surviving your own photography career: Doug Menuez

Not too long ago I had a creative/personal breakthrough with my work. In short, it amounted to my snapping into clarity about what I wanted from my creativity, my profession, and ultimately, my life. A path to this subsequently emerged, and I’ve revealed the thrust of these epiphanies–without eloquence–on this blog over time.

In a wave or recent email and Facebook inquiries on this sort of stuff, I was tempted put together a summary post on the topic, but two things quickly crossed my mind:

1. My personal journey through these ideas is already sprinkled throughout this blog as best I can muster for now. An hour or two spent perusing will reveal what I’ve written.
2. A peer of mine, the talented and seasoned Doug Menuez, has recently summarized all these points better’n I could ever say it in one post anyway. From his eloquent essay for Editorial Photographers last fall:

…If you create a book [portfolio] that you think will get you work based on your perception of what sells, or on the advice of anyone who steers you away from your core, you have a complex problem ahead. Yes, you may find some work that way, which is really tempting short term, while you tell yourself you’ll do the real stuff on the side or in the future. “Show the work you want to get” is a lasting truism and if you have chosen to show work other than the purist version of your creative vision then whatever jobs do come in will be based on that work. There are many shooters who do this exact thing and end up with a middling level of success, stuck on a financial and creative plateau, slowly starting to run out of gas. After a few years they hate their their work and life in general. They are getting divorced or leaving the business or pursuing whatever diversion eases the pain. They are not living the dream. They are not challenging themselves creatively because they did not give themselves permission to be who they are as photographers in the first place. This is the road to being a burned out, bitter hack. Boring. But by defining what you show based on what you truly are and what you want to do, you create a self-selection process: you are not for everyone. You are different. Be courageous enough to show that you see in a way no one else does…

[Click the ‘continue reading’ link below.]

To read the entirety of Doug’s inspirational post, read it here.

37 Responses to surviving your own photography career: Doug Menuez

  1. Tanya Plonka February 11, 2009 at 2:32 pm #

    Thanks for sharing, this is a very inspirational quote and a fantastic article (and brutally honest!). How are you going to start booking the shoots you want if you don’t SHOW the shoots you want and show the potential clients who you are?

  2. Jonny February 11, 2009 at 2:40 pm #

    This has been my struggle for the last while. I keep getting calls to do weddings. I don’t want to do weddings, but it pays the mortgage, so I take them. What I want to do is something totally different, but feel i’ve nearly pigeon holed myself before my career has even launched. Fortunately i’m still very young, so i’m not worried… but all the same.

    I know you mentioned this in your photoshelter keynote (which i’ve watched at least 20 times, and seriously taken to heart). If you want to get paid to shoot something, then you need to put serious time into pursuing that work on your own time, much like your hasselblad masters work. All said and done, thank you for reiterating this. It certainly strikes a chord with me.

  3. somethingcheeky February 11, 2009 at 2:43 pm #

    That is such wonderful advice…I am starting to build a portfolio and this has really helped clarify that it is okay to stay true to my own vision. Awesome….thank you!

  4. gene x hwang / orange photography February 11, 2009 at 2:45 pm #

    Good stuff here – our studio is evolving and this is one of the things I’ve taken to heart and it helps to keep things fresh and to keep you inspired – words to live by!

  5. Stuart Turner February 11, 2009 at 2:48 pm #

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. kirksample February 11, 2009 at 2:53 pm #

    Very well put. You can take it one step further and apply this to any career. Be real to yourself and everything else will take care of itself.

    Thank you Chase for your blog, insight and willingness to share your knowledge. Your blog is a wealth of knowledge and inspiration for any of us creative professionals. Thanks.

  7. garyallard February 11, 2009 at 3:14 pm #

    What a great article. Thanks for the heads up on Doug Menuez & Editorial Photo site.

    Mr. Menuez, if you're following comments; Thank you for the inspiration. Such rich insight and so valuable to any creative at any level in their career.

  8. Brett Schwager February 11, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

    Arriving yesterday in wet/snowy Seattle, straight off the plane from San Diego wearing only shorts and a tee, I reached for a Starbucks coffee by sheer impulse for something warm and familiar.

    I found something more in a quote on the cup that reminds me of this post:

    “Failure’s hard, but success is far more dangerous. If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever.”
    -Po Bronson (Author of What Should I Do with My Life)

    Thanks for the good read Chase. Google’s mighty handy at helping recover thrown away quotes.

  9. Zak.Shelhamer February 11, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

    Well said, Makes me feel better about the stuff I do and need to do. thanks!!

  10. Marc Andre Jourdan February 11, 2009 at 5:45 pm #

    Love that one… :)

  11. Dennis Pike February 11, 2009 at 6:15 pm #

    This is an idea that I really feel like Chase has been putting out and I have been receiving over the last few months. It’s an idea that I want to live. It’s scary at the same time though, I am in the very fledgling stages of my career and I want to be happy with the work I get, but I also constantly worry that the work that I truly love and I truly love to shoot will not be received well. But I am trying to live it and hopefully one day a few years in the future I will be sitting over a beer with Chase, thanking him for inspiring me to shoot what makes me happy

  12. Eric Asistin February 11, 2009 at 7:47 pm #

    self examination at its finest..thanks for sharing

  13. Ryan Smith February 11, 2009 at 7:54 pm #

    Thanks for this one Chase, and thanks to Doug for a great article. Very poignant and timely for many of us I’m sure. I’ve been working to stay true to this philosophy and find my own path, so this was very inspirational for me.

