The outlook for photographers is not all bad. In fact, I run into photographers (online) all the time who are doing well and their business is growing. One photographer I spoke with recently said his business was up 20% this year and has been up 30% on average each of the last 5 years. How is that possible? I asked him to explain why he thinks he has been so successful in a dour economy. Here’s what he said:

For years I have been doing all of the expected marking: advertise in sourcebooks, online, emails, using social media and blogging. You’ve got to have a little bit of everything going because eventually you will hit on something and you may not know what it was that stuck. I think of it more as brand building for the long run than any one job. I love working on my marketing and advertising, because for me it is a way to help drive the direction of my career and getting the work I want. Ten years ago I had a very specific vision of where I wanted to be and I really think that has been the key to it all. That and persistence every single day, if I am not shooting I am marketing.

Here are other key points to why my business is growing:

Easy To Work With
This means not only helping to solve problems, but also being passionate about the entire job and not just the creative side. It’s also, having a good time on the shoot or at dinner or even having a good time traveling.


Sure we’d all love higher fees but the reality is they’re not always there. It’s like dining in a restaurant, if you want Salmon and they’re out of Salmon, don’t you want the waiter to recommend something else or offer another solution? Clients are the same way. Photographers need to be problem solvers, they need to propose solutions to a roadblock, not complain about it.

I know this one is touchy because most people think lowering the price means lowering the fees. You don’t have to approach it that way, you can solve production issues in ways that are cost effective. Simply choosing a different location to shoot can reduce costs or going through the estimate with clients, because one shot out of 5 is really through the roof on the budget. Explain that and maybe that shot is the least important so they drop it. Give the ideas and alternative solutions based on the brand and what they want to communicate. That is why they hired you.

Other solutions include: reducing your crew, doing without the motorhome, using real talent, shooting close to home, finding more local crew. If you have to travel with a big crew, costs really add up so you can negotiate group rates, stay in less expensive hotels to reduce them. Also, watch extras like overtime, shoot an extra shot or 2 a day or shoot gorilla style. Clients appreciate when you are looking out for the budget and it’s possible to reduce the budget without lowering your fees.

Many times things change once you get to the location and start shooting and I completely understand when clients come up with new ideas and want to change things at the last minute because I was an art director for 5 years before I started my photo business. If you do your pre-production before and everything is set you can adapt and make it happen. Sometimes this effects the cost of the shoot and sometimes I do not bill additional for it but not every decision I make is financial.

When clients ask me what I think or if I think something is headed the wrong direction on a project I tell them and give them my reasoning. They appreciate it as long is it is coming from an honest place and you are be constructive and not just complaining.

If you work with a staff and or a rep make sure they have the same integrity and honesty as you. This was the biggest decision for me in getting a rep and I have an awesome rep.

Being a true part of the creative process
Be a part of the creative process from the first phone call to the last, not just during the shoot. I have many clients now that involve me in initial concepting even if they do not know who the photographer will be yet. I get those jobs 95% of the time. I also have many clients that ask for feedback on the layouts after the shoot. I give my honest opinion.

I do not just shoot what clients ask me to shoot, I shoot it with my vision and my creativity. But, this is not about creating fine art, I am taking all the info I know about the brand and what they are trying to accomplish and then I apply my vision. At the end of they day the client appreciates it and understand my value as more than just a technical person that understand how to work all the fancy lights and equipment.

Be Polite
for those times when you just can’t make the budget work no matter what, or you don’t get the job, be gracious. I turned down several jobs last year for budget and schedule reasons. I always leave the door open for future work.

People are really responding to my vision
I think the slower economy has made clients re-evaluate all the excess over the last several years and want to get back to the basics. My style is more honest, direct and real feeling. That is just a suspicion of mine and not really justified by specific examples.

Personal projects
If you have nothing new to promote that you’ve shot for a client, promote yourself. Clients like to see what else you’re made of and chances are if you pour your heart into it you’ll ignite a new passion. Creative Directors, Art Directors and Art Buyers love talking about personal projects. I find these to be great conversation topics with clients I am working with or have worked with because they can feel your passion.

I have actually increased my marketing and advertising this year. I am religious about doing marketing and do it every work day I am not shooting.

If you have a rep remember it’s a partnership. They need you to participate in the process, they need new work to show. My rep also supports and understands my creative goals beyond the pure business side and I think that is invaluable for any creative.

Surround Yourself With Good People
I have a great producer/assistant on staff and it has really freed me up to focus on the bigger picture aspects of my business. She also has honesty and integrity in abundance. I never have to give a single thought to how she will interact and work with clients.

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  1. This is really great insight into the photography field. So many blog are overflowing with the negative news. It is good to hear of someone succeeding by focusing on the business basics and not reinventing the wheel.

