Failure: A Photography Entrepreneur’s Greatest Teacher


Previously published in Success Magazine by H&H Color Lab, 2020

“This was my first lesson in business; success takes more than talent, it also takes a vigorous set of planning, testing, and execution skills.” Michael Anthony

These powerful words apply more than ever for today’s professional photographer. Follow Michael’s journey as he grew his business to accommodate a larger demand in the wedding market, including the pitfalls along the way.  In this article, he highlights the truth of how important it is to learn from one’s mistakes and how pressure and problems can be a positive force in one’s growth journey.

There is a lot to be said about failure in business. When it comes to the tasks that we set out for ourselves, we tend to look at failure as a negative. It makes sense to be disappointed when you do not achieve your desired goal … right? The truth is, there are rarely successful people in the world who have not experienced some sort of failure on their rise to greatness. There is, however, one thing that all of those successful people have in common—they all learn from their failures and also from the failures of others.

I remember when I was growing up, National Basketball Association great Michael Jordan was one of my childhood heroes. As a young student athlete, I remember watching him speak at a basketball convention. He referenced a story that had helped set him on his path to becoming an NBA Champion, a Hall of Famer, and eventually a successful entrepreneur. He told a story about his first experiences with organized basketball. He was cut from the varsity basketball team as a sophomore one summer. He stated that he went home after learning he didn’t make the team, locked himself in his room, and cried.

Those tears, however, soon turned into motivation, and that feeling of failure became the driving force that MJ used to motivate him to greatness.

Michael Jordan’s story is not unlike those of many great business people. Utilizing the “fear” of failure can ultimately help motivate you to succeed. Success takes a lot of work, and ultimately someone who isn’t motivated will have a hard time achieving great success.

However, motivation isn’t the only thing that can come from past failure. Knowledge is the second, and more valuable part, that can come from failure. Here, I can share a personal experience.

Our business has seen great success in a relatively short period of time. I shot my first wedding in 2012. By 2014, averaging seven to eight thousand dollars per wedding, I was constantly turning away business because I was already booked. I quickly realized that this was no way to run a successful business to give me the lifestyle I wanted to live. So, I decided to create an associate photographer program.

At the time, I thought I simply would have to find talented photographers, hire them, and then everything would be great. What a mistake that turned out to be.

In early 2016, six months after launching our official associate program, our business crossed the 100-wedding marker for booked weddings. I hired two photographers full time, and during the week they had production duties. I paid them a salary from November 2015 through April 2016.

Right as we were heading into busy season, both of the photographers resigned, and I was left with over 40 associate weddings that I had to fill. This was my first lesson in business—success takes more than talent, it also takes a vigorous set of planning, testing and execution skills.

Can you imagine telling 40 brides that the photographer we promised them would not be able to shoot their wedding? How we handled that situation could have completely broken our business.

Thankfully, in the wedding industry, we work six to nine months in advance. During that time, I learned from this failure. If an associate photography program was going to work, I would need to revamp its structure and develop a solid training program to make sure that our work was consistent.

Surprisingly, we did not have to cancel a single one of those 40 weddings. The failure of my initial attempt at an associate photographer program nearly broke my business, but instead of giving up, we found a way to make it work.

We currently have 14 lead photographers, and we just completed our first day shooting six weddings. The future for our business looks bright. But I can tell you, for sure, that the chances we will experience more failure in the future are not slim! To be a successful businessperson, one must always expect and understand how to take that failure and turn it into a learning opportunity.

I intend to always make the most of every opportunity, even the ones that come as a result of failure.

About the author: Michael Anthony

Michael Anthony Photography is a Los Angeles based Wedding Photography studio that was started in 2011 by Michael Anthony and Jennifer Loizzi. Our work is best known for its colorful, contemporary, cinematic style of portraiture. Our love for storytelling and wedding photography has allowed us to capture weddings all throughout the world. We have photographed weddings in more than a dozen countries for stylish couples that want to remember their day as more than average. 

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