How I found my calling as a photography mentor

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on April 24, 2016

in This is Art,This is Business,This is Life

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I’m you 17 years from today.

Except I’m not, because you’re going to climb your mountains with a completely different set of tools (of heart, mind, and spirit) than I did when I launched Outlaw Photography in 1999.

The words you’re reading, and the site you’re reading them on, exist because nothing like this was around when I made the transition from amateur photographer to paid professional almost two decades ago. True encouragers in this industry are still ultrarare: Chase Jarvis, David duChemin, Eric Kim, CJ Chivers, to name the handful I’ve found who care as much as I do about helping startup photographers get their art and business out into the world.

You know what I found when I started?


Bitter, resentful, mean photographers desperate to discourage the influx of digital photographers into their established markets and industry. Their voices today are neither less numerous nor poisonous than they were 17 years ago.

I don’t hate grognards – I recognize how fast their paradigms, business models, and profit margins crashed in the face of the Digital Revolution.

But I hate their effect.

There’s no statistic to measure how many potential artists this world has been denied. Established photographers’ elitism, discouragement and browbeating has done as much to kill off startup photographers as The Resistance itself.

They sure laid a beating on me:

Read more inside…


Productivity For Photographers: Imperfect Action

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on March 21, 2016

in This is Life

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”To escape criticism – do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” – Elbert Hubbard

Perfectionism is killing my dream.

It’s killing yours, too.

It’s a gut punch to think about how much I haven’t done with my life because I was waiting for the right time, or to be “ready.” How much art have I not made? How many potential clients have I not served? How many photographers have I not helped? Where would I be today?

Perfectionism is not discernment.

The Resistance tricks us into thinking we’re doing the right thing by doing nothing. Perfectionism disguises itself as an attention to quality, presentation, professionalism.

At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.” – Michael Law

How can you identify perfectionism in action?

It speaks just one word:


Tell me if you’ve ever said this to yourself:

  • I don’t have the time yet.
  • I don’t have the money yet.
  • My art isn’t good enough yet.
  • I don’t know what I’m doing yet.
  • My camera gear isn’t good enough yet.
  • I’m not ready yet.
  • I don’t know what to say yet.
  • I don’t know what to do if [what if scenario] happens, yet.
  • I don’t know anything about [business, marketing, sales] yet.
  • My web site isn’t ready yet.
  • My pricing isn’t ready yet.
  • I haven’t [read enough books, watched enough videos, done enough tutorials or courses] yet.
  • I can’t compete yet.
  • I don’t know how to use [social media platform] for my business yet.
  • Photoguru Soandso said I can’t call myself a professional yet.
  • I don’t know if I’ll ever be as good as Hero Photographer yet.
  • I haven’t explored every possible thing that could happen yet.
  • I don’t have a perfect plan yet.

Are you cringing, too?

Hey, my hand’s in the air, because these are all rationalizations I’ve made. I’ve fought half of them just writing this article. And don’t think because I’m writing this and you’re reading it that I don’t fight these battles all the time.

As a kid, I spent more time reading Nintendo Power than playing Mario or Metroid or Zelda because I wanted to play them perfectly.

As a teenager, I acted the clown and blew off doing my best at choir or sports or speech because I was scared to be imperfect at it.

As an adult, I’ve spent exponentially more time consuming education and information than practicing or teaching it, because I was scared to do so imperfectly.

As a mentor, I’ve brainstormed hundreds of ideas for how I can better serve startup photographers, but taken a pittance of action because I’m scared those actions will be imperfect.

I’ve tried every trick I could find to overcome perfectionism: productivity practices, motivational audiobooks, affirmations and visualizations.

Nothing worked on its own. I kept falling back into the same ruts, the same excuses to play small.

Until I learned of Imperfect Action.