  14. stephenzeller February 11, 2009 at 10:32 pm #

    Wow Chase… those are very powerful and moving words. Thanks for posting them and cheers to Doug for speaking the truth.

  15. Simon February 12, 2009 at 12:20 am #

    Chase (and Doug),
    Thanks so much for posting this – it is exactly what I needed to read.

  16. jewelrose February 12, 2009 at 10:05 am #

    Great peer to have!

  17. Roger February 12, 2009 at 12:05 pm #

    Chase – this is so incredibly true.

    I’ve just started on the journey of finding my own voice and letting myself be what I am rather than what I think I should be.

    In a short space of time, I have built up more business and won a major award.

    It was a leap of faith to begin with, but it is paying off and I’m much more passionate about my work than ever before.

    I also see colleagues fading away at the same time – both creatively and financially.

    Doug’s words are the key to long-lasting success, they really are.

    Thanks for sharing them.

  18. Anonymous February 12, 2009 at 6:22 pm #

    Great info. Really helpful and insightful.

  19. Greg February 12, 2009 at 9:31 pm #

    Totally cool man!!…Its tough to do but it payz off….Thanks for posting Big Chase Ive been norrowing down what jobs i want lately and deciding to turn down weddings and thats crazy in my town which doesnt have a big commercial industry, so im preping my portfolio doing what I want but with that safety net of what they want also but that safety net keeps being pulled away as I get confirmation when I read stuff like this!!!…. Much respect for posting this “Keepin it real” kinda stuff..

  20. Will February 12, 2009 at 10:41 pm #

    Actually Chase, I find that you are quite eloquent. That is one reason I enjoy your blog so much.

  21. Terry February 13, 2009 at 5:49 am #

    AMEN brother!

    Almost 20 years ago I walked away from a “good job” as a photo editor to enter the unknown, uncertain and completely foreign world of the self employed. My one guiding principle was then, and is now — “only do what I love. Only work for people I like.”

    In that time I can honestly say I fell from the path just once (for money). That check cashed bitter sweet and I knew it. Lesson learned.

    It isn’t always easy to keep on point, especially in this economy, but perseverance reaps rewards. And, inner peace is, as they say, priceless.

  22. Federico February 13, 2009 at 9:23 am #

    probably you already know it, but I think this site could be inspiring


  23. Danie Nel February 13, 2009 at 11:15 am #

    That’s a great article. Been through some of it before…

  24. ingalbraith February 14, 2009 at 10:29 am #

    i needed to read that

  25. Rick Lohre February 19, 2009 at 9:43 pm #


    Clarity Chase…crystal flippin’ clarity on what we want out of being a visual artist is what keeps us from being a “button pushing monkey” :)

    I found this to be more true than I ever realized after talking to Judy Herrman and Rob Haggart last year.

    I was searching for answers to several creativity paralyzing questions, and they all could be found in one simple question, what is it that “YOU WANT TO DO”?

    My business, career and life are headed down a path that I am happy to call my own. Figuring out what you want to be/show/shoot….Doug nailed the landing on that one.

    Funny thing is it never ends…I recently posted on my blog about a book I read…that was the start, what you explain in this post is the second phase of clarity I took late last year. I’m sure a year down the road, I’ll have something else that requires a breakthrough.

    Thanks again for sharing your journey and experiences bro!


  26. Jonathan March 2, 2009 at 7:33 am #

    Thanks for posting this one. His advice really hits home on a lot of fronts. Great work and incredible advice.

  27. Anonymous April 21, 2009 at 8:32 am #

    Sort of an elitist assumption about photographers who don’t “live the dream”.

    Divorce and hating your job as a projected outcome from not “living the dream” is just extreme hyperbole.

    Life is a series of trade offs. Not a zero-sum endeavor.

    Who says you can’t make the necessary trade offs with that you “want to do” and balance that with what one “must do”, in order to preserve that which comes first…. family.

    Creativity and vision are key in life and I’d never relegate them to nothingness.

    Too often I read blogs by creatives who make these sorts of extreme comments which give me the impression they’re dedicated to the whim of inspiration above an beyond their other obligations.

    Sorry for the “anonymous” comment. I can’t find my Blogger info.

  28. Dan Coogan April 28, 2009 at 3:56 pm #

    I’m pretty happy with the work I’m pursuing at the moment, fashion… I never thought that I would shoot fashion, or even like i, but you know what, I do.

    Not that I’m making any money at it YET, but I have faith that those in the know will eventually find their way to my work and hire me to shoot the work I love.

    I also love the work I did in the 90’s as it was a creative challenge lighting large shots of business people… I will continue to do the best I can when I have the opportunities to produce.

    I also appreciate all the amazingly talented photographers sharing their work. I am in awe many times, and try to deconstruct what I see so it will help me do my work better, by adding to the photo education I’ve been pursuing for 30 years now (can’t believe it’s been that long, but I got my first camera in 1979).

  29. Booker Laughlin November 18, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    Thanks for that article

  30. Krystina Phonharath November 26, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    I think that I use that awesome article to my work :)

  31. Vernice Louie December 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Thank you for the excellent post

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