I have given a lot of thought on what i wanted my first blog post to be about. This is my inaugural post, the pilot, the valedictorian if you will, it has to set the standard. I am my toughest critic, by far, to make it in this business you have to be, and that is what led me to my decision. For my first Blog post I decided to address a few misconceptions that are out there, and hopefully shed some light on what it really means to be a working photographer today.
Being A Photographer
Lets start off by facing the facts: There are numerous people out there playing "Pretend" photographer, without a legal business and without regard for the market. A Camera, A Facebook /Instagram page, a model and a few thousand followers DOES NOT MAKE YOU A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER. I understand, we all have to start somewhere, but there are ways to build and legitimize your brand to be a viable source of income, which we will get into.
Now that is out of the way, shall we continue?
When i first decided to pursue a career as a photographer it was the single scariest thought that crossed my mind. No matter how much you enjoy doing something as a hobby, deciding to do that very thing to support your livelihood is a big step. As they say " If your dreams don't scare you, then you are not dreaming big enough". With that in mind, we have decided we are going to be Professional Photographers, this is an exciting time!
Now that we are self employed we are no longer receiving a consistent paycheck from an employer. This means we need to find our own consistent source of funds to support ourselves and our expensive career expenses. Starting out, this is THE SINGLE BIGGEST CHALLENGE you will face. Anyone can book a small gig or even a big gig from time to time, but finding consistent work is what differentiates the pro's from the pretenders. Successful photographers are always looking for the NEXT job, even while on a current job, you always want to plan for the future. the best way to find consistent work is to do your research on the market. Target a specific demographic and market to that audience. the biggest problem I see with new photographers is the want to be "diverse" or the desire to shoot a variety of things. this is great to develop your skills as a shooter, however, this is horrible for business. "A Jack of all trades is a Master of none." If you spread yourself too thin in the beginning you will be reduced to nothing. If you truly wish to be successful, find out what you enjoy shooting, what kind of photos do you produce best? Starting there, you can find a general audience, use hashtag marketing and find a target consumer. For example, a landscape photographer might produce prints for interior designers, or a portrait photographer might do business headshots for corporate business executives. both of these examples illustrate a constant need for material, which is filled by a photographer, which leads to a consistent pay day as a photographer.
BUILDING YOUR BUSINESS
Photography gear is not cheap.
To produce some of the high quality images you may have seen in Vogue, or GQ for example there is a big budget involved. A good professional photographer has a variety of photo utensils as i like to call them. These utensils on the lowest end may include but definitely not limited to:
- An Extra camera
- Prime lens of choice
- Telephoto Lens of choice
- A Laptop or Desktop to edit material
- editing software
Grand total: $6,500
As you can see, for a mid-level camera bag, it still sets you back a pretty penny. Rest assured with proper planning, if you play your cards right you can make this investment back and then some.
This really is only going to be an issue when you first start your business. With the rise of the smartphone camera, and the affordability of entry level DSLR and Mirrorless cameras, the photography market has become flooded with images from all over the place. Anyone can pick up a camera and take pictures of their family or friend, and claim they are ready to go pro. Becoming a photographer is about establishing value, your client has to see the value in your work and thus the sole reason for hiring you. As time goes by your value will increase, the more you invest into yourself, and the harder you work will only increase your exposure and land you quality jobs to where a saturated market would not affect your business.
Let's take a moment to really let this sink in. For every major accomplishment a photographer may have, there are many set backs that happened before then. For every amazing photo you see a photographer post, there are countless hours spent on editing. For every paid gig a photographer may book, there are several cancellations or delays. For every piece of equipment a photographer may buy, there are hours of work put in to afford it. sound redundant? That's because it is. These are things photographers deal with, remaining mentally strong is imperative in this business. In any business there are ups and downs, in the photography industry those downs can easily turn into slumps, which can propel even the most dedicated of photographers into a drought with no work. that is scary. In this business rejection is very common, so please do not take it personal. there are billions of people in this world, if you can appeal to just 1%, and market successfully to just 1%, you will be successful. It is important t understand that photography is an art, and with art, not everyone will love your work , and that is okay. Being mentally tough means being able to handle constructive criticism, and make improvements, adjust, and always seek to be better. Mental toughness. Improve, brush off your strike outs, and swing the bat again.
Being a Professional Photographer is not easy. It just might be the most unstable job on the planet, but it is the most rewarding by far. You have to really enjoy capturing people at their best, capturing amazing scenery, pushing the envelope and remaining creative. if I could go back I would pick this industry every time!
Please feel free to comment on any thoughts or opinions as i am always open to feedback.