On Photography: Bryan Esler, 1986-present

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On Photography: Bryan Esler, 1986-present

“[I got into photography because] I was stuck at a job 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 event photographer in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Primary Goal: Enjoyment

“Our craft should not only be about making money. It shouldn’t even be the primary goal,” said Bryan Esler 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 important. Sure, money was in the back of my mind… but it wasn’t the quality that guided me to my decisions.”

Bryan Esler

Full time photographer

Like many in the working world, Bryan Esler was fed up and very unhappy in his job. He knew that he wanted to do photography more than anything else.

He took a very deliberate approach to changing careers. He started by working part-time with clients while still at his primary job. Over time, he developed a group of clients who provided repeat projects. When his photography income was almost half of what he was taking home from his regular job, he went full time making pictures.

“Why 50 percent? Simple,” said Bryan Esler. “When you quit your day job, you suddenly have eight extra hours in the work day. You can take these hours and apply them to your business, expand your client base and set up networking meetings.”

He knew his timing to make the leap to professional photographer was partly 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 really wanted to do – capturing those special moments.”

To be kind

Bryan Esler is a self-described no-tie guy. He loves meeting new people and understands the power of making a big impression. He said: “I… deliberately lean in while shaking someone’s hand. I am a smile, and I love to laugh. I often tell little jokes with the client and ask them about their personal lives.”

“It allows me to develop a relationship beyond just a business one, which ultimately makes the client feel more comfortable before the photo shoot even begins.”

Work rules

Bryan Esler has a few rules he strictly follows. The first is to arrive at least 15 minutes before a shoot begins. The second is to keep his customers informed at all times.

Once he was injured while helping a fellow photographer on a photo shoot. He immediately called the client he would be working for the next day to tell them what had happened. He assured them that if he couldn’t cover their event, he would have another pro there in his absence. It turned out that he could complete the task. The point is, keeping his customers informed is simply a great business practice.

Photo walks

Leading photo walks in his city of Grand Rapids is another way Bryan Esler meets potential clients. Virtually everyone takes pictures, Bryan Esler knows it. Going on a photo walk with a pro who gives simple tips to make their photos better is one of the many ways he finds new clients.


Television providers such as 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 good 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,” says Nancy Jimenez of Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. “Bryan is technical, skilled, reliable, fast and friendly. He captures the perfect candid moments that most may miss. Simply put, Bryan knows what he’s doing and he does it well.”


Along with his photo walks, Bryan Esler is a talented writer. He writes a weekly column on marketing for Photofocus.com that has helped countless photographers build successful businesses.

Be inspired by his work, both in person and for clients on his Instagram.

Sources: Bryan Esler, Photofocus.

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