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  Category: Articles » Arts & Entertainment » Photography » Article

Failures Bother You?

By Rohn Engh

I've been observing photographers and their business operations for 35 years. Many survive. But many more fail. Of those that fail, the most common flaw was their refusal to pay attention to the business aspect of their photography. In other words - they went out of business not because they were not good photographers, but because they were not good business people.

Being a good photographer cannot be learned - either you have it or you don't. (And if you have it, you still have to develop it!) But, being a good businessperson can be learned.

"But I don't like all that drudgery associated with business," you might say.

Yes, it's true, meticulous record keeping and routine tasks are involved. Record keeping. Statistics to keep. Correspondence to fill. Forms to fill out. "Ugh!" you say - and you are correct.

But look at it this way: Are you in love with your photography? If you are, then the inconveniences associated with publishing your photography should pale against your rewards.


History shows that anyone can succeed if they're willing to put up with the inconveniences (and "the lean years") associated with their endeavor. Actors often talk, write, and sing about their years of struggle. While it was happening, they say, it wasn't pleasant. But if they survived, and went on to fame - they often will comment that those years -were the best years. Can you draw a parallel to your own efforts? If it's any consolation, you might be passing through "the best years" right now. Enjoy every moment!

The inventor Thomas Edison didn't "discover" the electric light bulb. He simply put up with the drudgery of testing more than 7,000 different ways to make it work. He was in love with what he was doing. When someone asked him, "Isn't it boring - going through all those tests?" he replied, "On the contrary, it's exhilarating. Now I know 7,000 ways it cannot be done."


We tend to call someone a genius if they succeed far beyond their colleagues. But Edison's famous reply was, "Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration."

The actor George Burns was asked how he got to the top in his profession. He stumbled with a few clichés about being lucky or working hard, and then said, "What I'm trying to say is - if you are really in love with what you're doing - the failures along the way won't bother you."

It bears repeating: photographers fail not because they're not good photographers, but because they didn't apply themselves to good business practices. It's all woven together - the photography plus the business side.

There's a prevalent misconception in the art world that "creative people are not good business people." You could not convince Shakespeare, Picasso, or Andy Warhol of that notion. Yes, the business side of your career can get stormy. But if you are in love with what you are doing, such squalls blow over and you sail on.
About the Author
Rohn Engh is the best-selling author of "Sell & ReSell Your Photos" and "" He has produced a new eBook, "How to Make the Marketable Photo." For more info visit

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