Just How Easy Is It To Be a Photographer?

Just How Easy Is It To Be a Photographer?

(Originally Published in “In The Frame” my weekly Sunday Dispatch. If you are not subscribed, there is a place to do it just to the right of this article.)

I recently received an eamail that made my day. It promised me a six figure income in photography and with nearly no effort. I would be able to accomplish all my dreams by understanding the secret. Or should I say, “SECRET”. And by knowing this secret, my career in photography would be easy.

I was not to share this information with anyone else, as that would make it less of a, you know, secret.

I wasn’t even tempted to open the link. Not a bit.

Because there is no ‘secret’. There is no ‘easy’.

To be a successful photographer (food on the table, bills paid, savings accumulating) takes hard work, perserverance and a lot of commitment.


Not in this day of quick answers, quick solutions… I want it now, so give me only what I need to be superstar material.

Not gonna happen.

So I came up with 10 Non-Secrets for you. Ten really important things to consider. You have heard them before, but you will hear them again here… and I hope you hear them again somewhere else.

Because they are important.

1. There is no “Easy Button”. Anyone who tells you there is is either lying to you or trying to sell you something.

2. Set your bar higher. Becoming the best you can be takes more work than becoming better than the other guy/gal. Sure you can watch the perky photographer, take a bit from here and a bit from there and make cool images like them. Even better than them. But is that the best YOU can do?

3. You are unique. What brings you to photography and the desire to make images is known only to you. Find a small, quiet place and think about who YOU are. Then make photographs like YOU do. Finding your style is more about opening up to what you already have than looking outside for inspiration.

4. Buy only what you need. Not what you want, what you need. Save money like a monk… cause there is indeed going to be a time when you NEED something expensive. Rent what you can, purchase only what you absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt need. B&H will survive if you do not purchase that 300-400MM f4 zoom lens that you may shoot twice in a year.

5. Stop comparing your work to other people’s work. Sure, look at other people’s work, but stop comparing the work to your own. They have a different tool set, a different reason to be in photography, and a different time frame as well. If you are starting out, you will not have as many photographs as someone who has been in the business for 30 years. Unfair comparisons are not only limiting, they are also debilitatingly repressing your own creative endeavors.

6. Set goals. Short term, long term, way long term. Make them just out of reach, worth fighting for, and measurable. Write them down… on paper. Read them every Sunday morning… and every time you are feeling a bit creatively cramped.

7. Love the word YES! Be open to new things and opportunities. Take chances. Take risks. Be as cautious as necessary, but no more. We do not move up the mountain by being cautious and timid. Embrace the incredible possibilities that confront us nearly every day… and go get a few.

8. Love the word NO! Do not become a negative person, but know when to call time out. Know when you are being taken advantage of or not being appreciated when the appreciation is ALL you are really looking for. Don’t take crap from anyone. Ever. Stand up for your rights, your work and your vision. Own it.

9. Learn from every mistake. Do not put the images away until you KNOW everything you could do to make them better. Critique the hell out of them. Write the critiques down. (Yeah, I tell you to write it down for a reason. Studies have shown it is retained more than typing it into a computer screen. Don’t argue with me, I know stuff.) Next time you shoot, don’t make that mistake again. And do not worry, there are a ton of them waiting to be made, so there is no arrival point. Shoot, critique, adjust. Shoot, critique, adjust. Shoot, critique, adjust.

10. Take pictures like you will never have the chance again. I’m serious. What if next Wednesday you were leaving earth to go on a mission to a distant planet. You had a minimum of room and weight, but they said you could bring 20 photographs with you. Only 20. What would those images be? The only answer is in your heart, and I can’t say what to take or not to take photographs of.

But take them like they were part of the set you get to take to space with you. Believe in your images… own them and own your vision.

(My EBook on “Avoiding Internet Scams for Photographers Who Should Know Better Than To Be Scammed by Buying This Book” will be published soon. I am only asking $97 for it and it comes with a video of me telling you how dumb it was to buy my book… cool, eh? Only $97… Think of the possibilities… 🙂

First Roadtrip: Flagstaff and Jerome

First Roadtrip: Flagstaff and Jerome

I have not had the chance to do much roadtripping lately. The docs wanted me to stay pretty close to home for a while, but heading up to Flagstaff is only a couple of hours – well within the four hour limit.

I wanted to catch some fall foliage, something I have never really sought out before. I like the landscape stuff a lot, but need to have something of my own vision to do it right. I am only interested in doing it my way.

So a trip was on, and I woke at 4:30 for a 5Am departure. My good friend Megan Abshire came along to do some shooting as well, and it was great to have someone to chat with.

We arrived at Flagstaff a bit after 9AM and headed for the San Francisco Mountains just north of Flagstaff. As we were driving up, I was sorta disappointed in the lack of color. Seems we were a bit too early for the good stuff.


We headed up the mountain toward the ski lodge and saw a few stand of aspen all decked out in their yellow leaves and white bark. So that was something – and being there that early gave us some great backlight from the early morning sun.

