The no-affiliate-link, no horsesh*t guide to Black Friday for photographers

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on November 27, 2015

in This is Business

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I was showering this morning (you’re welcome!), and as I am wont to do, I was brainstorming ideas to help you guys make more art and more money with more comfort and confidence.

Confession time:

I’m about as anti-marketing-BS as anyone, but even I couldn’t resist loading SlickDeals last night to see what was hot for Black Friday.

Like any red-blooded professional photographer, I lusted over a few deals that would be so sexy for my business. Laptops, tablets, big TVs (for proofing sessions, of course!), and always, cameras and lenses and kit.

Sugarplum primes danced in my head.

Then I remembered a couple e-mails I got from respected photogurus yesterday, both Black Friday buying guides, and both having almost all the same affiliate programs featured.

Affiliate programs let people with an audience (authors, bloggers, celebrities, thought leaders) sell someone else’s stuff and get a commission. Sometimes a percent or two, sometimes 50 percent or more.

Many of the products and services on offer in these e-mails, I’d never heard of before. Some, such as online proofing and sales sites, fly in the face of what’s become the best practice of in-person sales (IPS). This struck a bad chord with me.

Listen, I know you’ve got your wallets out and those credit cards aren’t going to swipe themselves…

But hear me out:


Just for a moment.

Break the FOMO pattern (fear of missing out) that makes Black Friday so gratifying, exciting, and “fun.”

Recognize: You have everything you need.

It’s not everything you want – we’d all enjoy more megapixels, more ISO room, more wireless flash action, more processing horsepower to push Photoshop along, more actions, more presets, more of the things we think we need to make our dreams come true.

But in our hearts, we know we haven’t maxed out what we have. We haven’t learned all we can. We haven’t mastered the gear in our hands (or more likely, sitting on the shelf…ouch).

Take the time you were going to spend today salivating over big deals (which aren’t that big anyway), pick up your camera, and go make some art. Be seen with your camera. Shake hands. Hand out business cards. Be compassionate. Serve.

Will Rogers has got your back:

“The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.”

If you’ve got a little budget set aside for today, here are the places you’ll get the most growth for your dollar:

(And though I normally do use affiliate links for products or services I’ve used and recommend to you guys, I’m avoiding them today, just to err on the side of authenticity.)

  1. David duChemin’s Craft & Vision – Beautiful, powerful, and educational photography eBooks by photogs for photogs. If you haven’t visited, you don’t realize how inexpensive these eBooks are, with titles that make my heart glad: The Next Level – 25 Insights for Building a Successful Photography Business, Making The Image – The Creative Path to Stronger Photographs, The Natural Portrait – Making Beautiful Portraits in Natural Light, and many more. Fill your cart during this 50% off sale, and then commit the time daily to study and practice what you’ve invested in. This is where I will be spending my Black Friday money today.
  2. CreativeLive – 25% off all classes today. I’ve learned more story-changing skills from CreativeLive videos than I have any other educational video site (including YouTube, Lynda, and Craftsy). The quality is there, and founder Chase Jarvis is just an amazingly cool dude.
  3. DiscountMags – Where I get all of my magazine subscriptions. I know magazines aren’t as cool as they used to be, and “you can find everything on the Internet,” but the value magazines bring is in the serendipity and presentation of both the content and the advertising. Every month I thumb through the latest edition of Bicycle and come away with five to 10 new ideas for marketing campaigns for my photography business. Train up your business vision, and you’ll find magazines to be a treasure chest of ways to market your business in your community. If you want to get started with magazines, invest around $12 total for a subscription to one photography magazine, one business magazine, and one hobby or topical interest magazine.
  4. Slickdeals – If you’re looking for the real deals (please, don’t believe the discounts the retailers are claiming), the deals at Slickdeals are voted on and vetted by the community. It’s rare that I buy anything over a few dollars at retail anymore, because I can find a way better deal by watching Slickdeals. Just be careful: there’s a lot of camera gear on sale today. If you haven’t mastered what you already have, back away from the Buy button.
  5. Amazon – If you’re going to die without buying some kit today, here’s my boring, practical, but honest recommendation: grab a used Canon 40D for around $150, and a used Canon 50/1.8 for around $65. Tack-sharp photos that print beautifully to 30×40 and beyond. By the time you master this combo, you should be doing enough business to afford any camera gear you want. Seriously: my pair of 40Ds are still my primary cameras today for all of my portraiture. It’s not sexy, but it’ll earn you a hundred times what you pay for it.

That’s it.

Just imagine how far you could take your art and business with one new book, one Creative Live class, one magazine subscription, and one basic dSLR with one basic lens. Or any combination of these. If you think it’s not enough to make a difference, see what your fellow photographers are creating with that “cheap” 50/1.8 over on Flickr.

A little bit goes a long, long way when you’re willing to #hustle.

– James Michael

Next Steps

  • Put It Back: As Will said, fold your money over and stick it back in your pocket. My family has a Rule of 10’s: if something costs up to $10, you wait 10 minutes before buying it, just to let the instant gratification wear off a bit; up to $100, wait 10 hours. Up to $1,000, wait 10 days. Above that, 10 months (because odds are it’ll have dropped by half in price).
  • Buy Your Life Back: What’s your time worth? Whatever you’re about to spend on Black Friday purchases, what if you bought that much time back from your day job? Would it buy you a day? A week off without pay? What if you put that time into your photography and business to make your dreams come true? Always be aware of the time you’re trading for the money you’re spending. Be sure it’s worth it.
  • Shoot: Get out your camera. Go take some pictures. Do some street photography. Set up an impromptu photo shoot. Get some creative time in. When you come back to your computer or tablet or smartphone, see if the marketing hype hasn’t worn off. Back to basics. Back to fundamentals. What really makes a difference?
  • Brainstorm Session: Get out your pen and paper. Make a list of everything you want to spend money on, or wish you had the money to buy. Don’t be humble, this is supposed to be a big list. Now rewrite the list from least expensive to most expensive. Now rewrite the list from highest priority (what will make the biggest difference in your experience of life) to lowest priority – and be honest. See what the lowest-priced investments are that will make the biggest different in your life. Rewrite your list from best bang for the buck to least, and start saving your money toward #1 on that list. You may have it in your pocket right now, but in the Black Friday frenzy, you’d have spent way more to get far less return on your investment.
  • Subscribe Today: It’s my calling to help you earn your first $5,000 to $50,000 as a part time professional photographer. 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 struggle holding you back right now? E-mail me your answer (yes, right now!), and let’s make a breakthrough today.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy December 1, 2015 at 7:32 am

Ha..!! Black Friday – probably one of the better imports from the USA to England!
I succumbed. I got the wallet out. And I splashed out on a couple of 8GB compact flash cards.
There… it’s off my chest now. Confession really is good for the soul!!



Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor December 2, 2015 at 8:54 pm

Andy the man! Thanks so much for the support!

I picked up that Next Level ebook from Craft & Vision. I swear those folks know how to put together an absolutely supple ebook experience. Lovely photos, lovely design – makes soaking up the knowledge within a pleasure.

Get out and make good use of those CF cards! Can’t wait to see the work you produce with them!


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