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10 Business Lessons Learned From a Photography Weekend in Budapest

In the recent past, when could still travel, I was lucky enough to spend 3 days in Budapest prior to a business meeting. What a city! I repeatedly forgot to eat and drink. I slept late night looking for the best angle to shoot illuminated monuments that enchanted my eyes. Lucky me!

As I sat on the pavement for long minutes trying to get the best possible night shot of a tunnel, I didn’t feel the time go by, until I stood back on my feet and realized that the world was still there. A few meters away, people were taking pictures. During that flow moment, I totally forgot about them. As I was progressively reconnecting to the world around me, a thought crossed my mind; what if we performed our work-related tasks as photographers enjoyed their hobby?

As I also enjoy writing, here are a few business lessons I was reminded of during this photography trip.

1. Success happens at the nth iteration

We need to be driven by that kind of passion that yields resilience. Trying again and again until reaching the desired result. Iteration is the secret weapon of perfecting the value we offer to customers. While I never reached 10’000 tries for the same picture (as Thomas EDISON has done for the light bulb), still, at times I took the same photography for what seemed like an eternity. Each time perfecting the camera adjustments.

2. It’s 99% perspiration

Getting the best possible shot, required doing things that are not directly related to photography as a passion: walking long distances to find the right angle, carrying the heavyweight photography material… This is also usually true in business. No matter how passionate we may be about what we do, there are always a few necessary, yet unpleasant, tasks to be done to make things happen.

3. Angels are in the details ☺

Each time I stood up after being totally absorbed by the picture I was taking, I saw a few surprised faces. I could read in their face: “It is silly to pay attention to that many details just to take a simple picture, give yourself a break!” Well, this is exactly what you should not do. Pay attention to small details even if people have to laugh at you. You know best why you do what you do.

Here is a laugh-worthy, yet useful, example of attention to details from Steve Jobs calling on a Sunday to adjust the color of the Google logo displayed on the iPhone.

Steve Jobs Called Google’s Vic Gundotra on a Sunday About this Icon

Put your heart and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success— Swami Sivananda
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4. Growth lives in harsh feedback

I was used to sharing my photos with friends. Most of which reacted in a positive manner. This gave me a boost of self-confidence but did not really help improve. After my condensed photography trip, I met a professional photographer by chance. I immediately showed him my pictures and asked for feedback. In a few minutes, he spotted 3 things I could change to level up my craft. In this case, pro feedback was much more relevant than many good friends. I was grateful!

I also met a British best selling author and a young German lady who is a freelance writer. I sent them a selection of my articles to get their views of my content and style. There was also a young man managing an art gallery I’ve shared my photos with.

Getting a reaction from friends on a piece of work is a thing. Receiving true feedback from pros is another.

5. Build networks (& followers)

The photographer also advised I created a (long overdue) Instagram account (karim_manjra) to share my pictures. I already had a 500px account ( but he explained 500px is a microcosm of photographers, that does not reflect real life. On Instagram you get “real” people confronted with your photos, interactions with them give you more of a sense of how you are doing and whether you found your (own) style.

In the same mindset, I started sharing my photos on Unsplash. By end 2019, I’m in the top 0.1% most downloaded contributors. That’s quite cool! 🙂

6. Opportunity does not repeat itself

While walking around the city, at times I happened to be in a hurry or more hungry for food that photography. I would say to myself, I’ll take that picture later. It does not exist. You cannot delay taking a picture. Conditions change a lot in a day or a lifetime. A lost opportunity is a lost opportunity. It may be replaced by an even better one but never the same.

By the way, this also happened to me numerous times in relation to my “writing life”. Whenever I missed the occasion to jot down an epiphany moment it faded and never showed back.

From a strategy standpoint, while it is wise not to jump on every opportunity, we need to make sure we do it choice-fully.

7. You need a sound base to start from

I’ve often heard people tell me:

  • In photography: with post-treatment, you can make any picture look good.
  • In business: fake it before you make it.

There is a limit to the 2 above statements. You need to start from a sound base. Post-treatment, although necessary, is a plus but does not replace a good shot.

8. Embrace the dirt

If we want to get the best angles, we’ll need to get our hands (and trousers) dirty, sitting on the ground or climbing a tree. Likewise, a hands-on approach to managing customers and employees also often pays out:

  • We need to stay in touch with customers & external partners to complement (cold) data with (sharpened) gut feeling.
  • Before creating a new job/position we’d rather know well about it in advance. It’ll help perfect our job description and candidate selection.
  • Nobody likes to work in a vacuum, regular contact with employees in the form of one to ones are effective even if it is only 20 minutes fortnightly. But keeping in touch through a system (rather than ad-hoc only) is feeding us with valuable information about work advancement, employee needs and ups & downs in motivation.

9. What brought you here will probably not take you there

Encouraged by the positive feedback & flow state I repeatedly reached, I decided to take my photography life to the next level. Here are the visible adjustments I made:

  • I installed Lightroom for post-treatment.
  • I started watching photography & post-treatment tutorials on a regular basis.
  • As referred to earlier: I amplified my web presence with Instagram, Unsplash/@karim_manjra & 500px/karimmanjra.
  • I moved from a Canon Rebel with 2 lenses to a 6D with 4 lenses.

The parallel with business is obvious but we tend to forget about those basic rules. We need to invest in ourselves, others, material, processes and time if we want to achieve significant & sustainable results.

10. Set yourself apart

As I showed him (the pro photographer) my pictures, he stopped scrolling at one specific shot. He asked why I took that picture (referring to the neat bridge night shot I used as a cover for this article)? I smiled and answered because it is the standard picture that any other photographer would have taken and it makes me look like a pro. He said, you have your own way of seeing the world, show it, share it, differentiate yourself. There are plenty of nice photos on the net. You need a reason to exist. Seek your own style.

After this wise advice, I took on me to take photos that better matched my personality. Here are few ☺

All of these photos are downloadable for free on Unsplash. ☺

Let’s tweet

You cannot always be better
You can always be different
Seek your style

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If interested in learning how to work with your nature and not against it, check out my book at

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