What do law, French translation, social work, and department store management have in common? They’re all professions that our most successful photographers here in the Travel Division left before making the switch to photography. Bonnie here, by the way. Lori’s home taking care of her new baby, so I’ll be your guest editor for the rest of the week. For each of them, photography was a hobby before they turned it into a profession. And today they’re all making a handsome living doing what they absolutely love. Holger Mette, who we heard from yesterday, is one such person. He left his life as a lawyer in Australia to make the switch to photography. He now travels the world full time, living off of his stock photography. (You can read that article here.) Jani Bryson is another example. She worked extremely long hours running a real estate brokerage before she made the switch to full-time photography. She desperately needed a change. And stock photography, she says, was her “path of least resistance.” Scroll down to find out how she made the switch to photography at 40 in this interview from our archives… — Bonnie Bonnie Caton Staff Writer, Great Escape Publishing P.S. People who love their jobs are not a myth! One thing all of these photographers have in common is a deep love of their work. They get to travel, meet new people, get creative, take loads of photos, and keep learning along the way.
Switching to a Rewarding New Career at 40: Interview with Stock Photographer Jani Bryson
By Bonnie Caton in Portland, Oregon BONNIE: Hi Jani. Today, you’re a full-time professional photographer with over 65,000 photo sales on iStockphoto.com. Could you tell us a little about how you got started? JANI: Growing up, I always wanted to be an artist. I studied art for two years in college. But at some point, I got the idea in my head that I couldn’t make a decent living at it. So I switched gears and graduated college with a business degree. I did a lot of things in business from working for different companies to being a self-employed entrepreneur. I started a real estate brokerage in Kansas City and grew it to 25 agents. Then, in 2003, I turned 40. I was raising two kids and working 80 to 100 hours a week. I realized that I was spending too much time working and wanted to find a way to spend more time with them and enjoy life more. So I sold the business and started dabbling in other things. One day, when I was buying stock photos to use in marketing for my own businesses, I saw that the stock site was looking for contributors. I had just been to Scotland with my son for a soccer tournament and enjoyed taking loads of photos there. So I submitted a few photos to the stock site. When they accepted me, I thought, “Maybe I could make a living out of this.” So I turned head-on into photography, and stock was just sort of the “path of least resistance” for me. But it wasn’t until 2007, after meeting Shelly Perry, that I got really serious about it. Shelly told me her story. And then she said something like, “If you are an artist, and you don’t practice it and let it come out, it can make you physically sick.” I felt like this was happening to me. I knew deep down that I wanted to be an artist. It was my passion. BONNIE: So how have your images been selling in stock photography since you began? JANI: Well, let’s put it this way: In 2005, I sold 62 images all year. In 2006, I sold 703 images. In 2007, from September through December when I really put myself into it, I sold 6,000. And then, in 2008, I sold over 40,000 images. BONNIE: Wow, that’s quite a jump! What did you start doing that made the difference? JANI: Well, I really decided to put all my energy into stock photography. That’s really all it took. Once I committed and let everything else go that I wasn’t happy with, I started to see success. Here are a few examples of the kinds of things I photograph now: BONNIE: How did you get into photographing kids? JANI: I didn’t pick it. I just kind of fell into it. Who knew this is where I’d be today? In mid-2007, a friend and I started taking pictures of our kids. Then it grew to our kids and their friends. The ones that sell best have positive themes, and illustrate positive change in the world, which feels good. Then my friend thought maybe we could incorporate some kids from the community who don’t get much time in the limelight. Now kids call me to participate. It’s great. Loads of fun. BONNIE: How did that work out, photographing a new group of kids? JANI: We really had a lot of success, and started seeing images of the kids all over — in magazines, newspapers, ads, TV, even local church bulletins. The kids saw themselves in a full-page anti-child abuse ad in Entertainment Weekly. The librarian at the kids’ school saw it, and showed it at school. The kids were thrilled to have their photo in a magazine alongside photos of Harry Potter… and they felt happy that their smiling faces were being used to illustrate something good. BONNIE: Do you make enough to live off of your stock photography? JANI: Yes. I do this full-time. I made the same amount of money in 2008 as I did in my best years in real estate. BONNIE: What would you suggest to someone who wants to get started doing stock photography? JANI: I’d say, first, decide what it is you want to do. You have to really know what, exactly, it is. Then, you have to imagine yourself doing it. Next, you have to figure out what steps you have to take to get there. Start with little steps. And every single day, you take another small step. I’d also say, “dress for success.” What I mean by that is, you’re going to have to market yourself as a photographer. Everyone you meet has the potential to help you in your business… and they have to perceive you as what you want to be. So make yourself look and act like a photographer. Say you’re a photographer, and mean it. [Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]