Before I got involved in photography, I had a career in Information Technology. For 15 years during that career, I had my own IT consulting business. Pretty simple actually. Do a great job, clients will be happy to pay you a reasonable or even slightly higher rate if they love the work you do. You get testimonials and referrals from them. Your business grows and you make more money. 1 + 1 = 2.

That all changed in the photography business.

The stereotypes of creatives in business is true. Mostly and so far. I think my first realization of the business is how models and other people in the photography business were so happy with my organization, communication and general professionalism. I heard some pretty wicked stories of flakiness in the business about everybody. In fact, here’s a pretty funny video about flaky and strange photographers.

One time I was doing a shoot with 3 different models at different times during the day. At one point, they were all present and chatting with each other. I walked around the corner and I just looked at them like they were up to no good! Then one of the models said “We were just talking about how organized you are…..”. Maybe. Maybe not. But she went on to say with all the eMails, call sheets that must have been going back and forth to organize everything. Though I’ve heard this from other people in the business as well.

Manners

One thing recently that partially inspired this blog article is when a model reached out to me out of the blue. She wanted to know if I’d be interested in collaborating in a photo shoot with her. She didn’t fit any projects that I currently have in the works. But I politely eMailed her back saying that I don’t have anything and that maybe sometime in the future.

She was so happy that I responded to her eMail!

At first I was very surprised by her happiness that I responded. But then I was reminded of conversations I had with other photographers. Especially when I was starting out.

The Amateur Photographer Flake

I used to belong to a photography club when I lived in San Francisco. We had quite a variety of levels of photographers in the club. Everyone from the beginner to the commercial photographer. We’d have meetings with certain topics the main event for them. Now that I remember, we had many meetings about the art and certain business aspects of photography. But never on the ‘professionalism’ side of things.

There are a few photographers I remember in particular that would talk to me about models not showing up for shoots. It happened to them more than an often regularity. For me, especially in San Francisco, it happened to me three times in 4 years. And one of those times, the model called me up and was apologizing profusely and could hear her wailing baby in the background. Plus her husband was late coming home from his job. I totally understand. But the other two: flakes. Which my photography acquaintances thought was incredible luck.

It’s not luck. When you’re a professional and treat people with courtesy and respect, you see that in others know whether you should collaborate with them or not. To me, this was just second nature. Not only did I do that with my regular day job, I raised those levels of professionalism when I had my own business. In business, job performance is only part of the equation. How people like working with you is even more important.

Ethics

When I spoke to these photographers about the preparation for their photo shoot, they would tell me about the models eMailing them to inquire about it. Guess what? They would only respond to models they were interested in.

What?

The excuse every time was “I’m too busy to respond to everyone!” “No, you’re just too lazy” was what I was thinking. Or very disorganized and can’t get your act together to respond to people. When you’re working on a project, you need to a lot time for correspondence. It can be a canned response. Doesn’t have to be something individual and detailed. Just to give the person an update. Yes. No. Maybe. But when they apply for a job and hear no response, it’s rude and unprofessional. Right? I mean, these photographers aren’t doing big-time campaigns for companies either. They got time. But there was this one commercial photographer I remember very clearly….

The Commercial Photographer Flake

She went to school for photography and even did it on a very high-level for several well-known companies. If anyone knew the business, it was her.

A friend referred me a potential client. They wanted to get some product photography done. That is one of the last things of photography I can do for someone. That kind of photography is very specialized and requires lots of experience and technique to do the job right. There was no way I could do it. I had only been doing photography for a year or two, focusing on mostly people. No way. This was a corporation with thousands of dollars on the line. The client was happy with my honesty and helpfulness.

So I referred the job to this other photographer. It was totally within her scope. An experienced commercial photographer who specialized in product photography. I told her about the job and she was totally interested. I gave her the contact information and told the client that they should expect a call soon from the photographer.

I saw the photographer at a photography club meeting about 6 weeks later. I asked her “So how did it work out with the referral I gave you? Her response:

“Oh, I haven’t gotten around to calling them yet….”

I just stood there looking at her with this “WTH?” look. I asked “It’s been six weeks and you haven’t called?”. “No I haven’t. I’ve just been too busy….” Sounded like she couldn’t care less.

She embarrassed me with the client. It looks bad. When I called the client to apologize, they were extremely generous and said they didn’t blame me at all. They were appreciative that I was trying to be helpful. Then and after, I knew I could never do business with her again. She tried starting her own photography business a couple of years later. Failed miserably. Couldn’t get clients. I’m sure she wonders why. I don’t wonder why at all.

The Professional Photographer

My first photo shoot was very well-received and done during a time when the movie, ‘The Artist’, was winning all sorts of Academy Awards. It was a vintage-styled shoot. So doing that type of shoot was very in demand at the time. I was going to a second one styled similarly and put out the casting call for it. What I received was overwhelming!

My First Photo Shoot

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I must have gotten 60+ responses to the casting call within a few hours! It was crazy! I knew I would have to respond to all of these eMails and took down the casting call. I mean, the model I needed for the shoot should be within that list of 60+ responses. But I also knew I would be replying to all the inquiries. It took me days!

And yes, the model I wanted was within that pile of eMails!

I got quite a great number of candidates for the shoot. It came down to two: a great local model with a great modeling agency and the other who had worked in Vogue/Elle magazines and photographers with far more skill and talents than me. She even offered to bring some wardrobe she had! Mind you, I had been doing photography for only a few months. I was completely intimidated by the second model. But I chose the first when a photographer colleague told me I should choose on who would be a better fit. It was the first model. And she was perfect!

My Second Photo Shoot

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What Goes Around Comes Around

I firmly believe in “What goes around comes around”. Whether that works in a societal-psychological basis or spiritual one: it works. You attract the energy you put out there. Maybe that’s why, especially when I was starting out, I got to work with some of the best talent San Francisco had to offer. While I was happy and grateful for the people I worked with, I never felt the gravity of it until recently. As a beginner, I got to work with people far more talented than me!

People create their own realities. Good and bad. You can be in a bad spot or be going through hard times. But you can choose how you treat people. That’s completely up to you.

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Ricardo Gomez Photography

Originally from San Francisco, Ricardo is now a New York-based photographer specializing in editorial and commercial photography.
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