Conversation with Pro Photographer Chase Jarvis: Creating a Life of Creativity, Income, and Sweaty Palms


I first met Chase Jarvis at a Summit Series dinner in Washington, DC.

It was sensory overload from the beginning: Olivia Munn was seated on my left, Mark Cuban was across the table, and everyone was drinking too much wine. Then, a Polaroid camera appeared in my hand (thank you, time travel) — in fact, multiple cameras were placed at every table — and creative chaos ensued.

Chase, as creative MC of that dinner, knew exactly what he was doing when he architected the bonding exercise. He’s become a superstar in the world of professional photography by showcasing his mastery of the craft (best known for sports and lifestyle pics), while using PR and branding to further his art instead of compromise it. He’ll go off-the-grid indie one week, and the next week, he’ll be the only person besides Lady Gaga to join the Polaroid creative team.

How does he do it?

How do you balance — nay, OPTIMIZE — artistic purity and commercial success as a “creative,” whether a photographer or otherwise? “Optimize,” in this context, for the best combination of lifestyle, integrity, and income?

Chase and I explore this topic and many others in his beautiful studio… and don’t miss his very Punk’d-like surprise for me at the end. It’s related to my first-ever photo shoot as photographer, which he walks me through.

Hint #1: Sweaty palms. Hint #2:

I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did. Here are some more of the pics from our little experiment.

Whom should Chase interview next, or whom should I interview next? Let us know in the comments.


Odds and Ends: Room to Read library names

I’m still blown away that you all helped raise more than $30,000 for a $20,000 project, which has therefore become $60,000 after matching. As promised, 30 of you will be thanked by name on plaques, 10 names on each of three schools. Here are the “winners” — generous contributors and fundraisers:

From the fundraising competition:
Grand prize: Melissa Rachel Black = Grand-prize winner of RT ticket anywhere in the world (watch your e-mail, Melissa!)
Second place: Rachel Rofe
Third place: David Turnbull

Thanks to all who competed! Every person made a difference, and you should be proud of your real-world karmic capitalism.

The top-30 most generous donors, in no particular order:

Ami Grimes
Tom Cronin
Kenny Tomasian
Wesley Butler
Benjamin Johnson
Angela Johnson
Hrag Richard Toutikian
Charlton Locke
Chris Camillo
Damian Hehir
Rosane Oliveira
Damien Forsythe
Spiderhost, Inc – Dale Frohman
Michael Gridley
Cathy Baker
David Turnbull
John Bracco
Caroline Sdano
Jay Vinsel
Kevin Pavlish
William Schwalbe
Kelley Bieringer
Jason Hauck
Justin Smith
Paul Kearns
Eric Aber

You all rock. More coming as soon as I start to get status updates on the school construction in Cambodia, Laos, and Nepal :)

Posted on: August 30, 2011.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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92 comments on “Conversation with Pro Photographer Chase Jarvis: Creating a Life of Creativity, Income, and Sweaty Palms

  1. Hey Tim,

    Great interview! I really like the part about you using the iphone to learn composition.

    Probably the best takeaway for me from the interview: find a tool/gadget that has the least amount of features (distractions) for you to best focus on what you want.

    Quick Question: Do you speed read fiction?


  2. I think you should interview a random stranger on the street and by the end have them convinced that following their passion is the only thing right for them. Or maybe they already are doing it…Don’t know until you interview!


  3. So I, personally, think that Chase should have let me in on the interview with you. Because, frankly, the two of you are some of my favorites to watch/follow. I was giddy with childlike excitement when I found out that you two were going to hang out for an afternoon. It was like a perfectly mixed cocktail. Chase has, indeed, revolutionized the photography industry (which I am in as well). And you? Well, you know what you have done… ;)


  4. Really enjoyed the chat you did with Chase Jarvis, Tim. I think it’s really awesome that two of my favourite personalities I follow are now good friends and collaborating. (And the look on your face when Chase brought out the surprise model was priceless.) :-)


  5. Great post.
    I’d like to see you interview Sir Richard or someone of his caliber and make it about personal habits that add to their creative process, productivity and success.


