Throughout the years we have paid close attention to the business side of photography, featuring tips and words of wisdom from working pros in Maria Piscopo’s Business Trends column, Jack Neubart’s Pro’s Choice column, and numerous articles on wedding, portrait, stock, event, and other venues in which photographers, both full- and part-time, share their experiences on how they earn a living with their vision. Looking at it from the outside it can all seem rather daunting, but as with any business venture, dedication, hard work, and excellence of craft can pay off.
A common myth is that photographers make lousy businesspeople. The feeling is that because they are artists they are necessarily poor at marketing, shy about money, and unwilling to ask for rates that actually make a profit for the time and material expended. I can honestly say that this is a misconception. The successful photographers I know are hardly shy and produce excellent work that allows them to make a good living at what they do. Attitude, it is true, only gets you so far, but having a positive one about yourself and your work is one of the keys to success in this business.
You’ll hear different advice from those in the trade about how to get started. Some say you should start as a “generalist” and do it all before fate and disposition guide you on a certain path. Others recommend finding a specific talent and exploiting it—be that studio tabletop work, portraits, events, weddings, etc. Both, from my experience, can work, and the key is sticking to whatever path you choose and being watchful for any opportunities that come your way. And—these elements are key—always polish your people skills, manage your budget carefully, and create a business plan that looks one, two, and 10 years ahead.
Can art and business mix? Sometimes, though if you spell art with a capital “A” that might be a tough go. But if you see a part of your photography as a trade, as a craft, then you might be relieved of the burden of maintaining the veneer of being an “Artist” and concentrate on having your art serve as the basis for a career. There’s nothing more rewarding than being able to make a living at what you love to do while not losing sight of the fact that as a photographer you have something important to share with the world. Keeping a balance between business and pleasure is what it’s all about.
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