Why Do You Suck at the Business of Photography?

As creatives, we tend to live our passions with every fiber of our being and eventually, some of us try to make money at this thing we once saw as an all-encompassing hobby, but what happens when you really try to make your passion a profession? Are you trying to make your photography a business or are you in the business of photography?

As a very general assertion, creatives tend to not enjoy the business side of their creativity. If you’ve ever tried to turn your images into a profitable business, you may have had a few hiccups along the way. For some of us, we stop at those initial hurdles because we don’t have a direction or the will to keep moving forward. Others have none of these issues and keep plugging along gaining clients and improving their businesses because they decided that they were going to be intentional about the business and brand they were creating. For those of us that are not business minded but are trying to take this creative pursuit into a full-time career, there are quite a few photographers that are giving you a leg up if you’ll take advantage of their message.

Lindsay Adler is one of those photographers that’s trying to help not only the industry but the individual entrepreneur that’s begun this journey of becoming a professional photographer. Last week B&H Photo Video hosted the Depth of Field Conference in New York City where a number of top tier photographers gave platform talks on several different aspects of photography and business. Adler was one of the speakers who focused on the business side of photography and dove deep into her initial struggles with pricing and creativity in the beginning of her journey and compares those to today. 

Adler, who is also a Canon Explorer of Light, has given this talk once previously last year to her class at Texas School of which I was in that class of 30 students for a full week of hands-on learning. She's an excellent teacher and communicator who explains her real world struggles with pricing and creating imagery for clients early on in her career, and then explaining how she is attracting the clients she wants to work with today. She simply doesn’t hold back on the subject she is discussing which makes this 52 minute talk (it’s worth it to watch the whole thing) a great video to sit down and digest especially if you are struggling to engage an audience and clientele that meets you where you are as a creative with subjects that thrill and excite you.

A couple takeaways from the video reminded me of a quick discussion I had with Stan Moniz in the Alabama Hills of California late last year. We were both shooting around Mobius Arch and as we were chatting he said, “You have to make your own work.” Moniz was traveling at the time putting together imagery for his ambassadorships that he has with several companies, but he produces work that he wants to. Adler states the same thing about creating with your own purpose in mind. We are valued and hired for our creativity and vision which no one else has. If we’ve created our own style, we have a unique grasp of our art that no one else can copy or do. Our unique value proposition is how we gain clients, grow within our market, and our vision is what we are hired for in the first place. 

If you are looking for more tangible and real world business expertise from a photographer that is based more on the commercial side of photography, check out the Fstoppers’ tutorial Making Real Money: The Business of Commercial Photography with Monte Isom. Being in the business of photography is a continuous exercise in growth, adaptation, and perseverance. Though this profession may be tough the only limits we have are those we set for ourselves. 

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3 Comments

Kirk Kinnell's picture

This was a good find...Appreciate ya!

Ted Chen's picture

Some of the best business advice we could get.

her work is just outstanding