Everyone's journey towards building up their hobby to something they can develop a business from varies greatly. There simply is no one efficient way to go about it. We all not only learn at different paces, know different people, work in different circles and environments but diversely cover the myriad of facets that encompass delivering a finished product to a client. Everyone comes from a different background and presently it's become a lot easier to get involved in photography with the advent of the DSLR.
There is no one set path.
With that however, I believe there is a pretty broad consensus that as a photographer you should develop a positive images with the community and the people you work around. In an ideal world this of course would be easy. We're all human in the end, we work under time constraints, lack of information, misinformation, emotions and everything else that is generally involved in all aspects of our daily lives. As always there will be good and bad days.
I came across a few individuals recently that have left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. I'm of course not here to name names or gossip, but rather to state some of my takes on it all. I won't even really go into the details of any of it.
To begin, building up your image around negative attention may work in the short run but it will only get you so far. As big as a place may seem, the world we live in is really small, word gets around pretty easily and it's not long before being sneaky will get in the way of getting decent projects and jobs. I should hope the majority of photographers aim to bring their level up past the lowest common denominator.
Respect the people around you. I haven't been involved with the community here for very long at all. I've only been doing photography for a couple of years and even then, in that short period of time I've seen individuals who I've looked up to who I feel I've surpassed and individuals who were recently very new to photography who have blown past me. Playing politics with the people you meet will only affect you negatively in the long run. The person who you may feel is at a level below yours could be well ahead of you the next day. Treat those people respect, especially if you're trying to get involved, trying to muscle you're way in isn't going to always earn your a lot of respect. Bring something to the table rather than just politics.
People who live in shells and feel as though any project another photographer gets is a job you lost only shoot themselves in the foot. Being involved in the community and passing a long jobs to other photographers you may not feel you could do justice or have no interest in pays off in the long run. Those same people will bring you forward in your own goals.
Having those people around you helps with your learning, your access to gear and the people willing to help you out when you need it. I've lent out gear to other photographers, I've helped them learn some of my work flow when they ask and I've helped them on shoots when they need a second hand. Through this I've learned a great deal on a number of subjects pertinent to my own growth. Having friends who will help you out will help you improve a great deal, otherwise you're just on your own. See how far you can make it with just yourself as opposed to the help of others.
Ironically enough, a while back I had stumbled across a blog from someone from my high school who recently got involved in photography. I had followed the blog for a while and eventually made the decision to at least make a comment, one that had noted the positives of some of the images but also room for improvement. Mind you as dense as I can be sometimes I was still polite and sincere about it. My intentions were not meant to be harmful but unfortunately were viewed as such. Perhaps a bad impression from high school?
Regardless, it has helped me remember that positive criticism can be a huge aid. I for one don't go out of my way to get feedback but it's always welcome.
In the end I think as an individual you don't always have to agree with it, hearing it out and making your own decision will help you improve. As before, if you cut yourself off completely from that sort of thing you're only impeding your own progress.
I'm not one for negativity. I tend to gravitate away from those people.
Disclaimer: For someone who is not all that involved with the business side of photography, I sure do like to do a lot of word-smithing in regards to it. Take what I say with a huge grain of salt.
Also, I'm hoping to get back into the flow of things and post up some new shots and lighting setups/write ups in the next few days.