Yep – The Photography Business Still Sucks (Part 2)

Since yesterday’s blog post or tirade, as some of you may say. . .  I’ve gotten a fair amount of messages, emails, and im’s about it. Some of you love it, some of you hate it, and some of you were just confused.

I’d like to take a minute to address some of the comments and questions that came from that post because I think it’s valuable.

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Let’s start with the “hated it” crowd:

I didn’t know Jay Terry before Sunday afternoon and I still don’t really “know” Jay but I did add him as a friend on Facebook, after reading his comments.  I know that some of you are probably wondering why I would want to associate myself with someone who has such a strong opinion contrary to mine?

Well, why wouldn’t I?

How do we learn and evolve? We learn and evolve by making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, or from listening / taking someones point of view into consideration.

Did I message Jay and ask him to remove the comments? — No, I didn’t.
Did I message him cussing him out for his point of view? — Nope, didn’t do that either.
What I DID DO was, I sent Jay a message and asked him if I could quote him for this post and then I THANKED him for his point of view.
Now, do I have to agree with Jay? Absolutely NOT but Jay has a right to his opinion and Jay isn’t all wrong either . . .

You either ready my post and related to it, almost RELIEVED, that someone shared your feelings or like Jay, you read the post of a has been photographer who hates the world because she’s no longer in business. I am not going to sit here and defend my post, those are my true feelings,  I have every right to have those feelings, and I can post them on my personal blog if I damn well please but I welcome comments like Jay’s because this is a DISCUSSION!

When you post your opinion out in the public you better be willing to be criticized. I knew when I was writing that post that I would ruffle some feathers controversy breeds criticism and that’s OK! It’s also something that a lot of the ‘Rock Stars’ in our industry should be open to. When stop the discussion by deleting what you feel are negative comments to your posts or when you message someone in anger for their point of view, you stop any chance of gaining insight or knowledge from that person. You’re only hurting yourself.

Jay didn’t hurt my feelings with comments. It wasn’t personal. Jay was simply commenting on what he sees in the industry — I see people abusing the desperation of new photographers and Jay see’s a bunch of photographers whining about the instability. I can honestly see it both sides. . .

and see, here is an example of what happens when you have a discussion. Jay and I talked a bit yesterday evening and he says this:

My newest philosophy is positivity. Not pie-in-the-sky blind optimism, just forward thinking, not worrying about the other guys kind of optimism. I know my value, I know the quality of my work. I also know that I spend a ton of time working improvements – something a lot of the weekend warriors and johnny-come-lately(s) don’t seem to care about. That’s double applicable to the mockstars. One of the suggestions I try making to the full timers, and one I take to heart myself, is that you have to still shoot for yourself to keep it from being soul crushing work. I’ve had the soul crushing jobs … That’s why I’m a photographer

Words to live by my friends and if I had taken Jay’s comments personally then we wouldn’t have this little bit of wisdom, now would we?

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The Confused:

This is Hanna and she didn’t hate or love the post but she didn’t feel like there was any real resolution or silver lining. I am here to save the day, Hanna! Or maybe not? You tell me. (Side Note: Hannah, you’re work is wonderful!)

The post wasn’t made to be an inspiration to anyone, quite the contrary the post was made because there are too many people in the photography industry whom a lot of you look up to and respect that blowing smoke up your asses.

They’re not running the business of photography, they’re running the business of PHOTOGRAPHERS.

Did you hear that? I’ll say it again, most of the ‘rock stars’ you look up to are in the business of PHOTOGRAPHERS not PHOTOGRAPHY.

They give the illusion that they’re highly successful and making a living off of their client base but little do you know that YOU are their client base. They have no idea what it’s like to run the business that they’re selling to you but what they do know is how to sell you the idea that they do.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a few really good friends who make a large portion of their income from photographers — that’s not the part that gets me. Good for you, you saw a need, you marketed, and sold a solution for that need. . . What gets me is the people who DON’T have the solution but try to sell one anyways. So now it’s time for that Nugget you wanted.

Since most of your peers are selling to you — Do your research!

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If you’re planning to attend a workshop then do yourself a favor and do some googling because they’re not cheap and most of them are like presidential campaigns — promises, promises, and no delivery. There are loads of people who blog about their workshop experiences and there are a few websites dedicated to workshop reviews. Be smart but also don’t put all of your hopes into a one size fits all solution because there isn’t one.

