Professionalism Tip of the Day - How Photographers Should Behave on the Internet

A small group of photographers standing in a field of wild lupine flowers, near Sheridan Glacier and Cordova, Alaska. (Dave Taylor/Sixtyone North LLC)

Professionalism tip of the day: When a photographer/fan takes the time to compliment you on a photo and asks you a question (on twitter, a forum, on Facebook, etc.) about what gear you used for it, take the opportunity to thank them for the compliment and answer their question respectfully. Telling them to read the EXIF data or to read all of the inane babble that preceded it only makes you look more like an arrogant blow- hard, and less like a professional photographer.

As professional photographers/guides/educators it is OUR job to make the art more inviting, not alienate people for asking questions. I asked a LOT of questions when I got started in photography – heck, I STILL ask a TON of questions every single day. If more of the ‘iconic’ photographers that I looked up to responded to my questions with “You should have read all of my articles”, I likely would have developed a fear for asking further questions (which would have limited my development as an artist) or turned me off to the medium all together.

It seems that the internet has been The Greatest Thing & The Worst Thing ever for public discourse. On one hand, you are given full permission to discuss (ad nauseum in many cases) every topic known to man with anyone willing to participate in the conversation. On the other hand, the considerable ambiguity of an internet pen name, or the implied relative ’distance’ of the people involved in the conversation allows people to check their respect and dignity at the chat room door.

“We have a fence between us (the internet and all of its wonderful ‘series of tubes’), therefore I can say whatever the hell pleases me with little concern for recourse or impact”.

This has spilled over to everyday life, unleashing the ‘Inner Asshole’ and ‘Barely Contained Bitch’ that Sigmund Freud spoke so elegantly and frequently of... or, perhaps that was ‘Ego’...

The same person that coined the phrases “mental illness”, “neurosis”, “ego” and that studied the part of the brain that could not be controlled (the unconscious), would love the interactions of the internet. If for no other reason that to watch people’s ‘unconscious brain’ swell with pride as they let loose their super-ego on mere mortals less educated than they or lower on the artistic food chain.

Two challenges for you; implement them into your life or suffer the consequences.

1) Icons (or wannabes, like me:D) – accept every question that someone asks, without hesitation. Dwell on it and then respond with a relevant and respectful answer. Thank the person for asking – they thought enough of you to consider you a resource and expert. That is a compliment. Receive it as such. Remember that time that you didn’t know everything, and an Icon had the patience to answer questions from a mere mortal.

2) People trying to learn (and this should be ALL OF US, no matter what our stage or status) – continue to ask questions of those you respect. We (meaning, anyone in a educational role... implied or ‘entitled’) appreciate you being willing to take the time and the confidence of jumping up and saying “hey, I have a question”. Ask more questions, and if the response confuses you, ask a follow up – heck, ask a slew of ‘em! Thank the Icon for their help. Then later on, when you think that you know everything and someone asks you a question, remember that stage when you asked questions because you were so eager to learn.

Should you have any questions about my work, any techniques, locations, recommendations, best places to find chocolate in Alaska... don’t hesitate to ask. I love this stuff, and it is my pleasure to help.

And now to gracefully step off my soapbox...