Bill Serne has owned Bill Serne Photography since 2011, after working for the Tampa Bay Times for 29 years, most recently as Associate Photo Editor. He specializes in documentary style photography, capturing special events, documentary and feature images.  In his free time, Bill likes to spend his time on the water and under it, boating, snorkeling and diving, preferably in the Crystal River area and the Florida Keys during scallop and spiny lobster seasons. Bill is also a hot pepper aficionado, growing his own peppers for his homemade hot sauce.  Bill Serne Photography is Bill’s second business. In 1973 he owned The Photo Montage, a small photo studio that specialized in wedding, portraits and photos for interior decorator use. 

1. What is the most interesting thing about you or your business?

Most interesting part of my business is the people I meet and photograph. Not always are the people I meet the ones I photograph, but are the coordinators. All have been interesting and helpful with me to make the best photos I can of each situation.

2. What makes business ownership worth it to you?

Coming from 40 plus years of newspaper photography and photo related jobs, it is nice to be able to pick and choose what I think is a good fit for me to get good photographs. It can be people, places or things and I control the whens, ifs and what times. Choosing the time of day, backgrounds and situations can add hugely to the end results.

3. Describe your typical day.

Most days for 4-5 hours I am working on a computer editing and fine tuning photo and video shoots. Making sure the correct images have been selected and the best video scenes chosen. The rest of the day I work the phones, do paperwork and submit billings and correspondences into the computer programs assigned.  Assignments most always take a whole day to work. Some weeks I have one every day, some not. But there is always something to do that is job related.

4. Would you ever trade running your own business for a 9 to 5 job?

During slow times when bills are due I have fleeting moments of going back to the 9-5 job. That thought quickly passes.

5. What advice would you give to someone considering business ownership or entrepreneurism? Are there certain skills or traits they need to be successful?

One has to realize that it is hard work. You don’t have eight hour days but more often ten and twelve hour days. Hard days with a lot of work, both physical and mental. You can always spend less time at it, but to be successful I believe you need to put as much time in your day toward your job as you can. You most certainly have to be a self-starter and set times and deadlines for your work. You are the boss and you report to yourself. Only you know if you are giving a fair days work and effort for your services….there are no evaluations given except when clients use you again. Listen to your clients and realize that they are the boss and have hired you. Most good clients know that you have been hired for your knowledge in the area you were hired for and will let you do what is best. A good listener is a great quality to have and use. One other thing, keep good records

6. Why do you think you’re successful? What does success mean to you?

Often I will sit back as I present my work or show a video for the first time and watch and listen to facial expression, words and comments. This can also occur prior to the final product being presented in the editing stages. Complimentary comments and pleasing facial expressions certainly add to knowing how successful (or not) that I have been. Photography is fascinating. It’s right there with all the arts. What one sees in an image, a drawing or a book, someone else may see or interpret differently. You have to be able to take the good with the bad and realize that the next project is coming. I have been a part of a crowd looking with them at my hanging photos and them not knowing it was I who created them. Success is hearing nice comments, seeing smiles, sadness, hearing laughter, and sometimes seeing younger people point and laugh.


Elizabeth has 15+ years experience in Public Relations, leading local, state and national accounts. Mother, reader, writer, marketer. Read more about me here.

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