Letter to a young photographer


In a recent post, I wrote about an email I commonly get hitting me up for free content. Here’s another type of email I get even more often: from a young  (or not so young) photographer starting out and wanting advice. I get about 5-10 a week (up to 20 around college graduation time!).

I have sons in their twenties in the journeyman stages of their (non-photographic) career paths and consequently have a huge soft spot for helping kids get their careers launched whenever I can. I’ve spent tons of time counseling scores of young folks who are attracted by this glamor profession (if they only knew!).

But there is a certain type of entitlement in some approaches that turns me off.

It’s like another letter I get several of a week….from students who are doing a term paper for their photography class and have to interview a working photographer and want said photographer to do all the heavy lifting in the process i.e. ” here’s a list of 20 questions and please write the answers, 200 words per answer, and please have it done by tomorrow because I’m late….”  

Drives me nuts.

Here’s a letter I got a couple of days ago. It’s fairly typical of that “what can you do to help me” mentality, however, I will say that the student in question had some nice work and did say “thank you” (not everybody does).

Take a read and see my response and tell me if I’m just being a crotchety old fart, or if what I say has some merit…actually, I know I am a crotchety old fart, I just need to find out if you think the advice has merit:-).

 From:   P*** F****** <p***********@yahoo.com.au>

Subject:      Advice on New Website; www.S*************.com.au

Date:      October 19, 2010 11:29:55 PM EDT

To:       Bob Krist <bobkrist@aol.com>

Hey Bob,

I came across your site on Google and thought it would be worth getting in touch with you. I checked out your website a couple of times and you’ve got quite an amazing set of images there, so it’s pretty inspirational for someone like myself………. 

 …..As of this morning, my new website has been launched, so it would be great it you could take a couple minutes to check it out and let me know what you think…and get back to me with some advice on what I could do to improve my chances for getting work experience or even point me in the right direction for getting employment, that would be awesome.

Thanks for your time Bob,

P****** F*****************

And here’s my answer (yes, I have these pre-written and just make minor modifications to customize). Am I being too hard on the lad?  I don’t think so.

 From:   Bob Krist  bobkrist@aol.com

Subject:      Advice on New Website; www.S*************.com.au

Date:      October 19, 2010 11:29:55 PM EDT

To: P*** F****** <p***********@yahoo.com.au>

 Hi: You have made the classic error that a lot of beginning photographers seem to make these days—to wit, asking a perfect stranger to take time and give you detailed career advice and guidance.

I get about 5-10 emails a week (more in May and June, when college students graduate) like yours, and I can’t answer them all, or I’d go out of business. 

But here’s the thing. Success as a photographer depends an awful lot on being a self starter and self motivated. When I was young, I had photographers whom I looked up to as well. But I would never have dreamed of contacting them out of the blue and asking them for feedback and free advice. In my day, you just didn’t do things like that. 

Instead, I studied their work until my eyes burned holes in the pages, bought their books, took their workshops and seminars…..in other words, I put the onus on me to learn from them, not for them to take their valuable time and enlighten me with little or no effort or investment on my part.

Had you done the same, you’d have seen that I have spent a lot of time and effort writing books, blogging, and teaching the very things you’d like to learn. And while I’d love to take every fledgling photographer who emails me under my wing, the huge demands on my time that this career requires make that an impossibility. 

However, you are free to tap into my extensive knowledge and experience, gained from decades in the trenches of this profession, simply by buying my books or finding them in a library, taking a seminar or workshop, or reading my blog. 

The latter is even free, for crying out loud…. for the last two years, I have cracked my head open and poured out just about everything I know, and am currently learning, for free on the internet. I just don’t know how much easier and awesome I can make it for you guys!

I wish you all good things in your endeavors, and hope that this email (which, as you may have guessed, is a canned response, written “hundreds-of-emails-like-yours-ago,” and cut and pasted into this email) will serve as a first step in the right direction for you, career-wise. 

all the best, Bob Krist




This Post Has 45 Comments

  1. Bob,

    I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now, and I’ve enjoyed following you on your photographic adventures. Your posts have been both entertaining and educational, and for that I’m very grateful. However, since you asked for opinions, I have to say that I found your letter rather off-putting. I most likely would never ask a professional to review my work because a)I’m somewhat shy, and b)I realize that most professionals are very busy people. That’s just me though. While I find this young man’s letter to be on the “bold” side – especially the part where he asks for employment advice – I do not think he was grossly out of line. He was polite, and it seems to me that his request was rather modest. If this young man is guilty of anything, it’s not being aware of how busy you are. I don’t believe this constitutes an enormous ethical breach worthy of a scolding. As a side note, I’m fairly certain that I recall Chase Jarvis suggesting that young photographers do almost exactly what you’re criticizing this young man for doing – show their work to professionals they respect, and ask how they can get better.

