The life of an artist/photographer

Robert Henri: “I am interested in art as a means of living a life; not as a means of making a living."

The world view that underlies Robert Henri’s commentary about art, life and making a living rings true and is equally applicable to photography. Art (or photography) is more about a way of life than it is about revenue generation. Art/photography is about sustaining and nourishing the heart, mind, soul and spirit. That’s not to say that making money with your art/photography is a bad thing; we all have to find a way to keep the lights and water on at home.

The secret lies in finding a way to create income with your art/photography while at the same time not letting paying clients turn your photography into drudgery. I have repeatedly seen some of my photographic peers let the demands of paying work grind them down until the photography they loved in past times has become just a job; sometimes it even becomes a job that they dread doing.

I have seen photographers actually quit photography because they could no longer continue to struggle to meet the demands put upon them by paying clients who would not be satisfied no matter what the photographer did for them. When this happens, it is a very sad thing to see.

Don’t let paying clients take the joy out of photography. Don’t let them kill your love for photography and your pursuit of the photographic life. If you love photography, do it on your terms. Seek out paying clients, but vet them carefully. Make sure that they are the kind of person you can work with rather than work for before you take that deposit check from them. They may be writing the checks, but that does not mean they own you.

Your photography business is yours and yours alone. If you choose to accept money from a paying client to do a specific job, make certain it will be a positive and mutually beneficial collaboration for the both of you. Make certain that the amount of compensation you will receive is fair and equitable.

If a job is not a good deal for both the client and you, walk. Say no. Otherwise you will come to regret it.

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