biz ladiesLife & Business

Biz Ladies Profile: Max Wanger

by Stephanie

Biz Ladies Profile, Max Wagner Photo by Margaux Wanger

Today’s Biz Ladies Profile features photographer Max Wanger (check out our Sneak Peek of his home here). Max’s work first caught my eye after he collaborated with Bri Emery of DesignLoveFest on an ethereal fashion shoot. From there, I dove deep into the magical moments he’s captured throughout his career. Looking at any of his photos, you can instantly tell he loves his work. Today Max shares a little bit about his career journey. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your business, Max! — Stephanie

Read the full profile after the jump . . .

Biz Ladies Profile, Max Wagner Photos by Max Wanger

Why did you decide to start your own business?

“Follow your bliss.” My parents have always told me that. I spent eight years working for a large corporation, and although I learned a lot and made some great friends, it wasn’t what I was meant to be doing; it wasn’t my bliss. To be fair, I didn’t know that right away. It was the first job I was offered out of college. It was new and exciting. And how could I pass up a consistent paycheck, benefits and a 401k? But the last few years there, I was particularly unhappy and knew I had to find a way out.

Growing up in a very creative household, I always thought I would do something on my own, be an artist in my own right. Photography was one of my outlets, something I loved from an early age. Simply, it made me happy. So after many years of sitting in dark edit bays and cubicles, I took the leap, said goodbye to my day job and decided to pursue photography full time. A business was born, partly out of necessity, but mostly out of the need to follow my bliss.

Biz Ladies Profile, Max Wagner

Biz Ladies Profile, Max Wagner When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?

My wife Margaux and I started our business together, and we were literally thrown into the fire. Within a few weeks of getting some of our work up on a handful of notable blogs, we were booked for weddings and portrait sessions for the entire year. At that point, it became clear that we had a photography business that was going to be primarily wedding focused. I never imagined I would photograph weddings; it happened almost by accident, but it was a wonderful blessing, and it’s opened up so many amazing doors. Our business has since evolved, and I now balance the wedding work with a commercial/editorial career that has been a wonderful and exciting new challenge.

Biz Ladies Profile, Max Wagner What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting out?

Focus on what makes you happy, and the money will come. For us, it’s never been about the money, although yes, you have to make a living and pay your bills. But if you’re in it for the right reasons and you’re passionate about what you do, there’s no reason why success won’t follow. (Oh, and don’t forget to put some of that money that you do make away for taxes!)

What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

Staying organized. Understanding all the paperwork, the taxes, the state laws, etc. It was entirely overwhelming. All the business stuff kind of went over my head. I just wanted to concentrate on taking pictures. Thankfully, Margaux has a knack for this kind of thing, so we make a good team.

Biz Ladies Profile, Max Wagner Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?

You really have to stay true to yourself and your work. And you can’t consume yourself with what other people are doing. We try to keep our heads down, work hard and put what we’re proud of out there. Over the years, we were often caught up in what other people were doing, and it distracted us and took our focus away from what made us successful in the beginning: doing our own thing, trusting our instincts, following our hearts.

Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?

Running our own business has been a learning experience to say the least. We’ve had many moments over the years where we just felt so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work that had to get done. It’s been a challenge to find balance in our lives, and we suffered in the beginning because of it. Over the years we’ve slowly surrendered to the fact that we can’t do it all. It’s important for your clients, your personal life and your sanity to know your limits and realize that sometimes it’s ok to say no.

Biz Ladies Profile, Max Wagner Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?

Being able to travel the world. And getting to teach workshops. Regarding the latter, being able to give back and hopefully inspire others has been such a rewarding experience. Margaux and I were lucky enough to have found a few people early on who helped us along the way. We just want to be those same people for others. Running a business and all that goes along with it is incredibly hard and can be extremely daunting. We’re proof that you can do it. You just have to work hard and want it badly enough.

In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?

1. Do you have a plan?

2. Do you have something original to offer?

3. Does it make you happy?

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  • Awesome interview! I love your parent’s advice of following your bliss. I have a hard time being consumed by what others are doing and I need to focus on what works for me. Thanks for the tips!

  • completely unconventional wedding photos – so gorgeous, so well-captured, i could almost feel the awe and happiness of each moment.

  • Lovely, ethereal work. Max and Margaux have been an inspiration to me for a few years now! They truly do their own thing, which is not easy in this day and age.

  • Thank you for the inspiring advice regarding “staying true to yourself and your work”. This is a battle I am currently facing and I am sure many others are as well. It is so difficult to not make an attempt to keep up with the Jones especially with social media consistently at your finger tips.

  • i loved taking max & margaux’s photography workshop – the individual attention he gave me saves me every time when i start to panic about my lighting. i think, what would max do, and then try out the tools he gave me.

  • Max’s artistic voice is so original, so creative. An innovator in the industry I’ve looked up to since I first saw his photos years ago. What an inspiration!

  • I’m such a big Van Of max and Margaux’s work. So refreshing reading this interview and reminding you to follow you heart all the way. These guys really inspire me.
    It’s so true that you can’t get caught up in what other people are doing, you gotta follow your own gut and develop you own style, that’s what’s going to make you stand out.
    Out of sheer curiosity I’d love to know what Max did for a living in a little cubicle before becoming a full time photographer.

  • “doing our own thing, trusting our instincts, following our hearts” and also, “learning to say no”… Amen to that, Max Wanger! A lovely little insightful interview and beautiful photos (as always) to match.

  • I’d love to see what Max would come up with if he designed clothes- socks in particular.

  • Wow, it seems like everything the Wagner’s touch is magic! It is very clear that these guys love their work, great interview!

  • Wonderful interview. He continues to be an inspiration to me. Love these images you picked here.