We continue our "What I Wish I Knew" series with a fantastic feature from Robert J Hill. Hear why mastering the art of integrity can save you from making mistakes in your own business.
Where I am today has greatly been shaped by who I was when I started my photography career yet above everything, I’ve learned the most from the mistakes I made along the way. My story as a photographer started over ten years ago when I was just a teenager. My father bought me my first camera after I had obsessed over videography for some time. My passion for photography grew fast and eventually took over video. After a year of learning, I launched my first business. I was thrown in with the wolves, having no clue what I was doing.
I could tell you a hundred things I wish I had known back then but nothing more so than the value of integrity. If you don’t already know, let me help you in your business by telling you that the greatest asset you can acquire with your clients is their trust. Integrity paves the fastest path to building trust with your clients. Do what you say you’re going to do. Be where you say you’re going to be on time. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. It’s extremely simple but it’s what I have found to be the hardest characteristic for most people to master.
When I started my first business at the age of sixteen, I shot professionally for years before finding burn out. I spent several years working a nine to five job before returning to the industry with a focus and a vision. One of the last events I was hired for before burning out was a commercial portrait session. The company wanted me to come in and photograph all of their executives for new promotional materials they were putting together. They threw a big party for the higher-ups and I photographed people throughout the night. I went home afterwards and never downloaded my cards... Several days went by and another shoot came up. I arrived at the shoot and before starting, I immediately went into my menu and formatted my cards. Yes, the images from the week before were officially gone. I didn’t even realize it until later that night. Needless to say, my stomach dropped when I figured it out and I spent the next several days trying to create an excuse or a story to get me out of it. I eventually contacted the company and let them know I had gear malfunction and the images were gone. Unfortunately, they bought it. Although they were mildly disappointed, they decided to ask me back to do the shoot all over again. A few weeks later, they threw another party for everyone and I came back in, to set back up and shot. The night lasted several hours and I retreated back home afterwards. I feel asleep that night without downloading the cards…
Several days went by and another shoot came up - you sense where this is going. I arrived at the shoot and just before starting went into my menu and reformatted my cards, yet again, deleting everything from the shoot that a company threw for a second time and hired me to capture a second time. I don’t think there is a greater fail in the photography world. You can imagine the feeling. You may even be cringing thinking about it. I had no integrity and this incident along with others brought that reality to surface more and more over the next several years. Shortly after this event is when I quit and shut everything down, leaving my camera on the shelf as I officially became an employee for someone else. Years later, when I returned to the industry, having integrity was my number one priority towards everything I did. Over the last four years it has dramatically affected my business in the best ways possible.
If there is anything I would ever start by sharing when it comes to starting your own business and having the responsibility of capturing other people's stories, it would be to master the extremely simple art of integrity. It will change your life and it will change the lives of those you choose to work with. It’s simple and the rewards from it are unbelievable but the consequences of not having it will pull you down faster than you can imagine. Have integrity and continue to be awesome.