So You Want to be a Photographer
When I hear from someone that they want to be a photographer and in hand start their own photography business it’s hard to keep my jaw attached. I want to shake them and ask “Have you seen how many photographers there are these days?” “Do you know how hard this business is?!” It’s also hard to see younger people go into photography schools that are only shaking them out for their bucks, barely preparing them for the true tasks ahead. It pains me to say that I am one of the few people still working as a photographer after photography school. That’s something that I don’t brag about or ever wanted to be able to say. But it’s not anyone’s fault, from the outside I’m sure photography can look like an exciting and even easy business venture to the young and old alike. You take nice photos, people give you money. I think it’s because being a photographer is one of those seemingly cool, artistic jobs on par with the craze to be a tattoo artist. I mean ya, I love being a photographer more than anything but it ain’t no plush pony ride. It’s damn hard work and if I knew the grind I would need to pull off every day for years to come I can’t be sure that I would commit. I’ve bailed on hangouts with friends to keep working, taking extra hours at crappy jobs to save up for photography gear, spent a lot of money on photography school, and spent long hours researching and learning instead of playing video games, chilling out, etc.
What’s Your History with Photography?
I think a question people who want to get into the photography business have to answer is “What’s your history with photography?” Do you have any experience or skill using the camera? What about working with others to photograph and guide them through a session? If you don’t have any experience or knowledge when it comes to photography, why are you starting this business? You should learn at least the basics before your brand yourself a professional available for hire.
I started studying photography when I was 16 so my younger days have been spent with a camera in hand. Now that I’m getting into my adult life, I am glued to the computer, podcasts, books, and workshop teachers learning business and yes, still photography. It never stops. I feel very lucky to have learned a lot about photography at a young age. I have a great grasp on photography and the technical aspects that people older than me do not just because I’ve been at it for like I said, 10 years. And for 7 of those years, I wasn’t a business. That’s where I think the signal doesn’t quite reach with new photographers wanting to become new entrepreneurs. If I had to learn to master photography and business at the same time I wouldn’t have any hair left.
Are there some super awesome statistics about being a photographer out there that I haven’t seen because I think everyone thinks the photography business is a good one. I know I may be sounding like I’m trying to crush people’s dreams but if you’ve done any sort of research into the photography industry or even into entrepreneurship, in general, you would know that the stats are pretty bleak. Only 51% of small businesses in Canada survive to be 5 years old. That’s insane! A lot of those people get enormous business loans and quit their jobs to pursue these ideas.
The money… All. The. Money. The first thing new photographers seem to do is buy the best gear. I have heard of amateurs buying better gear than me without even understanding how a camera works. That’s their first mistake. They drop a tonne of money on professional grade gear as if it’s an express pass. I really don’t get why I would have to say it but buying a good camera doesn’t make you a good photographer. You need training and natural creativity.
Entering into the photography industry is like stepping onto the sprinting track at the Olympics when you’ve only picked up running about a week ago. The photography business is a super saturated industry. There will be hordes of people left right and centre that are better than you and at the same time charging less than you. How are you gonna deal? What are you going to do when that bride to be you just had a consult with emailed you to stay “your pricing is a bit out of our budget, we know a friend that takes photos who will do it for free. Thanks anyways.” but you’ve got your mortgage to pay. Scary and true stuff!
Why do I stand by my photography business if it’s so hard?
Because I have 10 years in photography. I’ve done my 10,000 hours bettering my photography work. I am lucky to have youth on my side. I had the time to learn photography and now as a business owner am perfecting my business knowledge and strategies. When I hear someone is getting into photography I just can’t help but feel like they are embarking on a scary, perilous path because well.. they are! You have a better chance of a successful business selling to photographers than being a photographer! “But I don’t want to be a business person, I want to be an artist… a photographer!” Let me tell you, you are 20% of the time a photographer and 80% a business person. If you’re having a hard time swallowing that then that’s your first red baboon ass. If you just want to be a photographer take photos as a hobby without the nagging need to make money from them always following you around.
Every day that 51% stat is in the back of my mind. It chases me around when I feel like being lazy or not working hard that day (on business things). Do I want to be part of that group of people that decided to be photographers but failed? No, so I spend every single day working my ass off.
So… You don’t even think I should try?
Sure, try all you like. Try to be a photographer that captures gorgeous images. Take the time you need to master the art form. That means you’re going to have to keep working that job you have and not getting that tempting loan and gear. Buy an entry level camera, because you are at the entry aka noob level and only upgrade after at least 3 years. If you really want to do this than you don’t you do it right?
What did you think of this opinion piece? Comment below! You can read more of my articles pertaining to photography advice on the blog.