Balancing Your Love of Photography with Focus and Business

Brandon Flint is a freelance editorial and active lifestyle photographer based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. He specializes in environmental portraiture and movement. He received a degree in Art and Visual Communications with an emphasis in photography from Utah Valley University, after which he interned in New York City with a talented fashion/beauty photographer. Today, Brandon shares some advice and insight with us on balancing the pursuit of passion with running a business.

I got into photography at 16 when I purchased my first camera from a pawnshop. Growing up, I loved drawing and art, so photography was an art form that I immediately responded to. This was before digital cameras were available. I learned to shoot, develop, and print my own work by taking a photography class in high school.

I was super stoked on the whole process of creating images. I skateboarded and snowboarded in high school, so that's what I started out shooting. I never planned on becoming a professional photographer, however, and I thought I would become a graphic artist instead. I eventually went to college and studied art and graphic design, but that wasn't feeling like it was the right thing for me. The one day it hit me: "Duh, just do photography! That's what you're best at and you love it." So, that's what I did.

I started taking all the photography classes I could, then after college, I was offered an internship in New York with a fashion/beauty photographer, which was a great learning experience. I finished my internship six years ago and moved back to Salt Lake.

Once back, I decided I was going to do whatever it took to shoot full time. I got a credit card or two and bought the best equipment I could. I lived off credit cards for the first three months, shooting whatever I could while working out of my one-bedroom apartment downtown.

One of my first clients was Utah Magazine, which I was excited about, and I still shoot for. I was also assisting and doing whatever I could to get jobs. It was kind of crazy, but it worked, and slowly I started to get things rolling.

Currently, my favorite stuff to shoot is active lifestyle and sports photography along with environmental portraits. I get really excited about photographing people doing what they love. It gets me fired up to capture their passion and what's important to them. Plus, it is usually shooting the same outside activities that I also enjoy doing, which is an added bonus.

I think it's really important to shoot what you love. Does that mean you are super stoked about every job you shoot? Not necessarily. But you need to know what you are passionate about and set that as a goal. Being a professional photographer involves walking the fine line of creating images that you are passionate about and just shooing what makes a living.

Ultimately, you are a business, and that has to come first. That said, you also can't take the artistry or passion out of the business, either, or you will get burned out, hate it, and give it up.

When I first started, I quickly learned that a client can tell when your heart isn't in the job, and in the end, you're doing them and yourself a disservice. I firmly believe that if you shoot what you love, you will find clients that can see your passion and want to invest in it. I say that with one caveat: make sure that what you are shooting is marketable. Like I said at the beginning, you are a business first and an artist second.

Over the last few years I've really had to look at what I really love shooting and cut out the jobs I wasn't passionate about to get where I ultimately wanted to be. You're never going to be the top shooter of anything trying to shoot everything. Pick what you are best at and what gets you excited to shoot, get out there, and make some great images. I think that is the key to being successful.

Don't get discouraged, either. Just learn from your mistakes and move on. You can spend a ton of time wishing you bid something differently or shot something better, but that isn't going to help. For me, the process of figuring out what to focus on took a lot of trial and error and prayer and persistance, but in the end, I figured out what gets me excited to get out of bed every day, and that's what it's all about.

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November 2012PhotographyPhotography business tips