The Business Side Of Photography

There comes a point in your photographic life when you might consider making money with your camera. It might be a life’s goal from the start, and you put the time into assisting, attending workshops, and even taking formal lessons or enrolling in a school dedicated to the craft. But more often than not it’s something that occurs to you along the way, something that sticks in the back of your mind as you lay awake at night. You consider it because of your love and dedication to making photographs, and your feeling that making a living with something you love to do would be a good way to go through life. But the question remains—just how do you get started, how do you make the transition or the first step?

Every photographer I know has gone through numerous stages in this process. It’s not like you can just apply for the job in the paper. Most photographers are entrepreneurs, family business, single operators, or studio associations who work on their own, with their spouse or a few associates. They begin by doing weekend warrior work and then count on word of mouth to get them busy. They pick up work at business or charitable events, or find their way into doing portraiture because they are good at it, or get into weddings because they showed up at a family member or friend’s event with a camera and got praise for and enjoyed the work.

Yes, there are institutional positions, what we used to call “industrial” photographers, those in law enforcement, transportation and construction and medical fields. These positions are not discussed much in the glossies since they do not involve cavorting with models on Bimini, but the folks who do this documentary and record of job photography are solid photographers who practice their craft day in, day out with admirable professionalism and skill. They work their way up and into their professions, following an almost apprenticeship-like program as they learn their craft. Many begin in more formalized photography schools or programs and find their passion and niche as they go.

Yet, when you talk with working pros today they tell you how much the profession has changed, about the impact of inexpensive cameras that don’t require much knowledge or technique to get good images, and how the flood of images from walkabout amateurs has all but ruined the stock photo market. But there’s more to being a working photographer than owning a clever camera, and more to getting images seen and sold than having a nice website.

While we cover the prospects for pros in numerous articles, columns, and interviews throughout the year, in this issue we concentrate on the business side of photography and talk with photographers who are willing to share their experience and expertise. It’s clear that there’s much more to marketing these days than in the past, something that an excerpt from Scott Bourne and Skip Cohen’s excellent book, GOING PRO, helps point out, as does our interview with Chase Jarvis.

There are numerous opportunities, and obstacles, in turning pro, and the choice for that path is not an easy one to make. It is as much a lifestyle as an economic decision, though money matters must be strongly considered, as always. But there are ways to get going and thinking about this, and we hope this issue aids in your endeavors.

Shutterbug On The Web
Our web page at is a rich environment for photographers that is filled with photo and imaging resources, shooting and lighting tips, equipment reviews, and more. Among the many
full-length articles are tests on:
• Olympus E-P3
• Sigma DP2x
• Fujifilm Finepix X100
• RadioPoppers
• Rogue FlashBenders
• Calumet Genesis 300 B Monolight

Just go to and type in the name of the product in the Search box.