    From my perspective he didn’t ask to be “taken under your wing”, as you suggested in your response, but instead merely asked for a couple of minutes of your time. If you truly didn’t have 10 or 15 minutes to browse his work and offer a couple of pointers, I think it would have been easier – and far more polite – to simply say so. In my opinion, the tone of your letter was unwarranted, and the suggestion that he buy your books and attend your seminars makes you look petty and mercenary. I realize that while you’re an artist, you’re also a businessman. Yet it’s my personal opinion that those of us who’ve had success have a responsibility to give something back, even if it’s just a few moments of our time. By the way, it’s very possible that this young man might have been interested in buying your books or attending your seminars at some point… after all, he had only very recently become acquainted with your work. I found it to be rather presumptuous to assume this young man was some sort of a “freeloader.” However, after your letter, I think he’s probably a lot less likely to purchase your books or invest in your seminars.

    In summary, this young photographer may have shown questionable judgment in making his request of you, but there was nothing malicious in his intent. I find the “crotchety old fart” defense to be similar to the “I was just being brutally honest” defense – one can be honest without being brutal. One can also be frank without being mean-spirited or contemptuous. I believe patience, understanding and constructive guidance goes a long way, and is far more beneficial to both parties in the long run.


    1. Paul:Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Yes, I might have been coming down too hard on him for simply not realizing the number of similar requests I get on a weekly basis, many of which are not nearly as politely put as his. He simply might have been the straw that broke this camel’s hump!

      As far as giving back…I do. I can’t tell you how much one on one time I’ve spent with young shooters. True, most of them come from references from friends, family, or colleagues. But there has to be some kind of filtering process, otherwise, you’re inundated.

      I do pro bono lectures at ASMP chapters and schools—in fact, I’m speaking at our local High School, again, tomorrow night— and if I had nickel for every portfolio review I’ve done for students NOT enrolled in my class, but attending the Maine Photo Workshop over these last 20 years, I’d be…. few hundred bucks better off than I am today.

      I guess what I am objecting to, besides the sheer volume of the requests, is the fact that a quick Google search is the sum total of energy put into research and finding role models.

      Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. I’m currently in the beginning phases of my video education. There are a few gurus out there whose brains I would love to pick. But like you, I’m just too shy (or is it polite) to think that they would take the time to pop into my website and give me their secrets.

      Maybe it’s because I’ve had that shoe on the other foot but I’m not going to email Philip Bloom out of the blue and ask him to check out my work….I will, however, subscribe to his blog, and buy any training film he puts out.

      And I’m not sure, but I’d be willing to bet that Chase doesn’t personally answer those type of requests either (although he’s running an operation big enough that he might have people to do that for him!).

      I may have lost a potential student or book sale, but on the other hand, I might have taught a young photographer a valuable lesson. I’m not sure, but we’ll see!

  2. Mr. Krist- I think the real question here is did you solicite this yourself?

    I think the one sure thing about this information age we are in, is your audience is alot bigger than it has ever been. Its also more personal! Your gripe seems ironic. It almost sounds like what actors have been saying for years about being a celebrity!

    I know you write a blog- but do you have an active facebook account? Do you tweet?

    I personally hear from you at least once a month. Yet this is the first time you have heard from me!

    You have allowed me to get to know you. You did this so you could sell me something. It really should be no surprise that strangers seem to look at you as a peer, it just par for the course you have chosen.

    Now- I dont think its right to ask somebody for a favor or professional courtesy you have never met- but…..thats me.

    I also dont tweet and post videos of myself for large audiences.

    I am curious Mr. Krist- what do you charge for personal instruction? You do teach workshops.

    Personally Bob- I would send these requests my fee chart. but again- thats just me!

    btw- Spirit of Place is a great book! I would definitely buy a book or an app of work done like that with just a P7000!