The truth is that running a photography business isn’t glamorous, it’s long hours, it’s a lot of hand holding, and it’s a BUSINESS and take it from me, running a business is hard! There is a book I read when I was starting out called, Best Business Practices for Photographers and in that book there is a quote, “Photography is 90% business and 10% skill.” That is the truth. (Do yourself a solid and read the book) Running your own business does have it’s perks. . . You make your own hours, you hand pick your clients, and you are your own boss.

I urge you to not follow the masses and attend the latest workshop but instead,  try seeking out local photographers who are actually running a successful business! Those are the people that can really help you, not the ones hollering about their own successes and promising you that they can teach you the same.

Again, I am not saying that workshops are all bad because they aren’t – I have had the pleasure of attending two that are run by good friends of mine Brianna Graham and Cheryl Muhr – Be sure to check them out, their work is pretty great – What I am saying is that a workshop alone isn’t the answer and the guidance of a ‘rock star’ for pay is almost always misguided. If you’re going to attend, go in with the right attitude — to network and have fun!

Some of you may be reading this and think that I hate photographers, I don’t — (I LOVE THEM) I am speaking about the select few who aren’t being honest. I find that to be a problem and as far as I can tell, it’s a problem that no one talking about it. So Why? I think it’s mostly intimidation, it’s scary to be outspoken, especially against the people who you think old power. Shhhh don’t tell, but they don’t.

I want you to be more vocal about your needs and if you’re going to hire someone for mentoring then I urge you to ask more questions because  if they’re legit they should be able to answer all of your questions and more and please don’t take this as me telling you not to be inspired by others. BE INSPIRED just don’t get brainwashed.

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Now, for the people who loved or actually in most cases just related to my post:

Most of the people who related to the post were sad and felt defeated but they shouldn’t be. We’re taught to hide from our failures and only talk about our successes, which leave people to wonder why they suck so bad. It’s a shame that people aren’t more transparent and I get it. . .  It’s embarrassing to admit that things didn’t go your way but get over it! It’s part of the process called life. Embrace it and move along.

I don’t think of my business as a failure. For almost 10 years I ran a very successful business, I’ve had the most wonderful clients — Many of whom I call friends, and I met my best friend Marie  (THAT woman is a genius business woman). I have gained some life long friendships from this endeavor and I don’t regret it for one second. All I know is that FOR ME I needed to learn that it’s ok to have a hobby without turning it into a business (no matter what the masses say) and it’s a shame that we get so wrapped up in what people think. Who cares? Really, think about it! If someone thinks you’re a hack because you aren’t running a business, does that hurt you or are you sitting there and working on the things you like — While they are meeting deadlines and stuck at their computer editing? To each his own is what I say. That wasn’t for me.

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I am including Rob here because I just like what he said. It’s ok that you want to be known and respected in your field. . . Everyone wants that! It’s when you hurt the people who look up to you, that’s when it’s a problem. Don’t forget where you came from.

Now I saved the best/worst part for last. This is one of the biggest reasons why I made my post and I promised the person who confided in me that I wouldn’t name names.

“He/She told a girl that I mentored that she sucked and that <insert-asshat-photographer> would never mentor her because she was helpless. This girl was / is so talented — plus a really great person. She came to me for mentoring, in tears because she thought she sucked.” 

That was said to someone who was looking for help from one of your ‘rock star’ photographers. It’s sick.

What would motivate someone to be so cruel? Did their new-found popularity go to their head or maybe they’re just an asshole? Probably both. You ‘rock star’ photographers hold so much power in your words, you’re able to crush spirits, and it seems that a select few of you enjoy that. I say shame on you!

I don’t care how great you think you are, how great your images are, or how much money you make or say you make. You were once inspired by someone, You didn’t get here all on your own! You were given kindness and guidance by someone too. You owe people the same respect you demand from them.

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I just want to take a minute to put this up here. This was posted on my Facebook business page and I think it’s an important piece to this story. This person went for the throat, throwing personal insults, and just proving my point even further — THIS is exactly the behavior I was talking about. I am not hurt by this persons words. . . I mean, I don’t even drink BUT they were too afraid to post as themselves and obviously this person is hurt, maybe somewhere along my journey, I caused this person pain and for that I am sorry.

