You could be in a remote village in the Fiji Islands and still find a way to have a video conversation with your friends and family back home in Europe or America. Such is the extent of the advancement of communication technology, and it just goes to show you that people have and will always remain social beings that are in constant need of communication with one another.
The Boom of Social Networking
This brings us to the topic of social networking. Nowadays, whenever the subject social networking is brought up, our minds immediately focus on the various social media platforms that we use on a regular basis. However, there is a lot more to social networking than simply liking and commenting on the pictures of your friends and family members who live abroad. Social networking, in the purest sense of the word, is the action of building a web of social contacts that can be of personal or professional benefit to you. Every single professional in the world is now taking advantage of social networking.
As a matter of fact, your social hub or web is often a good indication of how successful you are in your line of profession. The greater your reach is, the more social contacts you have and the higher are your chances of generating more income by getting in touch with a greater number of clients. It’s all quite a simple equation, but despite that, a great amount of professional photographers seem to miss out on the truck load of advantages that social networking is waiting to unload upon them. The reasons for that have to do with the innate characteristics of most photographers.
Do Not be a Lone Wolf
There is a general feeling among photographers that the very nature of their job demands them to stand aside from the crowd and create their own space in the society. Make no mistake, photographers are some of the friendliest and most fun loving people that you will come across, but as a whole, the community of photographers are not known for being the generators, creators and facilitators of social contacts, webs and networks. This sense of reservation and conservativeness that is shared by photographers across the world, regardless of the nature of photography that they are involved in, stems from the rather misguided idea that photographers are meant to be lone wolves behind the camera.
Just because you are running things behind the scenes, does not necessarily mean that you are any less important than the subjects that are in front of the camera. Sure enough, people will pour their praises to a gorgeous model who is acting as a subject in your photograph, but at the end of the day, the critics and the well informed people will make sure that your receive your share of plaudits for your excellent work behind the camera.
Get in Touch with All and Sundry
Developing a sense of detachment from the community is not the right way to go about in modern day photography. Gone are the days when photographers would remain confined in their own spheres and mentally phase out into a different dimension of creativity and imagination that is kept hidden from the outside world. There is nothing wrong with finding your own little space in your mind every once in a while to extract a sense of motivation, creativity and inspiration.
However, you cannot be a separate entity in the 21st century and expect to be in the mix of things in the photography industry. Not only should you be socializing with other photographers, but you need to get in touch with as many individuals as you can throughout your career and leave a lasting impression in their lives that speaks volumes about how good you are in your craft and in your profession. You cannot picture yourself as a painter who is locked away in a room for days, weeks and months on end, concentrating on building a masterpiece from the ground up. If you want to gain success in the modern industry of photography, you have to be a people person who is very comfortable in presenting himself or herself in the public without any hesitation or shyness. Being a lone wolf will hardly benefit you and could rather limit your success and stunt your potential as a professional photographer of the future.
How to Build Your Social Network as an Expert Photographer
Who is a Social Contact?
The biggest confusion that arises in the mind of young, professional photographers deals with the meaning of social networking. What do you really understand by a social contact? The first thing that you need to comprehend is that social networking is not about going around and saying hello to anybody and everybody. It is not about attending partying all night long in the club and returning home with a bunch of drunk and wild acquaintances. It is not about dishing out your business card to all the people that you meet at a baseball or soccer game.
Social networking is a lot more systematic, contrived and organized than that. It is similar to a marketing campaign where you are trying to engage with a certain audience, who you know will help you in your future endeavours, and this engagement must be on the back of a well thought out plan, which needs to be executed to perfection. Then again, you cannot plan for everything ahead of time. There needs to be a degree of spontaneity that needs to go into your social networking skills, without which you will lack the charisma and the charm to connect with people and get them interested in your life, career and your profession.
The Best Way to Make a Mark
Networking is probably the best thing that you can do for yourself as an aspiring young photographer. The more people and personalities within the industry recognize your talent and ability, the better are your chances of climbing up the ranks and establishing yourself as a hotshot photographer who deserves the attention and the appraisal of others. Some experts define networking as a highly cost effective way of letting people know that you are a photographer who is open for business and who is looking to take on any challenge with the guarantee of achieving success.
One of the biggest reasons why people engage in networking is because they truly want to earn a spot in the high-end market of photography. Getting there is a form of success that you cannot hope to achieve overnight. As mentioned before, you have to rely on a well thought out and well planed social networking scheme to build solid relationships with people and use these relationships to create more opportunities for you as a professional photographer.
Be Genuine, Not Pretentious
Among all the other things that you will learn on your way to building a exemplary social network, the one thing that you must remember at all times is that networking is all about investing your time, money and energy into building strong, unwavering and genuine relationships with people. You cannot have a pretentious or pompous approach. If you try to do that, you will be exposed as a farce or a phony sooner rather than later, and that will hurt your career like nothing else. You must put in a real effort into meeting people and getting to know them for your sake as well as for theirs.
A Two Way Street
Networking is a two way street. You cannot expect people to help you out unless you extend your helping hand towards them. When you build relationships with people, you need to have an unconditional approach towards helping them out. Sure enough, you will always have the desire to be benefited by them in one way or the other at the back of your mind, but that should not stop you from letting them know that you are a respectable professional who is willing to go out of the way to make a difference in the lives of people that you have built a connection with.
Only then, will the people reciprocate with favours of their own, and these will be favours that will go a long way in shaping your career to be a highly successful one. Remember, simply showing up in places and not putting in a legitimate effort to take part in collaborative projects does not make you an ideal networker for the lack of a better term.
3 Great Places to Build Your Social Network as an Expert Photographer
Where Should You Network?
