Becoming a Professional Car Photographer.

SGpascoe

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So, I'd like to combine my two passions, and become a car photographer. everyone seems to think I take good pictures, and I'm confident I could do it well, but I need some direction in actually going out there and starting!

First, I don't have enough work in my portfolio with cars other than my own, as good ones are hard to come by! But I have some lined up for the future, of family friends. So obviously I need to work on this. I do however have a portfolio of other work, varying widely.

Next. I know car photography can make money, but I really don't know HOW! Do I knock on people's doors asking them if they want their sports car photographed? or do I advertise and hope?
I'm sensing it's going to be hard to make a living from.
ideally I'd like to end up working for a magazine as that is steady reliable income, but I just don't know what route to take, or who to talk to.

I've spoken to car dealerships, but they mostly have in house photographers, and they typically wouldn't want 'artistic' shots of the cars anyway, they just want to sell them!

ANY advice is welcome! Be as critical as you like! I'm currently unemployed after university and desperate to start earning money for new equipment and a place to live! :lol:
 

Bitter Jeweler

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Get a job. Keep photography as a hobby, and grow it into a business.

Do you have an online portfolio?

What did you go to school for?
 
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SGpascoe

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Yeah I'm trying to atleast get a job, it's not easy right now in my area. Also my heart's not in it, as I really don't want a dead end minimum wage service job like everyone else around. I want to get started ASAP!

I did 2 years at college doing media and photography, then onto university, 3 years doing digital modeling and animation. My online portfolio is on flickr, I can't post urls yet, but its flickr.com/-sgp-/
 

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Go to car meet ups, chat up with the car owners and then later offer to take photos of their cars for free. If it works out great for the first guy, words will spread out and car community is usually a small but tight one, so you can probably get a kick start on local businesses.
 
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SGpascoe

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Hopefully the people I will be taking pictures for soon will have that effect! I'm also a member of a car club who like my pictures. but when do I go from free pictures to charging? and how much do I charge? and what kind of service? lol. I want to make a good profit, but I don't want to scare away everyone but the most loving owner!
 

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Be careful offering free shoots, as word spreads that you do a nice job, it will also spread that you did it for free.
 

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Also my heart's not in it, as I really don't want a dead end minimum wage service job like everyone else around.
I would hope that after 5 years of school, your options are a little better than that...
 
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SGpascoe

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Also my heart's not in it, as I really don't want a dead end minimum wage service job like everyone else around.
I would hope that after 5 years of school, your options are a little better than that...


I had hoped the same thing.
Jobs arent easy to get in england, especially living in cornwall, the very bottom, away from the cities.
My university course didn't give me any job advice or work experience at all, and the tutor didn't know what he was supposed to be teaching. I regret going there. I paid £9000 for the 'education' too. ($14400)

Thats why I'm trying photography as a career instead of 3D work.

 

Bitter Jeweler

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It sounds like you should go back to school for business and marketing.
 
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SGpascoe

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Haha it does doesn't it! I wouldn't have the money to do it, and I don't feel like wasting another 2-5 years though! I have a friend coming to visit soon who has managed a portfolio worth 10 million pounds, And use toi own his own company, he has a lot of good ideas, so hopefully that'll help me out!
I just thought I'd come and ask for everyones advice here!

What do you think of my portfolio so far? Is it strong enough to go pro yet would you say? The problem is everyone who looks at my pictures are usually friends, so I never know if they're being honest when they say they're good. I don't want to go into this jaded.
Also I haven't given it much thought, but are business loans worth taking for this kind of endeavour? I wouldn't want to get one unless I knew I could pay it back. Right now I have no certainty of that whatsoever.
 

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Well, stick with the person worth ten million pounds.

Your Flickr isn't "WOW" stellar stuff, but it's not beginner schlock either. Take my opinion how you want. You can find my screen name on Flickr and judge just as harshly ;)

The thing that gets me, is the desire to be successful ASAP.

It took me 20 years to go from Uni, and my first job in my field making $5 an hour to owning my own successful business, starting it at the bottom of our economic woes. Do I feel I could have done it even ten years earlier? No. I gained valuable experience in the 20 years, including watching former employers fail and seeing why. As far as my craft, I am nearing the top of my game.

That is my experience, and you can only take it as such. But I just don't think you can reasonably believe you can start a business on your own right now, and expect to earn a living from it. That's why I suggested you find some other job, and grow your hobby into a business. If you have that special something, it will happen sooner rather than later. In the meantime, you will have garaunteed income.

