Balancing art and commerce
Identifying the ideal balance between art and commerce is a challenge for every photographer. Guy Tal’s path to success has been a road beset with compromises, all made to achieve his ultimate goal. For Tal, that means having the financial security to sustain a life filled with reading, art, and the great outdoors.
These are some of the lessons he learned during his journey to building a career he loves.
Never lose touch with why you do what you do. There are much easier ways to earn a living than being a photographer. For most photographers, something other than money drove them into this business. Keep in touch with that inspiration, and let it guide you.
Be ready to compromise. Understand what is most important to you, and then make compromises to help you move toward it. For each compromise, you should be able to find gains in other areas.
Focus on the art, not the equipment. There are so many people who are unhappy because they’re stuck on the treadmill of consumerism, always chasing the next new thing. “Every image I make could be made with almost any equipment,” he notes. “Worry less about the equipment and more about finding new ways to express yourself.”
Combine creatively. Be creative, not just about your photography, but about your business. Being successful at photography means more than being a good photographer. Be honest with yourself about what you’re good at and how you can leverage all those things. For example, if you’re a good writer, combine writing with photography. If you’re a good teacher, combine photography and teaching. Find the combination that works for you.
Avoid “someday when” thinking. That someday is never going to come. Following your dreams will never be easy or devoid of risk. So get comfortable thinking in terms of mitigating risks as much as possible. Figure out what you need to sustain yourself and plan for the future. Then make the leap.
Jeff Kent is the editor-at-large of Professional Photographer.