Does the....

Nittie Gritty Bother You?

“The bumps in the road aren’t big if you enjoy what you’re doing.” That’s how the saying goes. Can you pass the test?

I’ve been observing picture professionals and their business operations for 35 years. Many survive. But many more fail. Of those that fail, the most common flaw is their refusal to pay attention to the business aspects of their enterprise.

In other words – they went out of business not because they were not good at what they do, but because they were not good business people.

Being a good businessperson can be learned.

“But I don’t like all that drudgery associated with business,” you might say.

Yes, it’s true, meticulous record-keeping and routine tasks are involved. Record keeping. Statistics to keep. Correspondence. Forms to fill out. “Ugh!” I heard you say – and you are correct.

But look at it this way: The inconveniences associated with operating your business should pale against your rewards.


History shows that anyone can succeed if they’re willing to put up with the inconveniences (and “the lean years”) associated with their endeavor. Actors often talk, write, and sing about their years of struggle.

While it was happening, they say, it wasn’t pleasant. But if they survived, and went on to fame – they often comment that those years –were the best years.

Can you draw a parallel to your own efforts? If it’s any consolation, you might be passing through “the best years” right now. Enjoy every moment!

The inventor Thomas Edison didn’t “discover” the electric light bulb. He simply put up with the drudgery of testing more than 7,000 different ways to make it work. He was in love with what he was doing. When someone asked him, “Isn’t it tedious – going through all those tests?” he replied, “On the contrary, it’s exhilarating. And now I know 7,000 ways it cannot be done.”


We tend to call someone a genius if they succeed far beyond their colleagues. But Edison’s famous reply was, “Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration.” The actor George Burns was asked how he got to the top in his profession. He stumbled with a few clichés about being lucky and working hard, and then said, “What I’m trying to say is – don’t get discouraged and quiet. If you are really in love with what you’re doing –handling all the nitty gritty details along the way won’t bother you”. It bears repeating: people fail at their business not because they’re not good at what they do, but because they didn't apply themselves to good business practices. It’s all woven together – the major operations and the detailed business side.

There’s a prevalent misconception
in the art world that “creative people
are not good business people.” You
could not convince Shakespeare, Picasso,
or Andy Warhol of that notion.

Yes, the business side of your career can get stormy. But if you enjoy what you are doing, such squalls blow over and you sail on.


As an editorial stock photographer you are going to find much more enjoyment when you are photographing subject matter that you like to take. Learn more about how to sell those pictures at PhotoSource International and the PhotoSourceBANK, Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. Rohn Engh is director of and publisher of PhotoStockNotes. E-mail: Fax: 1 715 248 3800;

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