Professional Advice: Photography Career

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by asdf123, Apr 7, 2006.

  1. asdf123 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2004
    #1
    To you professional photographers:

    I am a student a local state university, at the brink of choosing my degree/career path. Currently I am a philosophy major, something I really like and would like to continue studying.

    My question, however, is related to photography. Last semester, I took a photography course during my semester abroad in Italy, as well as a beginning drawing course. I have always taken an interest in both areas, just never took the time to get professional schooling for them. Turns out...I loved the classes. I was so involved in something that I have never really studied before; I was usually a student of the liberal arts; history, politics, philosophy, literature, linguistics, etc....

    So I'd like to study photography, and try it out as a profession. I understand that in any career field, there exist certain risks, such as lack of work, or even worse, a growing disinterest in the chosen career to due lack of stimulus of work, boredom, etc. I see this risk being rather, um, high with photography. My greatest fear is becoming a portrait studio photographer, stuck doing simplistic work for the rest of my life, and never attaining the status of a prominent figure in my field. My interests in photography are of the areas of photography as an artistic form, photojournalism, model photography, etc.

    My question to the general photographic populus is (and specifically to those who have embarked on such this career path)...are you happy with your profession? Do you feel that it ended up how you envisioned? What tips would you have for someone who is a beginner photographer, but is interested in diving into anything and everything related to photography?

    I have taken some steps my self, of course....I shot a lot while I was traveling in Europe and the Middle East, and I have received some really positive response for my work....I plan on showing my work in some galleries around where I live, and would like to take it to some further levels.

    I would really appreciate your comments/advice/questions/etc. Thanks!

    ps. my flickr site
     
  2. iGary Guest

    iGary

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    May 26, 2004
    Location:
    Randy's House
    #2
    I love what I do, but I'm pretty specialized and had some lucky breaks. I do aerial photography and have just started panoramas. I really liked the aerial photography because it mixes well with my aeronautical and marine backgrounds.

    The panoramas are more to make bank than anything. :p

    Photography is a nice field, but you have to find a niche within it you like, I think.
     
  3. pdpfilms macrumors 68020

    pdpfilms

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    Jun 29, 2004
    Location:
    Vermontana
    #3
    **FYI, asdf123, iGary is one of the best known pro-shooters on this site. His advice is sound advice.**
     
  4. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

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    Oct 9, 2005
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    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    #4
    Some lovely work there, but to be realistic, the money usually isn't in artistic images/fine art photography. Many people earn a living in photography by doing portraits of seniors (high school, that is), families, children, babies.... Other intrepid souls take on the challenge of doing weddings.

    Gary is right: finding a niche and carving your own identity within that niche to the point where you can make a living from it is key. Otherwise, do someting else for the day job and keep photography as a satisfying hobby. Especially with the advent of digital imaging, "photographers" are a a dime a dozen....
     
  5. Chip NoVaMac macrumors G3

    Chip NoVaMac

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2003
    Location:
    Northern Virginia
    #5
    Pretty wise words so far.

    It has been a few years since I saw the numbers; but I believe that the average income for a "professional photographer" is like $35-40K a year. And the way photojournalism works today, one works on a contract for a particular "job" in most cases.

    Back in the day of film, the news agency owned only the images they "bought". That has changed with high speed frame rates with DSLR's.

    Example: the photographer that caught that iconic image from the Clinton era - the one after Bill's admission of the affair - of Bill and Hilary sort of leaning into each other with Chelsea in the distance. This image made most papers around the country.

    Under the contract he was on at the time, he was able to sell a near identical image (due to 5 to 8fps) on his own. After that event, they changed the rules to the fact the agency owned all images shot in sequence. And the new twist are the contracts that state any image taken on an assignment, whether related to the topic to be covered or not, is owned by the agency of hire!

    So under the new contract rules, this photographer could have been sent to cover the Clinton's return, and Marine One bursts into flames - any images from that are now owned by the agency of hire.

    Further under the new contracts, in many cases the photographer loses any rights to web publication, future book publication, and any other sales that the agency may have for those images.

    Yes, there are photojournalists that right their own ticket; but they are becoming fewer and fewer. As Clix Pix said, there are many people out there with digital cameras. Many are willing to risk their lives to become "famous". Just look at the recent news of the kid that sneaked into Iraq, to see first hand.

    Fine art photography is a whole different matter. It takes finding outlets that your images sell in. And hoping that some gallery finds your work compelling enough. Or being edgy like Mapplethorpe, that garners press attention. But then some of those ideas are risky as well.