How I Practice Imperfect Action

“Let it go. Let it go.” – Elsa

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Productivity For Photographers: What Gets Scheduled Gets Done

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on March 7, 2016

in This is Life

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“Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.” – Charles Richards

My photo client called me 10 minutes after our shoot was supposed to start.

And I was 20 minutes away.

In bed.

Asleep, until the phone rang.

Aaaarrrgggg; that sick feeling of “oh crap!

The couple and their two kids waited with saintly patience while I sprang out of bed and raced out the door. The next 15 miles between my country home and the city park where my clients waited were a blur.

You can imagine my embarrassment, and the four-letter words I spewed along the way.

Why Scheduling?

“The common man is not concerned about the passage of time, the man of talent is driven by it.” – Shoppenhauer

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Productivity For Photographers: Time Blocking

February 7, 2016
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“The simple act of putting some basic systems in place made me less ‘busy’ (as in just flailing) and made me way more effective at getting what I wanted out of life.” – Chase Jarvis

Tell me if you’ve ever had a day like this:

“Alright, finally some downtime. I’m going to lay into this project I’ve been putting off for weeks…”

Five minutes later, the boss comes in. Ten minutes later, he leaves, and you’ve got another urgent (if, from your perspective, far less important) problem to deal with.

“Okay. I can do that this afternoon; it’ll be fine. Back to work on the important stuff…”

Five minutes later, your coworker comes in.

“Hey, have you seen the new Star Wars yet? Yeah me neither. What did you do this weekend? Did you watch Doctor Who last night?! Oh my gosh, hurry up and watch it tonight so we can talk about it tomorrow. Do you want me to tell you what happened?”

Then a text message about the kids misbehaving. Then a two-bit client calls and wants to wiggle out of their bill. Then a text message with some lunchtime or after-work errands. Then a Facebook notification or two or ten. Then you’re hungry…

How many days have you started with a passion and a plan, and by day’s end, you’re exhausted and frustrated with not a damn thing to show for it?

Besides a healthy “No,” I’ve found time blocking to be best practice for protecting my productive time.

Why Time Blocking

“Those who make the worst of their time most complain about its shortness.” – La Bruyere

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Productivity for Photographers: Kaizen

January 26, 2016
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“Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.” – John Maxwell

My dad died suddenly.

It wasn’t really unexpected. He had been on palliative care at the nursing home for months. The lung cancer got the best of him; he was just too weak to continue treatments.

To say I took his death poorly is an understatement.

My dad was my best friend. It would take me years to realize the depth of my grief, even though I thought I was handling everything well. Instead of feeling his loss, I went numb, logical, cold.

I got the call on my drive into work. My cell phone signal was spotty, but I could just make out the nurse on the other end, crying, and telling me my father had died in the night.


I wish I had spent more time with him in his final days. I couldn’t wrap my mind or heart around the fact that he was here now, but soon wouldn’t be. I couldn’t grasp his not being there to talk to, joke with, get horrible if hilarious advice from. I’d smart off and he’d call me an asshole and we’d give each other a knowing, loving look.

I wish I’d gone to the nursing home and watched the boxing match with him that weekend he died.

I wish I’d made a lot of better decisions in my life, but none stand out so clearly when I think about the word ‘regret. ’

And oddly, when I sat down to write this post for you, regret is the word that came to mind when I thought about kaizen. Kaizen is the Japanese philosphy of small daily actions that lead to amazing improvement over time.

I want to tell you about kaizen, and how it’s helped me in my journey as a working artist, because kaizen is a powerful weapon against regret.

I wish I could get back all the time I spent crippled by my perfectionism.

I wish I would have done all the things perfectionism kept me from doing. I wish I had told him how I felt. I wish I’d have launched my business sooner and hustled harder. I wish I’d have made more art and fewer excuses.

It’s my hope that these words will help you earn fewer regrets than I have in my photography business (and life).

