Have you ever made a friend on the internet who has turned into a ‘real’ friend in ‘real’ life? Or perhaps that initial connection has turned them into a client, or an employee or maybe even a lover! Perhaps you’ve never met them at all and yet you open your heart, mind and soul, as well as your business to them on a regular basis online, without anything so much as a single intention of ever making that relationship face to face. I know I have.
So what makes us so willing to share our everything online? In some cases it’s to troll, but in many more positive cases, it is to create a sense of community.
Community is defined as a group having one or more characteristics in common. For many, this is less definable than geography, race or religion, for example; the ‘Italian community’ of a large city, or the ‘mother’s community’ of a suburban town. But for the creative industry, the incredible growth of the internet is consistently providing an ever developing extension of our sense of community worldwide.
Creativity and artistry covers so many sub-cultures, from gardening to cake baking, to songwriting and painting. Even in the world of photography there are so many subgenres, that a sense of community can be both large and small in each category. We seek acceptance, guidance and security through community, sharing ideas and advice with each other.
It is a well known fact that people enjoy a sense of belonging. Knowing you are a part of something bigger than yourself is a rewarding notion that provides much more than a need to be known or food for the ego. Seeking acceptance through community allows artists to feel protected through union, guided through training and understood in an artistic world where it is less common for our work to be comprehended.
I am part of several groups – some designed only for models, providing safety through private referencing, tips on areas to tour and support on issues we experience. This is my working network and the base that I go to when in need of someone who works in the same field. Not only do we share information relating to modelling, but we forge relationships and recommend each other for work that we can’t do for ourselves. However, if I want an artistic release, I seek fine art groups of conceptual photography where the main contributors share the same taste and style as myself. Finding industry related friends who are willing to support you is a massive part of networking and it is important to remember that your competitors are your supporters as well.
Learning how to collaborate, instead of battling against those who work in your same industry, is likely to provide more beneficial opportunities that it can take away. It is a well known fact that the main inspirations in the field of photography, are the ones who share, instead of secretly holding information back.
Von Wong, Brooke Shaden, Joey L, Rosie Hardy…whenever one of these people post a picture online, there is always somebody who asks what lighting they are using, where the props they are using were acquired from or how to achieve what they have done in post processing. Like any other artist, each brand is run as a business, providing workshops and tutorials at a cost.
However, more often than not, the information supplied is given free of charge in a blog post or corresponding comment that proceeds. They follow the four rules of give, give, give and then take. Give to the potential client with a teaser, give to the support base with help, give to those who guide you…then take if they want more than the basics.
Not only is it advisable to offer our peers assistance in their times of need, support in their emotional turmoil and a sense of union in their fight against copyright and breaches of ethical morals, but widening our sense of community on a more global scale, can be far more rewarding to ourselves.
So when somebody tells you that “sharing isn’t caring” and that “the best never got to where they are by giving away everything for free”, remember that supporting one another is beneficial to all of those involved, because you never quite know when you’ll need to call it back.
–Knowing what is popular in other countries can provide a new client base in your own area, by offering new trends and styles less known to the area you work with. Open your eyes to what’s around you for fresh inspiration and ideas.
–Having friends in different areas of the world can bring about suggestions of interesting locations to shoot, saving on time out spent scouting. Not to mention perhaps the offer of a spare bed to crash on for a flying visit, saving on expenses of a trip far and wide.
–Recommending other photographers when you can’t meet a client restricted to a specific date (i.e. a wedding), can be repaid when they do the same for you.
–Not knowing what to do when dealing with a ‘difficult’ client, can be resolved with a few words from those who have experienced something similar in forums or from those whom you trust in the field.
–Second shooting at weddings and events can provide a new way of seeing things and a whole new angle to your business. This gives an opportunity to widen your own skills as well as learning how somebody else works to better your own business.
Give, give, give…and only then, can you take.