Event Recap – What It Takes: Building a Creative Career

Article and Images by: Logan C. Miller

Feb. 21st, 2019

It has been about a year now since I moved to Los Angeles and I still get excited to drive across town despite excruciatingly heavy traffic. I’ve noticed that I get particularly giddy right as you cross the bridge from Atwater Village into Los Feliz. Seeing the city sky line sprawl out across the valley gives me inspiration and hope. It is a reminder of why I came out to Los Angeles in the first place and why many make the pilgrimage to California. We came out here to find a better life and start our careers. In pursuit of this dream, I had the pleasure of attending “What It takes: Building a Creative Career” a presentation by ASMP National board member Barry Schwartz.

My destination for the day took me right in the center of Hollywood. The Los Angeles Center of Photography is located right off the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Wilcox Avenue and is surrounded by a plethora of coffee, bars, shopping and the occasional guy dressed up as Spiderman. I prepared myself for a full day of documenting and learning. The air was electric with anticipation as professionals and amateurs alike shuffled through the front doors to socialize inside, quickly becoming a full house. The event had a scheduled run time from 9 am till 4 pm, and many came equipped with pens, notepads, questions, and audio recorders to absorb as much information as possible. Once introductions and the first round of coffees were finished, everyone settled in for the presentation.

Over the course of the event, we talked about the importance of a well-organized and thorough digital workflow, making sure you develop your people skills and how to use them in your business, and making sure you have a strong web/social media presence especially in today’s market. Barry’s comprehensive coverage certainly resonated with me, which led me to ask a few of the attendees what their takeaways were from the experience.

Andrew Amani: Well, I came here with the mindset of “I don’t know anything” because I want to be an open book and absorb as much as possible. There was plenty of good information that was really specific and really just broadened my horizons so much, and you can’t beat the price. It was worth the investment to come out (to LACP) and coming here really solidified that answer. It’s a really great place.

Ellen Friedlander: I came for any tidbits that could help me be more focused on my journey. Platon, the little video he shared… that was remarkable because when I go shoot a portrait I will remember what he said, like how he talked to (President Bill) Clinton and how all of a sudden, he got that pose. Just little things like that. I liked the idea that he interwove little clips of real people living their dream, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m living my dream, and it’s all possible.

I reached out to Barry after the presentation and had a few questions of my own to ask him:

Logan: Where does your passion for photography come from?

Barry: Like so many photographers, I started taking photos seriously in my teens, tried to quit many times, and failed routinely.

L: What motivates you as an educator?

B: Teaching, first of all, is a give-back to all those people who helped me find my way, whether in person or online or in a magazine. It’s an old cliché, but true, that if you take it seriously, it will affect how you do your job – makes you stay conscious about the gig. Finally, it’s fun!

L: What do you believe are the biggest challenges in the photography industry today?

B: Separating oneself from the competition to show your worth, remaining excited about the job (true for every profession), and negotiating a fair fee.

L: What are the top 3 important take-a-ways from your presentation?

B: One – Working for yourself is as much – or more – about people skills than any other aspect. Two – Value your skills and talent and what you bring to the table. Three- Don’t devalue the importance of business basics – that’s what will keep you employed.


L: When was the moment that you realized that you had what it took to make a solid photography career?

B: No single moment, but repeated validation from clients, and then, later, after looking hard at more successful photographers, realizing I had the chops to do work just as good.

L: What information do you know now that you wish you could tell your past self?

B: Get more sleep.

L: Any final words of encouragement for emerging photographers?

B: Just keep going!

In summary, if you’re a photographer who finds yourself smack dab in the middle of your career, then “What It takes: Building a Creative Career” is a stunning and comprehensive learning experience. Barry Schwartz uses his insight from a successful career to share intuitive and comprehensive knowledge with a quirky sense of humor along the way. You can find the links that Barry talks about in his presentation here: http://barryschwartznotbarryschwartz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/WORKSHOP_RESOURCES_DOWNLOAD.pdf

A great big thank you/shout out to Barry Schwartz, the Los Angeles Center for Photography team, our wonderful ASMP and LACP members who made it out to the event, and our very own board of directors, who helped organize this wonderful event.