    Thanks for sharing!


  2. This is a great post Rob! I just shot my first advertising campaign and while it was strictly non-profit I was involved in the creative process from the beginning and found the art directors and creative directors really responded well to that. In smaller markets where boutique agencies are the norm I think a willingness to be involved really resonates with them.

  3. Yes, yes and yes. It’s no wonder why this photographer is busy.

  4. Great, great article and though it’s common sense to me, it is not that way for every photographer I know…

  5. Excellent advice. I couldn’t agree with every point.

  6. This guy understands and lives the photographers gold rules. Thanks for the boost Rob.

  7. great article.. great read – I have not even close to becoming a full time photographer and I’m not sure I’ll do it full time but it is great to get some guidelines like this. thanks

  8. I am feeling really good about 2010, have been applying those thoughts mentioned above and look forward to what is starting out to be a busy year.

  9. Those are indeed golden rules.
    I have to suspect that this photographer’s background as an art director helps bridge the usual identity/experience/culture gap between art directors and photographers, and certainly helps smooth over many of the misunderstandings that make collaboration and frankness problematic. Here’s evidence that it can be done, though, so it’s worth aiming for.


    He has hit all of the points. Notice folks how he increased his budget for advertising????? AND markets every day??? Its not just the bucks. Its the
    values and the work ethic. I could repeat this story 5-10 times with clients I work with, the efforts, the results are the same. As I have said before and will say many times again, everything has changed and nothing has changed. We may be shooting digitally instead of being film based. We may be sending images to our clients via the internet rather than delivering them in person, through cabs or bike messengers. We may be talking with clients over the internet rather than over a lunch table. But the VALUES and work ETHIC we choose to use as we obtain work and service clients has not changed at all.

    • @selina maitreya, I always value your motivating posts. 2010 is already showing positive signs for me because I’m doing everything that this photographer is saying.

      In the words of Thomas Edison – “Everything comes to those who hustle while they wait.”

      • @Tim, Another huge Bingo for you Tim! You are positioning well and will be on buyers minds when the industry turns AND it will.

  11. Thanx, I really enjoyed reading this… it’s brings good insight to us young guns in the industry. And what is stated, I’m working on… slowly but surely!

  12. Good one, those who quit will never succeed (I know, cliche as it is I tell myself this everyday). I might be living tight right now but I won’t quit. I am waiting to see what “sticks”. Same approach on this end.

  13. Great way to start a day blocked out for marketing. Thank you so much. Tenacity, common sense and clear business acumen can support the creative process everytime.

    • @ellen herbert, I tweeted this too! Great minds think alike (and, of course, you were the person who recommended this blog).

    • @ellen herbert, Thanks for sending me the link to this. I think this blog post showcases the attitude we need in order to survive and thrive as creative people in the new order of our industry.

  14. […] 13, 2010 · Leave a Comment “Photographers must be problem-solvers.” (- A Photo Editor […]

  15. lots of good info here and I thank you so much. I have been a photographer for sometime now and feel my business has been growing also. But your right I spend so much time marketing more than ever. Blogging, website, source books, email, adbase, and mailers. But I must say in doing all this I haven’t received the big jobs I am pushing for. I really want to land some bigger new clients and wanted some feed back. Also if you have any marketing tips would love to know

    thanks again

  16. Awesome message! I hope more photgrpahers will read this. it shows hat this doesn’t have to be another downer year! Me I am excited and looking forward to doing a lot of business.

  17. Who is this photographer? I would like to see his work? Also, I wonder where he is based and why types of clients he shoots for? That is important when you’re thinking about the industry as a whole…

    • @Clark Patrick, I am the photographer referred to in the post. Feel free to check my website for my portfolio, clients list, location etc. Hope it helps.

  18. Thanks for this, I just took a break from my marketing to check my daily reads and this is better than the caffeine in front of me. Great boost. I’m totally aligned with what he’s saying.

    OK – now back to those e-mails…

  19. Glad to hear some good news within the photography industry.

  20. Thanks Rob for such a good “positive” post – it reiterates a lot of what I encourage my clients to do, just as Selina has also pointed out – so thank you for sharing something gooooooooooood!

  21. Thanks for the positive post. As long as working hard and being a good and honest person still means I can get jobs, I’m hopeful for everything that lies ahead!

    Last year was a great year for me, and I pretty much mirrored what you talked about in this article. Days without paid shooting jobs are not days off.

  22. that’s awesome to hear for this photographer.

    wonder if their experience is what others are also noticing. even a simple poll put up with a few options “doing awesome”, “sluggish” or “horrible”.

    ps : any reason for the cone of silence on not revealing this person’s name?


  23. I am the photographer that sent the info to Rob. Feel free to check my website for my portfolio and client list if you find that helpful. On assignment until Monday so I may not be able to respond back quickly to questions etc.

