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March 2nd, 2009

Transitioning from advertising to fine art photography 3

Posted by Brian Kosoff

Brian Kosoff was an advertising photographer during the good times. Over the years he watched the industry change and things get harder and harder for photographers. In his last post he talked about his decision in 2002 to leave advertising and move into the world of galleries and fine-art photography.
"Hay Bales" © Brian Kosoff

"Hay Bales" © Brian Kosoff

At the end of my last post I had decided to close my studio. I open this post with the admission that I’m glad I did! I still keep in touch with many of my old clients and studio-mates, but talking to them about work is not a cheery walk down memory lane — it’s a bummer. Fewer and fewer photographers have their own studios. The majority share, but in cramped conditions. Now you’ll find five photographers sharing 2,000 square feet: a ratio likely to create stress and conflict. Some photographers I know shoot family portraits for the general public, something that would have been embarrassing for them to pursue ten years ago.

My work is much more solitary now and I miss the camaraderie of other photographers, assistants, and stylists (and the catered lunches!) that I had in the studio. Sometimes I don’t speak with anyone in person, except a motel clerk, for months. I joke that when I get back home from one of my trips, I hand my wife a credit card and ask for a non-smoking room. Still, I consider myself very fortunate. On an almost daily basis I get to see some truly magnificent sights and I get to drink some of the best and worst road coffee out there. (Best: ANY Scandinavian country. Worst: the U.S.).

"Dune Silhouette" © Brian Kosoff

"Dune Silhouette" © Brian Kosoff

As for my landscape photography, it’s still a work in progress. I‘m relatively new to it, and while it didn’t take too long to master the technical aspects, I’m still trying to figure out why I’m drawn to certain subjects. It took me a while to realize that my fondness for a minimal style, often having a center oriented composition and a high-key or white background, was a direct result of having spent more than 20 years shooting minimal, center oriented, often white background product photographs. I guess that even when you change directions, you still carry some of the momentum from your earlier motion.

Change is inevitable and it’s often feared, but I consider my change from advertising to landscape photography an opportunity. For me now, my work is more satisfying than ever, and life is simpler. That’s a change for the better.


  1. March 5th, 2009 at 6:17 am

    Ryan Smith

    Brian, thanks for another inspirational post. I believe the idea of change is so important to any photographer working right now or in the past. It can be frightening, but so rewarding (as in your case) if you just open yourself to it.

    I have been in business for 2 and a half years and have already gone through one major reorganization of how I do business and numerous other small changes. I keep my eye open to the possibility for another change because I know that change and adaptation is my key to survival.

    Thanks again. And the ‘Dune Silhouette’ is absolutely gorgeous.

  2. March 6th, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Brian Kosoff

    Hi Ryan, thanks for commenting.

    Being in business for 2 1/2 years is worth some pride on your part. Most businesses fail in the first year so you’ve already passed the first big hurdle. At the same time I can empathize with you and can tell you from experience that it’s going to be several years more for you of organizing and tweaking your business. At some point you’ll have it all tuned and running smoothly. And then there will be some industry changes and you’ll have to adjust all over again. It keeps things interesting.

    The only advice I can give you is to always do your best work, and wish you the best of luck in these challenging times.

  3. March 15th, 2009 at 2:40 am


    Work done in this blog is very wonderful and valuable.


  4. April 13th, 2010 at 4:40 am

    Steve Hix

    Great work Brian. And don't worry about Ryan. He assisted me and shot for a stock brand I owned while he was in Austin before moving eastward. He's a survivor with great instincts and will always land on his feet running in the right direction.
    I am curious…….do you sell any of your landscape works as stock? If so, how's that been for you?
    I've been doing landscapes for over thirty five years and have an arsenal of descent images that are sitting in my files collecting dust.
    I've sold through galleries here and in Europe, but never made enough to call it a living. Just got back from the Palm Springs Photo Show where I heard dozens of gallery owners, museum curators and book publishers all saying how difficult it is to make money in fine art these days. It sounds like you are beating the odds and my hat is off to you. Congratulations!
    Are you finding that you're getting commercial calls for landscape assignments now that you have taken this path? Thanks for sharing your experiences and best wishes in the future.

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