  6. Great Video.

    Truly agree with the paralleled pessimism that you process when your mind runs with optimistic ideas. Too often those ideas are pushed to the side or shelved because an instant decision is made of there impossibility. By understanding the balance and minimal negative side effect right away, you realize the potential positive side effects far outweigh them.

    Would love to know more detailed thoughts about your process to constructive criticisms. What were some steps and processes you took in the early stage to have you content reviewed in a productive nature?

    Keep up the goodwork.


  7. Great video, Tim! I just finished watching the whole thing. I love your insight into the world of photography and how I can possibly apply your principles for marketing myself. Thanks so much, it was a real pleasure to watch!


  8. You should interview Simon Sinek.

    He has an incredible message and outlook on how great leaders inspire action.
    **Website/ TED talk at bottom**

    His outlook has changed the way I think and act, even turning my GPA from a 3.3 in highschool to a rock solid 4.0 in college (for the last few years.)

    Ironically not too far back he decided to come to my city for a presentation (not cheap). As a student in college, I had absolutely no cash and was bummed that he was so close yet so far out of reach.

    Following the very Stoic, and very Tim Ferriss-esque teaching, I thought, “What’s the worst that could happen?” and shot him an email about all the crazy ways my life changed after applying his ideas uniformly.

    Long story short, he and the host of the event saw the email and gave my twin brother and I a complimentary VIP seat and “backstage pass” to hang out with Simon before and after the conference.

    Nicest, most genuine guy you’ll ever meet. You want to talk to an interesting, dynamic guy with a story to tell, it’s him.

    TED vid:




  9. Hi Tim,

    Great conversation. I have been amazed by how well the 4HWW principles work in practice, when you stick to them. Even if you don’t always know exactly where you are going, the further you go, the more you see ahead of you.

    When I first read 4HWW my wife and I owned a bookkeeping business. We immediately hired VA’s from the Philippines, rented space on a virtual server and made customer data travel to us, instead of the other way round.

    While we didn’t have a true muse yet, I was using the principles to make our service business the best imitation of one that I could, with free time to come up with product ideas.

    I started violating Parkinson’s Law, spending too much time turning that project into a massive undertaking. So I took on some consulting work for fun, limiting my time available for obsessing over products.

    In doing this work I found business owners struggling to find rhythm in the madness of their financial situations because, as Chase described, they didn’t want to be business people at their core. Sticking to the principles of separating the critical from the minutiae, and wanting to score high on the reward vs. effort scale, I came up with a simple method to help them navigate unfamiliar territory:

    Step 1: Was to teach staff the usual bookkeeping tricks needed to deliver accurate apples vs. apples financial reports to the owner each month. They just don’t happen without them.

    Step 2: Was for the owners to view their profit results each month against a percentage of income template, looking only for the areas which didn’t perform to expectations. Looking at dollar figures alone can be misleading.

    Step3: Was to isolate the behaviours behind those offending areas, and reverse-engineer a policy manual on-the-fly based on what they wanted staff not to do anymore.

    Step4: Was to implement an “Electric Fence” incident-reporting system via emails which notified offending staff and their superior/s, in as few unemotional words as possible, that policy breaches had been noticed each time they happened from that point on. (Heavier messages were left to superior’s discretion if patterns of behaviour emerged from the evidence.)

    When staff began to self-manage their conduct, even if only out of self-interest, profit and productivity levels increased dramatically, and the number of incidents that actually needed reporting each month dropped accordingly. As it seemed did the stress levels of the business owners involved.

    What I didn’t realise at the time was that by publishing that method in full, along with other tricks of the trade, I would end up finding my muse without struggling too much along the way to get it. I think this was because I was concentrating on helping people in need, instead of just trying to create a product that I could sell.

    None of this would have ever been possible if I hadn’t read the 4HWW, or your subsequent blog posts (adrenaline shots) along the way.

    Thank you so much for writing them,



  10. Unbelievable.. wow, thank you so much. I’m absolutely beaming! Thank you so very much everyone who voted for me, and thank you Tim for this amazing opportunity. Gonna take my muse on the road :)

    I look forward to visiting the schools, and I will update you on my trip and our book. To any of you who are artists, chefs, foodies, designers, photographers, illustrators, etc in Asia & Australia and want to get involved in this food/art/travel book I will be co-creating during this trip, please email me.

    Thanks again from the bottom of my heart!