Jane, Sally, Mary and now SUSAN

I was so excited to see such a huge response to the Jane, Sally & Mary posts (if you haven’t read them, you can get caught up first by going here & here). I loved feeling like I was having a two way conversation and want to tell all of you who got into the comment thread how much I appreciated getting to hear your thoughts! So we finished with some ideas I had on how to contact our Mary…  Now the next place I want to take this conversation is in finding photog friends. I loved this comment that Morgan left, “On the other side of it all, sometimes I just want a friend that is a photographer. Everyone in my area is so secretive and they don’t really talk to each other. Sometimes I just want to tell them, ‘I don’t want to know how you do everything, I just want someone to talk to that stays up as late as I do, and has the same passion for photography.’ I know it probably sounds dorky, but I’m not sure how much more photography talk my sweet husband can handle. “ It really is amazing what friends in the industry can do for your sanity! Once upon a time, not that long ago I woke up one morning and said, ‘today I will become a photographer’ and nope that’s not much of a stretch…. I didn’t know anyone else who was a photographer – so I stalked – and I stalked gooood. I spent more hours stalking blogs than I did sleeping and as much as I loved absorbing it all. I was still missing a lot. You see I didn’t have the technical know how to emulate. (And I’m not talking about copying an image but I am talking about copying a technique). So as much as I loved looking I didn’t have any of the necessary knowledge to say, ‘Oh they used a wide angle lens and I bet they shot that at a low iso and a really high shutter speed’ or whatever the case. I wanted photographer friends… But who would want to be friends with me? I couldn’t think of anyone so I just stuck to it solo. As much as I loved everything that I was finding and learning, I knew it would be even more fun with a friend to talk things through with!

Teaching my 1st workshop and eating chocolate with 10 amazing new friends!

One reader said it perfectly when she emailed me saying, “I wanted to bring up the point that it is kind of lonely to not have a Mary friend if you are a Mary.  Actually, I don’t consider myself a Mary, but I don’t think I’m a Sally or Jane either.  Perhaps “Susan” would be more fitting.  I am pretty comfortable with where I am at– I am happy with the direction my business is going, feel like I have found my style, and am continuing my education.  Here’s the deal- I have a handful of friends who are interested in photography and they do it for very little money and without much training..  Honestly, I’m not sure if any of these gals could fully operate manually and they don’t really seem too concerned with getting to that point.  That is all fine.  It is not my purpose to fault them for that,  but what I want to point out is that it isn’t a very fulfilling “photography friendship” for me if I am only able to give but not receive. Sooo…. I guess I’m looking for another Susan. As I think about what you wrote, I imagine I go about finding her the same way you suggest one makes friends with a Mary.  I struggle to reach out for fear that the person I reach out too might think, “who is this chick and does she really think she’s as good as I am?”  Probably irrational, but it does hold me back.” You know you’re nodding and agreeing and all that stuff with my emailer’s confession. So let’s get ourselves some Susan’s! But how you ask? Well I think you go about it a little differently that you would a Mary. Mainly because when you’re looking for Susan you’re finding people who are about where you are. It’s important that you don’t confuse Mary with Susan (If you have no idea what I’m talking about follow the links at the top). You are are looking for people who are about at the same skill level or business level as you. If they live in the area, awesome! But it’s not a requirement. Here are my ideas… A. First realize that just like at the playground as a kid, you may get hurt, you may find out you don’t like someone as much as you thought you would and you might underestimate the quiet girl. So I think it’s important to not try to single out just ONE Susan. Unless there is only one Susan in your whole town and then, well… single out away (and then embrace the world wide web). B. Next you need to reach out to Susan(s). Yes plural! I thought we established that in part A? I want you to try to find several Susan’s in your area and send everyone an email (maybe do it as a bcc though or you may tick some new potential friends off). Now they should be at your skill level as mentioned before. If you try to email all the Mary’s your success is probably going to be substantially lower than if you aim for Susan, plus as you establish a group… You can always invite more in.  Remember not everyone will take it, but chances are high that more than likely there are others in your town who just like you, and me, and the other gal’s reading this… Who would like a photog friend too. It’s also worth checking to see if there is already a photography community group established within your area – that could make this a whole lot easier for you! I know in Portland we have PUG (Pictage User Group – but you don’t have to be a Pictage member). Each month they get together and learn and share and just do awesome stuff together! Here is a LIST of PUG groups around the country. C. Lastly… Present it Positive! The last thing you want to do is make them feel threatened and block your email address. Introduce yourself (for real) and invite everyone for a fun afternoon or evening out. You could make it a play-date to update each other’s head shots. Or you could find a couple models and offer a fun creative shoot or just work something out with a local restaurant and have hors d’oeuvres.  The goal is to make it non-threatening, fun and and worth while. You don’t want to create a ‘do I have to’ you want to’ create a ‘wahoo! I get to’. This is an opportunity to build friendships and that’s exactly how I would present it!