    • @Jason Lindsey, Thanks for stepping forward, Jason. Awesome work. :-)

    • @Jason Lindsey,
      Yeah, thanks for being so open with this Jason.

      I thought it would be good initially to just focus on the words and that’s why I took his name off the story.

  24. “Also, watch extras like overtime, shoot an extra shot or 2 a day or shoot gorilla style.”

    Guerrilla-style or gorilla-style?
    Meaning what?

    • @A Monkey, “The concept of guerrilla marketing was invented as an unconventional system of promotions that relies on time, energy and imagination rather than a big marketing budget.” from Wikipedia.

      Same idea for photography. Creative ideas, unconventional thinking and imagination are one of the reasons they hire you why not apply it to the production and budget as well. Shoot on the street, work with real locations, shoot people you find on the street, work fast, smaller crew. The smallest crew I work with like this is a producer, an assistant and myself. You get very real images and you keep production costs down while keeping fees up.

      It does not work for every campaign but it maybe a solution.

      Working this way does not lower the creative fees in fact it may raise them because you become more valuable the more you contribute.

      • @Jason Lindsey,

        Actually the term guerrilla in regard to photography used to refer to the concept of going into a location without permit/permission shooting quick and light, and getting out without getting caught. The term may have broadened.

  25. Somerset Maugham once said “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp”.

    In some ways, that’s the key. Keep at it every day like clockwork. Shooting, marketing, advertising, learning, growing. Persistence and time will bring success.

  26. A good news story…. thats so great. Thanks Rob…. cheers Steve

  27. Wonderful words of wisdom Jason, thank you for sharing. It also helps me to ask the client if the had a specific budget so I can try my best to stay within it.

    Often I’m asked to bid on a job without budget knowledge, if sense the client getting squeamish about it and I might lose the job, I will always then ask what they had in mind. If I’m able to accommodate their numbers, I will. It’s certainly better than not getting the job at all…

  28. This has been mentioned a few times – what are source books?

    • @matthew, They are books art buyers use to find photographers. search for workbook, found folios, at edge and that will give you a feel for what they are.

  29. Great Post. As much as this may be common sense to a lot of us, there are plenty of photographers out there that operate the exact opposite. They wonder why things stop or slow down. Serving others willingly and passionately go a long way.

    This is a great site! I just was referred to this site by a fellow photographer. Thank you for sharing.

    David Burke

  30. great post, it’s so easy to get down these days, it’s really nice to hear something positive right now. I keep feeling like just when I get something going the client goes under or cuts there budgets.

  31. thank you for sharing this APE and Jason. What Jason seems to have which not everyone does, is a positive attitude.

    I think this is something you are lucky to be born with, because if, like many photographers (and people in general) you tend to look on the less positive side, it is nearly impossible to keep this kind of UP focus on a day in day out, year in year out basis.

    Rejection must not phase him, whereas for many, being turned down is the sound of doom. Jason must just bounce back and market more. Wow. How envious am I???

    I’ve looked at Jason’s work, it is nice of him to have revealed himself, and the photographs are indeed nice, and professional, and it looks like he’s found a great bunch of clients.

    If you could bottle Jason’s outlook, you could sell it. Photographers will pay for anything they think will help, from consultants to portfolio reviews to whatever — it seems all you need is persistence and a smile. Who knew?

    • @jack, Rejection still hurts, but the real competitive side comes out when I am rejected. I feel even more motivated to market to get the next job.

      I would also say I am positive but it is just as important that I see the things I do everyday helping to fulfill my goals of shooting the kind of work I want. The more I shoot the kind of work I want and the more passionate I am about the work the better it turns out. It is kind of a positive feedback loop.

  32. Wonderful photography, Jason. (I checked out your site.)
    And wonderful blueprint and inspiration for other photographers for these times we are all going through.
    I’ll be sure to mention your post in the Marketing section of PhotoStockNOTES. -Rohn Engh

  33. Great stuff here, thanks! I especially like the easy to work with part….shoots should be fun, for everyone.

  34. Jason- why does this not surprise me that you are the one- you have always been such a positive and lovely person. I have always believed positive people bring positive things. All the successful photographers I know who are positive and do the points that you write are having one of their best year ever. A lot of the wonderful people who responded to this are all successful because of living by that philosophy both photographers and consultants.

    When you believe in your self and your work, others will to!!!

    • @Suzanne Sease,

      Thanks Suzanne! You guided me early in my career and I took your advice to heart.

      • @Jason Lindsey, aw, thanks!!!! see what I mean, you are such a great person. That is why clients love you!

  35. I like the personal project part; is so true. Thanks.

  36. Great article.
    To be honest and flexible and having a personal contact with clients is fery importent in this work.

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