I can’t count the number of times a client taking one of my workshop gives me a quizzical look when I reply to one of their questions “I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you later in the course.”  “WHAT?” they’re thinking, “I’m paying you to be an expert in the field of photography and you don’t know this simple question?”

I’ve worked with ‘experts’ in many fields most of my adult life as most of you have I’m sure.  As I read the major photography blogs, forum discussions, testing sites, critique sites, etc, etc, you’d have to be blind to not notice the plethora of different opinions surrounding the same issues/topics/equipment/images.  All from professional experts.

Can all these ‘different’ opinions be right?  If not, can they still be professional experts?  The answer to both questions is a resounding YES and the mindset which allows this answer, to me, defines the very essence of the “confidence” of a professional expert.  In other words the realization you “don’t know it all.”

Don’t get me wrong, there is a huge difference between having a solid opinion and supporting it in a public forum, or many such opinions born from experience or skill and equally supported (what most inaccurately call a “know it all” when in fact they should be saying “knowledgable.”), and thinking it’s the only opinion that counts, or will work, or is the ultimate truth about such matters.   THAT defines a ‘know it all’ and it also exposes weakness in character, people skills, and the quiet confidence of a real expert.

I can’t count the number of times a client taking one of my workshop gives me a quizzical look when I reply to one of their questions “I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you later in the course.”  “WHAT?” they’re thinking, “I’m paying you to be an expert in the field of photography and you don’t know this simple question?”

There would be a few different ways I ‘could’ respond to a question I don’t know.  I’m sure you can fill in more than a few from your own experiences both negative and positive.

You see, a ‘real’ expert realizes they can’t know everything and this is one of the lessons I try to teach my clients.  It’s not necessary to know everything.  Its only necessary to know you don’t know everything, so when faced with a task or challenge you’ll know it’s okay to not know everything and be able to move past that.. and then you're free pursue the answer in one of the many ways possible. 

That question the client asked?  It’s important to them.   I might not understand why they asked that particular question at that particular point in time.. but they do.  It might help fill in a blank in their knowledge, connect some dot to the topic we’re currently discussing, or any number of things.  A good teacher and someone with even a modicum of people skills will understand this and answer the question if they know, or promise to get back with the answer if they don’t.  AND in the process make the questioner feel good about asking.  After all, there are no stupid questions.  Only stupid reactions.

Until next time..