So what about me you ask? I don’t know about you. But I like hearing the personal stuff… I want to know if they practice what they preach. And I want you to know that yes I do. I LOVE my photog friends and having them has been instrumental to my growth, sanity and joy with what I do.  I am so blessed to say that today I have many! But 2 years ago, if you would have asked me, I couldn’t have named one. Not a single person in the industry who I could say or felt knew me, cared about me or  had any interest in doing so and mostly that was because I was to scared to “walk up” and say, ‘I’m Leah’. Eventually I faught the fear and took the risk! Let me just give you an example of finding my Susans! A while back I was reading about Kelli France’s new office makeover when I noticed a BYU diploma. I got excited, cause we have one of those too. Plus she had the same Keep Calm and Carry On Canvas from Target and she loves business. Well it was just to much. So I sent her an email. Turns out we have a ton in common and Kelli helped me to find out that Shellie of All Things Baby does too! So now Shellie, Kelli and I help each other out, bounce ideas off each other and we’ve even planned a hot chocolate conference call so we can just chat. We’ve never actually met since we don’t live anywhere near each other – that won’t happen until WPPI, but I reached out and it worked. Find your Susan! Throw caution to the wind and take a risk. Yes, you may get rejected. I’m being honest… It could happen. But if it didn’t — if a friendship was formed — and you found that you had someone who got it… Really got it! Wouldn’t the risk be worth it? Of course it would! So what are you waiting for? Thoughts Please. And if you try it… Please, please come back and tell us how it goes!!

All images are from the Seattle Go{4}Pro Building the Biz Workshop!

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  1. Leah, you would be so proud! Me and Jamie have been emailing since your last posts about Mary. We are each others Susan’s. And even though she is in Oregon and I’m in Utah, we have a lot in common. Plus, she is in town and if she has time, were getting together. I can’t wait.

    So, here’s another little plug for the workshop. AWESOME!!!! And I made a ton of new friends too! Thanks Leah and all my other Seattle friends.

  2. Alison says:

    Oh how I love this! Last year at this time, this was me. I had so much in my head- ideas, questions and thoughts but hubby was so tired of being the one to hear them! I attended a Spread the Love workshop in March of this year and that changed everything for me. I was in a room with photographers from my area! We were all struggling with the same stuff. I decided to jump out on a limb at the end of the workshop and asked out loud if anyone would be interested in getting together. There was a collective sigh from everyone- we all had been looking for the same thing but only finding those who wanted to compete and be secretive. We started a facebook group for photographers and thier others or spouses (I mean come on, they all have to put up with us!) Our first get together was so much fun- we came from all around the state to my playground to shoot urban- something most of them hadn’t done! This weekend another member is hosting and we are shooting on the ocean with a BBQ after. I love the people I have met and I love that we continue to grow when we meet other photographers lookign for the same things in a non competative environment. We refer to each other, we are moral support, we comment on each others blogs when no one else seems to be and they just get it. The other plus is the spouses get to bond too with others who understand their situation! Thanks for putting this out there… and any Maine/NH photographers are welcome to contact me!!!!

    • How awesome is that Alison! And thanks for shouting out for any other locals who might be reading!

    • jamie says:

      I’m close to maine, but north…. probably too far from me…. too bad sounds like so much fun!!!

      • Alison says:

        Hi Jamie! We are all over Maine- some Portland area, I am central Maine, Some bangor and Some the coast. we meet all over! If you may be interested, even if it is just to have someone to chat with, send me an email, the address is on my blog! I know how hard it is to have a susan or a Mary that is like you describe- Mine lives 2 miles from me!

