Good Ol' Fashionned Business Sense

In Freelance and Business, Pep Talks by David6 Comments


Two thoughts today, neither of which have much to do with blue phones or pink walls.

On the Vision Collective forums there is a discussion going on about “the moment,” the one that was your epiphany – that moment you knew you had to be a photographer. For many of us it was a moment where our life falls cleanly into two halves – that part before photography, and that part since. I think many of us feel like the photographic life is one lived with wider eyes. Maybe that’s why some of us are so passionate we go off the reservation entriely and start doing stupid things like calling for a boycott of the new Nikon because – GASP – it’s expensive. (seriously, a boycott? This isn’t a shirt made in a sweatshop or a despotic political regime, it’s a camera…)

I digress. What I was getting at is that first moment. It’s like falling in love. But expecting it to remain so magical, so effortless, is like falling in love when you’re 6. You just have no idea how hard love can be. No idea how tenaciously people have to hang on to each other if they want to one day celebrate a 50th anniversary together.

Tenacity. You can read piles of books about improving your craft or building a business and the smart money is on none of them telling you about the mojo of stubborn, stick-to-it, go-down-trying tenacity.

I’ve written before on how hard it can be to achieve your dreams. It’s only once in a while that opportunities come on a silver platter. The rest of them – almost all of them – come because you stuck to it. You still need all those other disciplines, a mentor, and lots and lots of actual shooting. But it will get hard and sometimes – often – the difference between the photographer that “made it” and one that didn’t is the strength of will to power through those hard times. To believe it will get better. Maybe not easier, but better.

While you’re giving the whole tenacity thing a go, consider this: most, if not every, opportunity in life begins with a conversation. Want more opportunities? Actively pursue more conversations with more people. Take your prospective client to coffee and talk with her. Have a photographer you respect and want to learn from? Take him out to lunch and talk.

I’m not suggesting you do this in a mercenary way, that’s exploitive and you’re likely to find this approach backfires. But being genuinely open to meeting new people, being proactive in doing so, and happily picking up the tab if they’ll let you – it’ll open more doors, and open opportunities to work with people you really enjoy and click with. I encourage you this week to finally connect with someone you’ve been wanting to connect with, or even another photographer – tell them honestly you want to pick their brains or introduce them to your work and that you’d like to meet them, take them to coffee, or share a meal. I met this week with a local photographer – Martin Prihoda. We had a pint, talked shop, and got to know each other with no hidden agendas or ulterior motives. But by the end we were hatching plans for some new opportunities that will both be a lot of fun and put some bread on the table. (BTW, HERE’s a great video of Martin shooting the band Delerium. Great stuff.)

I know this doesn’t sound like cutting-edge business accumen, but sticking it out and connecting with more people are two commonalities among every photographer, or otherwise, who’s doing what they love with any measure of success, however you define that.


  1. Pingback: » David on Opportunity

  2. Funny thing… I never had a moment where I had to *be* a photographer (and in fact I’m not, really), but I did realize I must photograph. For me, it’s about the act, not the state of being.

  3. David,

    I echo Kate’s post, no epiphany, simply a slow build from being told I have an “eye” for photography, to being complimented by professional photographers, to finally deciding if I am going to do this, I might as well learn to do it well.

    Now my friend and mentor, Alain Briot, says I “come alive” when we are out shooting.

    Thanks for the great posts!

  4. Great idea about meeting other photographers for discussion. Yesterday I met the co-owner of Natures Best at his office. An incredibly nice fellow and so dedicated to helping others to instill their vision.

    If your in the Northern Virginia area and want to join a group of photographers for dinner, contact me. A few of us have dinner and just talk. No egos, no competition and lots of cooperative ideas.

    I recommend everyone send one email today to a photographer that you really admire. Who knows, they may actually respond!

  5. Timely!

    I’m having coffee this afternoon with the local director of the International Rescue Committee to discuss “opportunities.”

    Up with coffee!

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