Post by TWiP Contributor: Guillermo Ubilla
I grew up, like many of us, playing team sports. From basketball to football to soccer, I couldn't get enough and often played on more than one team at a time. When I first got into photography, I was a surprised to learn how much of an individual endeavor this is usually.
I saw how easy this profession could be seen in terms of “me -vs- them”. I knew that approach wouldn't work for me, so I decided from the beginning that I was going to instead take an approach that made me a successful athlete (at least in my own small circle), and decided to turn photography into a team sport. In my efforts to become a better photographer, I try to apply the following lessons I learned from prior coaches and teammates.
1. Teammates help each other improve as individuals
One of the old, but true, clichés of team sports is that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. This is why teammates share tips, offer suggestions and advice, and generally work together to make everyone around them better – knowing it will in turn make them better.
The same is true of photography. Working singularly on your skill is undoubtedly important, but sometimes the best way to learn is with the help of others. One of the best things I've done in my adventures as a photographer was to host a monthly ‘Strobist' get together – for those interested in exploring flash photography.
While I feel like I really was unqualified to be hosting such a group (I had just bought my first strobe a month before the first gathering), I knew that I had surround myself with others with a similar interest and passion. This group has pushed me to learn more about lighting and how to improve my photography with these lights, and I give a lot of credit for my growth as a photographer to this group.
2. Teammates practice together
Serious athletes understand the importance of off-season conditioning and training. It's the best time to work on individual weaknesses and improve on strengths. As important as those sessions are, few athletes I know would trade those individual sessions for team practice. It's just more fun to work with others.
Take every opportunity to shoot with, or assist other photographers. I learn something from every session, even if sometimes it's what not to do. One of my favorite things is photo-walking, and and inviting other photographers to join me. I'm always amazed at how two different people with similar equipment at the same time and place can walk away with very different images. I've learned to see a little differently each time, and enjoy seeing things from a different perspective.
3. Teammates help each other when they are down
As an athlete, one of the best lessons I learned was the importance of helping teammates when they are down, both physically or otherwise. I had a basketball coach once who had a simple rule during practice; whenever anyone fell on the court, all other players had to drop what they were doing and run (and I mean run!) to offer the fallen teammate a hand. If the coach thought that anyone didn't hustle enough to reach the downed teammate, everyone ran laps. I thought this was a little silly, until I'd fallen down on the court and subsequently saw eleven hands offering to help me up.
The same holds true in photography. We all experience “up's and down's” in both our professional and personal lives, and it's a powerful and uplifting feeling knowing that hands are out there ready to help. Do the same in return for those around you that need it, and remember that a hand to help doesn't do any good if it's offered too late, so hustle to help!
Is photography a team sport for you, or a solo endeavor? Are we better off learning and sharing with each other, or do we keep to ourselves and let the strongest survive? Share you thoughts in the comments!