  3. jamie says:

    I only have one susan in my area, and she’s hates me (never actually met me, but she hates the idea of me). But I have found someone that lives an hour away, I email her once in a while, even offered to do a family shoot for her, and her for me, but she said she scared of the idea of shooting another photog.(even though I think she might be better then me). but none the less, everytime I send her off a email, she shoots back one my way. BUT I would love to go to WPPI but no one to go with…. is anyone else might be planning on going but has no friends to go with? Since I’m not a seasoned traveller, going to Las Vegas on my own seems very very frightening!!!! That’s what you get from living in a small town in the Maritimes!

    • Jamie!

      There will for sure be others needing travels companions… I’ll try to write a post soon to help get people connected. And with the gal an hour away. Why don’t you try shooting together – set up a little stylized play date and that will help take the nerves off for shooting for another photog. I have to admit that I feel the same way about shooting for other photogs, I get crazy nervous!

  4. Marissa says:

    I’m so glad you mentioned SUSAN! I think finding other Susan’s out there is a great way to go. Having others that are your peers to bounce ideas off of is really a great way to learn. Sure we can learn a lot from Mary, but being around other Susan’s makes you feel more comfortable to give your opinions and critics because you’re all in this together. I love it and I think my poor husband would rather me talk to others who get what I’m talking about 🙂

  5. Krystal says:

    I feel so lucky to have a sister that is as interested in photography as I am. I don’t know anyone in my area and that is just fine for now. Someday I might stick myself out there. But for now my sister and I are just a phone call away. We may be careful about how we express our opinions on each other’s work but in the end there is no fear that she will ditch me and run. We can’t, were sisters.=) I think she is more honest with me then others might be because she is my sister. All in all I really enjoy sharing this with her. And because I know she is reading this blog, Love you, Manda!

  6. Vanessa says:

    Leah! I love these posts! This is something I am having a hard time with. I would say I’m a liltle closer to a Jane. I have an idea of what I want my style to be like and I’m not afraid to stick with it, however, I still need to learn so much! I have tried to contact a few Marys and for the most part, I have been pretty darn happy with the results. However, these Marys are not in my area. The market in my small town has recently been over saturated with new photographers…me being one of them. There are only two others in town who have an established business so far and I can say one of them is certainly NOT happy with new competition. I’m so nervous about really going out and marketing my photography cause I just don’t think the results are going to be very pretty! Not that I’m allowing that to stop me in any way. In the mean time, I have tried to contact my Suzzies and so far I may have found one. We were both kind of burned publicly by Mary and I hope Suzie is looking for a photographer friend as much as I am. I’m at the point where I am just going to launch my business and I am so nervous. In a perfect world, I would start my business and everyone would be happy with it…or at least deal with it (even Mary). However, I just don’t see it happening and I think I could use some photographer friends to help me get through the tough stuff. Again, awesome posts, they really speak to us all!

    • Leah Remillet says:

      Good Luck Vanessa. I’ve heard of the burning in my own town… I don’t think it’s ever happened to me personally but honestly it could have and I just don’t know. When it does happen it always for to reasons – fear & jealousy. So be compassionate and try to experience what they are feeling. I have read so many email where someone is complaining that they are being targeted by a Mary and than trashing a Jane who’s doing exactly what they are doing to the Mary. Where is the understanding and compassion? BTW – that’s not meant to you 🙂 Just as observation worth noting.

      Here is the secret. I don’t care one bit. I honestly don’t. There are so many families available in this town and what I do isn’t the same as what he, she or it does. I would suggest narrowing your target market. Find a very specific “area” that others are not in very strong or at all and push really hard right there. For example. There are several wealthy parts of town… I would pick one and make myself recognizable in that area. With cards, brochures, images and work with businesses in as many of the shops as i could. I’d become their photographer and let the referrals begin to spread in time to branch me out of that neighborhood.

  7. Gabrielle Bass says:

    I would love to find someone in my area ! After reading this post, I felt like someone had read my mind about wanting photog friends ! I am new a photography in the DFW, TX area if anyone is out there that wants to be friends ! Even if you are more established/accomplished than me I promise I won’t “steal” your ideas because I’m pretty unique myself, so is my work !