Why Kaizen

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” – Robert Collier

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Productivity For Photographers: Five Minutes

January 22, 2016
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“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” – Bill Gates

I answered the phone when my mother-in-law called me, and all I could hear was my pregnant wife screaming in pain, and Lenora telling me, “James Michael, there’s something wrong.”

I was working a late night at in the newsroom when the police scanner toned out for an ambulance, and the dispatcher read my elderly father’s home address.
I overdid it at the gym, and lay half-conscious on the bathroom floor, trying to muster the strength to reach up and unlock the door so help could find me… I hoped.
Five minutes is a lot of time.
Our perception of time can shift from warp speed (time flies…) to each second ticking by, suffocated in an eternity of fear, anxiety, and unknowing.
The above few stories are the first that come to mind when I think of how long five minutes can be.
(Read to the end and I’ll tie up those three stories for you.)
How we think about time is why we aim to get so much done in a year (then don’t), but think we can’t get anything done in five minutes (though we can).
Having a Five Minute Practice planned and prepared can help you make big gains over the course of time. Just five minutes a day is 30 hours a year, almost four full workdays; take advantage of three sets of five minutes a day, and you’re up to 90 hours of found productive time each year.
Wouldn’t an extra two weeks vacation to work on your self and dreams be nifty?
Stack this with early rising and a purposeful morning routine, and you’re modeling some of the highest performance men and women in the world.

Read more inside…

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Productivity For Photographers: Mindfulness

January 10, 2016
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“Life is a dance. Mindfulness is witnessing that dance.” – Amit Ray

I know, I hear you.

“Dangit James Michael, now I can understand how going to bed earlier and getting up earlier and focusing on important work can raise my productivity, but mindfulness? Meditation? Presence? What’s this woo-woo voodoo got to do with staying productive toward my dream of professional photography?”

Time is precious.

But presence is powerful.

One of the most insidious forms of The Resistance is that of distraction.

Not the obvious stuff: constant e-mail dings, Facebook notifications, and that coworker who’s never around until you’re working on deadline.

Distraction is the slippery, slithering snake in the thicket: you see it when you come across your to-do list from three months ago (last year?) and recognize how long it’s been since you even thought about your dreams. You skipped your morning routine, had a spat with your spouse, and then went off the rails for months.

E-mail and Facebook will distract you for hours. That annoying coworker? Minutes.

But The Resistance will distract you forever, if you let it, or the over-and-over-again equivalent if left unchecked.

Mindfulness is the hydrogen bomb in the scorched earth campaign against distraction.

Mindfulness is hard, though.

It takes proactivity, purpose, prioritization; slowness, stillness; awareness.

Especially when we already feel like there’s no time to waste, it’s a big ask to stop and look around and think.

But consider it this way:

Life – job, family, friends, passion work, community – demands you put the pedal to the metal seven days a week.

Before long, you’re going 90-to-nothing. You know you’re getting somewhere, but you have no idea where that somewhere is, or if it’s where you wanted to go in the first place.

Mindfulness is the act of hitting the brakes, pulling over, and checking the GPS.

“You’re certainly busy… But is what you’re busy with taking you where you want to be in life?

“Going further down a road you don’t want to be on just because you’re already pretty far down it doesn’t take you closer to where you want to be, does it?”

“Where are you, where do you want to be, and what change in course do you need to make to get there?”

Over and over, I’d get serious, get committed, and set goals for myself. Health goals, photography goals, business goals, fatherhood goals, husband goals, employee goals. Something would shake me up (a mini-Harajuku moment), I’d get mad and get my to-do list out, and get back on track.

For a day. Maybe a week, at the most.

Three months later…

“Now I’m mad and motivated and I’m gonna get this stuff done! Where’d I put that to-do list…”


For years I repeated this cycle of get serious, make a plan, then get distracted from everything I was so desperate to achieve.

The Resistance had an easy time of it with me.

Maybe you’re sitting there, shaking your head, recognizing how easy a target you’ve become as well.

If so, this is for you.

Read more inside…

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