  3. Gentlemen:
    As a mother of two fairly recently matriculated college grads, I understand the “tone” of the young man’s querie. HOWEVER, I also understand the ‘way of the world’. To a certain degree, this young man feels he is “entitled” to information. (Everything was going that way until 2008.) He probably has little knowledge for the long term “paying of dues”. Just Google it! (Research, papers, communication, etc.) There is NO sacred space here, only CYBERspace & what a vacuum it is. The social graces (along with ethics) are sometimes sadly absent.
    Bob, perhaps you might consider modifing your form letter to include this bit of “behavior improvement” for future guidance.
    And to Paul & Richard: giving back is a learned behavior.
    Have the lad OBSERVE & LABOR at it himself for awhile THEN approach for advice. my2cents, rjv

    1. Rita: It’s probably a good idea to moderate the tone of the letter….actually, I have a few more moderate responses in the can (as I said, I get a ton of these letters and to save time, keep response templates). I probably should have sent him the kinder gentler version (because he did say “thank you”—only about half of the similar requests say that). Bob

  4. Richard: (Please, call me Bob)

    Nope, I don’t Tweet, I don’t Facebook, and I had to be talked into blogging (“everybody’s doing it!”) and thought if I were going to do it, I’d try do it regularly and to the best of my ability. Including posting videos.

    But as far as me contacting you, or any reader, I don’t email you my blog, I don’t harvest your email addresses. You have to tune into the blog of your own volition, right?

    It’s an opt-in, not an opt-out decision. So I don’t see the imposition factor. I don’t solicit readers, they come (and leave!) of their own accord.

    And if the purpose of this blog were to sell you stuff, then, take it from me, I’m doing a miserable job. There’d be a whole lot more posts about my upcoming workshops and seminars, but that remains a rare blog subject for me, primarily because I don’t get too much out of reading those announcements on other blogs.

    But you make a good point, and one that my wife has been making since I started blogging….why would you put out this stuff? If it doesn’t get more work or make more than a few bucks a month in click through ads, what’s the point?

    It’s a hard question I’ve been asking myself lately. I was going to blog for a year and see what the benefits might be….that was two years ago. There’s not been much of a payoff, but I look at it as another way of giving back to a profession that’s been good to me, as the previous commenter mentioned.

    With my blog here at Pixiq, I stand a better chance of making a bit of change for my efforts, but we’re talking coffee money….and not even that if you drink Ventes.

    I guess my question is, how much do you have to give back? Is it too much to expect a young shooter to do his or her homework a bit before presuming to ask for my time.

    Maybe it is…that’s why I asked.

    BTW, I like your idea about the fee charts…now I have to go and make them and see if it flies.

    Not to worry, though. If the concept takes off and I make a fortune, I’ll be sure to give you a credit line and a link:-)!


  5. Ha! Good. He probably didn’t notice how much time and effort you spent just on that reply.

    1. Michael: That’s why I keep the templates! cheers, Bob

  6. I haven’t read all of the comments, but —

    I am a 22-year-old college student (and Lark Books/Pixiq editorial assistant) who will graduate this December, so I am part of that age of entitlement — but I agree that the original e-mail from the guy launching his Web site is rather rude. Simply changing “it would be great if” and “that would be awesome” to actual questions to which the answer may be NO would alter my reading of it, since this phrasing to me implies that he doesn’t expect rejection — again, a symptom of the entitlement syndrome.

    I have a tendency to over-explain, but I think this has its advantages; rather than assume that a mentor-figure would visit my Web site or read something I’ve written, I would qualify it with several statements like “please don’t feel obligated” and “if you don’t have time, I completely understand,” etc. (However, I doubt I would contact someone with one or more of these questions in the first place; I am more the type to devour media and resources — as you suggest — than to ask someone else to digest and regurgitate them for me.)

    That said, your response may have been a little catty, but overall I think you responded fairly, and the fact that you wrote so much (and still offered some form of advice) shows that you aimed to be constructive and helpful rather than just plain mean. If anything, this guy is probably at the perfect stage of his career to get the wind knocked out of him; it forces you to face reality but doesn’t sap your ambition. Besides, everyone needs a good kick to the gut now and then.

    1. Hannah: Thanks for your comment. Yes, I think a kick in the gut is good every once in a while. Many of us have stories of such a thing happening in the early parts of our careers, and the “that which does not kill us makes us stronger” theory kind of holds.

