how to do photography for a living?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by aeser, Nov 8, 2004.

  1. aeser

    aeser TPF Noob!

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    i've been kind of sick of my dead end tech job and constantly worrying about layoffs and doing pretty unrewarding work for a living, i look around and see photographers making decent money to take photographs for a living, which seems like a heavenly career to me, i assume i am not the only one on earth who wants to be a photographer for a living and am unsure of just how difficult it would be to get paid for taking photo's.

    and yes i realize there's a million different avenues you could take to get paid for taking photo's, basically i'd do anything so long as i could get paid for taking photo's, my only concern is getting by doing it (i currently make about $45k a year in the tech field, if i could make this much taking photo's i'd be all over it no matter what it was).

    my question is how to get from where i am now (27, been in the tech field for 7 years now, taking photo's on the side as a hobby) to where i want to be which is taking photo's for a living.

    naturally i'd assume i have to assemble a pretty kick ass portfolio, which i'm not worried about and am getting working on pronto, i'm wondering how much having a degree in photography would help me. i would want to go to art school (possibly art institute of boston where my fiance went or mass art) and learn it as fully as i can from an academic standpoint (and sharpen my photoshop skills, etc.), however working full time in the tech field it would be rather difficult to swing a school schedule, but again i can possibly find a way to make it work and i do want it bad enough to sacrifice for it, my only conern is the likelyhood of finding employment in this field.

    is getting photo jobs essentially based entirely on your portfolio?

    should i just be an all purpose wedding/fashion/journalism/any job i can get my hands on photographer to increase my chances of getting paid, or should i stick to "mastering" one area of photography to make myself more valuable?

    is it better to be a freelance photographer and take anything that comes along or to try to get a more secure position like say a photographer for a newspaper or magazine or something?

    i figured there were a decent ammount of pro's here who would know these things. thanks,
    jason
     
  2. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    The best advice I can give is forget becoming a photographer altogether. Do anything else - toilet attendant, street sweeper, bank robber - but not photography.
    It looks glamourous but - well... OK it is but it's all the crap that goes with it. Huge overdraft, money you never get paid, having to hustle all the time for work - and art directors and magazine editors are sooo fickle: they like NEW and your work is just so last week... and then there are all these young kids fresh out of College or older ones who do it for a hobby and would like to go pro and they are competing for the same jobs you are so you don't know if you'll have any work next week and you just have to make those payments...
    But if you STILL want to try:
    College! Hmmm. Only works if you go to the right one. There are a heck of a lot of useless ones and literally only one or two good ones. This means lots of competition to get in the good ones. If you succeed you can make very useful contacts. Then you come out with a Degree, get a job as an assistant, sweep up for a year or two and work your way up.
    OR
    Get a job as an assistant, do the cruddy chores for a year or so and work your way up. Quicker and the result is the same. In fact you probably stand a better chance of becoming an assistant if you DON'T have a Degree.
    Very, very few people have made a success by going straight in as a photographer - the ones I know all had wealthy parents!
    As for a portfolio - in my experience Art Directors and such are only interested in published work and then you get "It's OK as far as it goes but what have you done recently?"
    Sell your body on the streets. You'll get paid more and it will hurt less.
    Good luck!
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    There are a lot of wedding photographers making lots of money...working full or part time. After all, there are people getting married just about every day.

    From what I hear...to be successful as a wedding photographer, you don't have to have fantastic photography skills but you must be a good businessman and willing to put up with a lot of B.S.

    I'm sure it's the same with most areas of photography...you not only have to sell your photos...you have to sell/promote yourself and/or your business.

    Hey, I admire anyone who would throw away their day job to follow their dream career. I like photography because it's an escape from my day job. I don't ever want to reach the point where I'm sick of doing photography all the time...which may happen if I was forced to do it every day to survive.

    I can't offer any advice on how to get there...but more power to you.
     
  4. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    That and marketing. Marketing yourself is probably more important, because if no one asks to see your portfolio it doesn't matter how good it is.
     
  5. motcon

    motcon TPF Noob!

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    Big Mike; i just took a look at your site. the tragically hip? damn dude, i play them for hours in my darkroom.
     
  6. Jamie R

    Jamie R TPF Noob!

