Oct 20 2018

Services vs. Products

Photo by Bill Burke

I’m on a roll today. I think it’s because I talk about this stuff all day all night with other photographers so it’s easy to regurgitate these conversations. If you quit your job and are trying to earn a living doing photography then there are some things to think about.

First off, now you are an entrepreneur. You are a business owner. You are an all-the-timer. Not part-timer or full-timer. You are trying to run a good business. Some people are lucky with talent and connections and Shark Tank. But most will have to grind it out and be smart.

Secondly, in most businesses you are offering either a service or a product. But in the case of a photographer, you are offering both. The service is your actions, the product is your eyes. This is where we run into crisis. The border between service and product is very undefined and if there is one, it is razor thin. It feels funny to sell your eyes.

The truth is Eugene Richards shot Starbucks ads. Mary Ellen Mark shot weddings. So on one hand, there is no way around commissions, but on the other hand these assignments could fund your projects and then you can sell those projects in the form of prints, zines, and books. But it is hard to sell that stuff. People don’t want to hang your weird stuff on their walls. Sometimes they will want it in a book on a shelf. It is random though and unpredictable.

Yes there are some lotto winners that get to do whatever they want and have all the money to do it and be comfy and all that. But I am talking to the 99% of you. I think the solution is to swarm the world with your mad visions. Overwhelm them and hopefully the right assignments come your way. The assignments that are easy and fun. You don’t have to shoot products in a studio or weddings if you play your cards right. Unless you want to.

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