6 Things About a Photography Career that You Only Learn Through Experience
For some people, a career in photography is their dream job. After all who doesn’t want the opportunity to take photos in a sector that they enjoy. For most photographers, their career is a learning experience that never stops. Whether that is photographically, personally, or even on the business side of things, they constantly have to learn from their experiences, develop, and become better and more efficient. Here are six things about having a photography career, that you’ll learn only through experience in this industry.
#1 Doing freebies
It’s no secret that fees for photographers have fallen over the last 20 years or so. This has been partly due to the advancement and affordability of cameras and also to the subsequent launch of smartphones. There has never been more competition. As a result, clients know that they can either get photos on the cheap or even for free. It’s not just individual photographers who are pressured into selling their work for less than the going rate, even some of the biggest stock agencies in the world are guilty of undercutting each other.
But, after you have been doing photography for a while, inevitably a client will come along who will offer to use your photos in their publication, website, etc., in exchange for giving you a photo credit. I always find this incredible and compare it to asking a builder to work on my house. In return, instead of money, he gets a sign on the lawn to say who has done the work. It’s up to you if you decide to work for free, but would you if it was any other business?
One of my first ever commissions was for a restaurant. They offered me lunch in return for photos. I negotiated a fee as well as the lunch.
#2 You won’t get rich
Photography is an incredibly tough industry with lots of competition. Very few photographers will go on to become wealthy purely from photography. However, that shouldn’t put you off this industry as most professional photographers will tell you that they would not want to do anything else. If you find your passion and are doing something you love, then you won’t care. But the reality is that to make photography a successful business you will need to ensure that you treat it as such. If you are looking for wealth then you might be disappointed.
#3 Technology moves on
When I was first starting out and was looking to buy my first full frame DSLR, I spent so much time researching the different models and manufacturers that a newer model was released. I then went back to the drawing board and began researching that one when a set of new lenses came out. While research is important, the moral of this story is that you will never be able to keep up with technology.
As I write this article Canon have launched their next model. Trying to keep up with technology will just end up leaving you broke. As you become more experienced you will realize that it doesn’t matter if you have the latest equipment or not. A great photo is great photo, regardless of whether it’s taken with a top of the range DSLR or a smartphone.
#4 Your love versus client’s love
One of the great elements of photography like any other art form is that it is subjective. Everyone has different views on what they like or what makes a great photo. This is no different to picture editors and clients. The reality is that sometimes things or images that you love are not necessarily the same as those that clients like.
For example, I was recently speaking to a founder of a British travel magazine and she told me that most travel magazines tend to use images with blue sky and/or blue sea on their front covers. The reason being that over the last 25 years they have seen that magazines with these sort of image sells better. Now, you may be the sort of person that likes to photograph stormy weather and that is absolutely fine, but if you want to sell front covers to these magazines you will need to adapt.
That’s one of the reasons that you often find photographers who work on personal projects as well as client work.
Photography is subjective, this image was rejected by one of my stock agencies but sold multiple times by another.
#5 Being a Jack of all trades
While you should always try to focus your actual photography expertise in one or two genres instead of being a jack of all trades, on the business side of things you will pretty much have to run everything by yourself.
You will be responsible for finding new clients, as well as being your own marketing manager, social media guru, web developer, finance director, customer service manager as well as retoucher and administrator. This is all the other part of running a photography business that a lot of newbie photographers often don’t think about. Some of these skills are things that you will pick up through experience, while for others you may wish to hire someone to help. But
But, in the end, many professional photographers have to do most of the work themselves. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, who can sell you and your brand better than you?
#6 Budget constraints
Arguably these are the two words that most photographers hate – budget constraints. Those two words have a tenancy to come up frequently in conversations with clients. While this is often unfair to photographers, the reality is that clients are under pressure themselves.
So instead to despairing about it try to look at the positive and make the shoot work if you can for their budget. Obviously, it’s important that you still make money from any work but by helping a client out on one shoot you may get a bigger budget for the next one.
Photography is a tough industry that has been the victim of the digital revolution. But, while it has taken a hit, it is still one of the most rewarding industries to be involved in. There is nothing like seeing your work in print or online and with hard work, determination, and perseverance you can go a long way. The experiences you pick up on your journey will be invaluable and if you get the chance to learn from others then it would be foolish not to do so.
What experiences have you gotten in photography? Please share your thoughts and experiences below.
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