How To Blow Your Career In Photography

Here’s a sure-fire way to blow your career in photography:

1. Take lots of photos.
2. Get on twitter.
3. Start a blog.
4. Assist for another photographer.
5. Buy a better camera.
6. Create a “style” that’s all your own.
7. Hire an intern.
8. Get an agent.
9. Do behind-the-scenes videos.
10. Get a studio.
11. Franchise your business.
12. Live off your stock library.
13. Sell your prints.
14. Get some gear sponsors.
15. Teach workshops.
16. Do a book.

Now you’re confused.

Ok, so my point is NOT to avoid doing any of the things on the above list – there are lots of good things in there. My point is that old recipes die hard. And guarantees are few and far between.

By following some old-model plan for how to be a photographer, a filmmaker, a creative whatever, you’re surely doomed. Because there isn’t one anymore. If you’re not……actively looking for a way to differentiate, to blaze your own path, to nuke the mold, your chance of survival is slim and your chance of raging success is even slimmer.

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Jota says:

umm, the only thing that will get you noticed is the style you embrace. Not only the style, is what you create with your mind(talking about the style). The point is you get the attention of people with your own way of capturing an object or action. Be the best friend of your DSLR and you’ll see what beautiful things the machine will give birth to. Always have with you your best friend cause things happen only once and whn you catch that once in a lifetime moment.. that moment can take your career where you never expected. There’s no list anymore now the world whats to see creativity at a raw and refreshing point to the eyes. “You survive making pictures coming to life”

Jeff Dolan says:

Great wake-up call. Keep ‘em coming!

Cécile says:

Nice, and sound more than right to me.
In one word(or so) do not forget the big picture: yourself; life and achievement are not recipe based they evolve, cakes are (and even there…)!

I do and would like to be better in photography because I simply love it. The passion while doing it and the results you get when out of the hundreds, one turns out to be something makes me feel good and heps me feel ease after a week of scheduled routine in the office.

Maybe I haven’t thought about going up or taking the next level yet because I’m still a newbie. But this post really makes me think twice and self-contemplate.

Daf says:

Post was/is mostly about techniques to market onself or get/keep work etc.

I think similar could be said about style and “inspiration”.
Was just reminded of this post and thought it might be relevant.
http://www.aphotoeditor.com/2010/03/26/ask-anything-copying-other-artists/

About the whole craze in levitation type shots. Why do people think it’s so unique these days…. Yes it may have been crazy and different at one point, but that time is long past.
Or I’m seeing so many fashion shots with faked multiple exposures. I don’t like it to begin with but the fact that so many people are doing it just makes it repetitive.

(rant over)

Alberto says:

Chase, man… you are give me hope, please follow up and if you care tell me what do you tink…
1. Take lots of photos.( I dont, I print all my shots, cant affort it)
2. Get on twitter. (already trapped on FB, enough)
3. Start a blog.(me no speak english very well, nobody will follow my blog)
4. Assist for another photographer.(this is an hard one, my ego will get in the way big time)
5. Buy a better camera. (I prefer to buy a better lens)
6. Create a “style” that’s all your own. (no way, why re-envent the wheel?)
7. Hire an intern. (I prefer to be a landlord than a tenant)
8. Get an agent. (who?)
9. Do behind-the-scenes videos. (please dont take this off from me)
10. Get a studio. (I dont like studios, its like to go to the gym, prefer outdoor location)
11. Franchise your business. ( I only manage to see one photograpy business in Australia get a franchise and when I pass by I feel like to stop and order half chicken & chips)
12. Live off your stock library. ( I dont think that I never had one)
13. Sell your prints. (NO WAY!)
14. Get some gear sponsors. (That would be nice, I hope will happen, but at the moment my T-shirt “SELFSPONSORED” fits me well)
15. Teach workshops. (I went to one, they try to teach me that to make lots of money in photography, you have to put the camera at 10fps and P mode, forget about M mode is old school. I failed)
16. Do a book. (Books are beautiful, but the spelling thing gets in my way again :)
17. I added this one , Having bacon and eggs every morinig will blow first your liver and after your career as a photographer….

Now you’re confused. Im actually not, lots of hope in this blog, I’ll let you know if Im going to get something good out of this.
I do have the impression that the “thinking out of the box” concept is a common ground for lots of people to talk about, but reality is that there are more people in the box than out and you have to deal with them every day.
Always a pleasure reading from you, keep up with the outstanding work, you make the difference.
Ciao
A,

Nate Weber says:

So glad that other people find this true. The point isn’t to throw the traditional route out the window, it’s to make calculated decisions and stay focused on the end goal.

