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

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on August 8, 2017

in This is Art,This is Business

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…


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

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on March 29, 2017

in This is Business

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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…


The one thing you have to do to be a professional photographer

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on February 16, 2017

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

Post image for The one thing you have to do to be a professional photographer

Emphatic doesn’t mean honest.

And passion doesn’t mean truth.

What almost anyone tells you you need to… have to… must do… is partisanship.

“You need to get a better camera or you’re not a real professional!”

“You have to be on the top social media venues multiple times every day!”

“You must do these three things [read: buy my training] or you’ll never be successful!”

Here’s your permission to let go of all that horsesh*t; the expectations, the pressure, the discouragement.

You have one requirement as a professional photographer:

Be honest.

This translates to every corner of your business:

Read more inside…


What’s your (distraction) drug of choice?

November 30, 2016
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“And so I began to peer into the darkness, that plunging sense of deep inadequacy. It’s always been there. Frankly, I didn’t know other people didn’t have it. I thought that at the center of all of us was black liquid self-loathing, and that’s why we did everything we did – that’s why some people become workaholics and some people eat and some people drink and some people have sex with strangers To avoid that dark sludge of self-loathing at the center of all of us.” – Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect

What’s your drug of choice?

I spent two evenings in fellowship with drug addicts, alcoholics, and criminals at a halfway house in Ingram, Texas. Every introduction ended the same way:

“What’s your drug of choice?”

I felt like the most sane, smart, responsible person in the room until my new friends started talking about how they experienced their addictions.

“The craving became so strong I couldn’t think of anything else. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t function, until I satisfied that craving.”

“I’d suddenly realize, like I just woke up from a dream, that I’d been on a three-day binge. I didn’t even remember the first hit.”

“I do good for a while, but then old memories, old relations, old feelings come up and my first thought is to make the feelings go away as quickly as possible, and the only way I know how.”


Food is my addiction. I’m a hundred pounds overweight and have been since my early 20s when I injured my lower back. As my new friends talked about their addictions, I realized how I use food as self-medication: Bored? Eat. Upset? Eat. Happy? Eat.

Maybe you can relate.

When I read the above quote from Shauna Niequist, it struck me how many photographers I’ve visited with over the last 8 years who start with superficial questions like, “What should I name my business?” or “What camera and lens should I buy?”, and by the end of the conversation are asking, “What’s wrong with me?”

What’s wrong with me…

What a damning question, right? Convicted without trial. We’re our own worst judge, jury, and executioner.

Read more inside…

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A photographer is safe at home, but that’s not what photographers are for

June 6, 2016
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“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William G.T. Shedd

Be brave this day.

Don’t hold back the blessings of your art and business from your community.

You have gifts to give; don’t be afraid to share them. Don’t worry about your lens, your talent, your web site, your reputation, your procrastination, your business name, your fear. Don’t wait for permission. Go, make art.

A photographer is safe at home, but that’s not what photographers are for.

Next Steps

  • BRAINSTORM SESSION: Get out your pen and paper. What Next Steps have you been avoiding out of fear, lack of value, lack of courage? What’s the worst case scenario if you take those steps? What’s the best case scenario? File this away in your Brainstorms folder.
  • SUBSCRIBE TODAY: Book yourself solid shooting clients you love for pay you’re worth. Don’t miss out on my best stories and ideas: subscribe to my e-mail newsletter today at the top-right of any page of this site.
  • DO THIS NOW: What’s the biggest challenge holding you back? E-mail me at I read everything, and I look forward to helping you make a breakthrough today.
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How I found my calling as a photography mentor

April 24, 2016
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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…

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Productivity For Photographers: Imperfect Action

March 21, 2016
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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

Read more inside…

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