Running a successful photography business can sometimes be overwhelming for both experienced shooters and beginners alike. There so much to know about equipment, shooting techniques, digital capture, logistics, Photoshop, marketing practices, cash flow, tax strategies, and successfully managing the projects that come your way. There’s always a lot to know and the learning process never seems to end.
Whatever you want to do in photography, it’s likely someone has already traveled much of the path before you so there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of photographers who have already demonstrated their ability to successfully run a business while simultaneously leaving an indelible mark on this profession.
Although it might not be obvious at first, probably the quickest way to get to your own path in photography is to simply model someone who’s already done what you want to do. Using role models is a very efficient way to quickly gain experience without the usual risk or penalty that having the experience yourself can sometimes bring. Potential role models have already found themselves in situations that you’ll likely encounter and made the mistakes that you don’t need to repeat.
“Modeling is the compass that anyone trying to navigate the business of photography will wisely use to reach their destination with as few detours as possible.”
Nearly every successful photographer I know has selected at least one shooter from which to borrow, steal, sample, appropriate, or use as inspiration the lessons someone else has learned. And to be clear, it’s not their pictures that should be appropriated, it’s their wisdom. Modeling is the compass that anyone trying to navigate the business of photography will wisely use to reach their destination with as few detours as possible. The critical task is to model someone who has expertly navigated the path ahead of you.
Today, there are a number of photographers who could deeply benefit anyone shrewd enough to follow their example. Dave Black, Robert Seale, Brad Mangin, Darren Carroll, Corey Rich, Lucas Gilman, Keith Ladzinski, and Jim Richardson are just a few who have been extremely savvy at running their photography businesses. Each of them has done it uniquely, so in addition to the wealth of knowledge they each possess, it also demonstrates there is no single correct way. The other distinguishing characteristic is they are all very public about what they do and how they do it. In other words, all of them are eager to share the secrets of their success.
When you reach the levels of achievement that these photographers enjoy, competition takes on a different meaning. It’s not that they don’t have rivals, but because they’ve each differentiated themselves so well, the rivals are limited in number. As a result, they don’t need to treat their business or their projects like a covert operation and they feel comfortable sharing their knowledge and experiences freely.
So, take them up on their generosity. Immerse yourself in their experiences and get where you crave to be in photography. It’s one of the easiest ways to arrive there ahead of your competition.
Joey Terrill is a Los Angeles-based photographer with clients that include American Express, Coca-Cola, Disney, Golf Digest, Major League Baseball, Red Bull, and Sports Illustrated. He teaches workshops and speaks at seminars including the Summit Series Workshops, WPPI, Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, UPAA Symposium, World in Focus, and Nikon School.