  8. Morgan says:

    Leah,
    Thank you so much for writing this post. I am always so scared to reach out and find a friend. I think that I am going to try it and see what happens. Way scary, but could be totally worth it! I loved your story about Kellie France and Shellie. I would love to be good enough one day to have amazing friends like that!

    • Leah Remillet says:

      You are very welcome. Find about 6 and contact all of them together. That way you’re hoping for just 1 or 2. You could even link to one of these posts and maybe that will soften them to the idea!? Friends will help bring those skills up even faster and soon the friends you make today will be what you deem a Kelli and Shellie and the best part is… You’ll be one of them too!

  9. Jamie says:

    I am so excited to meet up Cherie!
    And I agree, the workshop was fantastic! It was the first time I was able to really “talk shop” with other photographers and it was so nice to get to know everyone.

  10. Spanki Mills says:

    so cool! i met angela at a workshop, we hit it off, and it works! we have the same interest…photography. but our work is totally different so we can share everything and now feel like one is taking more than the other is giving! we live about an hour and a half apart. and are at the same stage in our journey. so there are several calls or text that are “what in the world do i do” “how do i handle this” “have you ever ordered… how do you do it” “what company would you recommend for this product” etc… it is awesome… i was alone before her. and feel like it helps to have someone that understands me. recommend it to every photog out there! and…we can never have to many friends to pull support from!!

  11. Spanki Mills says:

    oh…and can’t wait to meet more at the WPPI think it is going to be great!!! 🙂

  12. Krystal says:

    I found my Susan before I got started. I had just moved to a new place, mentioned in passing that I took a lot of photos and she asked me what I meant by that. I explained that was about it, I just took a lot of photos. She was in the same boat but wanted more. I had always thoughts, SOMEDAY!

    She called me all the time to just tell me something cool or a great blog that she had stalked. Because of my Susan always finding new ideas and interesting things and wanting to learn more about Photoshop and then sharing EVERYTHING she learned with me I was so much more motivated to push myself.

    I don’t always give myself enough credit. All too often I say, “But I could never be THAT good.” My Susan just says, Yeah, look at all this new stuff we can learn!” Yeah Susan!! I also have another Susan, an old college roommate. We started all this long after we lived together and started dreaming of workshops. She found Skip’s Summer School and off we were to Las Vegas. We met there and LOVED it! It was so great to learn and meet others too! Woohoo!

    Thanks Leah for the ideas and inspiration.

  13. clair says:

    Leah, thanks so much for always encouraging us to step out of our comfort zones.

    I love the idea of planning a get together for local photogs. Even if just one came, the friend seeking mission could be accomplished. Ha. I will say I am more hesitant to reach out locally than I am online to someone not in my area. Isn’t there always going to be a little awkwardness if you are each other’s competition? But I think it would be so wonderful to encourage one another and be happy for each others successes rather than view them as threatening. The way I see it, there are plenty of people that need there pictures taken and there should be enough for all of us. :). On the other hand an online out of area friend would be perfect to discuss nitty gritty business stuff with.

    I like how you pointed out that we may suffer rejection or that reaching out may not work out in some cases. I think we should try not to take it personally if it happens. Just thinking about friendships in general, there are many people you can be friendly with but there are just a few that you really connect with on a deeper level. Those are the gems. Hope we can all find a gem or two when it comes to sharing our love of photography!

    • Leah Remillet says:

      So true! And I would clarify… I have several great photo friends in my town. I’m even rebranding for one of them right now. I love coming into their studios and playing around, asking technical questions, sharing technical ideas… But I NEVER NEVER ask them about nitty gritty for example how they are marketing – what high schools they push for seniors – etc. I DON’T WANT TO KNOW. Because if I know and go the same direction thinks would go wrong and I for sure don’t share that aspect of my business. But talking about nightmare clients, great locations and fun techniques… sure!

      I don’t agree with the notion that a certain location is one persons spot (unless it’s on your own property of course and than pull out a bb-gun 😉 ).

