Starting your photography journey with the end (the real end) in mind

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on February 11, 2018

in This is Life

“NONE said they wished they’d watched more TV. NONE said they should’ve spent more time on Face Book. NONE said they enjoyed fighting with others. NONE enjoyed hospital.” – Alastair McAlpine, pediatrician to terminally-ill children

This thread of tweets is one of the most powerful things I’ve read in months:

In it, Alastair shares what his patients, terminally-ill children, told him they wish they had more time to enjoy with their lives.




Ice cream.

I’m a single father of three kids ages 7 to 13, so this just put my heart in a vice.

I immediately went to my journal to ask myself hard questions:

Read more inside…


Does money matter to a professional photographer?

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on November 11, 2017

in This is Life

Money matters.

Other things matter more – love, health, service.

But money matters.

Money can’t buy you happiness, true, but it’s hard to see the happiness through the collections calls and tax liens and tears in your kids’ eyes when you can barely afford beans and rice for supper, much less Chuck E. Cheese.

Money matters when you’re so busy and stressed figuring out how to pay the bills, that you’re not present – much less emotionally available – for your spouse and kids and friends.

Money matters when money stress creates a downward spiral in your health, self confidence, and relationships.

Money matters when you begin to look at people with more money – not even a lot, just more – with anger, frustration, and envy…maybe jealousy. “I work just as hard if not harder than him, but he just bought a new car, and I can’t even pay my electric bill this month. What the hell?”

Money matters when you can’t get by each month without the charity of others.

Money matters when you’re stealing out of the kids’ piggy bank to pay for groceries.

Money matters when you can’t live a peaceful, humble, grateful life through the shame, and fear.

I have lived every one of these experiences, some during my childhood and some since I became an adult. I have felt this pain intimately. And can we just be real for a minute and say out loud, “It sucks.”

Read more inside…


What’s the point of being a photographer?

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on October 13, 2017

in This is Life

“That’s the point of being an artist, right? You feel something and you have to get it out.” – T-Boz, of the band TLC, as interviewed by James Altucher

Some folks I visit with here on PTP are money-first: they got into professional photography to make money with their cameras.

But for the vast majority, there’s something inside that burns like embers, just waiting on a little air and fuel to ignite.

That deep internal fire – creativity, expression, vision, fulfillment – is what makes us artists. Like T-Boz says – you feel something and you have to get it out. We photographers do this with our cameras, lenses, and Photoshop.

What’s the point of being a professional photographer?

Money is good.

Creativity and service are better.

Fulfillment is best.

The resistance hits us when the art we make doesn’t come out the way we hoped, and our phone doesn’t ring with new clients. It’s a long, confusing, windy road from where we are today to the art and business we dream of making. And every time we hit an obstacle – unhappy client, panicky photo shoot, art well below our expectation – it’s like a raincloud forms and douses that fire burning inside.

“Why can’t I figure this out?”

Read more inside…


“I feel guilty making the same photos for different clients…”

September 27, 2017

PTP reader Aimee writes:

Hey there – I finally had a light bulb go off (and it’s ‘easier’ to ask here than in one of the thousands of social media platforms where I would be subject to potentially hundreds of different opinions…): I think I overthink changing things up with every single shoot.

I try so hard to find different, unique spots and different poses but maybe that’s not even necessary? Sadly to the point where it causes a lot of undue stress. Do I really need two dozen ‘go-to’ spots and countless different poses to pick from?

I know exactly how Aimee feels – I’ve felt guilty about repeating the same photo with different clients, especially at the same location. Not very creative of me!

But that said, there’s a fence line at the City Park in Bandera, Texas, and I have shot hundreds of the exact same photo on that fence line. Kids, seniors, families, couples.

Not only has no one never complained…I’ve had many ask me, “I love this photo you made with the Smith family. Can we shoot there, too?”

Read more inside…

Read the full article →

How to charge for your photography without confidence

September 26, 2017

Shush and smile.

This is how you charge for your photography without confidence.

The Holy Grail for many startup photographers is “confidently getting paid what you’re worth.” This is a noble cause, one you definitely work toward in the Photographer’s Journey, but there’s a chicken-egg conundrum here – how do you feel confident about something you’ve never done?

The transition from free ‘portfolio-builder’ shoots to paid shoots is a HUGE one. It takes so much bravery, and the internal battle rages:

“How much do I charge? I don’t feel like my art is worth anything.”

“Why would anyone pay for my art? I’m going to look foolish for asking.”

“Every time I try to tell people my prices, I chicken out, and immediately start apologizing and discounting.”

Read more inside…

Read the full article →

How to get a photography mentor who will change the course of your career

August 8, 2017

When I launched Outlaw Photography in 1999, the online photography forums were a wild and dangerous place. The digital revolution had just begun, and established photographers were out for blood – the blood of the newbies, the unwashed masses, the “shoot and burners.”

I got cussed out, discouraged, run off, and hated on.

There are a lot more photographers out there today willing to help (99% “for a price…”).

But still today, most established photographers aren’t going to mentor you.

That’s okay – they’re busy, like most folks, for a thousand reasons. Add on the opportunity for them to a) see you as competition, b) hate your guts (unreasonably) for ruining the industry, and c) probably give you terrible advice that does more to hurt your success than encourage it, and truly – it’s okay if they don’t respond.

[I’ll never forget the one PPA-approved photoguru whose entire business model was doing whatever it took to ensure no client left the sales session with money left for groceries. I all but wretched.]

But the one?

That one photographer who, with just a few wise words, could change your life?

They’re worth fighting for.

So we’ll play a volume game. If you have to reach out to 250 photographers, 80 respond, 10 respond more than once, to get to one photographer who will really take an interest in your success, and become a key part of it…would you do it?

If so, here’s Ramit Sethi’s advice for that first-touch e-mail to a potential mentor:

Read more inside…

Read the full article →

5-step process to get camera time with the clients you want

March 29, 2017
Thumbnail image for 5-step process to get camera time with the clients you want

Here’s a simple (not easy) 5-step process to get camera time with the clients you want:

(This applies more to business clients for commercial work, or buyers for editorial, landscape, or travel work, but is a great exercise for portrait photographers as well. Try this on local politicians, big wigs, and influencers.)

Read more inside…

Read the full article →