6 Tips on Driving Your Freelance Photography Business, with Forrest Mankins


Forrest Mankins is a 26-year-old adventure and lifestyle photographer based in Portland, Oregon, who spends most of his time traveling and doing commercial photographic work. His latest project is an upcoming documentary, “A Life Alive”, detailing a six-month, 20,000-mile road trip from the Midwestern United States to the Arctic Circle, in Alaska, and back. B&H spoke to Mankins about his approach to the freelance photography business.

What drives him?

1. Surrounded by creatives and friends. According to Mankins, “A lot of what I consider to be ‘my community’ comprises creatives, but, honestly, it's really an amalgam of great people. I've been really fortunate to have a wonderful group of friends—people who I admire not only personally, but also creatively and intellectually, as well. Not all, but many of them are photographers or creatives in other ways; people I've met online through Instagram, friends of friends, or random interactions that lead to a friendship. 

Photographs © Forrest Mankins

2. Multiple challenges. “The biggest obstacles I see are multi-tiered. Working freelance, there is always an underlying push to find work. If you don't create work, you don't eat. It's a full-time job working just to work, so there's a strong motivation to stay busy. It's really a process that I am enjoying more and more as I learn, and it's that much more of a blessing when everything comes together,” he says.


3. Finding balance. Mankins works at “balancing the time spent emailing/on phone calls with creative time. I absolutely love making photos, and I'd be doing it whether it was my job or not, but it's easy falling into a cycle of only going out when you're on a job, which can really leave one feeling stagnant. I try to spend as much time as possible out shooting for myself.”

4. Turning ideas into jobs. “Any passion can fulfill a need. The passion is the key into driving that skill into a profession. If you're passionate about something, there's a good chance that a lot of other people are too, and usually with a bit of creativity and much hard work, that avenue can become a career,” he says. “I think it is important to drive the passion for passion's sake at first and, through that, the approach to monetize something can become clearer.”


5. Getting more work. Mankins says, “Understanding that social media can mean unlimited free promotion was the first eye-opener for me and, later, in learning how people—myself included—respond to the various types of online advertising was an incredible asset. The fact is that we as people do like advertising, but we're very picky about how it's presented, and that looks different in each space. I use Instagram and Tumblr to share my work and travels, and they've really been successful platforms in terms of building an audience, and connecting with that audience as a creative. It's a valuable billboard to have for creating awareness/getting your name out there. I'm grateful to be represented by Tinker Street *, a wonderful agency that works with a variety of great brands on great projects—it's kind of like a family with them.”


6. Explore inspirations. “It might be a little early to call it yet, but right now I'm becoming more fascinated with motion. Producing photographs that communicate motion yields a fleeting feeling in my eyes, and it's really another level of depth and emotion. As we talked about at the beginning of this interview, I'm very lucky in that many of the people I look up to and admire as photographers are friends as well: Theron Humphrey, Alex Strohl, Sam Elkins, Emily Blincoe, Benjamin Heath; the list continues, but these are all folks whose work I admire as greatly as I do them.”


Simple and straightforward. Just what I needed.

Thanks for reading, Luma!

Good thought, Good points and Nice point on the passion thing. Keep It Up

Thanks for reading, Oludayo!

Really good interview, Todd. Forrest really hit that nail on the head..."It's a full time job working just to work"...how true is that!

Thanks, Kevin, and thanks for reading! Happy 2016!

its simple things in the photography and it looks really complicated. I like it. but it is the preshoot prep that matters, setting the white balance, ISO, lens choice, filter if any, shutter speed, f/stop. etc. test shots. whew!!! just talking about it makes me dizzy hahaha but practice makes perfect. 

Hey cy,

Thanks for reading!

That's where you're wrong. Forrest just like Andrew Kearns and his friends don't care about gear or settings, in fact they now mostly shoot with their iPhone just to proove that to people. You have to have an eye for photography otherwise even the best settings and cameras in the world become useless.. I hope you changed your take on this by now.