How I Became a Cannabis Photographer

Hi, my name is Bess — but people call me Cannabess! I’m a Seattle-based cannabis photographer and digital marketing professional.

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 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. I started a blog and absorbed life abroad.

I returned to the States and moved to Los Angeles. I worked in marketing research, specifically focus groups and ethnography. Clients included 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.

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.

By January 2016 I joined an amazing team at Grassworks Digital. I led photography for four of our clients including the number one producer/processor, Northwest Cannabis Solutions. As the company shifted focus to its menu technology, I found myself shifting back to freelance.

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

As my social profile grew, it became more important I 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. I call it “conscious capitalism.”

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 be a cannabis photographer. It just sort of happened.

My end goal is still politics — I support de-scheduling cannabis, gun ownership for medical patients, the repeal of 280e and lowering the excise tax. I look forward to making a difference in some way, shape or form. This only the beginning and I’m just getting started.

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.