  14. Carrie says:

    Leah, this 3-part post has been fabulous! I have so many new thoughts, ideas, realizations,.. and I’m just so inspired reading from all you’ve shared as well as what all the amazing Go4Pro reading photogs here have shared! I love it…I feel these 3 posts alone have brought so much unity in and of themselves…I want to give everyone great big hugs! 🙂
    Thanks so much for all you do!

  15. Charlotte says:

    So Leah….I have followed you from pretty much the beginning of this blog. Even commented once or twice on one of your ideas and you commented back to thank me. Many times I had thought about mentioning to you that I am in Troutdale and would love to meet up with you sometime. I’ve run into a few “Marys” and they tend to make one a little leary of contacting others. I too would love to find a “Susan” or two….so thanks for this post Leah….it has convinced to me to reach out to you to say “Hi”.

  16. Silvana says:

    You already know I love your blog Leah, I improved so much since I found it. To be honest I also feel I need other Susan’s in my life. Sometimes I just want to exchange ideas and is hard not having someone to do that with. If I talk about iso, shutter speed and aperture with some people that don’t understand about photography, they look at me like I’m speaking chinese. Very frustrating 🙁
    Hopefully I’ll meet some Susan’s.
    Thanks for all the good information.

  17. clair says:

    Sooooo…. I have so many ideas going through my head right now. First and foremost, I am trying to think of a way to help all the Susans find a few other Susans in an online fashion. (Leah has helped us know exactly what to do about getting with the folks in our own area! Hurray!) Now, I’m thinking about how we can go about getting photog friends that we can freely discuss business and marketing with. (See my above comment.) I was thinking that a group of 5 or 6 girls (from all different areas) that teamed up to be each other’s cheerleaders would be ideal. There are tons of photography forums out there that have thousands of participants– but I’m thinking that a small group would have an advantage of more easily forming friendships and it would have the commitment factor to give and receive from your own group. I’m just not exactly sure about how to go about organizing such a thing. Doing a lot of brainstorming right now. Anyone want to brainstorm with me and help me take this bull by the horns? I try to remind myself that simple is always best so sometimes I need someone to talk me down. Ha. Email me at dickson.cg@gmail.com if you have some ideas on how this might work! 🙂

  18. Silvana says:

    I’ll try. Thanks Leah
    I have everything coordinated (branded LOL), learned with the best. YOU.

  19. Vanessa says:

    Thanks so much Leah! That’s amazing advice. I have a bit of an action plan set up that kind of follows what you had described. And I’m even more motivated now to get out and network with some Susans!

  20. Charlotte says:

    I just emailed you Leah. I’m thinking you may have tried to send the email from my email link on my contact page. I just realized that I put .com instead of .net and that may be why it came back. I fixed it, but I did email you from my email account so hopefully that works. 😉

  21. Kathy says:

    This is so awesome and SO TRUE! Leah, I think of you as a lovely mix of my Mary and Susan, although I’m not nearly your level, I still love being able to “talk shop” with you.

    I had a fantastic meet-up with some photographers from my area from a Flickr group. This is another great way to meet other photographers, especially ones in a different type of photography zone. A couple are just hobbiests, but one guy has been a professional landscape and nature photographer for close to 30 years and one does architecture photography. It was so fantastic to learn a ton of different things and I can’t wait to meet up with them again!

  22. Thank you for this series of blog posts. It was great to know that other people have some of the same dilemmas with other photographers as I do. It would be great to have another Susan to bounce ideas, frustrations and new finds off of. Of course, it would be really awesome of find someone who is also a stay at home mom, doing the same juggling act. (Not that I am asking for much.) I am sure that my husband would love it if I found a Susan too. 🙂 The trick is actually looking.

    • Leah Remillet says:

      That’s not asking much at all! I’d bet the vast majority of the readers on this blog fit your criteria. Go find your locals…. Send them an email!

  23. Veronica says:

    Leah … I did it!! I reached out to my local ‘Susan’ (whom I kind of think of as a Mary). And she responded back to me. She is totally in the same boat (day job, kids, husband, and fitting in a passion for photography on the evenings and weekends). I am so excited. Thank you, Thank you for giving the inspiration!

    • Leah Remillet says:

      Veronica… Thank you so so much for taking the time to sharecwith me! I’m so excited for you and would love to hear future updates!

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