DO NOT BECOME A PHOTOGRAPHER!

D-50

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Just a question to those of you who are fulltimephotographers who support yourself/family through photography. Why is it so many established pros say things like "if you thinking about going into photography as a profession I would suggest looking into Law or teaching" It seems there are so many pros out there who feel that being a photographer is not worth it,too hard, or just a struggle. Is this so? I currently do freelance work here and there and would love to make it my fulltime profession but statements like these make me question my desire.
 

jols

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cause they dont want the competition i expect so they steer you towards something else.
 

One Sister

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Because so few photographers are making a substantial living...that is, a living which can support a family. Most that I've spoken to are still struggling, even after years of work. A lot of us spent a lifetime in other occupations so we could retire and do what we really wanted: be photographers. Now we have a world of catching up to do so we can improve our skills, but the struggle now is a supplemental one. Our kids are grown so we won't take food out of their mouths to get another lens :wink:.
 

Rick Waldroup

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Because it is very hard to make really good money doing it. I have been doing it for over 30 years, and at the end of this month, I am through with it. I started out as a photojournalist, then switched to architectural photography. I did that for over 20 years. And about 6 years ago I went back into the PJ biz. I also started shooting events- award banquets, corporate stuff, etc.

Being self employed can be a pain in the ass at times, plus having to deal with the IRS and so on. It has it's rewards as well, but being a working pro is a tough gig. After 30 years of it, I am calling it quits. I will still be involved with photography as a means of making money, but in a totally different way, and it will not be my only source of income.

Also, when you have to make a living doing something that you love, sometimes it is not as much fun as it was before. I never got into photography to make money- it just happened that way.
 
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D-50

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I really could care less about making "good money" I was in a sales job right out of college and was making over 100k a year but hated it so I quit with a nice full bank account, I had no problem walking away from the money considering I literally could not stand to go into work. What I want to know is how hard is it to make 60 to 70k a year off photography?
 

sabbath999

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Because most people who are photographers who make good money at it spend most of their time working on the BUSINESSES, not taking pictures.

If you want to net $100K a year as a photographer, you are going to have to be a businessman or businesswoman who also takes pictures... you are going to be a SALESPERSON first, second and third, and a photographer fourth.
 

RMThompson

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D-50, great question.

I am at a similar point in my life, but I've been making much less money.

I just got laid off from a 31,000 dollar a year job, with two kids and a wife. I am surviving on some severence pay, unemployment, foodstamps and medicaid.

Everyone I talk to says I should become a full time photographer... but I am so afraid. I've had good months being a photographer, mostly months with weddings in the lineup, but I've also had entire months where my phone doesn't ring!

So, what do I do? I would love nothing more in life then to rent a small studio space and concentrate full time on my photography... but I just don't think I can support my FAMILY this way.

It's frustrating, yes, but impossible? NO!
 

Seefutlung

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Experience #1:
I have a friend who is a "successful" wedding/studio photog. He has a family, yet spends almost every weekend shooting weddings. He works very hard and takes home a middle class earning.

Example #2:
Moi. I worked as a news photog for a major market newspaper. Got paid a salary every week ... rain or shine. My work was purely photo journalism, usually 40 hour weeks ... no marketing, no sitting with clients ... usually more physically demanding than weddings/studio ... mmmh and more stressful than wedding/studio. After 20+ years I would be earning an upper middle class salary.

According to the DOL/BLS
Photographers average $31,830 annually ... in SoCal that's not a lot of money.

Gary

PS- I believe that business and marketing skills are more important than photographic skills if you run your own shop.
G
 
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D-50

D-50

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I meant to say I do not need to make 100k a year obviousl Imnot opposed to making a lot of money but If I could make 60-70K a year I would happy. For me going into a job where Im constantly miserable but make a lot of money is not worht it. From doing freelance work I know photography for a living is not always glamourous and full of exotic locations and celerities. I recnetly shot a catalog for a jewlery comany, shooting hundereds of pieces of jewlery became monotonous but when I compare a 6 hour day shooting jewlery to a 9 hour day staring at a computer screen of clients photography is more appealing. I am in a similar case to RMThompson without the family though which is a huge dealI realize. I want to make a living fromit but it seems to be a daunting taskk that nay leave me out in the cold with nothing to fall back on.
 

Seefutlung

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Dude- In this economy ... starting anything new can be a risky venture. It sounds like you're young ... so I have some suggestions.

