If you’re hoping to just sweet the past under the rug, however, you’ll get a whopping dose of reality when you find yourself without support from your fellow photogs in the future.

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Even in the largest city, the wedding industry can be quite small.  Those who have established businesses all know each other and despite the fact that we “compete” with each other, we also look out for one another.  One of the ways that we do this is by being honest if asked for our opinions about a possible second shooter or assistant.  If a colleague were to ask in passing if I’ve ever heard of “Jane Doe” before – I will tell them, honestly, if I’ve worked with Jane Doe and what my overall impression was.  If it turns out that Jane Doe was someone who bailed on a session, doesn’t reply to emails or doesn’t concentration on their job during a wedding day – that kind of information will be relayed if requested.

So what kind of mistakes are common for new photographers to make?  Based on my experience in the industry and what I’ve learned being a mentor to quite a few new photographers, I’ve seen:

  • Taking opportunities for granted.  If you have a hard time saying thank you, don’t show respect for the opportunities you may be given or are too busy to reply to emails from a mentor or a person you want to work for you may be guilty of taking opportunities for granted.
  • Being A No-Show.  If you said you’d be somewhere; whether it’s for a meeting, assisting or interning – you really should show up (barring an emergency, of course).
  • Last minute cancellations.  This is just as not-cool as being a no-show!
  • Self-promoting during second shooting.  Trying to sell you own services while working with another photographer (either as an intern, assistant or second shooter) is beyond uncool – unfortunately I see it happen.
  • Not caring about image usage agreements. If you’ve been provided with an opportunity to expand your portfolio by working with another photographer, it is of the utmost importance that you respect the image use agreement put in place by the primary.  It’s very common for the primary to allow image use provided that they be the first to post and that the second always includes a note about who the primary was, amongst other caveats.  Respecting the agreement shows your respect not only for the other photographer but for the industry as a whole.
  • Wanting everything free. Have you ever emailed someone and asked them to teach you for free?  Asked for free admission to a workshop?  Asked them to burn you a copy of the instructional DVDs they purchased?  To share their presets?  If you want to grow your own business, you have to invest in your own business.  Asking others to provide for free shows a lack of respect towards their investment.
  • Quitting/Leaving after being offered a GREAT opportunity. There are not a lot of photographers who like teaching and when you happen to stumble upon one, you should absolutely nurture that relationship.  If you’ve made it through the interview process and get offered either an internship, mentorship or second shooting job – walking away from something that like will leave a lasting impression with that photographer.  Only apply for positions that you are 110% sure that you want; otherwise you’re wasting everyone’s time (including your own) applying and interviewing.

So if you think you’ve been guilty of some (or all) of the previous mistakes or if you think you’ve done something that isn’t on this list, what should you do?

Own it.

Don’t deny it, don’t try to think of reasons that your behavior was okay, just own it.  You made a mistake, you need to take ownership for it if you want to move past it.

The second thing you have to do is to make amends.  Send a hand written note (extra personal) or an email to the person(s) were affected by your actions.  Apologize and be sincere about it.  Don’t ask for a second chance, though.  If they think you deserve it, they’ll offer.

Finally, make sure you don’t make that mistake again.  Making a mistake isn’t the worst thing in the world – as long as you learn from it.  Make it again and again; however, and it shows an unwillingness to better yourself.


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