Ivan says:

Yeah, I know.

It’s figuring out what (and how) to do something that’s different that is the hard part.

How about a list of things to inspire creativity?

Bimal Nair says:

At first sight, this scared me Chase. But gradually am finding sense in what can go wrong with any of these points. I guess your point is not to blindly follow this path and wait for wonder strike.
Well, another thing that has been bothering me since a while is how do we as photographers get to market our services? Is direct marketing on the roads only the cheap way? Its odd to do and is extremely rejection prone. Plz help!

Andy Stuart says:

I get your point Chase about aiming for Tomorrow not Today, and obviously somethings like:
Take lots of photos.
Sell your prints &
Buy a better camera.
Are a given as necessary to success and there will be somethings that maybe don’t even exist yet that photographers can use to set themselves apart from the rest, as Getting on Twitter and starting a Blog did for you.

Which things on your list would you suggest to a photographer setting out today are likely to aid their chances of success for tomorrow ? Some are surely more likely than others.

Bluestill says:

This is like deja vu because my business partner and I were just talking and listing the things that we enjoy most about photography, and making a to do list for future projects, and just about everything on this list is on our paper except for get an agent, which is an excellent idea which somehow never crossed my mind. Nothing felt better than that first sale, and it was a photo that I would have given the LEAST amount of thought to ( I believe it still holds the record for my highest sell yet). What I am saying is that this list could just possibly become my bible.

Adam says:

Chase,

Blog – check
Second Shot – Check
Better Camera – Check
Blog – Check
Twitter – Check
Studio – Had (moved)

Ok now that I have those checks in the block. I know having a full time job limits me on this, but I can’t afford an intern and I have been asked about workshops in the past, but no one follows thru. They want ti for free. Tried living off stock work and it seems to me that the market t=is to saturated already for that particular market. Working on the book as I type this. As for sponsors and an agent. That is the part I can’t seem to grasp much less find anyone to give me the time of day. So this is my question:

Where do I find an agent and sponsors?

Bogdan says:

First three done! Now…what was that about “your own style”? Where can I find that on the Internet?:)

Vinny says:

What an awesome way to explain this—now I know ervyethnig!

Tanner says:

Just the read I needed to boost my self criticism on the route my personal business is going. Thanks Chase!!!!

Tanner says:

In a good way!!!

fas says:

That is one of the best ways one can do it. Did you do it that way?

Chase says:

NO. i did not.

Chase says:

If I was a betting man, I would say one particular northwest gig harbor photographer fits that bill to a “T”.

Your right on the money here – Some of the best photographers I’ve seen are now packing shelfs at the local supermarkets because they never learned how to sell themselves and no one has a clue anymore.. I work at a studio lighting company – so I get to meet everyone who is into photography at some stage in the industry. my boss even met you once in Sydney Australia and gave you a small porty light to test and tell us what your thought of it..

david says:

not by chance you are looking for an assistant?
;-)

Mark Legge says:

Yikes!!! So here I am working my way through that checklist and now one of my photographic heroes says to stop!!! Eeep! Okay… I know innovation and differentiation are major buzzwords and what you’ve said is the reality of that, not just some handy marketing catchphrases to make you sound clever…

I can’t deny that working through the checklist is often done with a nagging doubt that all this has been done before, why am I so different?

Oh yes… I’m not!! Back to the thinking and drawing board I guess? But then, that’s where a lot of the fun is, right? Heck, I use a 5 year old Pentax… being different is right up my street :)

John H. Maw says:

Didn’t your mother tell you? Stop playing with your food.

Yoshi says:

Can I not focus on 1 particular field and still blow it? Not really relevant?

brad says:

This is a brilliant post, Chase. I’m in this weird danger zone where the better I get with the craft, the more I feel like “I’ve got this sucker licked!” It’s hard to keep engaged in the journey when fighting that feeling, when I watch myself turning a successful experiment into a yet another gimmick in the tickle trunk.

And yet, the world is opening as I embark on new relationships, new challenges, new ideas. I keep a watchful eye for new directions, new places for, not just my creativity, but my personality.

Exploration is not a sure way — it’s merely the only way.

Hong says:

definitely though but some of the steps require some modals :D

It’s confusing days to be a professional photographer. Marketing in the same old way doesn’t really work the same as it did… it’s interesting to see how some of the really old school people, both photographers and reps, are really struggling to understand how their business model has changed around them. But the one thing that never changes…. really great photography is what it’s all about. If you don’t have the images nothing you do is gonna make a difference.

