How to Rise Above the Bully-Tog

By Guest Blogger: Sarah Vorva (Beachi Keen Photography)

From elementary to high-school, we worry about bullies. We fixate on our hair, makeup, clothes, and whether or not we sit with the popular kids. When we graduate from high school and enter the adult world, we begin to move forward, and put those rough days behind us. However, with the advancements of technology and social media, bullying has become excessive, creative, and even more devastating. As a photographer, not only are we met with criticism from clients who under value our work, we are also met by the dreaded “Bully-Tog.”

A brief history of my own dealings with the Bully-Tog, which so many of us can relate to when starting out. When I started photography on my own, I was a newbie surrounded by a saturated market filled with photographers who were on my level, a little better than me, and well-seasoned. Everyone vying over the same clients that lived on a little rock. I felt that I was not going to succeed in this market, but I pressed forward. I joined forums and started networking. I met with other photographers, asked questions, read, googled, and Pinterest my way to becoming better. I was met with a lot of criticism. Photographers who become popular forget that they too were once a newbie. We all start at the bottom, we portfolio build, and work our way to the top. And of course when we are doing portfolio work, we charge a fraction of our competitors. We are growing. We are learning.

While reading photography forums, I began to notice different levels of photographers criticize and complain about “How the up-and-comers were stealing away their clients.” I would read and argue my point that “We all start somewhere, and sometimes are too cheap, but we are growing.” The most disheartening rebuttals would always be that “ The newbies would never succeed,” or “If you can’t start out charging, XXX, then you shouldn’t photograph at all.”

I spent many nights in tears and stressing over if this is what I really wanted to do. I had a passion for photography, and always received compliments on having a good eye. So I pressed forward. Slowly, I became better. I started out with a kit lens, and a Nikon D5200, and within 8 months, I was able to afford a better camera, and better lenses. One day, I surprised myself. I actually felt like I was on the same level as those that once criticized me and told me I should just quit. Many of those that criticized began to refer their clients to me. It was a dawn to a better day. However, it was short-lived. My first time to submit a picture on an editing forum for help led to several rude comments. In dismay, I asked my husband, “Why can’t others just rejoice in the fact that I accomplished something huge?” I was proud that even though I had some work to go on an image, I was able to photoshop an image beautifully. 

We are adults in a professional community. If every negative remark was met with a positive one, so much more could be accomplished. Sure, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but that opinion does not always need to be shared. We live in an instant gratification culture and need to remember that once things are said through social media, it’s there forever. Words read or heard stick with us. Words hurt, encourage, move, and inspire. What kind of words do you share with others?

So, If you’re that photographer who has succumbed to the infamous Bully-Tog, I say, “Rise above and succeed!” You can make it and if no one else believes in you, believe in yourself.

Here are a few other things that have helped me along the way that I encourage all of us to do, no matter where we fall on the photography scale.

* Keep pushing yourself- to be better, and to find that “aha” moment. It will come, it just takes practice and growing. 

* Never give up on your passion and dreams- if photography makes you happy, keep shooting. There is so much to learn about it to help you along the way. 

* Be kind and be brave-Thanks Cinderella! I find that bullies are more intimidated by you than you of them. For every negative remark you read and hear, write down at least one positive remark. It really does work! And during those down and defeating days, you have a whole list of positive reasons why you’re passionate about photography. 

* Find a mentor or a group- This is important. We need people in our lives. When our spouse and family get tired of hearing our photography talk, we need to have someone to talk with. Photography is so much fun when you get a group together and just shoot. I was fortunate to find such a group here in Hawaii. There are over 100 of us. We have a broad range from hobbyist, to amateur, to seasoned photographer. We all share our accomplishments, our frustrations, and guide each other along the way. That is what we are supposed to do; help each other out. We even refer clients to one another. How cool is that? 

* Take a step back and look at your progress- It’s such a humbling and rewarding experience when I look back at the accomplishments I have made in such a few short years. When you compare your very first shoot to your present shoot, it’s amazing to see the progress. 

I hope these few words have put a little encouragement in your day and your journey in photographing. It’s not always about the race to be the best, but the journey of growing along the way. 

Meet Sarah

Many say that photography is our passion. However,  I share the same passion with the best person in the world, my mother. Photography has always been a part of my life. My mother used an old canon film camera to take pictures of my brother and I every step of our lives. From there, I always had a camera in hand. I took many pictures throughout grade school and junior high. My mother and I started the yearbook at my school when I was in 8th grade, and from there, that passion ignited. In 2007, I bought my first DSLR camera and shot for family and friends, but nothing too serious. I put the camera down for the next few years to pursue another passion, children’s counseling. In college, I attained my M. Ed. for counseling, graduated in 2014 with Honors and packed my bags for Hawaii to live with my husband. It was a difficult transition, and with so much beauty surrounding me, I began shooting again. This time, I set up my own business. Within 10 months, I increased my prices by 260%, upgraded my lenses and equipment, and placed 13th place in the Shoot and Share photo contest. It’s such a humbling experience to see where life can take you. I never thought I could do 2 things that I am passionate about and love it everyday.  

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1 Response


June 12, 2015

I don’t know your background or training, so I won’t address you personally. With that said, I think the perspective of different photographers must be addressed.

Photography is an art. It takes training (whether formally and/or as an apprentice) to understand lighting and composition, etc. Great artists study the great works of art from years past and spend hours honing their trade. Does training mean they will be always be a great artist? Not necessarily, but it develops them and makes their skills richer.

I have in recent years noticed an up cropping of untrained “photographers”. Equipped with expensive cameras and Photoshop, these people are advertising themselves to the average consumer. They see pretty colors and fancy filters. What they don’t see is bad lighting, poor composition and bad touch ups. I can’t tell you how many large canvases of poorly composed bridal portraits I have seen—I’m embrassed for the subject/bride because she paid $$$$$ for really unprofessional work. These pictures are being called “art”. While they are a form, trained photographers are frustrated that it is “dumbing down” the art form. Like other professionals, I believe that in order to call yourself a professional photographer, you should be licensed and insured. While I agree there is probably bullying going on among professionals, I think the majority is between the trained photographer and the amateur.

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