      I have a horror story from my first meeting with Bob Gilka, the director of photography at National Geographic when I first went down to show a portfolio. But my favorite Gilka story is from my friend Dave Harvey, who as a young photographer got a job from Gilka and when he handed it in, he got the following reply:

      “Dear David, You are young and strong. That is good, for what I have to tell you will make you feel sick and old.”

      Needless to say, Dave rose above it to one of the most amazing careers to come out of the NG.

  7. Bob: As a 20 year old fledgling photographer college student (hey, I’m the subject :D) I don’t think you were too hard at all. When I decided I wanted to go into photography I threw myself head first into it, and I’ve ended up reading somewhere around 10 books on the topic from Ansel Adams’ The Camera to modern discussions from photographers such as yourself. Even then the books are a small part of it, and I probably spend at least an hour every day just reading about photography or looking at new inspiration.

    It might sound like I’m trying to brag, but what I’m saying is I feel like my efforts have been well rewarded. I consider myself halfway competent at photography now, and I’ve never bugged a professional for any sort of advice. These guys need to learn that high school is over and with high school goes the hand holding. If you want to pursue a new skill you need to put forth the effort to master it.

    p.s.: Could you review my portfolio please? (har har)

    1. Send me a locater and I’ll take a look! See, it’s all in the approach! B

      1. Haha, I was really just trying to make a cheap joke.

        If you really have time to look then I of course wouldn’t mind — my website is http://www.vwllss.com and you can view my photos split up into categories by going through the “photography” link at the top.

        I’m always trying to improve, but might stuff might not be to your tastes anyway in which case it wouldn’t matter.

        1. Your portraits are outstanding….very moody and well executed. That’s your strongest category, IMHO, and you do it very well. But you’ve also got an excellent look going for the commercial job for the tourist board….twilight=magic, and it can make anyplace look great. The still lives with toy soldiers and such are out of my realm of expertise to pass judgement on. But the people stuff, even though it is a darker vision than a lot of editorial outlets would go for, is really outstanding. That’s your strong suit…keep at it.

          1. Thanks so much 🙂 I primarily prefer to shoot portraits so it’s good to hear that’s my strong suit. The still lives and such were mostly just a result of class projects since a professor has to make sure you know the full gamut.

            I think I might try to shoot some “lighter” stuff just for the portfolio side of things. I think you’re right to point out that it’s a darker vision, and if I want to make any money at this I should be able to show I can do both.. right?

            Anyway thanks for the compliments, it means a lot from an established pro like yourself who obviously knows what he’s doing.

  8. Good for you Bob.

    As the internet continues to develop, there is more and more “free” information. As the parent of “internet children”, there is a growing feeling amongst the generation that they are entitled to all information for free,with the minimum work and instantly.

    I try to explain to them that someone (the professional) has invested their time, resources (money) and great effort to get where they are. The kids need to respect that.

    Good for you in telling them too!

    Todd MacMillan
    Digital Image Cafe

    1. Thanks Todd….I think it’s true that we get sensitive about the amount of time and energy went into getting where we’ve gotten and feeling that it deserves some kind of respect….however, I do realize that this sentiment is very 20th century! Bob

  9. Hi Bob

    I have to add my support to the comments you’ve received here. I was thinking through your original post from the perspective of a college professor, and then it suddenly occurred to me. It’s my job to think about these kinds of issues, I get paid to do so. You’re doing this as a volunteer!

    There’s a saying in my business, organizational behavior, that the worst feedback we get is the feedback we never get. I would guess that these two individuals may have solicited help from other photographers as well. You may not be the only person using a form letter here. I would also guess that the typical response on the part of most other photographers (you can plug in any profession, this isn’t about photography) would be to hit the delete key. You didn’t. You tried to point out to these folks that the way you go about asking for help matters. You’ve offered them some sensible guidance with regard to how they might improve their effectiveness in something that is far more important than the quality of their imagery or a term paper grade. So, also as a parent, and a member of society, I hope you keep doing what you’re doing. Thank you.

    As to whether or not the tone of the letters is too harsh, since I was in one of your workshops I have some sense of the person behind the words, and didn’t find the notes harsh at all. As your story about David Harvey indicates, there’s no easy way to give critical feedback.

    One guy’s opinion.