Jenny says:

I just want to say I love this blog post. I’ve actually printed it and put it up on my wall. Now I am going to fail. You have to fail to learn and succeed.

Robert says:

As a photographer in today’s changing media world, you should never stop learning new technologies and new business areas. What is the Art Director searching for, when he layouts for example iPads (two layout positions)? Could perhaps the wedding photographer create a slide show on a DVD and sent it out to the guests who attended the wedding (buying a DVD replicator could bring you some money). Never stop looking for opportunities for your photography and ideas on what you can deliver to your customers.

CallumW says:

I guess it all depends on how you measure success.

In the meantime, my gift to y’all is some bacon and eggs while we’re on your journey :)

http://www.callumw.com/?attachment_id=2656

CW

Dan Dekan says:

The right message. I would guess that it not so much about the forms of media one uses to express themselves, but what you express and to who.

Seems like the big point that has been communicated in the last few months is taking photos of things you are passionate about and then sharing those images with people/future clients that work in that type of market.

Example, I like to fish. I know a lot about fishing. Therefor my photos of fishing would be more then likely better then a fashion photographer. So in talking to Field and Streams, I would be able to communicate better, share experiences and just relate better to the editor then someone that doesn’t know about fishing. Plus my portfolio would be stronger with images related to that field.

Also I would be or should be using forms of mediums that fishermen want to use.

It’s should be all about a focus message to a target market.

Just cause I have a crazy new flash site no one has seen before, doesn’t mean I right for any kind of job.

Òscar Domínguez says:

This is a good point, but when you are starting or even in a transition is difficult to keep a clear mind and confidence in yourself and in own project.
Thanks for sharing and always inspiring.

Anne-Marie says:

So true!

Rich Cave says:

Chase the only person that inspires me is myself, ilook in the mirror in the morning and remind myself that i have to do the best i can with what i have got,

dont get trapped by social media, surround yourself with good people, remind yourself that you are not a demigod, and get stuck in with enthusiasm,

learn business, skills, practise, management, law and above all learn humility and that way you can look at yourself in the mirror with pride,

get a mentor, you can learn more of a bad mentor than a good mentor but learn.

above all never ever meet your heroes, and in the end its only a bloody photo

Laurie says:

Yep, breaking the mold and blazing own path works! BTW, your photo with this post makes me think you didn’t watch the creativeLIVE Penny De Los Santos Food Photography class a little over a week ago. ;-)

Ray Spaddy says:

I think it’s hilarious that so many people are half reading this post and Chase continues to say – “But that’s my point”.

Liz says:

Makes perfect sense and is a formula I’m sort of following, thanks for the tips.

Thanks Chase! It’s pleasant that I can boast doing 5 out of your recommendations :)

Melanie says:

I think the most discouraging thing is watching someone follow the above list and then seem to have a mildly successful career.

I have struggled with what I do, who I am, and all of that- just as we all do, I suppose. I have determined that the best way for me to stay “true” to myself (whatever that really means) is to ditch the list and just follow my passion organically. Wherever it takes me is where I am meant to go.

Habed says:

Hahahahaha…. “old recipes” Now I feel really old. How old can Write a blog or get on Twiter be? But I hear you. I’m doing almost all that in your list. Still woriking in getting a hardware sponsor and some other point there but I’ll get there.

Gracias Chase!!

Migs says:

But don’t you do all these things, Chase? Except maybe #11?

Chase says:

@migs: …www.minacicconi.com said it best above “He’s trying to say the list includes all the standard ingredients BUT in order to succeed, mix it up and add a dash of something new, something that belongs to only you. To make your business less cookie-cutter, you should strive to cultivate something original. Success isn’t found in some How To list. Make your own rules, :)”

eaglez says:

Here’s the bottom line….. luck + talent = success in any artistic endevour. You can be “good enough, or the even the best” at your craft, but all the stars have to align to get your craft to the right people, at the right time, for the right price. Doing all or some of Chase’s list above just makes you feel like you are actually “doing” something. But nothing substitutes for photography basic theory and “who you know”. Might sound cynical, but ask yourself this. How many really good musicians writing really good songs, actually break through. There needs to be an “aha” situation take place to jet them to the next level. And another question: if you are everywhere online, and spending boatloads of time on social media while not practicing in the real world, how are you furthering your craft? Shoot more. Shoot more…. shoot more.

