How I Became a Cannabis Photographer

Hi, my name is Bess — but people call me Cannabess! I’m a cannabis photographer and digital marketing expert with over eight years of experience.

So, how does one become a cannabis photographer? Well, let’s start at the beginning…

I graduated from Washington State University with my BA in Public Relations and a minor in Mandarin. I moved to Beijing in 2009 and interned at a graphic design agency. To pass time, I strolled the streets and shot photos with a Nikon D60 gifted by my dad. The CCP blocked access to social media sites, so I started a WordPress blog and absorbed life abroad.

When I returned to the States, I moved to Los Angeles. I worked in marketing research, specifically focus groups and ethnography, for a woman I’d photographed in China. Our clients included companies like Nike, Apple, Louis Vuitton and Grey Goose.

I tapped into my passion for politics and started A Generation Empowered, a political advocacy group regarding fiscal and economic issues. After four years in Los Angeles, I found my career at a crossroads and set my sights on D.C.

From Politics to Pot

All that changed in March 2015, when I received a job offer from Western Cultured, an i502 grow. Pot is political, right?

My first six months in Washington I learned to grow. I took clones, transplanted to racks, pruned, transplanted to veg, pruned again, assembled water lines, loaded bloom rooms, weaved SCROG, harvested buds, cured them, trimmed them, weighed them, and eventually I sold them. I slowly transitioned out of the garden and in to a sales, social media and marketing role.

A year later I joined Grassworks Digital, a cannabis marketing and technology company. I led photography for four of our clients including Washington’s number top selling producer/processor, Northwest Cannabis Solutions. Grassworks shifted business to focus on their menu technology and my job went away.

However, that door closing opened another. It led to my first and only corporate experience. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a company burn through money so fast, but it inspired me to start my own business.

Independent employment allows me to pursue my passions — writing, photography, brand development and influencer outreach. In January 2018, I started my agency, Blaise Creative, to provide content creation, social media management and other digital marketing services.

As my social profile grew, it became more important to align myself with companies who share my morals, values and passion for this plant. This industry isn’t just about turning a profit. It’s about advocating for legalization the right way and using your business to give back. I call it “conscious capitalism.”

Merging my Passions

Like millions of others, in 2020, life threw me a curve ball. During the pandemic, I became an outspoken skeptic of government lockdowns, mandates and the silencing of dissent. Having lived in a communist country, these things just didn’t sit right with me. I felt the need to use my voice for more, and shift my focus back from pot to politics.

In 2021, one of my favorite libertarian organizations needed a digital marketing specialist. Reason advocates for free minds and free markets, but what I love most is their criticism of both sides. Today I’m part of their social media team where my content has generated millions of views.

It’s crazy how the universe presents things when the time is right. People say I have a dream job, and it’s true. I never planned to work in pot and politics. It just sort of happened.

My end goal is still politics. I live in a small Idaho mountain town and advocate to get medical on the ballot in 2024. I support de-scheduling the plant, gun ownership for all cannabis consumers, the repeal of 280e and lowering eliminating as many taxes as possible. Who knows, maybe someday Cannabess will run for Congress.

Have a question? Need photos of your grow, lab, shop or products? Contact me, I’d love to hear from you!

Cannabis Photographer Q & A

1. What do you shoot with?
I shoot with a Nikon D810. My go-to lens is 24-120mm. When it comes to macros, I shoot a 60mm or 105mm.

2. Any suggestions for a budding cannabis photographer?
Start with an entry-level SLR and learn to shoot in manual mode. Don’t compare yourself to other photographers. Find your niche and own it.

3. Advice for getting a job in the weed industry?
Clean up your resume, write a cover letter and make it happen. A job won’t be handed to you, and don’t expect to be stoned on the clock. People who put in the hard work will succeed in weed!

4. Do you ship weed?
No. Don’t ask.

5. Where do you see the future of cannabis?
I foresee weed at the gas station or grocery store. Similar to home brews, I hope people will be able to grow their own plants. In 20 years I believe the stigma of cannabis will be nonexistent.

cannabess weed dress