    1. James: Great to hear from you! Thanks for the support, and for telling them I’m not a monster! cheers, Bob

  10. Hi Bob,

    Even I really don’t think that your response was improper or rude. I am one of those ‘young photographers’ and I don’t think its right for me to ask every professional photographer that I can find on Google to review my work and give me free advice. I think you’ve said it right, a lot of great photographers have set up innumerable free resources.

    I can understand what you have to go through with such requests.

    If I can offer some help, for these kind of emails you can ask the person to contact Zack Arias http://www.zarias.com/. He does a show on his blog called Photography critique in which he reviews the website and makes comments on the pictures and as well as how they are presented. May be you can add this to your response template.


    1. Stevens: Thanks for the tip….that’s a great way to get a blog post out of the experience of reviewing…and lord knows, after a while we need blog post subjects. Bob

  11. Bob,

    First I want to thank you for your blog posts as they have been very helpful and inspirational to me. Being raised by a father by a father that was grew up during the great depression who worked very hard to become a self made man, he taught me knowledge comes at a price either money itself or earned through hard work. So being a new photographer I realized I needed to find professionals that I respected and sit at there feet. And at times be a gofer to them. Which I have found to be far more useful to my learning than any amount of blogs I read (no disrespect). What I’m getting at is that maybe you should rework your letter a bit to explain that there are photographers all around him that are willing to give away great info, secrets and tips if he would just show some humility and work ethic.

    Thanks again for all the free info

    1. Thanks Barclay. I really think this young guy was polite and not really asking in a too aggressive a way….he just caught me at the end of several other folks who did. Timing, as they say, is everything! cheers, Bob

  12. Dear Bob

    Your awesomness in sharing every last shred of your experience is so big that I could build my whole apartment in it. This gives you every right to set a few things straight like you do in that out-of-the-can-answer.

    Oli / Switzerland

    1. Oli:Thanks you are very kind and I’m going to try to be kinder and gentler too in the near future….until I revert to my old crotchety ways! B

  13. Bob,
    Your letter was perfect and had long-term value far exceeding a few comments on a website. If he sits with it he will see the wisdom.

    Funny too, I just mentioned to my wife the other night, “My new pet peeve is when someone asks for free advice and I spend time to give a thoughtful email reply and I never get a reply back or even a thank you.”

  14. Bob: I usually try not to jump into the fray but some of the comments made deserved a rebuttal. As someone who has been on two of your photo courses, one in Africa and the other in Maine, I think I know something about your character and generosity. I am honored to count you among my friends. Perhaps I have led a sheltered life but I don’t know anyone as generous and giving of their time and energies as you. Between your charity work, community spirit, and selfless giving to anyone who requests anything of you, I have no idea how you make time to earn a living, let alone write a blog and answer questions. I know I ask them of you too frequently. They are generally met by “send me a low resolution image and I will see what the problem is.” I try not to do that because I know how thin you are spread. I will often write asking a technical question and at most expect a one sentence answer, but instead get a thoughtful, scholarly answer. Anyway, Paul’s comments rubbed me the wrong way. Not sure what to make of him. He doesn’t live in my world. I am glad to see others wrote in your defense. Thanks for everything that you do. Mike

    1. Thanks Mike! I appreciate it. Bob

  15. Bob,

    You were gentle in your response and helpful, too. As you say, it comes down to approach where those unfashionable, oft forgotten words “please” and “thank you” go a long way. Some folk need to be disabused of the notion that things are free as of right and your time (not theirs) is one of them.

    In the past I’ve had “I’m going to XXX, I have enclosed a map could you detail your orchid sites on it”…or “I am going to YYY, I can’t afford one of your tours/courses but can you send me your itinerary and details of other sites in the region”… If you publish you become public property to some.

    As a kid in Wales in the ’60’s project work was just coming into schools (hey, we had just swapped chalk and slates for pens!) – we were told to send away for information. My father insisted I say the ‘magic words’ and also include something for postage, or a SAE. My stamps were usually sent back with a surprised “thank you” note: I got boxes of stuff…others got nothing. That approach has served me well for decades.


    1. Paul: I had a chuckle at your recounting the letters wanting your orchid sites and detailed itineraries. That’s all to familiar a request as well. Finding those sites is probably 90% of what we do….too precious to give away!


  16. Hi Bob:

    Your advice to the writer was spot on. He had time to Google you, but couldn’t find the time to Google things like “photography careers” (About 68,600,000 results) – or read your blog.

