At some point, every photographer has to decide between shooting what they love and shooting what will pay. Some photographers make more money than they know what to do with, but they never shoot what they love, and so they always feel a little dead inside. Meanwhile, those who shoot only what they love and wholly enjoy the craft often seem doomed to work at Starbucks for the rest of their days. That’s just the artist’s lot… isn’t it?
Photographer Nick Fancher knows what it means (and how it feels) to become distracted away from his passions in photography by the prospect of making more money shooting something else. He also believes that there’s a solution to the money vs. art condundrum: pioneering a way to make money shooting what and how you love to shoot. Watch as Fancher explains how he created a market for his style of shooting here:
Fancher graduated from Ohio State’s photography program with the mentality that he needed to make a living shooting weddings and families while working on year-long personal side projects and hosting gallery showings. However, while that paradigm may keep others motivated, it meant the death of creativity for Fancher.
“It almost made me forget why I got into photography in the first place. [I asked myself,] ‘What are the kinds of jobs I want to do?’ And that’s when I just realized I needed to start doing them on my own.”
He didn’t get paid for following his passions—at least not at first. He did work at Starbucks. But he put in the groundwork with a smile, treating every unpaid portrait shoot as an opportunity to create a body of work that would someday attract paying clients, to discover and hone his unique style, and to experiment and own new techniques without pressure to deliver, as well as to feed his soul.
“It’s all a means to an end,” Fancher said. “I get more polished at working on the fly, working with models, making connections, refining my lighting techniques, my workflow. Everything about it gets tighter and tighter and then I have clients that hire me specifically for that type of job.”
One of Fancher’s secret weapons as he tried to create a market for his style of shooting was finding ways to stay inspired. He pored over movies, photography books, and magazine editorials, searching for images that moved him; when he found an image that stood out to him, he would spend a photo shoot or two trying to figure out how the photographer had accomplished the look, and more importantly, how to alter those techniques and incorporate them into his style.
“For me, it’s all about the process,” says Fancher. “Inspiration can come from anything and it’s not [always] grandiose… I’ll be moved by something and I’ll do a few shoots and then I’ll get bored and I’ll move on.”
Nick Fancher is a portrait photographer based in Columbus, Ohio. Though he is relatively early in his career, his unique lighting and editing techniques have already drawn international attention, as well as turned the heads of major publications such as ESPN Magazine, The New York Times, and Getty.
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