How to Get Rich as a Photographer

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

Last night, I found myself in Ypsilanti, a small town with tons of charm and character.  Not that Saugatuck, cutesy, vacation spot kind of character.  More of like a down-and-out-but-we-are-still-clawing-our-way-to-a-better-tomorrow-and-we-wouldn’t-have-it-any-other-way kind of character.   “Ypsi,” as the locals call it, is home to Eastern Michigan University, an old train depot, a uniquely shaped water tower (I will let you Google that one) and one of the best bars/burger joints in Michigan, Sidetracks.  Since I was in town longer than I had anticipated, I sent text to  Sarah and Rachel, two former brides who are also sisters, asking what their dinner plans looked like.  I know how busy life gets so to toss out an impromptu get together with a few hours to spare, my hopes weren’t too high for everything to work out.  Much to my delight, everyone adjusted their plans and got together at Sidetrack.  Keep reading for how to get rich as a photographer.

I was early to arrive and found myself nursing a Rogue Hazelnut Brown (one of my favorites and a hard to find brews on draft), talking to a man who left Ypsi for California in 1981.  He was dressed to the nines – houndstooth coat, dress slacks, and a stylish, custom made fedora with a small pheasant feather in it.  He was sipping on brandy, neat.  Like his drink, he was a true gentleman.  When Sarah and Adam, her husband, arrived, hugs, laughter, and enthusiasm followed.  Rachel and Michael were next to arrive along with his twin brother David. We sat for hours, sharing stories, laughing hysterically, catching up, talking about what’s next in life.  I truly felt at home.  5 tips on how to get rich as a photographer.


Photography is an interesting career.  With the deluge of beautiful images on all of our social media feeds, it is easy to romanticize the profession.  In reality it is a lot of hard work, less than beautiful and whimsical moments (imagine shooting bridal parties, all dressed up, outside in the summer heat), and, to be completely honest, a lot of solitude.  I spend more time in front of my computer than I do anything else.   I send more emails than I make phone calls.  And while creating beautiful images, seeing people’s reaction to them and hearing what their photos mean to them as the years pass is exciting, even addicting, it still isn’t the best part of photography.  Much to my surprise, the single greatest aspect of photography for me is the people you meet.    Last night was a great reminder of that.  Since starting my career as a photographer seven years ago, I have made more genuine friendships than I did in all the years before.  Today, when I woke up, I included Sarah, Adam, Rachel, Michael, and David is my prayers of thanks.  Ironically, my brother sent me an email quoting one of my favorite businessmen, Warren Buffett.  It reminded me just how “rich” I am as a photographer.  Want to know how to get rich as a photographer?

I really knew I was rich when I had $10,000. I knew along time ago that I was going to be doing something I loved doing with people that I loved doing it with. In 1958, I had my dad take me out of the will, as I knew I would be rich anyway. I let my two sisters have all the estate.  

I bet we all in this room live about the same. We eat about the same and sleep about the same. We pretty much drive a car for 10 years. All this stuff doesn’t make it any different. I will watch the Super Bowl on a big screen television just like you. We are living the same life. I have two luxuries: I get to do what I want to do every day and I get to travel a lot faster than you.

You should do the job you love whether or not you are getting paid for it. Do the job you love. Know that the money will follow. I travel distances better than you do. The plane is nicer. But that is about the only thing that I do a whole lot different.

I didn’t know my salary when I went to work for Graham until I got his first paycheck. Do what you love and don’t even think about the money. I will take a trip on Paul Allen’s Octopus ($400M yacht), but wouldn’t want one for myself. A 60 man crew is needed. They could be stealing, sleeping with each other, etc. Professional sports teams are a hassle, especially when you have as much money as him. Fans would complain that you aren’t spending enough when the team loses.

If there is a place that is warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and you do what you love doing, you will do fine. You’re rich if you are working around people you like. You will make money if you are energetic and intelligent. This society lets smart people with drive earn a very good living. You will be no exception.

Turns out, I don’t need to Google “How to get rich as a photographer.”  I already am. Now go do what you love.

How to get rich as a photographer