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Have you thanked your mentor lately? All of you should, why don’t I start?

Thank You, Marie for giving me the best business advice a gal could get – Even if I didn’t follow through a lot of the time you never discouraged me, sort of like when we talk fashion.

Thank You, Carrie for not killing me when I was brand new and took your whole pricing structure, wording and all, and slapped it on my website. Instead you emailed me and welcomed me into your home. You were one of the first people who inspired me.

Thanks to Nikki Krupp, Joy Vertz, Marla Carter, Brittany Goodbee, Maryann Talamo, Cheryl Muhr, Danna Bowes, June Kuiper, Gretchen Mathison, Season Moore, Allison Crozier, Dena Robles, Catherine Clay, Amy Smith, Audra Edgington, Jamie Schultz, Chris Plamann, Laura Seibert, Tennille King, Amanda Kinton, Joyce Smith, Shellie Gansz, Dawn Sela, Melissa Kahn, Sarah Ulrich, Heather Skau, Daveen Lindley, Brianna GrahamAudrey Woulard, and Deb Schwedhelm — My main bitches for helping me along the way. Again, some great people in this list that if you don’t know, you should check out. I am positive I am missing a few people so please forgive me if I did.

Lastly — Thank You to my clients who have allowed me to capture their precious moments and for the people who let me take horrible photos of them when I was portfolio building. . .

Like this one–

Obviously, this is when I found the dodge and burn tool. HA!

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For those of your who are struggling, know that you’re not alone.

Ashley – OUT.


  • Jana

    haha. This was even better than the first one! Good stuff. I adore you. Thanks for speaking out for so many who would really love to! <3

  • Zo

    Following you since 2006 or 2007 on Flickr. Your honesty was evident in your work then and it is in your words now. You da best. I even know from Flickr days, this behavior that you speak of. Great posts and thanks for being real.

  • jenn

    Also from the Flickr days….
    Have always loved and appreciated your candor.
    I must thank you. One of my intial rock stars, whose comments I always held in high regard. Still do.
    Completely get what you’re saying… Wishing you much success in your new adventures!!

  • Rob Provencher

    Excellent post. You sound grounded and realistic. I’ve been saying for many years this is a business, and that photographers have had it too good.

    This could part of the great big shake down. It is all about business and marketing. When done right, it works. I know. My studio is doing very well, and I never want to take anything for granted.

    Things change and I need to be on my game in case the ground starts moving. I interviewed both Jeff Lubin and Sandy Puc last month.

    It baffles me why other photogs don’t listen to these photographers who are successful. Th our e answer is right there. It’s a business, requires certain skills that go beyond shooting, mostly to do with selling, marketing, and dare I say, challenging us to grow our mindset into stronger, more resilient ninjas..
    .Rob .

    P.S. I have those interviews on my blog and would love to post the link here if anyone wants to access them…let me know…..Rob

    • Thanks, Rob! You and I are on the same page, that’s for sure! I’d love for you to post the links, you can post them here or I can place them in the post itself. Let me know.

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  • Anna Eftimie

    You “might” not probably know it, but I entered in the photography world because of you and your work. Even though I’m still a newbie and I have a lot to learn, somehow I got the extreme luck of becoming an “internet rock-star” in less than an year from opening my business. I was so happy, yet so foolish, thinking that I will have an easy job from then on. I learnt the hard way that in this business, like in any other, it is more about your business skills then about your work. Thank you for writing these two articles. It shows me that I’m not the only one that struggles to get a dime out of this business, even though the general impression is that it’s getting us rich over night.

    • That is actually the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. 🙂

    • BTW – I adore you work. Keep on keeping on! xoxo

  • lisa

    I’m really late to the game here but I wanted to tell you that I started following you on Flickr years ago about the time I was starting my own business and always thought you were really talented and could see you get better through the years. And I thought you had a great personality – I was glad to meet you once in CA a few years ago. Anyway just wanted to say that I can relate so much now after being in business for 7 or 8 years and because of that I am actually really proud of you for stepping out to do something new with your life. You could have kept at it and been successful but also miserable. Best of luck to you in all your future endeavors. I’m glad to still have you on FB & IG to check in and see all of your new accomplishments. Cheers and happy new year 2015!