Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Do You Have What it Takes to Make it to the Top?

Just found this article by fashion photographer Melissa Rodwell about the business side of photography.  It applies to all photographers and is worth remembering.   Check out more from Melissa here

If you want to make it in this business you not only have to be a great shooter and a highly inspired image maker, you also have to know the in’s and out’s on how to survive the business side of your career.

I’m going to give you some advice that not only took me years to learn, but I sometimes had to learn it the hard way. Even though I went to a great college, the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and I had several business classes towards the end of my schooling, it still didn’t totally prepare me for the Big, Bad, and REAL World of running a successful photography business. This 3 part series is going to be broken down into the following categories: Positioning, Portfolios and Marketing, and finally Negotiating and Estimating for Jobs. I’m going to keep this intro short and dive right into it. No better time than NOW to get your business head together and not only SURVIVE the industry but THRIVE in it!


  • Get a Point of View and stick to it:
    • Find your voice, your vision, otherwise known as your style, and stick to it! Art Buyers/Editors/Designers want to see a unique Style; they look for consistency and cohesiveness in your portfolio. They want to know what they’re going to get when they book you for a job. If they’re looking for photographers to shoot their next story, it doesn’t matter to them that you can also shoot food and weddings, they want to know that you will shoot an amazing fashion story that showcases YOUR STYLE. Find your style and make it YOURS.
  • This is a Business, not a Pajama Party:
    • In other words: You can’t act like a Rock Star until you’ve made it. The most fun I have is the day of the shoot where my creativity is at its peak and I get to do what I love most; shoot fashion. All the days leading up to it however are not all fun and games. You are a business professional  and you have to take this business seriously otherwise you won’t be taken seriously. What does that translate to? Basically, you won’t work.
  • Agencies and Clients work in their own best interest. You need to do the same:
    • It’s a bittersweet reality but there are NO imaginary friendships in this business. Everybody is out for what suits them the best. You have to do the same.
  • Photography is a business built on perception:
    • If you start at the bottom it’s way too long a climb up to the top. Yes, you have to pay your dues but you also need to present yourself from the start, as a business person who is serious about their career.
  • Believe in the value of your work:
    • Do you know what this means? It means you DESERVE to be PAID for what you do. Your work has VALUE to it. Be proud of it and believe in it. Don’t let people take advantage of you because you’re an artist. And let’s face it: if you don’t believe in the value of your work, no one else will!
  • Get out of the Poverty Mentality:
    • This brings us back to the previous point; know your worth and don’t undervalue yourself. This is a fear driven business. Try to keep the fears to a minimum.
  • The level you go into an agency situation is the level you will stay at:
    • If you do a job for less money than you deserve, thinking you will be rewarded next time with a bigger job, guess again. When there’s a bigger job, the agency will hand it out to a bigger photographer. You stay at the level you started with them. Aim HIGH!

That’s it for the first part of this 3 part series on Succeding in the commercial photography world. Commercial photography is competitive. Fashion photography is FIERCELY competitive. If you’re not in it to win it, you won’t get far. That’s just the sad reality. When people ask me how I’ve lasted this long in the business I tell them this: I absolutely love fashion and photography and I can’t see myself doing anything else but this. I am passionate about it. But I can tell you the truth: I have witnessed others who maybe had a lot of talent or were technically savvy but if they weren’t IN LOVE with fashion and photography, they didn’t end up far into their career and eventually quit and chose different paths. So get yourself motivated, learn the business side well and you’ll be that much closer to SUCCESS.


Post a Comment