Hi, I'm a guy from Arkansas.
People pay me to take pictures sometimes, and sometimes they don't. Today is a day where no one is paying me to take pictures, so I'm writing this blog post because Brad Moore asked me to, and he seems like a nice guy (on the internet).
I've been shooting pictures for the last seven years as my only source of income, but that doesn't necessarily mean I shoot "full time" – some months are slow, and some months I can barely keep up, and most months are somewhere in the middle. Photography feeds my family, pays my mortgage, and sometimes I get to buy beer, which is quite honestly everything I could have ever hoped for in life.
I shoot for the New York Times, Reuters, Getty, AP, various magazines, blah blah blah, who caresâ¦ I have a camera and some gear and I'll point it at pretty much anything I'm paid to point it at.
I know quite a few photographers, and the ones who are successful year after year are the ones who shoot to earn a living and pay their bills, while the ones who want to be cute and vintage and Instagram-famous usually end up becoming real estate agents.
So if you're afraid you might be getting dangerously close to listing your first home, here's one of the more important things I've learned in my career as a photographer:
If your pictures are boring, try making them way more complicated.
Most people will tell you to keep it simple, stupid – but in my opinion, its actually really difficult to make a simple photo interesting enough to build a career on. These days, everyone has a camera and maybe even a light or two, and the internet is flooded with simple photos that really aren't that memorable.
The only way to get anyone's attention in the current photography market is to try things that are complicated, difficult, and a gigantic hassle – but when its done right, it pays off. By going the extra mile to try something crazy, you are telling your client (and more importantly, your future clients) that you'll stop at nothing to give them exactly what they want, and much more.
Get in the water. Use a dozen lights. Wake up at dawn. Contact whoever you have to contact to get a permit. Spend an entire week diagraming and outlining your setup, and your backup setup, and your backup to your backup. Pre-light it. Rent gear if you don't own it. Hire models that know what they're doing. Take your time. Make photos that no one in their right mind would go to the trouble to make. If your models aren't working, get new ones. If your location sucks, change it.
Most photographers don't get into this business to get their hands dirty, and sweat, and spend twelve hours pre-lighting a shoot, but that's what it takes these days. Getting everything to work right is obviously much harder when you complicate it, but in the end, that's what makes you better, and that's what separates you from the pack.
The biggest hindrance to your career as a photographer is not the limits placed on you by everyone else, it's the limits you place on yourself.
Don't dumb yourself down to match the attitude of everyone around you, and don't shoot crap photos just because it's a crap paycheck.
Treat every shoot like it's the cover of Vanity Fair, and your entire career is riding on getting this one shot right, and trust me – your business will grow like never before.
Now, since this is a photography blog, here's a few of my pictures…