Where Did The Etiquette Go? | A Photographers Guide to Being Nice

**Before I even begin I want to say that I am honestly humbled every day that people pay to come to my workshops to learn from me;  that my clients trust me with their family portraits. My work is not about me, its about them. I wouldn’t be where I am in my business without so much love and support and so many sweet clients. They hired me before I even found my style, trusted me and, thus, helped me grow.**

Sooo let’s get to it…I am sure I am going to get flamed for this but my intention is not to be rude but to make our little photography world a little nicer…(you can’t not smile at olaf right?)




Where did plain common decency go? Seriously, you see the lack of it everywhere, especially on social media…it is arguably worse in the world of photography. Maybe I am wrong and people are more ballsy than I think but really, would they say the things they say online, in person? Demand information, criticize you if you don’t share what you worked so hard to master, harshly critique your client’s images? I highly doubt it. We are all high and mighty behind our screens, tucked safely in our homes sipping on our wine and judging and just plain not thinking. Not thinking about the things our mothers told us like…

if you don’t have something nice to say…

or you get more bees with honey.


First, let me say, I started out in this business 6 years ago. I closed down a real estate title company when the economy took a bad turn, sold some scrap gold and bought my first DSLR (I had always been a hobbyist but my camera before that was either a film Canon or a Canon Powershot, which actually took great pictures thank you very much lol). I was excited, thrilled, and enamored with what I could do with Photoshop (hello over-saturation and selective coloring on every image and everyone’s skin looked as smooth as a baby’s butt) I wanted to learn it all! I wasn’t even on Facebook personally until then…There were photographers I admired, mostly local photographers because photography hadn’t evolved online into the community that it is today. Did I email one or two and ask questions they had no desire or responsibility to answer? Yeppers! Did they email me back? Nope. And actually I would like to thank them because that just made me work harder to know, to learn. I have found that if I have to work to learn something I truly understand it better. Yeah, it would have been nice to get some guidance but I understand why they didn’t. After all, who wants to train their competition (although, at that time I wasn’t much competition hah)? They had no responsibility to help a new photographer in their area get started-its called job security. Do I still believe that? Yes. I think we should all be nice to one another, refer when we can, help out when someone is sick or has an emergency and needs a lens or a fill in but teaching them our ways? Makes no sense. Everyone should develop their own style and sometimes, especially when you are new, its hard to do when someone is guiding you. You tend to do what they do and not really venture out and make your own way.


Does no one find it strange that other businesses don’t work that way? For instance, restaurants don’t share their secret recipes with the one down the street just because they “should be nice.” Why is it that photography isn’t seen as business when, in fact, it’s mostly business- shooting is almost secondary!


When I finally felt like I had a grasp on the basics I took a few amazing workshops-worth every single penny to learn from a veteran – again, not just the shooting, but the business, the experience. And they so rightly should have been compensated for their teaching. People talk about how expensive workshops are-hell yeah they are! Those who teach are taking valuable time away from their family and teaching you everything they know, their ups and downs, their pitfalls, everything they have learned up until that point so you don’t make those mistakes-thats worth it right there! But also, those babies and families you see during your workshops? They still are working for those families as well, providing them with images in exchange for them allowing 8 women in their face with a camera.


But our society has become one of entitlement and instant gratification so much so that we have no manners at times. There is a time and place for critiques and asking questions (you know like in critique forums and other online communities) but client’s images are not that place. I have seen it time and time again that a photographer gets “feedback” on an image they post on their photography page of a client.  That is NEVER a place for critique. If you see something that the photographer missed and you are truly trying to help, message them and make sure you are clear that you are trying to help and never be condescending-just be nice! Just show people some consideration. I posted a maternity image of myself when I was pregnant with Hudson with my stomach showing and someone commented – “I guess I’m old-fashioned enough to want her clothing to be modest.” That her, of course, was me. I hid the comment but here is the image with a small portion of my pregnant belly showing (and a pregnant belly is always gorgeous and you should never comment anything but that on a woman’s image when she is pregnant-hormones + weight gain = emotional as heck):  HERE