Harkiran says:

thank you. You complement the post brilliantly!!!

Being a fashion photographer, I’ve realised that talent counts for about 10-15% of the entire equation to be financially successful. The rest is a highly guarded secret unfortunately. Nope, marketing & networking dont really get you anywhere…except loads of cappuccinos :)

sammy d says:

great advise. Just what I need when I’m lost in a sea inside my own brain.

I still follow your initial philosophy CREATE.SHARE.SUSTAIN and it has been working pretty good so far…I am not looking to be the best photographer out there. I just want to be the best I can be based on what I have. Like Jerry Ghionis says, “you dont have to be the best, you just have to be better than you were yesterday”…And I won’t say I’m popular but I like when I meet someone for the first time and they hear my name, they follow by saying “I’ve seen some of your work”…that makes me know I’m doing something right. The CREATE.SHARE.SUSTAIN model has been working pretty good so far…The list above made me laugh, especially when I got to #5, I immediately knew where you were heading…

Chris says:

… and I thought this was going to discuss bacon & eggs. /sigh

Fahad Ayyad says:

Thank you so much for this.

AJ says:

Well D’uh

Chris says:

Am I the only one that is looking for eggs and bacon in the fridge now?

sara says:

Uh no. You’re not the only one.

Satya says:

No.

Greig says:

I know exactly where this is coming from, and I’m trying to do my best to differentiate and stand out among the huge numbers of photographers out there these days. I’ve launched a dedicated “dudeoir” sideline – no other photographers near me do that at all, and it’s something I’m known to be pretty good at so I decided to go with it and see where it could take me. It might pay off, it might not – but it’s different, and that’s pretty much what I’m about.

Even in print choices – I offer a very small range, and really push stuff like aluminium prints – because all the other photographers around me offer more or less the same stuff, and haven’t changed that for years.

But then, I’ve never taken the “correct” approach to anything in my life – so hopefully one day, it’ll pay off for me!

Will Foster says:

This is an interesting thought. What’s the point of photography? To capture a moment, or to creatively tell a story?

Hey Chase,

This post was really good. I did post few of my Photographs to the ‘Invite To Hang’, I hope they did got ‘Hang’.. LOL

How am I supposed to find an agent..??

I would really like to assist someone but How..?

Thanks..

david says:

i know the intent is the standard Chase ra-ra “blaze your own path” speech, but folks can follow the path above and they can make their own path. saying some one has to do something a certain way, or can’t do something a certain way, and trying to put a blanket over an industry automatically makes you wrong (or at best, only partially correct).

Chase says:

my sense is that what you’ve said here agrees w my point david. many points on the above list are fleeting. target tomorrow, not today.

Chase, thanks for the post….. where can I get more info about
12) live off your stock library ???
Thanks!

Chase says:

um. that one died a while ago… and is certain death for creativity.

Lori says:

I have to ask…
Am I completely crazy for ignoring the rules ( a lot of the time) of composing a shot and just thinking about what looks good to me??? Don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of the rules, but isn’t that what makes some things more brilliant…when you show something like no other woud? Just a thought after this post…And, I am actually positive I’m crazy! Have a great one…

Ps. Can I be your assistant, since you brought it up? ;-)

I know that internal dialog…I have that going on a lot too. My sense is that I need to always study established rules/guidelines, practice them to be comfortable with them, but don’t become enslaved to them. Shoot with these guidelines in place and then also allow for some shooting in different directions and see where it might take me. For instance, I very much like many of the highlights in Chase’s images…they have such a brilliance to them. I generally have such a fear of “blown” highlights that I miss the opportunity to really have that image jump off the page at me. I look at work like that and I find myself trying to deconstruct that look/feel and what’s at the heart of it….I’ve become a bit of a highlight junkie of late.

Yoshi says:

Can I not give a damn and still blow it?

Chase says:

that’s a sure fire way to blow it.

Danice says:

Wow! Talk about a pisotng knocking my socks off!

Mario says:

Discouragingly inspiring…(LOL)…It makes alot of sense actually. Don’t follow a pattern other than your own. Though “imitation” in some form is inevitbable, do what makes you…you. Find your finger print and embrace it. And as we all know photography as well as being any form of a professional creative artist is hard to even do ok in…..Don’t forget why your doing it (whatever it is) in the first place. The day I open lightroom and images of my kids, camping or action photography don’t give me goosebumps is the day I move onto something else. This is actually my FB profile info:

“Don’t fool yourself….

