My 10 month experiment OR why I hate wedding photography...

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Antithesis, Mar 1, 2009.

  1. Antithesis

    Antithesis No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    disclaimer: this might sound like a rant because I just got laid off, but it's actually more of an attempt to start a discussion on the pitfalls of wedding photography and pro photography in general. It should also point out some things to the people who are trying to get a start in the industry.

    There are so many countless people trying to get into this industry right now, that I thought I would share my experiences with my initial break into the field of photography.

    So... about 10 months ago I started my first job in the industry of photography. I worked at a prominent wedding/commercial studio, editing, shooting and working for a general pittance. I invested in some decent gear and got a chance to work with some very talented photographers and learned a LOT. But... all things must come to an end, good or bad, and I just got laid off. Thank you economic downturn.

    Anyways, I mainly learned that I flipping Hate wedding photography. I was told the day I went in for my interview by a photography teacher that wedding photography is a terrible, soul-crushing endeavor, but I paid no heed. It was my chance to break into photography and gain ever-valuable experience. Now, 10 months later, I've lost a large chunk of motivation to be a photographer because I've been generally turned off by the whole thing. You end up living and breathing it for months and it takes a lot of fun out of it. Believe me.

    I thought up some tips after about 12 hours of color correction that I was starting to wish someone had given me before I started:

    Tip #1 for Greenhorn photographers trying to break into the industry: Choose to do something that you will really enjoy. There are a ton of applications for photography out there, not just shooting weddings. Only shoot weddings if you really love it. I didn't, and it almost made me throw my dream of being a photographer in the trash and starting a different career. If you offer to shoot or help someone for free, you will likely be able to assist just about any photographer you can think of. A person would have to be nuts not to accept free help. Plus, experience in a field you actually enjoy will be more valuable and a whole lot more fun than backing up some random wedding photographer. Granted, it is certainly fun the first few times, but it wears on you fast.

    Tip #2:
    Starting out working for little or no money is usually a reality in this industry. It serves two purposes: Gaining experience and getting work out on the street. When your work starts to show some promise, the money will start to come in (my first independently secured shoot paid $75 an hour). You just have to be patient and take what you can. But... whoring yourself out on craigslist for a few hundred dollars to shoot a wedding is not the way to make it big. The flood of people doing this these days is squandering the value of photography as a whole, and you will butcher your reputation. James Nachtwey didn't start his career shooting weddings for a pittance, and neither should you.

    Well that's it for my rant. I'm pretty happy to collect unemployment and actually look towards the possbility of getting my masters degree. Oh, and I'm getting rid of all my equipment and buying a d40 or a rebel XT or something. I've grown tired of deluding myself into thinking that big expensive gear and lenses will make me a better photographer.
     
  2. flea77

    flea77 TPF Noob!

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    As one of the owners of a medium sized town computer repair company, I see this all the time. People have a little fun repairing their brother's computer, installing apps on their parent's computers, building their own, installing Linux, etc. Then they think "I can do this! I can make good money doing this!" Then we crush them on the first day and send them home crying to their mothers. We had one who used to do corporate IT and they literally checked themselves into a mental health facility!

    Very rarely does a hobby translate into a profession in my experience, and more often than not, attempting it destroys both. I have been "out" of photography for probably around fifteen years because I did exactly what you did (except I went news and sports). It started as a lot of fun, for the first few weeks, then it was so horrible I did not want to see a camera at all.

    I finally got smart, and now I have a job that suits me and I make good money at it. When I pick up a camera it is for me, and I can shoot when and where I want because I am the boss.

    Allan
     
  3. Antithesis

    Antithesis No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Certainly a good way of looking at it. I just figured if it was something I could enjoy so much, doing it all day, every day was the way to go. I still enjoy photography immensely, I just don't want to shoot weddings, heh.
     
  4. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Sorry to hear about your job. This is precisely why I don't shoot professionally except for the oddball event. If I HAVE to do something even something as fun as photography I typically end up losing interest. I use my hobby to get away from my job.
     
  5. Dweller

    Dweller Inconspicuous Supporter

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    A saying I heard long ago and have since taken to heart:

    I made that "mistake" with computers. I have had a more or less successful career in IT thanks to my love of computers, but doing it for a living sucks the fun right out of it. I have had some people close to me try to convince me to start a photography company. I smile, thank them and walk away thinking that Hell would have to be frozen over by flying pigs with ice machines before I would ever make a mistake like that again.

    Enjoy photography, or whatever hobby you have, for what it is. Find other ways to make money.
     
  6. AlexColeman

    AlexColeman TPF Noob!

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    Good point, I have just started doing a little portraiture, just to save up for a new D700 or successor.
     
  7. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Funny I heard it was more like "When your hobby becomes your job it's not a job anymore" LOL Guess that works the opposite way with wedding photography.
     
  8. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    You made a lot of good points. Sometimes people take the approach; "I love taking photos and I am good at. Maybe I can make some money". That is the wrong approach. If you want to make money then you have to come up with a business model for making money. When you are shooting on a commercial/editorial or retail level your time is not your own. As much as you enjoy it there are always going to be tough clients, not enough time, not enough space, whatever. Professionals accept this and move through it. Most important thing is to love what you do. Beats working a 9-5...

    Love & Bass
     
  9. Peanuts

    Peanuts TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for sharing that. Truthfully - I think this should be a sticky.

    I think that is the biggest thing about photography - when out are doing it as a hobby it is 100% photography. When you are doing it as a job it is 20% photography and 80% business. If you can't find enjoyment in the business aspect of it to.. you will be having the very soul sucked out of you.

    Once again - thanks for sharing.
     
  10. blash

    blash TPF Noob!

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    The quote is often misapplied as you've found out. The way I heard it was, "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life," but its correct manifestation is really to find a job that you like, since only then will you never work a day in your life - adapt a hobby to become your job, and your job will become your life.
     
  11. notelliot

    notelliot TPF Noob!

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    when I started out, I thought I'd turn my hobby of photography into a business. worked great, except it turns out that my actual hobby is graphic design/illustration/animation. go figure.
     
  12. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Very similar position to myself. Prior to the big rise of the computer industry, it was a great enjoyable field to work. You didn't get rich but you made a decent living. The work was more research oriented and the coworkers were all in it because it was their core interest. No one in the team went to school for computer science they simply gravitated towards it. Once money and profitability became part of the equation, it simply ruined it for most of them. I was a pretty young engineer at the time and I observed the very end.. of an era. The computer/IT industry is very different now a days... for me it is just a job even though I am always keeping my eye's open for that one open spot for something interesting; Usually with a start-up with a work hard / play hard mentality. Not too many now-a-days and the risk is a double edge sword; fun to risk it with a startup but I also have a family to support now.

    It is the same with photography. I've done a little paid assignments here and there; some even said I should try even more. In the back of my mind, I already turned one "hobby" into a job and I don't want to do it to the other. When I shoot, I don't even focus on creating that "great" photo.... I'm simply just try to have some fun.



    Antithesis,

    Thanks for your post... it is very interesting and very real. Much of your experience is the reality of almost any profession that are based on people's hobbies. We see so many posts on the TPF asking how to break into the professional world of photography. It is painfully obvious that the individuals who post them simply do not understand. Those that are serious, motivated, and have invested the time to understand (Business knowledge versus Photographic knowledge) will find little additional information from a post on some anonymous site on the internet.

    For those that do have a profession stemming from a life long hobby and enjoy it... a big thumbs up from me... you are one lucky individual.



    Oh yes... should be a sticky that we can redirect all those "I want to make money from photography" posts.
     

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