1) Even though you hate the work ... get back to earning some money, at least part time;

2) Get back to school part time taking photo and business classes (if you deem them appropriate); and

3) In the meantime, start marketing yourself, DBA/Incorporate, hang a shingle and hopefully there will be a point where the photo biz will support you 100%.

Being young and with the skill to earn a six figure salary ... you have the ability to ease into what you love.

Gary
 
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astrostu

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To summarize the previous posts and go a bit further, there are a few reasons:

(1) It's hard to find photography jobs where a company will hire you and give you a salary due to over-crowding of the field.

(2) It's also hard to be self-employed (the consequence of #1) to the point where you almost need to be better at marketing yourself and the business side of things than the photography. It's also difficult to be unique enough that someone would choose you over the competition.

(3) Since it's not explicitly stated in #1: PHOTOGRAPHY IS A CROWDED FIELD. Not only because there are a lot of other pros, but also because there are many very good amateurs who do the same thing (as opposed to my field, astronomy, where amateur astronomers generally do things astronomers did about 200-400 years ago as opposed to what modern professional astronomers do).

(4) Unless you get yourself in good with a business a la #1 above, it's very difficult to make a decent wage that can support you and help support any spouse or children.
 

dipstick

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Go for it! If it fails, you can always go back to a boring sales job and safe pay to get your head above water again.

Photography has been my primary source of income since I was 18, and I had my share of struggling, but I'm getting to a point now where the balance between income and hours worked are getting pretty good.

It is not a problem to make a 100k doing photography if you work 24/7, the real challenge is to make 100k by working more or less regular hours.

If you're starting your own business, I would strongly recommend to hire someone to handle the formalities for you, so that you can focus on the photography part. You'll hear a lot of photographers saying that they quit cause running the business took up more time than doing photography.

I think where most people go wrong though is by not realizing that being a photographer is a profession like any other. When you do it full time, you need to get something else for a hobby. It will take a lot of the "magic" out of photography, as you have to start pleasing your customers, not only your own ego by creating what you believe is stunning images.

I think people who study to become a lawyer or a teacher has more realistic expectations as to what their future jobs will entail. People study photography because its "fun", and I believe a lot of photography students are clueless as to what being a professional photographer is like.

So if you get real, learn the craft, and work hard, there is nothing stopping you from becoming a successful photographer. The market for photographic services is huge, and there is no reason why you can't have a share of that!

Good luck!
 
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D-50

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That is encouraging dipstick. I am young but not that young 27 to be exact. I graduated from a very good university with a degree in marketing and I know all about business, being in sales for three years also gave me a good understanding of how to sell yourself as well as a product, regardless what you are selling people want to buy something from a person they trust. I am easing my way into photography, currently picking up jobs where I can. I handle the financial reporting for a small company on the side to keep a constant income but that just gets me through the month with zero left over. To me it seems, like Dipstick said, the photography industry is huge. Go anywhere in the US and you are bound to see a photo that a company paid someone to take. I just need to figure out how to get that company to pay me to take a photo.
The most discouraging thing is just the amount of photographers who complain about the profession and urge others to steer clear. Maybe Ill just invest heavy in lotto tickets so I dont have to work and can shoot landscapes and bands for free for the rest of my life.
 

sabbath999

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BTW I HIGHLY recommend anybody who is considring opening ANY business to read the book "The E-Myth"... it will help you avoid making major mistakes in the process of starting out and running your business.

It teaches you how to work ON your business, not FOR your business...

Frankly, ones skill as a photographer has very little to do with running a successful photo business... if you have at least a modest amount of technical ability, then you are more than good enough to get into professional photography and be successful. Conversely, you could be the second coming of Ansel Adams and still fail miserably if you don't know how to run a business.

Check it out:

http://www.amazon.com/E-Myth-Revisited-Small-Businesses-About/dp/0887307280
 

usayit

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Most 100k+ photographers are better businessmen/women than photographers. Simply put... you can't "outsource" the actually running of the business to someone else if you are to be successful.

btw.. where I live... $100k means jack... especially when a starter home runs about $400k (talking 1-2 bedroom, 1 bath ranch with little property) these days. The photography business here is cut throat as a result of the high cost of living. The wedding photographers that do survive seem to have a heavily connected with businesses that are successful wedding planners. Those wedding planners are WONDERFUL business people and the wedding photogs come riding in on their coat tails.
 

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