Let me start by saying that it has never been easy to make money out of photography. I started my career just before the age of digital imaging. There were far fewer aspiring pros back then because working with film made photography that little bit more inaccessible. But it was still very, very hard. I went to college and then university and spent time working as an apprentice/assistant. All-in-all I spent around 6 years in training. Since then, apart from an 18 month spell working for a very cheesy make-over studio, I have been self-employed. And that’s why it’s not easy – there is no direct way into photography like there is into careers like law, medicine, accountancy. Nowadays with the accessibility of digital photography and the opportunity to purchase decent cameras at low prices, more people can snap away and out of them a certain percentage reason that they’re pretty handy with a camera, decide that they can become pros. Therefore if you check out the internet you will see a huge amount of ‘professional photographers’. When I used to advertise in the Yellow Pages there would be about 2-3 pages of photographers, now the numbers could fill a whole directory! That is if people still advertised in those books…
This all causes issues on a number of levels a) The sheer number of photographers outstrips the amount of work out there b) The number of untrained but “I’m handy with a camera” photographers some of who will give the industry a bad reputation c) The second job photographers who already have a job but want to make some extra cash and can undercut everyone else.
What does this all mean? Well if there are many, many photographers then it all becomes really competitive which is not a bad thing in itself. However add to this a mix of variable quality in work and the fact that some will do jobs for pennies or just for the experience then eventually the clients themselves will get confused. Should they go for the cheapest quote? Should they pay more for an experienced pro? Or should they just buy a good camera and do it themselves? After all surely if they have a good camera, stick it in AUTO and take enough shots they should get some good ones. Ha! Group ‘b’ gains another member….
Eventually everyone loses. Too many untrained photographers offering questionable work at ridiculously low prices damage their own cause, price out some pros and give up after making zero money. As well as lacking photographic skills and experience far too few know how to cost, contract and package a shoot. Prices spiral downwards, photography as an industry loses respect, general mayhem ensues and the world ends. Ok, probably not the last bit.
Right so those are a few of the problems encountered by up and coming photographers. I may not have all the answers but if you read part 2 of this blog then I will offer my advice based on my 13 years of being a professional photographer.