The big question that must be circling in your head right about now is, “where exactly do I find a place to start my networking efforts?” The world of photography presents plenty of opportunities for aspiring professional photographers to meet and greet others within the industry and outside the industry for the purpose of strengthening their social networking skills. If you are living in a metropolitan area, then you will hardly have a problem coming across places that facilitate social networking. If you are not living in a metropolitan area, then there is no reason to be disappointed. You need to invest in a little bit of commuting to make sure that you reach the destinations where you can find social networking opportunities.
Commuting will not cost you a fortune, unless you live in a completely isolated place, therefore you are highly recommended to not be stingy when it comes to travelling to the right places for social networking. Initially, you may think that you are spending an excessive amount of money just for the sake of meeting new people who may or may not benefit your career, but when you look at the grander scheme of things, you will realize that all of this money spent will serve as an investment into your future as a professional photographer.
a. Networking Night/Evening Events
The first place where you need to go in order to get your social networking up and running is any networking night or networking evening event that you come across in the newspaper or the internet. Such events are hosted by a variety of event organizers with the purpose of allowing the owners and the employees of start-up companies to meet, greet and interact with each other. The good thing about these networking events is that it attracts a plethora of professionals from a myriad of different industries. You can stumble upon a banker one minute, and then meet a writer, or a teacher or even a photographer just like you. People from all walks of life are welcome in such events, and it really helps people who have a vision for entrepreneurship to enhance their social networks and find new avenues of leaving a mark in their respective industries.
Therefore, it is quite key that you sign up for such events and engage in as many interaction sessions as you possibly can. You never know who may have a specific use for you as a professional photographer. Perhaps a musician attending the event may need your services to conduct a photo shoot of his or her band for an upcoming album. These networking nights not only assist you in building up your social network, but they introduce you to new doorways of employment opportunities that you may or may not have been familiar with.
b. Photographers’ Groups/Clubs
The second place that is most suitable for you to engage in social networking are the various professional photographers’ groups, communities and clubs that are scattered all over the metropolitan cities. If you are unable to locate such a group within your locality, then do a little bit of research and find out whether any of your neighbouring cities or suburbs has a place for professional photographers to meet, interact and collaborate on a monthly or weekly basis. More often than not, you will come across plenty of such small scale organizations that cater to the social networking needs of photographers and others employed within the photography industry.
Attending the meetings of these groups or clubs gives you an opportunity to know how deep the talent pool is in the photography industry and lets you weigh your talent against that of other professional photographers that are on your level of expertise and experience. You are strongly encouraged to befriend these individuals and share your photography knowledge and experiences with them as much as you can. These meetings also serve as a learning platform for any aspiring professional photographer who is willing to absorb information from the senior veterans in the industry.
If anything, it’s a great place to attain free knowledge from some of the best photographers in your area. Much like the networking nights, these club meetings open up the window of opportunity for those who want to team up and collaborate in certain projects. For example, if you always had the intention of covering the trials and tribulations of the indigenous people in your locality, then you can partner up with one or two professional photographers from the club. Collaborations such as these will help you alleviate the difficulties in tough projects like the one mentioned.
c. Bridal Shows
One of the networking options that are exclusively open to photographers is a bridal show. As you must be aware, weddings and photography seem to go hand in hand. Wherever, there is a wedding, there must be a photographer. In bridal shows, you are likely to come across a number of different professionals who are involved in the wedding industry. The term wedding industry may actually seem quite laughable to you, but it really is a thing and photographers are a very big part of it.
If you are the kind of photographer who is looking to make a decent amount of money every month by working in wedding events, then you should by all means attend bridal shows and build connections with people such as wedding planners. Collaborating with wedding planners can streamline your career in wedding photography. Instead of looking for clients on your own, the wedding planner can fetch you clients on a monthly basis, for which you have to pay a small sum of your earnings to the wedding planner in commission. It is all quite a simple equation. Furthermore, wedding planners are known to manage other events as a side project such as birthdays, corporate events, charity gatherings etc. Therefore, staying in touch with a wedding planner or a wedding planning business can be of great benefit to you in the long run.
Steps to Take Before Going to an Event as an Expert Photographer
Before you can head out to any event for the purpose of building your social network, there are certain things that you need to do make sure that you are well prepared for the session of networking. The first order of action is stocking up on your business cards and a handful of brochures if you have one for your photography services. You may think that these are insignificant and negligible items, but they can make a huge difference both in the long and the short run. When you are chit chatting with individuals that you meet in the events, you will be asked a countless number of times about your business card. Failure to bring out one at that moment in time will dampen your aura of professionalism and make you appear no bigger than an amateur photographer who is trying to punch way above his or her weight class.
Surely, you do not want to be known as “the rookie photographer who was messing around with the big boys and wasting everybody’s time”. You do not have to be working for a photography business to have a business card. Even freelance photographers have their own business cards so that they can establish their identity in places that are conducive to networking. Not having anything to show for your work can create a very bad impression about you. Next thing you know, people will avoid making eye contact with your in future events for your lack of credibility.
ii. Follow Up
Preparation to social networking is important, but it is not quite as significant as the follow up. Once you are done meeting and exchanging cards with people at an event, what are you supposed to do next? Networking is all about sustaining the connections that you have made. You need to be proactive and make things happen instead of waiting for things to happen by themselves.
Once the event is over, go back home and send a mail to all of your contacts asking them to reach out to you whenever they feel the need. It’s also preferable to seek out your social contacts on social media and follow them. This way, you can be the first person to keep them updated on any future networking events. As a result, they will take you more seriously as a professional photographer and call upon you whenever they require photography services.
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