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.

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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 james@banderaoutlaw.com. 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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Productivity For Photographers: What Gets Scheduled Gets Done

March 7, 2016
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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

Read more inside…

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