And if its not unwanted critiques, there are comments that are so entitled it makes me crazy! And let me be clear, it isn’t those comments such as “That is such a gorgeous family-I love how you captured this or that and I would love to know what lens you used!” I love seeing that-I love interaction on my page and getting sweet comments for my clients to enjoy. Its these “What lens?” “Where is this?” “How did you edit this?” Without any preface about the actual image. My page is a working photographers page, my images are either that of my clients or my children or family-they aren’t teaching moments. People don’t believe me that these things are posted like this- that people can be that rude but it happened today. In fact, earlier today I had someone do the right thing and say something like (I deleted it because it got out of hand on a clients image) “This is beautiful, may I ask what lens?” And then under that someone else put “She doesn’t give out her lens selections” to which I replied that I did sometimes but not when people just comment without saying something nice about the family or image. BUT I completely forgot to address the first girls question even though she was nice about it – I believe I was actually breastfeeding Hudson and just got sidetracked when we got done. Then she put something like “I said it was beautiful-you aren’t even worth following!” I clearly wasn’t talking about her and I honestly forgot to answer her even though I am under no responsibility to do so. That hurt my feelings so much-I have no idea why I let these things get to me but I do and people do…she looked like a very sweet mother of 4 beautiful children so why she had to jump to that, I have no idea:(


Soooo that happened and I deleted all that and forgot about it and then saw this on an old image I was looking for…



(and yes I deleted it because this isn’t a witch hunt, its just being used as an example of something that happens all the time)

This isn’t isolated-it happens on a weekly basis. From time to time I have commented and said that I didn’t give out my lens selection except to my workshop ladies and I have gotten flack for that on many occasions because people think they are entitled to my education-everything I have learned should be passed along at will. Sometimes I comment and say what lens and sometime I don’t. It is my page and I *should* be able to give out what information I want and also save some for me. It is the style I have developed, the way I shoot, what I shoot with, how I edit, how I interact with my clients, what information I give to them for their session…I worked hard to get that. And make no mistake, I give out tons of information. You know those photographers that didn’t answer me? I am not that photographer.  If someone takes the time to message me or email I try my very best to answer every single one. I don’t always give them all my secrets but I try to be nice and explain what I can to them and guide them in the direction that I think will help them. Do I get to all of them? I admit I am sure some of them get lost-I get plenty of emails. I have 4 kids and am usually answering emails after midnight with scratchy contacts, sometimes breastfeeding with one arm, still feeling hung over from the sleep I didn’t get the night before, wishing I was hung over from wine hah. But I do try. All I, and I am sure most others, ask in return is some consideration….some common courtesy….just some understanding that I don’t have to tell everything about my business and my shooting and my editing because all of that wrapped up is what makes me, well me. And I shouldn’t have to defend that. And believe me, that fisheye everyone always asks about (the one you should never use for portraits hehe) isn’t going to make your images look like mine necessarily…sometimes I can’t get my husband to get it right no matter what I tell him lol!


Photography is amazing and what attracted me to it and how it continues to hold my attention (because I am easily bored) is that it is never-ending. You won’t ever know it all, you won’t ever master everything. The process of learning is what makes it fun-rent some lenses, do a google search on images of the lens you want, there are so many resources now that photography is so prevalent on the internet! The more you delved into it, the more your style will develop and when people see your images they will know hey that is so-in-so’s picture:)And most importantly, you will be authentic and respected.


With all that is wrong in the world right now let’s all just be nice and try to complement one another and make our clients feel great about their captured memories, especially when we are asking a favor of another.  Lift one another up, share an image that strikes you, comment on an image or two a day (the nice way of course) and make someone’s day!



Remember….just be nice! After all, you do get more bees with honey….

  • Devin - October 8, 2014 - 4:42 am

    Thankyou… Thankyou for expressing in words what alot of people needed to hear. :)ReplyCancel

  • Kandie - October 8, 2014 - 5:54 am

    I love your photography and have followed you ever since I became aware of you. I can’t quite remember how that was, but it doesn’t matter. You are amazing! And this is so well said. I too am a photographer and had often thought about writing almost your exact same post. Like you, I feel we should all be nicer in this world, and the photography world, and I am kind of sick and tired of people criticizing my work or wanting to know where I shot, etc. Go out and do a little investigation or look for some places. I spend plenty of time doing that. Not that I don’t ever share because I do, but like you, I have my limits. Keep up the great work, I love your images. And hey, I am not going to ask you what lens…haha….you do a great job with that fisheye. :)ReplyCancel

  • Tabatha O'Beirne - October 8, 2014 - 7:49 am

    Oh Kansas! I love your blog today. You are an inspiration with so much talent and heart. You’ve given me a new sense motivation. I’ve been in love with photography for years – always being told by family and friends that I have “the eye”, etc. I’ve taken several classes but lacked the confidence to go any further than that. I wish I had discovered this about myself years ago and I’ve used that as an excuse not to pursue my own dreams. I feel too old now to think I could ever make more of myself in photography. But taking photos brings so much internal happiness..I actually use photography as a way to relax. At this point, it’s too expensive to pursue the lenses I would love, the software, etc. so I will continue to just enjoy my hobby. And my kids will continue to be my models…even 17 and 16 years old I continue to have the camera on them constantly. People used to tell me that as my kids grew up, I would take less and less photos…not the case. :)