    Part of the problem with his writing to you is that he clearly hasn’t done any research into what it takes to become a working professional. If he did, he’d know you don’t have the time to view websites and offer career advice to everybody who writes to you.

    You’ve been more than generous in creating and continuing this blog and imparting your wisdom and tips – for free!

    It’s clear that you enjoy informing and entertaining us with your posts and that “making a bit of change for my efforts, but we’re talking coffee money….and not even that if you drink Ventes”, is not your sole purpose for doing this.

    I hope that there are enough of us out here that benefit from your postings – and let you know it – that you continue to “pay it forward” for a long time.


    1. Thanks Larry, I plan to continue! cheers, Bob

  17. Bob (I hope it’s ok for me to call you Bob too!):

    I happen to think that your response is right on. As a parent and also as an educator (I’m a physician, and have trainees assigned to me for teaching on a regular basis), I have noted for some years now the enormous change in the approach of students towards faculty, mentors, advisors, etc. There is an enormous sense of entitlement and an attitude of “I am here, teach me now” where as I can recall in my own training how well we understood that it was our job to make the professor’s life easier by taking on some of his (generally) less interest work, IN EXCHANGE FOR WHICH he would use the time thus freed to teach us. Further, we would never have conceived of showing up having done no work or reading on our own and expected to be filled like the empty vessels we were. Instead, we were expected to, and expected ourselves to, read and learn independently, seeing out the professors for explantation of points we had not understood or found unsatisfactorily explained in the textbooks and papers, or for more advanced teaching building on the fundamentals we had already acquired.

    Further, while your young correspondent likely did not see his request in this manner, it does not differ substantively from another request: I was refinishing my basement, and since you are a well-known carpenter and woodworker and I have having trouble getting the walls up properly, perhaps you could drop by tomorrow afternoon and just finish up some framing for me? Sure, it would take only a few minutes, perhaps, for you to review his website and make a few suggestions, but the point isn’t the AMOUNT of work, it’s the principle underlying the request and your response that I feel is important here.

    I certainly give away plenty of my time and advice – to friends, family, coworkers, trainees, etc. As something of a local computer guru, I don’t mind dropping by someone’s house to troubleshoot their wireless network or whatever. But they are friends and family, someone with whom I have a relationship. At work, I field many questions – but that is as part of community in which we all share and help each other. As a sporadic contributor to the forums at nikonians.org, I give away such advice on photographic topics as I have knowledge to do – but as part of a community in which I participate, share, and receive advice back at times as well.

    Anyway, long story short (not really), I do not think your response is inappropriate. There are many venues in which one can have one’s work reviewed; I have myself attended (and paid for) workshops in which a portfolio review was part of the workshop. I would not presume that anyone whom I have never met would be eagerly awaiting the opportunity to give me a free portfolio review.


    1. NL: You have beautifully articulated the issues…especially the part about it’s not the AMOUNT of work it takes to scan a web portfolio, but the principle. I’ll look for you on the Nikonians boards. Thanks! Bob

  18. Hello Bob,

    First of all I only recently started viewing your site and blog, and find it not only inspirational, but a great source of helpful information. I also realize to maintain such a current presence on the web is time consuming and takes effort.
    I think you were right on the money in your response to the student. As someone else said here, I suspect that many of these requests are ‘canned’ as well. I think the student can actually benefit from the advice in your response if they choose to. It’s certainly more helpful than no response at all, and the tone is appropriate and direct, but polite (to me).
    Maybe this is a generational thing. I know that in the business world, I’ve seen many new young hires who literally will sit at their desks all day doing ‘nothing’, because no one told them to do ‘something’. Definitely less self starters. Yikes, am I sounding like an old fogey as well? In any case, I think it’s impolite and presumptuous for a student to ask a ‘stranger’ to dedicate their professional time for free, and advise on their career development.

  19. No Bob… you were not too hard on him.

    I think it’s just a result of the “me” society that we live in now. People just seem to think that they are special and deserve the attention without any consideration for a persons time. I, like you, spent my time chasing the info for myself. I spent more that two years chasing a person that has been a legend in the industry for 30 years (you know him, but I’m not dropping names). It cost me a considerable amount of money to go to workshops where this individual was teaching. I was lucky, based on his approach we formed a relationship and he has been willing to share his experience and help me in a number of ways. However, I’m always mindful of who he is and his time. I don’t take any of it or the relationship for granted. That seems to be a lost respect these days. Sometimes I think it’s a respect that has been lost in a generational gap that will never return…

    You take care.

