Photography As A Business

Posted on 2/28/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

I just returned from ASMP's Strickly Business 3 weekend in Philadelphia. There is another in Chicago April 1st to 3rd. It was absolutely great for laying out where the industry is today (not particularly great) and offering ideas as to how to re-invent your business for the future. Check out

There are no easy answers, but if you must keep working for at least a few more years you must re-invent your business. The only thing that is sure is that doing the same old things in the same old way won’t work. The world, business and photography are all in tremendous flux. Photographers must figure out how to adapt to these changes.

Here are a few thoughts I took away from Strictly Business 3.

It’s an Exciting time to be a photographer but a Challenging time to earn ones living taking pictures. The photography business has changed dramatically and the changes are happening at an exponential rate. New business models are being invented. Business models that work today will fail.

If you want to earn a living from your photography you’ve got to treat it as a business. That often means doing some things that are not your favorite things to do. Be willing to do work you don’t particularly love if it fulfills a financial need.

Clients hire us for one reason, but usually maintain the relationship for different reasons. Instead of looking for one time customers, look to build relationships.

Get an attitude adjustment. Photographers may be required to adjust their image of who they are in order to see the opportunities around them.

Too many photographers focus on being better at their craft than at business.

Charles Gupton used to be a commercial photographer specializing in executive portraiture. Several years ago to take up farming, but after a few years discovered that he really missed photography. He came back to photography a couple years ago and has now built a successful personal portrait business. He says one thing he learned is, "The hardest day of working as a photographer is easier than the easiest day of farming."

To be successful, going forward photographers must be nimble, see things in new ways, collaborate (which means finding people to collaborate with) and be problem solvers.

In his presentation Blake Discher said, “The industry is in decline, but you can’t let your brain know that.” However, I think you can’t ignore the reasons for the decline and keep operating as if nothing you do needs to change. I’m sure Blake would also agree with that point.
A screen based culture is coming on strong. The future to storytelling and communication will be more in video than print. Stories can be told more effectively with audio, script, music, motion, information graphics, narration and images that with images alone. That's what the customers will want regardless of what many photographers would like to give them.

Interrupting marketing is no longer working. Today’s marketing is about building relationships one person at a time and the power of the networks of relationships to spread the word.

In the past most sales were business to business. Organizations would take our images, package them and deliver a finished product to end users. Today a much larger percentage of total sales are direct to the consumer. Usually the consumer uses the image in a narrowly focused way. There is a greater “fragmentation of audiences”. In the future many successful photographers will find ways to deliver more of what they do directly to end users. Of necessity these uses will need to be priced in dramatically different ways from what we have been used to.

Figure out the specific aspects of photography that you love. If doing that does not provide enough revenue to support yourself then do it part-time and find some other way to earn the revenue you need to support yourself.

Copyright © 2011 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Gildo nicolo Spadoni Posted Feb 28, 2011
    Click on ''what if...''
    300,000 new photogs are coming into the field each year.
    ''Its either diversification or ...

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