On many occasions you will be out there when someone stops you after you’ve photographed them, asks what you’re up to and if you have a card. Sometimes they will ask you if you could send them a picture, but certainly not always. I think it’s a good thing to pay people back though, as a matter of course. You take so much from people as a photographer that I think this balance needs to be addressed.
So, my advice is for you to offer to send a picture rather than waiting for them to ask.
Give them a card, and then it’s up to them to contact you for their photo. Oddly, most people don’t follow up, but at least you have tried. Others end up following you and become almost supporters, so it’s got to be good karma right?
Skip back to 1988, if your minds can or dare to go back that far…
I was producing a graphic design solution for a project while in my second year at art school. I’d chosen to work a packaging design around the subject of fly-fishing. I didn’t fish myself, but was fascinated by the flies that were tied by patient and skilled hands.
I was introduced to this warm-hearted gentleman called Jack, a fly fisherman who tied his own flies. Despite being pretty ill, he gave me some time, and I went to photograph him in his little home studio, making these beautiful creatures from wire and feathers. We got on well and he invited me on a fishing day at a local lake the following week. He was really struggling, but he was genuinely interested in what I was doing, and wanted to follow the process through for my project. Using the flies he had been tying he caught a couple of nice trout, and gave me one to take home, wrapped up in newspaper.
I completed the project including all the final packaging a few weeks later, made some prints for him which I had ready in an envelope. Then forgot to send them. When it came to graduation show time, I tried to contact Jack to invite him to the opening night, only to hear that he had died. Despite having the intention to, I hadn’t followed up and paid him back for his generosity of time and spirit, and also wondered if he had thought the same.
It’s haunted me ever since.
Not wanting to end this on too much of a downer, do use this story as impetus to be extra generous with the people you photograph. Mostly we work with no engagement, but often we do. So, next time you’re out there, offer your pictures up by way of thanks, and importantly, make sure to send them straight away.
Have a great week!