How to be professional – and other idiotic advice.

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A few years ago, I was busy taking photographs, even selling some of them, earning commissions and learning all the time how it could be done better. I was asked by a camera club to give a talk on some aspect of photography – something like “making the most of the environment”. I was happy to.
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Waiting for the session to start, a gentleman approached me…
“You’re talking tonight? Are you nervous? Does it not worry you? I mean we are all quite good you know?”
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Anyway, brushing that aside, I stood and I talked and then I did a critique session – not on other people’s images but on a selection of my own. The aim being to bring to light where I thought I could improve – using the points from my talk – this, as planned, led to a discussion about technical aspects of camera use, seeing the light and post-production. There were a lot of great ideas from club members with a range of experiences. It went well.
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When I got home (which took a while as I went to the pub with the club guys afterwards) I found an email waiting for me. It was from the old guy (whom, he told me, had been into photography for years and had “worked in the industry”) and it went something like this…
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Well done, I can see you are a very confident young lady (note my grumpy heart rate starting to rise at this point) however I have something to say about your talk. It appears to me that you do not understand what it is to be professional. By that I mean, it is time you learned that standing up and critiquing yourself should NEVER be done. You must NEVER show people anything other than your very best work (assuming you have better work) and NEVER point out your faults.  I have been a professional for many years and I would NEVER allow this to happen. You have a lot to learn.
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So, just let that sink in…
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I was completely blown away. What a bizarre and quite frankly moronic piece of advice.
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This was not one of those moments to wait until I calmed down to reply….and he got the full force, straight away. I went to bed raging. He didn’t agree with my response…he replied that I would learn one day and if I couldn’t then I should give up trying to be a “professional”.
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I didn’t need his advice but maybe I needed the conversation – because the more I think about it, the more I know he is just plain wrong and I am strengthened in my resolve to prove him so.
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Can you imagine, just for one minute, if we NEVER discussed how we could do things better?
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