Tips for contacting professional photographers for help

Ways to connect

You can reach out to photographers in so many ways. First I think it is important for you to know some basic etiquette for connecting.

Introduce yourself

Tell the person who you are and why you want to connect. “hi my name is—after reading about you I noticed we have a few things in common” or “hi my name is—I have been following your blog and really liked your post on …”

Give the person a reason they should want to connect with you!

Tell them about you. When you reach out to someone and tell them very little and they go and click on your profile it needs to help them.

If on Linked-in I highly recommend a professional headshot. This goes a really long way to show you are a real person, rather than a blank avatar. The blank avatar makes you look like a creeper.

You really need your profile to be up to date and helpful to those you are reaching out to for connecting. Make it easy for people to see why they should respond positively to you.

The point of the about me section is to show yourself as an authentic person and a great way for people to want to connect with you. We are not interested in a sales pitch. Things about your hobbies and interests go a long way to help people want to connect. If you were an Eagle Scout this helps others who have this background connect on a different level with you.

The about section is all about you and a great way to introduce yourself to others. Fill this out as best you can or otherwise many of those requests for connecting will be ignored.

@ email

If you choose to email a photographer, be sure you follow a similar protocol.  Keep the letter short and to the point. 

I think three simple questions you need to answer in the email in some way:

  • Who are you?
  • Why are you contacting me?
  • What do you want me to do?

Connect the dots for the recipient. Don’t make them have to figure out what you are saying.

Be willing to pay

There are many places to go for someone to critique your work. There are camera clubs, workshops and seminars where photographers will give you some of their time.

The expectation of a private consultation where you are getting career advice is something you should be willing to pay. Free advice is often worth what you pay for it.

It would be great to spend half hour each week having coffee with Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin or Jeffery Gitomer for free. You know this might actually happen for a couple people and most likely they are already good friends with them.

Good mentors are hard to come by and getting good advice that can save you time and money in your career is worth every penny.

Unless the person you are contacting is on staff with a regular salary, they make their living through photographyshooting or consulting.

Good mentors have connections which this alone can change your life forever. A few years ago I had a young college student who was about to graduate ask me for an internship. We talked for a while and the next day she sent me a thank you note for taking the time to talk with her. She also thanked me for some very specific points from our conversation.

Needless to say I was impressed with her character. I was not in a position at the time to pay her and I let her know I would give her time to ask any questions each week. She went with me just about everywhere for about two months.

My client Chick-fil-A was as impressed with her as I was and offered her a job as a writer. 

She paid me for my time by helping me and due to her investment landed an incredible job.

Stanley and Knolan Benfield in Kona Hawaii for workshop on lighting.

Early in my career I went to numerous workshops with NPPA and ASMP. There were two major workshops where I shelled out about $5,000 per week to study with two of the icons in the industry.

I went to the Maine Workshop and studied with Steve McCurry from National Geographic. The total cost of flying, hotel, food and the workshop was just under $5,000.  I learned a great deal from that week and not just from Steve, but from others in the class with me.

A few years later I took another class at the Maine Workshop with Jeff Smith studying location lighting. Again I learned so much from Jeff and the classmates.

I offer personal workshops for people who are interested in this profession. I charge $125 an hour with a two hour minimum for whatever they want to learn from me. I have taught people one-on-one how to organize their images. I have done personal workshops on using hot shoe flash off camera for portraits. I have taught people business practices and/or marketing.

If you know of another professional photographer that you would like to learn from, then approach them and if they don’t offer workshops propose to them they do for you.    

If you are not willing to make an investment in your career, why should anyone else want to either?