Commission or Speculation


by Gregory Daniel

If you find yourself frustrated, confused, exhausted or befuddled with your clients more often than not, you are not alone. At some point in time our industry appears to have taken a business model that is designed to end with photographer and client looking at each other not knowing where to go from here. This gap between the client and photographer seems to be growing and not shrinking over the years. The onset of digital feels like the easy out for both parties to finish the process and part ways with neither one fulfilling their dreams.

Maybe our profession’s business processes have drifted to the point of self-destruction or our education process is more technically toolbox driven. In either case the result is lots of fantastic image makers are entering the profession and are dismayed on the level of difficulty to create a sustainable business.  My belief is that the dirty secret lies imbedded in our industry’s entry design.

Love – If you are like most, the attraction to photography was powerfully strong and offered inner expression of creativity. I experienced this as a twelve-year-old in my first middle school photography class. The assignment was to use up a roll of film so we could learn how to process and print. While taking photos in a rundown area of town I ran across an old gentleman sitting on the porch of his one room home that was in desperate need of repair. He allowed me to capture his image. I immediately raced back to the darkroom where my instructor guided me through the process. My favorite part of the process was seeing the image magically appear in the developer tray. I will never forget the words of life my teacher breathed into my soul, “You have a gift.” Instant love!

Educate – Shortly after falling in love, the game plan appears to try and find a way to repeat the way in which the images turn out. This stage might be referred to as building your toolbox. Any fine craftsmen would agree that learning the tools of their trade is an extremely important step. There are so many resources to obtain toolbox knowledge. My track started in middle school on through a college degree. This was certainly foundational although much of my success was after discovering Professional Photographers of America and the affiliate school programs where I could study under a successful master.

Clients – This area was basically an unintended consequence of the first two steps Love / Educate. I need people to photograph in support of my passion and the need to further develop my toolbox. Somewhere along the way there was money being exchanged but without understanding or value. I think this is where most of us end up creating work on speculation and hoping they will love what we do.

What if there was a way to stop the madness and find yourself out of this painful loop that does not appear to help you or your client with goals.  I suggest Erase the Board! After the toolbox is built, let’s erase the board.  Find your special place to dream about a business where you would love getting up each day and live your dream. Design a business where you are creating a product that will solve a problem for the type of client you identify with and a product that is identifiable to you as an artist. Such a product that when the clients need arises they will think of you. Begin with the end in mind by visualizing their shopping cart filled with your product, a product that your clients can easily identify as yours and clearly describe it to others.

When you flip the script and start with the client in mind, then is when clients start commissioning you to solve their needs. Here are your two choices. Which one will you choose from here on out?

Speculation: Assumption of unusual business risk in hopes of obtaining commensurate gain

Commission: A formal request to produce something (especially an artistic work) in exchange for payment

A nationally recognized husband and wife duo who create exquisite portraits, Greg and Lesa Daniel are also masters in sharing their knowledge and experience. They make it look so easy, but their secret is behind the scenes preparation and planning that result in timeless original portraits and a highly successful business. Greg and Lesa are internationally recognized for their artistry. Though he is one of the most awarded photographers in the United States, Greg has the utmost privilege of living out his passion every day alongside Lesa in operating their portrait photography galleries in both Indialantic and Titusville, Florida. He has achieved both the title of Master of Photography and The American Society of Photographers Fellowship. In addition, Greg is one of the youngest members to be inducted into the prestigious Cameracraftsmen of America in 1991, proud founding member of the International Society of Portrait Artists (ISPA) and on the Board of Directors for Professional Photographers of America.