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    Sorry to hear you feel so frustrated in your current work. It's hard - wanting to do something you like, versus something you're good at, or something you can do. Any of those is better than doing something you're not so good at though.

    Frustration don't end with being a working photographer - it's a part of the career.

    A degree in photography/art school is more helpful at getting the basics of photography down; establishing a working understanding of the 'field' which you're going to earn a living; making links and connections and also developing a peer group; making some kind of link with photography rather than none at all in the tech field apart from an internet forum.

    Get on a part-time course and don't chuck in the day job just yet: you don't want to sabotage your life and career in one swoop just yet, or at least, people who care for you don't.

    Going to lectures/seminars on marketing your work and how to form relationships with a stock library; image gallery and sales is another facet of studying photography: a degree course incorporates these: non-academic routes also exist in pro' seminars etc. Fujifilm used to run professional seminars on a weekend basis.

    The other advantage of a formal education is acquiring links to work as an assistant for an already established photographer....the traditional method of induction into the photographic occupation.

    Having a good portfolio may or may not help; showing it opportunistically is more likely to help (there's that marketing trump card again). Unfortunately some of us aren't very good at this sort of thing. Even if a photographer succeeds in flaunting it to several galleries, he'd still need to find the means to live from day to day; wedding; stock library; being paid by the state i.e. as a traffic, hospital or forensic photographer. Exhibiting photographs is a fraction of the work output; and rare as a means to living from day to day.

    With the rise of digital technology and photography, the masses are swamped with images of all kinds of mediocrity; a 'good' portfolio doesn't even get a second glance against loud-mouthed sensationalist amateur celebrity portfolio, shot with a digi-cam.

    Good luck with your career: being aware of what you're up against is a good foothold into the job.
     
  7. Shutterbug

    Shutterbug TPF Noob!

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    I'm only 16, but I'm doing photo semi-pro with smaller companies in the area... Watch out, you've got young competition :)

    But, how I got started was simple:

    After shooting around 200 Final Cut (Good and usable) shots, I picked the 45 best out those and put together a portfolio of 11x14 shots.

    After that, I set up a website, got business cards printed, and started selling the odd print here and there to local restruants and such. Public display of these things helped me out immensely.

    Then, after my cards had circulated awhile (about 3 to 4 months) i started making blind calls to everyone who could use my services. 95% of these guys turned me down, but I did get some appointments to come in and show my Portfolio to a PR board of directors or two... I got those jobs instantly, even though it shocked them to find out my real age. (I hide it until the face to face interview... it assures that they will consider me for my work, and not my age.)

    After I had a decent resume, I approached a PR agent, who deals with several companies in my area, and I've been getting jobs ever since, even having to turn some down. (Due to school) I'm just happy that I have enough to buy my Firebird now (Babe Magnet ^__^)
     
  8. Jamie R

    Jamie R TPF Noob!

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    Well done Shutterbug!

    Now all you have to do is grow up ;)
     
  9. Shutterbug

    Shutterbug TPF Noob!

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    Until then I get to save all my monies without having to worry about bills and such... Ahh, good times. 8) 8) 8) 8) 8)
     
  10. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Live the dream Shutterbug! :)
    It seems to me that no two people get into the business in the same way. All you need is vision, determination and a belief in yourself - but the road is never easy :)
     
  11. aeser

    aeser TPF Noob!

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    thanks for all the info.

    i think what i'm going to do is start working intensely on a portfolio, get a really slick website design, and try to land a few paying gigs on weekends and when i'm not at my regular job, and try to go to school part time for it on the side. i have the luxury of having a decent day job with which to afford good photo gear which will enable me to be a one man shop besides prints which i can easily have done somewhere else.
     
  12. Shutterbug

    Shutterbug TPF Noob!

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    Very True. The way I described it was simple, but that doesn't mean it didn't take a toll on my mind. Lots and LOTS of "Go away", "Call back in a year", and "Kid, stop screwing around." After awhile you start to think you're failing miserably, but then I found out that it is like this for most people, so I went ahead and kept doing it. Determination is one of the make-or-break-factors of the business, so, if you can stick with it in the long run you can at least do it part time, and if you do enough good or expectional work, the work will start coming to you.

    8)
     

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