Practical and real photography advice, if you want to pursue photography as a career, or monetize your photography as a part-time hustle:
MODERN PHOTOGRAPHER Marketing, Branding, Entrepreneurship Principles For Success.
1. 10x Passion
If you want to succeed with photography as your career, you need to have 10x the passion out of anyone else you know. You must hustle 10x harder than your competition. You must be so ahead of everyone else, they look tiny in your rear view mirror.
I think I can attribute my personal success to my 10x passion in the field of street photography. I hustle 10x harder than any other street photographer I know, in terms of promoting the genre of street photography. From 2010-2017, I’ve published over 3,000 blog posts on street photography, personal photography, and photography 101. I cannot wait until I hit 10,000 blog posts.
To be frank, we are drowning in a sea of photographs, and photographers are a dime a dozen. The only way to succeed and differentiate yourself is to apply this 10x principle to all of the parts of your photographic life.
- How can you offer 10x the service and customer support than others?
- How can you produce 10x the content as a photography marketer/blogger?
- How can you make pictures which are 10x more unique, or better, than other photographers?
Or course, the 10x concept is just a principle to consider. It doesn’t need to literally be 10x. But I like 10x thinking — because it forces you to THINK BIG, and shoot for the moon.
2. Dominate a small niche, or create your own
Small is beautiful. To succeed as a photography as a career, don’t just become another wedding photographer. Rather, identify a small niche, and build your empire upwards. If the niche doesn’t exist (yet)— you should be the one to build it.
For example, instead of doing just wedding photography — you can specialize in the niche of “wedding street style photography” — where you photograph engagement pictures of the wedding in an urban environment. Or “candid wedding photography”— bridging the gap between wedding and street photography.
Or, if you want to start a career as a photography blogger — consider what small niche you can dominate. Don’t do general things like architecture, landscape, or portrait photography. Start very small and niche — maybe you can do only urban landscape photography, only focus on portraits for online dating profiles.
If the niche for your passion in photography doesn’t exist yet, start it. Start your own photography blog as a way of educating others why the genre you’re interested in is important, and how people can shoot it.
Even if your passion is a small niche like street photography, perhaps you can be more niche — focus on a city, like my friend Oliver Krumes or Martin Waltz in Berlin. Or Marcus Puschmann with his website https://streetsofnuremberg.com.
Or maybe you can make your photography style even more niche:
- Wedding photographer who only shoots 35mm film (hipster audience)
- Portrait Photographer who only uses digital medium format (for the high-end audience)
- phototrophy blogger who is focused on self-help or motivation.
3. How to know what your niche is
Be your own customer and client.
Which means, satisfy your own curiosity and craving.
I started this blog in 2010, because I wanted to learn how to shoot street photography, but couldn’t find any advice on how to shoot street photography. Therefore, I filled my own curiosity gap — learned on my own, and shared my lessons along the way.
Now in 2017, I’m very interested in the business, marketing, entrepreneurship of photography — how to brand yourself, how to stand out, how to make money, and how to make your passion of photography into your living.
You need to be passionately curious — and consider, how can you devote 10 years of your life to your passion and career in photography?
4. Keep your day job
When I started this blog, I had a secure 9-5 job working as an online community manager for a technology website startup company. $40,000 a year with benefits, and I was able to pay my rent with my job, and start this blog as a side-Hustle.
It took me at least 1-2 years before I built a strong following of dedicated “true” fans — and it took me another 4-5 years before I started to feel somewhat financially secure from my photography career as a blogger, educator, and instructor.
Therefore as a practical suggestion:
Don’t quit your secure day job to pursue photography as your career. Rather, build up your photography career on the side, weekends, and after work. Only do your career full-time once you feel 80% financially secure (you will never feel 100% secure).
I got lucky, I was made redundant after my company filed for an IPO (initial public offering on the stock market), and the value of the stock of my company went down. I was made redundant, and that was my impetus to do my photography full-time. It was a blessing in disguise.
5. Non-traditional success as a photography career
Of course, I also took the non-traditional route. I don’t make my living as a photographer shooting commercial work or making pictures. I make 80% of my money teaching photography workshops and seminars, and curating photography travel experiences.
Other entrepreneurs who inspire me include,
- Michael Zhang of PetaPixel — the most popular photography website online.
- Kaiman Wong, most popular photography YouTube star
- Bellamy Hunt of japancamerahunter — film photography
So friend, don’t think that to succeed as a photographer in today’s modern world you must just shoot photos (commercial, portrait, or wedding). Think outside the box, or frame.
- Start your own photography artificial intelligence startup to create algorithms to sort user pictures, and help them choose their best ones.
- Start a dating app that links photographers together.
- Start a photography equipment company — that sells visual products (like VSCO and their presets), or like what Cindy Nguyen does with HAPTICINDUSTRIES —sell products for photographers like backpacks, bags, straps, or books.
5. How to increase your value as a photographer
- Be picky about the clients you take on. Say “NO” to offers you are not enthusiastic about.
- Overpromise and overdeliver: Promise much in your marketing materials and exceed expectations.
- Increase your popularity: Write guest blog posts on popular photography websites and blogs, present at photography conferences, start a YouTube photography channel and provide advice and unique resources for photographers.
- Dominate a small niche in photography: Figure out which small niche in photography that you are passionate about, and devote at least 5 years getting to know everything about that sub-genre of photography. Attend workshops, interview leaders in that field, and continue to build specialized knowledge in that field.
- Charge premium prices for your photographic services: Charge 25% more for your photography services than you think you should. Provide additional value to your clients by offering additional services, and seek to provide a 10x better service than any of your competitors or anyone else in your fiel”
To learn how to pursue photography as a career, build a cult-like following, how to brand yourself, and how to monetize your photography, invest in a copy of THE MODERN PHOTOGRAPHER.