It was cold too. Now if you are from Maine or Minnesota, you will probably laugh, but to us desert dwellers, 34 degrees F was pretty chilly.

We bailed out of the car at a grand point with a stand of Aspen right near us. I knew there was a photograph there, but I couldn’t see it until I positioned myself with the solitary pine tree in front of the sun. It was then that I saw my final photograph.

I knew what I was going to do with it in Pshop before the camera got to my eye. And that is exactly what I did.


This image was highly treated in post to bring out the light from behind the lone pine, as well as some highlights and shadow detail work.

A path going through the woods attracted me and I worked at getting a shot there. Again, I knew there was something there, but I am not sure if I found it or not. Great excuse to go back, eh?

Clouds were dancing around the sun and causing all kinds of little dappled pools of light to appear – then disappear as quickly as they came. It was a lot of fun working with the light.


I grabbed an overall shot as we were leaving. The sky was now devoid of any clouds, and we would be stuck with a blank blue canvas for the rest of the day.


We headed down through Oak Creek Canyon, but we were too early there as well. A couple of short hikes off the road didn’t bring us much photo interest so we headed to Jerome, a very old town on the north face of Mingus Mountain.

There I found a few of my old standby subjects – old doors and textures.


I think that doors are such incredible metaphorical symbols. Old ones add a level of age and mystery. These doors have been here exposed to the elements for a long, long time. I thought the were worthy of a portrait.


I thought this old wooden siding looked like a wrapped Christmas present. Shot in the cold light of the south sky, I had to warm it a bit in LR.

Below is a full shot of the building that the above was a detail shot. It is one of the older buildings in Jerome and houses a lot of artists studios these days. The old Mingus Mtn School.


As we were heading over the top of Mingus toward Prescott, we challenged ourself to stop at a set distance from the town and MAKE a photograph at that milepost. This is the shot I made there, and it is OK. Very bad light at that time of day, and it created a fairly flat scene with a lot of contrast. That is the contrasty parts were very contrasty and the flat parts were quite flat.


In most of my landscape work, something of humanity must be present… a trail, road, fence – something made by us and inserted into the landscape.

It just fits my vision of the landscape or environment. I leave the pristine work to others more qualified than I.

Well – that was my first road trip experience in 8 or 9 weeks and it was fun.

See you next time.


Kyle Jones Shoots the Reno Rodeo

Kyle Jones Shoots the Reno Rodeo

Project 52 Member Kyle Jones shot the rodeo in Reno recently. Kyle is a photographer of many interests and talents.

He is working on building a book and getting out in the Reno market by the first of the year. This fun shoot is one of the stories he is working on for his personal pages.

I love rodeos… this work makes me remember how much.

From Kyle:

It’s June in Reno, Nevada. That means one thing, the Reno Rodeo is coming to town. This year (2013) marks the 94th year since its inception. Being from upstate New York, I hadn’t really experienced many rodeos in my life, but, since moving to Reno in August 2009, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend every one. This year marks my fourth straight Reno Rodeo.

A day spent at the rodeo is fun and exciting. I thought this would be the perfect venue to document for my Project52 Pros assignment. There are many areas to photograph; the rides along the midway, vendors who set up shop in the buildings, people walking around the food court, and of course the main attraction, the rodeo itself.

This is a very challenging assignment with varying light conditions throughout the event combined with the fast action of a bareback bronc ride or bull ride. The sun is still high in the sky at 7 p.m. when the rodeo begins, shadows and strong sunlight can wreak havoc on composition. However, it isn’t long before the summer sun is setting on the horizon when the next challenge presents itself, stadium lighting. Time to crank up the ISO setting!

This year we had seats directly across the arena from where the broncs and bulls come out of the gate. I would get my camera positioned on the cowboy that was up next and when the gate was pulled, fire off frames as fast as technology would permit. I try my best to put the focus point on the cowboy’s face or chest. My goal was to document the excitement and family fun that a rodeo brings to a community by mixing up exciting shots of cowboys and cowgirls in action with the master of ceremonies on his horse and other intermission entertainment taking place between rodeo events.

I really enjoyed covering this event. At future rodeos I plan to cover even more by taking the whole day to capture more ‘behind the scenes’ shots of the stockyards and stable workers. I’ve met many people who volunteer their time to the Reno Rodeo each year, so, I’m confident that with persistence and asking, this goal will come to fruition.

— Kyle D. Jones

The Images:


My Neighborhood

My Neighborhood

I have been recovering and walking… lots of walking. The immediate neighborhood is of course the most logical place, so I traverse the streets around my home a couple of times per day.

When my friend Antony Northcutt asked to see some images from people’s neighborhoods and towns, I thought what the heck. I’m in.

At first I thought I would get some shots of Phoenix, but that idea went out the window… Phoenix is too vast a place to cover in a few images. I thought instead of shooting the things I see on my walks around my little part of this desert community.

So here you are Antony… a little slice of a little slice called Ahwatukee, Phoenix, Arizona.

(Technical: All images taken with a Nikon V1, 10-30MM lens and processed in Silver Effects. No further Pshop manipulations.)