Success isn’t measure in dollars, a big house or material things…It’s measured in pursuing your own personal happiness………

I would do anything for anyone, anytime, anywhere just to know that they would then do the same for someone else. I want to do everything and be everywhere, sometimes I lose my mind. I have so many goals I want to accomplish, I feel that one lifetime won’t be enough. I want to just live and enjoy my life… not counting my life in days, but rather moments….

I’m not going to change the world, I can’t stop the War but if i’ve ever impacted your life and made it better even for a “moment” then my life is complete.

Were all living to die…I’m just dying to live…..”

Some of that wasn’t relevant but whatever..lol…

This is actually the first time i’ve EVER commented on a blog of any kind. I liked that post alot because it said more that what it was saying…

To me anyways…

Thanks

Mario

Dale says:

Nice – but some very principles of photography still and will always exist ie depth of field, shutter speed and rule of thirds. Like physics gravity still exists not matter what that Rev predicted.

Oliver says:

If you aren’t getting noticed you’re doing work that’s easy to ignore and you’ll never get the recognition you desire. The only solution is to start doing work that can’t be ignored. It’s as simple as that. No amount of mediocre work is ever going to be noticed.

nikky says:

3/16…

…looks like i got some work to do

Tony Obfenda says:

Chase Jarvis says, “Don’t be like ME! Be yourself!!”

TRU-DAT Cjarvis!!!!

– Chase Jarvis inspires me to take pictures!!
– Vince Laforet inspires me to make videos!!

blahzik says:

‘Established’ artists often say: “If I can do it, you can do it too!”. And now you’re saying, “Don’t do what I did, you have to do something novel.”

I can’t get past the contradiction. Perhaps I’m focusing more on the logistics and you’re focusing on the art……. Oh well.

Chase says:

my point is that the historic recipe is only part intact. and it’s certainly evolving.

don’t target today, target tomorrow.

Simon says:

Chase you really do cut to the er…
love these bite-size chunks of wisdom, keep em coming bro!

Kostash says:

Cheers Chase.

Your post is like giving a push in the right direction in the right time.If you know what i mean.
K.

cameron says:

fit xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx tum

cameron says:

i need a poooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Thom Pastor says:

“But, Chase….
I feel safe doing those things.”

You’re right on brother. Following a path is much different than creating a path. The problem is, as more people learn this lesson for themselves it forces the rest of us to push ourselves harder.

To paraphrase Seth Godin: Safe just isn’t safe anymore.

It gets harder by the minute to have a unique style with so many photographers out there. Yet a healthy competition makes me get even more laser-focused and brings the best in me. I say, take all the ingredients and make the recipe your own with your own “secret recipe” touch.

JT says:

Hmmm? I agree with the principle but this isn’t one of your better posts Chase.

Trudy says:

I don’t crave “raging success” as that sounds like an extrovert’s folly and I am not one, LOL. However, just like other artists I know, I want to always have a good living, make pictures I like and have great experiences in life worth photographing, and embrace great experiences of others worth photographing. Thus, I hear your message loud and clear. People spend a lot of time staying to FORCE other artists to walk their path instead of letting them know the tools available so that they can carve their own. Thanks for that encouragement. Nice post. (I like that this post was short and sweet…made me think of Seth Godin.)

cameron says:

hahahahhahahahahahahahhahahahaha lol

Thank you Chase. Very useful! Yes but getting noticed is so difficult. Waiting for my day :)

I think you are mostly right!
Unfortunately sometimes you need some of those points to get noticed/attract people.

But at the end yes novelty and creativity matters most!

Chase says:

yes you need some. but my point is that most of these points above are fleeting. some are not. many will be.

point is finding your own way.

He’s trying to say the list includes all the standard ingredients BUT in order to succeed, mix it up and add a dash of something new, something that belongs to only you. To make your business less cookie-cutter, you should strive to cultivate something original. Success isn’t found in some How To list. Make your own rules, :)

Anonymous says:

You do or have done all or almost all of the points on your disaster list…. Are we to to assume you’re failing horribly then?

That is basically Chase’s formula and copying his formula will win you nothing. Or Ansel Adams formula, or pick any musician, business person or world leader. You have to innovate not just borrow someone else’s formula. Borrow select things that you can make work for you… but make the list your own.

You blazed new trails with Songs for Eating & Drinking and CL for sure. I think that’s the kind of thing you are saying – doing things AROUND photography where photography isn’t exactly the focal point.

Javin says:

man. real talks.

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