But to try to go to a bank for a loan? Good luck. Maybe you can borrow from your million pound friend? I'm serious. You say you wouldn't take a loan unless you knew you could pay it back?
well, bank aren't willing to loan you money unless you can pay it back. If you have zero assets that can be used as collateral, you will not get a loan.

Since you asked what to charge, I suggest you look at making a formal business plan, which a bank would request anyway. It is a little complicated and time consuming, but it forces you to crunch numbers and make projections which can be an eye opener. It will show you what you need to charge to cover business insurance, health insurance, travel expenses, your income, taxes, etc, and how many customers you need to service a month to get by.

I am not trying to discourage you.
Running your own business and controlling your own destiny can be incredibly amazing and satisfying, an also frustrating, stressful and worrisome.
 
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SGpascoe

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Thanks very much. That was a great post, and exactly the kid of feedback I need!

I'll take the critique of my flickr as a compliment, because Im glad not to be seen as a beginner, but I know I have alot to learn and hopefully have more potential. I'll keep working on my 'WOW' factor!

Hmm thats a whole lot of things to plan out! So if I were to start charging people for photoshoots and earning money, would I need to do all that first? Or are you talking bigtime? I'm guessing without all that, I wouldn't be able to earn a good living income?

I'm happy to get a job whilst I work on this, but 'get a job' round here tends to mean.. In a supermarket, rather than on something media based that I'll enjoy. I don't know if I can bring myself to do that.. I'd rather be doing any media work for minimum wage. Happily!

Thanks for the info on the loan too, you're right there's no way they'd even talk to me! It was just a thought! Haha!
Unfortunately I cant borrow from my friend, hes no longer in charge of that and is just inputting his old business knowledge. Still, I wouldn't want to borrow from anyone without a certainty I'd be able to pay them back with my investment. A business plan as you suggested will be a must.

Do you think I should still pursue it as I am now though? But just don't hold my breath for good profits, and no business ideas.
 

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By all means, pursue it!

Get your "day job" and grow your hobby.
At one point I had to work 3 jobs to get by.
Do what you have to do, and you'll eventually get there. But it all depends on you and how hard you are willing to work to get there.

As far as what to charge now, while you are starting out? That's a tough one. You need to do some research and try to find out what people are paying the "pros" to do car portraiture. Try to avoid doing it for free, it sets up a more difficult road. Like I said before...the quality of your work will spread by word of mouth, but so will your prices.
I tried raising my price$2 for setting bulk diamond earring studs for one customer I gave a great price to, to get them as a customer, and I lost them for over two months. They came back because nobody matched the quality of my work. So if you start offering free shoots, and the free shoot customers refer you to others, the other will expect you to be free as well.

Hmm thats a whole lot of things to plan out! So if I were to start charging people for photoshoots and earning money, would I need to do all that first? Or are you talking bigtime? I'm guessing without all that, I wouldn't be able to earn a good living income?
It's all kinda tied together, isn't it? I think you'll be able to figure it out as you go. You get a customer, have to drive 20 miles/kms to the location, or you have multiple locations, or you have to do it over a couple days for the "right light" or sunsets, and you spend 6 hours getting enough shots for them to pick from....what do you charge?
Eventually, you are charging for you hourly wage, petrol, car insurance, travel time, your gear, time spent editing, your website...and any other overhead you have factors in.

Again, I am not discouraging you.
You didn't ask easy questions, and there aren't real easy answers.
Best of luck!

Hang around here, post photos for critique!
There's some really good cartographers here that can give you tips, tricks, and suggestions.
 
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Be careful offering free shoots, as word spreads that you do a nice job, it will also spread that you did it for free.
Offering free shots is a great way to get started honestly, but you must tell whom ever you are shooting for not to share how much was paid or not paid I should say. I did the very same thing for family portraits, worked out well. After I was ready, I started charging.
 

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Next. I know car photography can make money, but I really don't know HOW! Do I knock on people's doors asking them if they want their sports car photographed? or do I advertise and hope?
I'm sensing it's going to be hard to make a living from.
ideally I'd like to end up working for a magazine as that is steady reliable income, but I just don't know what route to take, or who to talk to.
HOW? Marketing, salesmanship, and business skills.

Shooting for a magazine, which would be for editorial use, doesn't pay much, unless you also write the story the photos support.

The money is in shooting for the owners of vintage/classic vehicles, and/or for advertising purposes, but even then it's unlikely shooting cars as your main specialty would make you a decent living.

Which brings up the question: What do you consider making a living? Income of $30,000 a year, or income of $100,000 or more a year?

The entire Cornwall peninsula only has a population of about 500,000 souls. To make a living shooting cars plan on doing a fair amount of traveling, and hauling all your gear with you too.
 

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