Have you ever seen a photograph taken for a large, expensive advertising campaign and thought: "I could have totally taken that picture." I see photographers charging unbelievably high prices for mediocre images all the time. It makes me wonder; what is more important, the quality of my photography or the business of selling it?
We all want to believe that as artists, if we are good at our craft, the money will follow. There is obviously some truth to that but I've found that the jump from fairly successful to ultra successful has very little to do with artistic talent. The business side of selling art is what really matters.
Most people will agree that Justin Beiber is a relatively talented singer (especially for his age) but is he so good at singing and song writing that his talent alone earned him 55 million dollars last year? Of course he isn't. He has a team of song writers, producers, marketing specialists, choreographers, and stylists who are all working together to make Beiber what he is. Photography works the exact same way.
One of the most controversial and successful photographers today is Terry Richardson. I actually like Terry's work but the majority of photographers can't get over the fact that he makes millions of dollars a year using only direct flash. Many photographers go as far as saying that Terry is terrible at photography but sources have said that Terry made 58 million dollars last year. Terry has built a brand around his "look" and because everyone now knows his name, he can charge whatever he wants. Is he really that much better at photography than we are?
The widest range in the value of photography is in the fine art world. You can go into an art gallery in almost any city in the world a buy a photograph for less than $100. Andreas Gursky currently holds the world record for the most expensive photograph ever sold. In 2011 Gurksy sold the image "Rhein II" for 4.3 million dollars. I have no doubt that there are art collectors out there that truly believe that Gursky's work is really THAT good but we know it isn't, it comes down to business. The price of his last work of art and the marketing and name recognition he possesses sells his prints, not the photograph itself.
The sad truth is that there is a good chance that none of us will ever make millions of dollars a year for our photography alone. Getting to that level is so difficult and so rare that it may not be worth worrying about but the idea of business is still massively important. In fact, it may be more important than your photography itself.
Everyone is a photographer today
Everyone wants to be a photographer today. It's fun, and honestly it's easy. You may want be a rockstar but you can't pick up a guitar and instantly start playing a song but anyone can pick up a camera and start snapping away. If someone wants to learn how to take better pictures there are endless resources available online. Fstoppers was built to help people become better photographers. There are hundreds of thousands of photographers out there who are actually better at photography than I am, and they do it as a hobby and I do it as my living. The only reason I get paid and they don't is because I am slowly learning the business side of photography.
It may be fun to learn to become a better photographer but only true professionals are interested in learning the business side of things. Photography is so enjoyable that people do it in their spare time, for free. Very few people look forward to the weekend when they get to learn about marketing strategies. If you want to be a pro, you will have to force yourself to learn this stuff. It may not be fun, but you want to do this for a living right?
As I've always said, the fastest and easiest way to become a professional photographer is to assist one. This is actually true for any field. Instead of paying to go for a school that may or may not be able teach your real life skills, you could get paid to work for someone who has already done what you want to do. The photographer you work for could potentially answer any question you could come up with and they will also answer questions that you never even thought about. By simply watching another photographer bid on a job, set up lighting, or interact with a subject you will learn an endless amount.
That being said, not everyone has the luxury of assisting. I get emails all the time from photographers who tell me there are simply no professional shooters in their town to assist. Although there are some online workshops that touch on business I only know of one that completely focuses on it.
My buddy Jason Kirby based created a 6 month online course that completely focuses on the business side of photography called the Photographer In Training Program. If you're looking to "go pro" or you simply want to take your business to the next level you should check it out. Due to a new contractual agreement Jason's class will never be discounted again in the future but this last class will be 50% off. The first class to this course is 100% free so you can decide how you like and if you decide to buy the full course and you aren't satisfied, Jason will give you a full refund.
Whether you learned the business of photography from another professional, a class or workshop, or trial and error, you simply can't ignore it. Photography is an incredible profession, but you will have to master business to become a full time pro.
But enough of my opinion, I want to hear from you. Do you believe that success is directly related to artistic talent or are all forms of art a business just like any other?