    I had no idea people were so rude to you online. It wouldn’t dawn on me to ever be that way with anyone, in person or behind the safety of my computer. Kindness and respect is how I try to be with everyone. I’m so sorry some people feel entitled to be critical to your beautiful work. You balance so much in your life with a business, four children, husband, home, etc. I admire you and your life and I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you again for your beautiful photos. I’m looking forward to meeting with you again next summer when we are visiting the beach again. We will be in town the week of July 11th. At what point can I make an appointment with you for that week?

    Maybe one day I can attend one of your workshops…I can dream.

    Tabatha O’BeirneReplyCancel

  • Heather Stockett - October 8, 2014 - 9:39 am

    High five, girl. “What lens did you use? What were your settings? Did you use a reflector? Did you add blur in post?” I’m sorry…I didn’t realize I posted a photo on my fan page to get hounded with questions.


  • Clarissa Reilley - October 8, 2014 - 10:28 am

    Kansas I love your work!!! You inspire me and thank you for sharing your experience with us!ReplyCancel

  • Shanna-Kaye Fancher - October 8, 2014 - 11:33 am

    Loved reading this, lady! I didn’t even realize when I started reading whose blog it was …and it made me smile when I realized it was you! Your amazing work is stunning-I LOVE seeing it in my newsfeed-and one day I hope to bring my family up to FL and book with you. I really like how you worded this post-there is a huge “entitlement” mentality that seems to be in a lot of photographers…and I can understand the frustration when someone doesn’t take the time to tell you what they like about your images before asking the technical questions.ReplyCancel

  • Erin Lato - October 8, 2014 - 12:31 pm

    So well written Kansas and so true!! Thank you <3ReplyCancel

  • Melz - October 8, 2014 - 12:50 pm

    AMEN! Had to share on Facebook!ReplyCancel

  • Neda B - October 8, 2014 - 1:01 pm

    I love this, Kansas! I try very hard to be respectful of those who came before me in this field. I don’t ask, I don’t hound…I seek out opportunities to learn and I never expect someone local to be willing to dish out their secrets (although, I do wish I had a better network of local colleagues to brainstorm, support, refer, and rally together with). I’m not even all that good and I have had two very negative experiences with other newcomers who wanted to learn from me. They were very upset that I was only willing to provide some general business guidance, even when I cited my non-compete obligations following the workshops I’d attended as my reason for not sharing more. I was happy to help where I could and the anger at my legally-contracted limitations was hurtful, and the continuing backlash from that…nearly two years later…has left me wary of my local colleagues altogether.

    So, thank you for what you do share. Thank you for putting out wonderful tools for us. And thank you for some of my favorite portraits ever of me and my love.ReplyCancel

  • Barb - October 9, 2014 - 9:27 am

    AMEN! Beautifully written and I couldn’t agree more. What keyboard did you use? Bah ha ha ha J/K.ReplyCancel

  • […] client’s image or getting upset because I don’t share. If you haven’t read it, HERE it is. Don’t flame me…there is a lot more behind the scenes that sparked that post than […]ReplyCancel

  • Teran - October 10, 2014 - 11:51 am

    Unfortunately the entitled generation will always be looking for the quick fix and immediacy. Working with film in the a darkroom taught skill, technique and patience. It took years, if not decades, to perfect the art and craft. No one became an expert overnight. This is your biz page so if you don’t want to answer, it’s your choice. They could always go to school to learn about lenses, processing or invest in a workshop. Or, they can hide behind their keyboard searching for that magic button and posting nasty comments when they don’t immediate gratification.ReplyCancel

  • JP - October 10, 2014 - 1:46 pm

    Great post.ReplyCancel

  • olivia - October 27, 2014 - 12:23 pm

    I think this was very well written and a nice perspective for a new photographer to hear. I think we forget how many times successful photogs get questions like these and our curiosity interferes with our manners:) now that I’ve developed a little more experience I even find it a little offendive when people only want to know what camera I use or settings as if settings are some standard not determined by a number of factors. That bring said, I think your response was very kindhearted and justified. I hope you didn’t let any negative response get you down:) your work is remarkable!ReplyCancel

  • Would you sell your soul for $60? - August 25, 2015 - 4:58 pm

    […] out stealing things you created, its wrong (I wrote a piece on something similar not too long ago HERE). In the depths of all our souls we know that you don’t take things that don’t belong […]ReplyCancel

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