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on Jan 18, 2012 in Friday Thoughts

The Biz – It’s All About the Photograph!

“How can I make money with my photography?” The #4 question I’m asked, moving up from #9 in the last qtr (the things I keep track of). The quick answer is yes but it’s just not that simple. In fact, when our son Jake (on the lift with Casey shooting Super Corsairs here) decided to follow his parents path of careers, to say we were concerned is an understatement. The one giant advantage Jake has over most though is he has seen and heard for most of his life the trials, tribulations, successes and rewards his parents have had in this industry. Time is one of the essential ingredients in making it in this biz! The question on the table though is, “How can I make money with my photography?”

I don’t have all the answers, I’ve not even worked in 1% of the photo industry. I only know those things that have worked for us. To me it’s real simple, you wanna succeed long term then you’ve gotta first succeed in the editorial market. I’m constantly hearing from photographers how tough that is (because it was so easy 30yrs ago). I use to curse that, it being so tough but now I welcome it for so many reasons. The main being is I think it’s supposed to be tough so only those shooters with a passion for photography and not the drive for just money “make it” (and I don’t know what that is yet). What I’ve said from the beginning still holds true today. Without the photograph, you have nothing to sell, print, put on the wall or page or in the the show! That means real simply, you wanna make money, you have to shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, and then shoot some more!

Many who I’ve told that too just look me in the eye and say one way or the other, “sure!” Typically with that I reply with a question, “You ever seen a photograph in a magazine that really sucked?” Most of the time folks say yeah. I then ask, “You have better then that in your files?” And quite often the answer comes back, yeap! That leads me to one of my favorite sayings. The photographs you see in print are not from the best photographers, but from the best business men. And those who have the best photographs and are the best businessmen are the ones who last decades. And how do you acquire both of those skills, the photograph and the biz? The editorial market place IMHO.

A year ago, Sharon & I were pretty concerned with Jake’s decision to follow us. This are changing times. The photography biz is not a 40hrs job, it’s a 365 24/7 passion and is all consuming and most are simply not cut out for the ups and downs and the constant push to create content. Moving the clock forward a year, while we still have that basic parental concern for Jake, as for his biz, we have lots of confidence now. Yesterday is a good example of why. He was at his bank yesterday morning dealing with accepting int’l payments for articles he’s had published in Germany and in the afternoon at the new airport terminal in Bozeman where a permanent display of his prints is getting ready to be hung. Other then taking him out shooting, we had nothing to do with those successes. He earned these rewards all on his own by shooting a lot and working the biz. This doesn’t include the covers, dbl trucks and articles he’s had published in the last six months. This is a 23yr old showing that some old fashion business practices with solid photographs still does work!

Many ask, and I’m sure this piece will open the door to more questions, just how do you break into the editorial market place, how do you make money? We use to teach a 4 day workshop in our office to answer that one question. That means that not in this blog posting, an email or G+ response can I answer that question for you. It’s a bloody long answer to that one question. If I could sum it up I would say this. EVERY one of you can make it (but probably won’t) if you have the passion and time. With those two ingredients you will have the photographs and with the photographs, you can learn the biz (face it, if I can, anybody can). If you want it, I mean really want it because you wanna tell your story visually and are willing to make the scarifies for your passion, then the sky is the limit. And here’s the key, the biz, it’s all about the photograph!