Monday, November 17, 2008

Be a "Professional" Photographer - Learn to Share

I got a surprise phone call, quite early the other morning. "Stephen", a voice I didn't recognize said, "it's Barry Murphy, I'm a photographer based in County Kerry. "

Still a bit bemused as to why a photographer I didn't know was calling me at 9 O'Clock on a Saturday morning, I listened as Barry went on to explain. He had been contacted by a prestigious hotel in a town about 20 minutes drive from where I'm currently based, who wanted him to photograph the local "hunt" (ladies and gents in red jackets, mounted on horses with a pack of hound dogs) outside the hotel early on Sunday morning. The shot was to be used in a forthcoming advertising brochure for the hotel; and as it constituted a commercial shot, the job was going to pay very well.

Barry is a well-established specialist in interior photography, and had worked for the hotel previously, and he was their first choice for the job. Unfortunately, he had another commitment and couldn't do it. He knew of me from communications of mine he had seen on the Prodig email list and after taking a good look at my own website - Adare Images - he felt satisfied, he told me, that I seemed "savvy enough" (his words) to do the job to a good standard. Although, he confided, there were a few "wedding and freelance press photographers" in the area that he wouldn't want to risk with the work. He was calling me early so that he could look for another photographer if I wasn't available, and then let his client know, in good time, that he had made alternative arrangements.

Not only was I flattered that a complete stranger had plucked me out of the pile to trust me to do a good job for one of his top clients; I was also very impressed by the level of generosity that his action displayed. It's not often that you get independent photographers passing on well-paid work to any Tom, Dick or Stephen. In fact, some of the possessiveness and back-stabbing I've witnessed in some photography forums and with certain "professionals" I've met had me wondering if magnanimity was long since dead. Plus, the current economic downturn might lead the more cynical amongst us to assuming that the law of dog-eat-dog was in full swing.

That phone call taught me something about human nature. Namely; you can't always be sure about it - even when the current climate and the circumstances lead you to feel certain that you can predict how people will respond. It also showed me that when you are confident and secure enough in your abilities and your situation - it is possible to feel safe enough to share your work (and your hard-won clients) with others.

And an important business lesson wasn't lost on me either - do the right thing by your clients, and quickly, if you want to keep them for longer.

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