Where's Waldo??? Can you find me? :) (Picture by Bud Johnson)
Last night I had the privilege of attending my second Shoot and Share community meet up with some local Shoot and Share photographers. The photography industry has sort of divided in this digital age to people who believe in giving the clients the digital images from their wedding or portrait session, and those photographers who do not or who sell them instead. Neither way is wrong and everyone has good reasons for the way they run their businesses. I actually began my photography business as the latter, clinging to the digitals in hopes of selling more product. It didn't take me very long to realize that I couldn't justify this to myself. I found it silly that I had all these beautiful, edited images of my clients on my computer but it wasn't on theirs. When I started shooting weddings, I didn't even understand HOW to not give these couples their digital images. That didn't seem fathomable so I transitioned everything to become a Shoot and Share photographer.
What I didn't realize was what amazing people I was going to meet as a result of doing that. It started when James Lee of 88 Love Stories invited me to second shoot at some weddings with him and I remember us talking about pricing and he mentioned charging $1 for a print. I was like WHAT?! How do you stay in business?? But at his weddings, I SAW how he stayed in business. He walked around and said hello to everyone he knew. He put the bride and groom at complete ease. He jumped into dance circles and became a part of the couples' entire wedding experience. I don't know about you but I would remember that guy! And I would trust him. And trust is huge.
That spiraled into meeting so many other incredible, unique people that I couldn't even start to list them all. Some anti-Shoot and Share-ers (I am just great at making the English language work for me, aren't I?) have warned me that they're "cliquish" and "touchy feely" (ha) and a lot of other things that seem strange to criticize a group of. My experience has been that they are supportive. If I post in my local Shoot and Share group that I need a rain location for this portrait session, people let me know immediately what has worked for them. People are willing to lend their expensive gear to people they hardly know because everyone knows things happen and sometimes you need help.
Last night, about thirty of us got together for dinner and I got to know even more people. This is a huge deal for me especially because doing things like that is hard for me. I'm not outgoing and being around lots of people, especially people I really admire, makes me nervous! I've gone to other networking events and felt crippled by that pressure, but at these Shoot and Share events I just feel camaraderie with friends. I'm a devoted follower of Katelyn James' blog as so many photographers (err as so many PEOPLE of all kinds) are and I'm way too shy a person to just walk over and tell her that, but at this dinner, she talked about this community of photographers and how nobody in it would ever make you feel small. Everyone is on an equal playing field, everyone has something to offer, and everyone wants to support and get to know you. I genuinely feel like this is true and KNOW it has been for me because people like Katelyn and Michael and Carina and Meagan and Bud and Erin and so many others... whose work I adore and secretly stalk all day long... introduce themselves to me and make me glad to have put myself out there, as hard as it is. I'm looking forward to future meet ups with these people and getting around to actually introducing MYSELF to them and being proud to do so.