“[I got into photography because] I was stuck at a job that I no longer enjoyed, and I wanted to “break free” from the 9-5 daily routine. I wanted to spread my creative wings, so to speak. I wanted to do things on my terms.” -Bryan Esler
Bryan Esler photographs people, food, and landscapes. He wants to be the go-to event photographer in Grand Rapids.
Primary goal: Enjoyment
“Our craft shouldn’t be just about making money. That shouldn’t even be the primary goal,” Bryan Esler said in an article in Photography Marketing, “When I left that 9-5 job, I wanted to do something I enjoyed. I wanted to capture those moments that people found to be important. Sure, money was in the back of my head … but it wasn’t the attribute leading me to my decisions.”
Bryan Esler was like many in the working world fed up and very unhappy in his job. He knew he wanted to do photography more than anything else.
He took a very deliberate approach to change careers. He began by working part-time with clients while still at his primary job. Over time, he developed a group of clients providing repeat projects. When his photography income was almost half of what he took home from his regular job, he went full-time into making pictures.
“Why 50 percent? Simple,” Bryan Esler said. “When you leave your day job, you’ll suddenly have eight extra hours in the workday. You can take these hours and apply them to your business, growing your client base and setting up networking meetings.”
He knew his timing to make the jump to professional photographer was partly making half his income and the other part a gut feeling. He wanted to go “all in.” He knew it would be a struggle at first.
“For me, it was about happiness and doing what I truly wanted to do — capture those special moments.”
Bryan Esler is a self-described no-tie guy. He loves meeting new people and understands the power of making a great impression. He said, “I… purposefully lean in while shaking someone’s hand. I’m a smiler, and I love to laugh. I regularly tell little jokes with the client and ask them about their personal lives.”
“This lets me establish a relationship beyond just a business one, which ultimately makes the client feel more comfortable before the photoshoot even begins.”
Bryan Esler has some rules he follows rigorously. The first is to arrive at least 15 minutes before a shoot begins. The second is to keep his clients informed at all times.
Once, he was injured helping a fellow photographer on a shoot. He immediately called the client he’d be working for the next day to tell them what happened. He assured them that if he could not cover their event, he would have another pro there in his absence. It turned out that he was able to complete the job. The point is keeping his clients updated is simply a great business practice.
Leading photowalks in his city of Grand Rapids is another way that Bryan Esler meets potential clients. Practically everyone takes pictures, Bryan Esler knows this. Going on a photowalk with a pro who gives simple tips to make their pictures better is one of the many ways he finds new clients.
Television providers like NBC, CNBC and WOOD TV8 (Opening photo, bottom row, first image: Governor Gretchen Whitmer ©2022 Bryan Esler and WOOD TV8) use Bryan Esler’s skills to tell their stories.
Along with Delta Airlines, Microsoft, Michigan State University, Art Prize and Pure Michigan, they have a great relationship with him. They understand that he will always deliver the images they want.
“I’ve worked with several photographers throughout my career, but working with Bryan is one of the most seamless things,” says Nancy Jimenez of Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. “Bryan is technical, savvy, dependable, quick and kind. He captures the perfect candid moments most might miss. Simply put, Bryan knows what he’s doing and he does it well.”
Along with his photowalks, Bryan Esler is a talented writer. He has written a weekly column on marketing for Photofocus.com that has helped countless photographers build successful businesses.
Be inspired by his work, both personal and for clients on his Instagram.
Sources: Bryan Esler, Photofocus.