  20. Your reply is ‘spot on’ Bob, one learns by looking at a lot of pictures and you have no responsibility here. You did reveal a little soupcon of guilt about it which shows you are a caring person. As a first time poster (longer time reader of your blog) let me thank you for your Kerala pictures. As a malayali (you know what that means I’m sure) it was an emotional experience for me. Thanks for taking the trip and do go back!

  21. Bob, I have communicated with 3 pro photographers in the last 10 years. I went to Nikon school 2 years running because there was so much going on that I needed to see it twice. Bill Durrance and Sam Garcia were the instructors, Bill was very approachable during and after class, Sam not so much. Different strokes….
    I reached out to you in the days of anguish following a smash and grab of my (Bob Krist) camera bag, when my insurance wouldn’t give me the full price of the fast glass that was inside the bag. You took the time to tell me what you were carrying and what worked for you, as well as commiserating with my loss. You could probably be rude if someone pushed the right buttons, as all of us can be.. but I don’t think you were in any way out of line on this one.

    Thanks again


  22. Good for you, Bob; I get about the same number of requests weekly wanting advice on everything from entrance into the career of Art Therapy to the 20 question request, which, yes, also drives me crazy.

    I haven’t written anything as pointed as your letter, but you have inspired me to do the same. Can’t wait to draft my new canned response.

    And I love your work, btw.

    All best,

  23. Photojournalist David Wells has the answer to these type of inquiries. Check out his new site: http://www.photosynesi.com

    You get what you pay for! Bob

  24. wow, i can’t believe new photographers would even think to do that! i’m a bit disheartened to know so many people contact you… i find it rude really, or presumptuous. i agree with what you replied “When I was young, I had photographers whom I looked up to as well. But I would never have dreamed of contacting them out of the blue and asking them for feedback and free advice.” and i’m very glad you reply to these as you do.

    study those you admire, do your time, create your art.

    photography is not a corporate ladder you can climb by rubbing elbows with those who have more experience than you. yes, networking is beneficial but not if you don’t have a strength/eye for photography to begin with.

    thanks for a great article.

  25. Bob, I agree with you. I’m aghast at some of the assertiveness (aggressiveness?) coming from young people today. It may be that those who say kids have great tech skills but lousy social skills are right, at least in part.

    I get the same kind of emails from people who’ve read my book (It’s used in college courses.) or know someone who attended one of my speeches or workshops.

    You may appreciate the following response I gave to a young man who is about to be graduated from an Ivy League school. I’ve never met him but I’ve known his mother professionally from a distance over a number of years. He sent me a 400 word email which among other things asked that I submit a letter of recommendation to introduce him to management consulting firms that he will select an apply to. All I need to do is send the letter to each of the schools for him.

    Here is my response:

    I’ll be glad to look at your resume. As far as referrals, I can refer your mother without reservation to anywhere she’d like to apply, but it’s difficult for me to refer someone I don’t know. I’ll do what I can where I feel informed enough to do so and within the constraints of my client/speaking/writing/travel schedule.


  26. This post and comment section has been Extremely informative for me. Such an interesting insight into the topic. While I have never sent an email to someone like yourself, I will say that I have thought about it. Thanks for taking the time and effort to write the blog and share things like this.

    I have to wonder if some of the people that write to you don’t really expect an answer or for anything to happen, but send the email in the hope that you will look at their site and fall in love with it, and maybe pass their name on.

    After reading this post if I decide to write to anyone I will be very very polite and concerned about their time.

    After much consideration I won’t leave you my site. Although I would love for you to look at my work and give any advice you might have, I don’t want you to think that is why I wrote this.

    Again, I learned a ton from reading this,



  27. Hi Bob, IMHO, you were not rude in anyway, in fact you provided valuable input to him and the balls in his court to learn and expand his knowledge…


  28. I agree. There are a numerous amount of resources in which one can expand his or her horizons on a solo basis.

    I started shooting in 2009. I knew that no one but myself could make me a good photographer. I taught myself the basics and practiced using different exposure settings.

    ( I learned a lot from the Nikon School DVDs you hosted)

    Once I got comfortable with the basics, I went a joined a local photo club. Between competitions, forums, and guest speakers I have learned so much as well as taught a few things to others.

    You can’t wait for knowledge to come to you. You must go out and find it!

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