Yesterday my friend texted me a picture of a vicious email she received from a potential client who also just happened to be a photographer. They were upset that she hadn’t gotten back to them within a week while she was traveling and wasn’t aware that her auto responder wasn’t working correctly. Now, she wasn’t looking for sympathy or sending it to me for attention (we honestly both laughed about it), but I don’t think it was a coincidence that this person was a photographer. Reading the email, I was flabbergasted. It was clear that this person was incredibly offended by the fact that my friend appeared to not be doing business how he felt that she should. (“No response in over a WEEK? How rude!”) While I pondered on this and wondered how I would have felt had I received the same email, I realized that a few lessons can be learned here… whether you’re in the photography industry or not!

1) Life is so much more pleasant when we give people the benefit of the doubt and assume they have the best intentions,

2) None of us are perfect and we’ll always have little “oops” moments (like an auto-responder not working and slipping past our notice!), and

3) Humility is a virtue that should be treasured no matter where you are in your career or your life.

When I read my friend’s text, my best friend Meredith was right beside me, and we both wondered why it is that some people – particularly photographers in this situation – could feel so offended by an established professional in their field that they would write a nasty email cutting them down. As we were thinking about this, I realized that when I first started photography, I too was a lot less humble than I am now.

Why is that? I asked Meredith. Why would it have been easier to be prideful in the beginning, when I had so many less clients and much more elementary skill level? Why isn’t it that 5 years into this business shooting weddings full-time, I am not more prideful?

Meredith answered, “Because you realized how small you were in an industry so large.” I think it’s so true. When I first started photography, I was one of the two photographers I knew. Two!!! And therefore, I think it was a lot easier to feel entitled or prideful about my status as a “professional photographer.” But now… 5 years later, I’m in multiple Facebook groups with 15,000+ photographers!!! Over time I learned just how many photographers there are in this world and how little I really knew. But most importantly, I came to accept that I should always been open and receptive to what I can learn from others.

Having that kind of attitude is what raises the platform beneath your feet as you seek to rise higher and higher on your career ladder. It’s the fuel for your fire and the wind at your back as you take new steps onward and upward every day. You still have so much to learn. And that’s never a terrible truth. A hard one to swallow, maybe, but an encouraging sense of reality. You will be better tomorrow than you are today… if you continue to realize that there’s always something new to learn.

So today, I’m challenging myself to actively seek humility. Here’s a few practical ways to so that.

  1. List out three of your weaknesses in your business. What didn’t work so well last year that you’d like to make work this year?
  2. Think of two or three people who you know do those things well, and write them. Introduce yourself, then ask if they could give you just one little piece of advice for how to improve in those areas. You might be surprised by the response you get!
  3. Write an encouraging letter to someone you know who is just starting out in your industry. Let them know that they’re not alone, and that they’re doing just fine. “Have you heard of the Rising Tide Society?” We’re all so much better together.

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