The Crisis Threatening Professional Photography

Mark E. Johnson, Senior Lecturer of Photojournalism at University of Georgia, Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/9, 1/20 [photo by Robin Nelson]

I have been speaking to college photography students for many years. Mark E. Johnson has invited me to speak for the last several years to his students at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at UGA.  This is Mark talking to the class just before he introduced me.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/9, 1/12 [photo by Robin Nelson]

I talk to the class about Business and Marketing Skills: How to make a living as a photographer. For most of the class I was explaining what are all the expenses the students needed to consider. The problem is getting a realistic understanding of all the money going out. Most people can see what is coming in, but really struggle with the going out to run a healthy business. Remember knowledge is power. That power gives you the ability to ask the right price for the job.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/11, 1/10 [photo by Robin Nelson]

Just like the storyline starting with the WHY? is what I was trying to drive home.

The only thing stopping the students in the class from doing what they want to do starting right now is only income to cover their expenses. When I asked them what stands in the way of you doing what you want to do right now, it took a while for them to see money was the obstacle.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/40 [photo by Robin Nelson]


There is no other way to describe the face expressions of the students than as Panic stricken.  After I showed them some ballpark number for living expenses and business expenses they were intimidated that they will be having to ask people to pay them a figure that they were uncomfortable with for themselves.

The wakeup was happening in the class. I have to charge WHAT? But they also understood why–to pay all the expenses like their mortgage and car payment for example.

Derek Jeter talked about how 70% of the time he was failing. That is what a 300+ batting average is all about. Failing 7 out of 10 times at bat.

I talked with the students that most successful businesses are usually 90% failure. 9 out of 10 people are not going to buy your product.

Mark Johnson made a very interesting comment in the class. He asked them the last time they went grocery shopping how many things did they buy. He then pointed out how many products were in the store that they didn’t buy.


The crisis is avoidable. You really need to know all your expenses and then charge enough that your income is greater than your expenses.

In some ways this is like the ice bucket challenge. Being willing to take that ice cold water bath is worth it.

Do you know your expenses?

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