I think of myself as an editorial and commercial shooter—although my BFA in photography from the University of Arizona says otherwise. Earning a living as an artist whose medium happens to be photography is no easier than earning a living as a hired gun with a camera. Yet, for many out-of-work shooters, the art photography world might be a viable alternative to doing nothing. Why do I say this? It’s about getting older.

I’ve long suspected that many middle-aged shooters (some with great portfolios and amazing client lists) are no longer getting assignments because the creative decision makers are energetic thirty-somethings who would rather hang with a hip twenty-something than a was-once-hip fifty-something. Actually, I thinks it’s always been this way. I recently validated my suspicion with an A-list shooter who falls into the fifty-something category and, in so doing, came to the realization that art photography is not subject to the attitudes of relatively young art directors. Rather, it is subject to the aesthetic appetite of people of all ages—some of whom might actually have a bit of money in their wallet.

Making a living as a photographic artist takes years of work. So, don’t think that you can make a few pretty pictures and wait for the checks to start rolling in. However, if you are looking to make a career change and are a person of sincerity, persistance, and patience, then photography as an artistic medium might be a path worth exploring.

A Few Resources For Art Photographers


Mary Virginia Swanson

Mary Virginia Swanson is a beacon of information. I attended a 90-minute seminar lead by MVS a few years back and came away impressed. She works as a consultant to artists and has sound ideas about the realities of the business of art. You can get on her mailing list for free. On November 7 (next Wednesday), she will be leading a free ASMP-sponsored webinar “Business as unUsual.” You’ll find the details here on the ASMP website.

John Paul Caponigro

JP Caponigro is a working artist whose photographs have been purchased by major collections around the globe. He is a master of modern photographic printmaking (which is how I first met him many years ago as a student in one of his workshops). JP offers a wealth of free information on his website and blog. He is also a globe-trotting workshop instructor whose schedule makes mine look lethargic.


CENTER is a not-for-profit service organization based in Santa Fe. The aim of CENTER is to “help photographers identify their creative goals and accomplish them through feedback, support, and opportunities.” CENTER leads a number of portfolio review events each year. Their Southwest Photo Summit will be held December 6-8 (info here).


3 Responses to Photography as Art and Art as Business

  1. Pam says:

    I opened your blog and found this photo. It’s masterly framing, or cropping, as the case may be, and altogether a revelation.

  2. Syl
    This image of the woman with roses is stunning.
    Can you fill us in on the lighting and location, etc?
    Was this a softbox shot?
    Thanks for always sharing your innovations with us.
    Bob Dalles

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