    I still have dreams of a fine art project that involves an iconic image of the 50's and 60's set in the urban centers. My instructor for that class (Documentary Photography With A Story To Tell) voiced grave concerns for my safety in pursuing that idea; and would not give me permission to pursue it for class credit. Though he loved the imagery that I thought I could bring. I still want to do it, but I need to look at security and safety issues.

    I am a bad one to ask. I had dreams of being the next Cartier-Bresson, or one of the valued National Geo photographers, or what ever label of fame you want.

    In my case, family pressures prevailed. My parents being 1st generation Americans, and having lived through the Depression - stability of income was everything. And sadly, I was not strong enough to pursue my dreams as I saw them.

    But that is me. And that was in a different time. I graduated HS in '76. I view the opportunities for those that have dreams today as being more lucky than in my youth.

    I work in a camera shop, as some may know. And I have met more than a fair share of "professional photographers" that find no real joy in their job. Sometimes it is about not photographing what they thought the would be. Other times it is the envy of photographers that get $5K for a portrait sitting, and $100K to do a wedding.

    Good first steps.
     
  6. asdf123 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2004
    #6
    I really appreciate the response so far...its putting some things in perspective for me. I'm still puzzled whether or not to take the second degree in photography or not (the opportunity is there....but is it really worth the time/money).

    Honestly...the responses aren't what I expected to receive. "Go out there and be somebody"...something to the tune of that. I suppose I made the same observations and assumptions respective to possibilty of success in considering industrial design as an option...

    Just a couple of more questions:
    What have your experiences been in doing freelance work on the side in supplement to your other jobs/careers? For those of you who are photojournalists, is it something you enjoy? I love to travel, and it seems like photojournalism would be a great input for that as well. Any good online photography communities I could learn more about this topic?

    Thanks for your input...
     
  7. pedrov macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
    #7
    for what is worth, i recommend to you fredmiranda.com

    many and much more professional photo advice and examples on there than on this mac site. at fredmiranda are the realest of photographers. they have a pro site there to post questions and learn from people who makes there living in photographing everyday. seems to be photo first, computer/digital second there.

    every types of photography you can want to see there too! photos of countries and there landmarks, very nice photojournalism and beautiful model picstures too!

    and the people are very nice and helpful, always.
     
  8. Chip NoVaMac macrumors G3

    Chip NoVaMac

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2003
    Location:
    Northern Virginia
    #8
    As to whether it is worth the time and money - that depends on you as an individual, and what you want out of life. No education is wasted in my opinion, whether it is used to further a career or not.

    I look at the stats and personal experiences of the people I met in Iceland this past February. They speak three to four languages. They read what ever they can get their hands on. They also have a decent portion of their population that are involved in writing of some sort, or in the arts.

    I have had the pleasure here in the US to meet those that had a love of music and theater. The happiest ones were those that had degrees in other areas that allowed them in some way to get the bills paid.

    Take it from one that chased the dream of a big salary and all that it offers. I could not be happier working "retail" for a family owned business. I wake up each day, looking forward to going to work. Can't say that when I worked trying to sell computers to the government.

    I love it when my customers come in and share their "special" images with me. Some are ordinary, but there are some truly great "eyes" out there. It means something to me when a customer comes back from a once in a life time trip, gushing over the great shots they got.

    And then there are times like a model that came in with an erased memory card of her meeting some big designer. I did a data recovery for her. She was in tears over my saving her day. I'll never forget her hug of thanks.

    I know that I'll never be able to own two houses (let alone one in the DC area) on what I am paid. But the pay keeps a roof over my head, food on my table, and clothes on my back. With a little left over to enjoy my life with.

    I may not be able to buy a new car every three years, like I did when I was "married" - but that does give me more money to enjoy life as I want it. I went on this rant, because some view "success" in life by wealth. I have been given the chance to see that "success" can be seen in enjoying life.

    I have done some local freelance work, though the assignments paid only $50 to $100. For me it was extra spending money for my "habit" of new gear. These shoots were boring stuff - grip and grins, board meetings, and ribbon cuttings.

    What I would like to know, what is your definition of a photojournalist? I have to admit that my view is one of the "traveler" coming away with images that will wow the viewer. But I think that requires either deep pockets, or an other skill that can help pay the bills along the way till one becomes "famous" enough to write ones own ticket.

    Attached are some of my past works. Some paid, some on spec, others just to show what I can do.
     

    Attached Files:

  9. Chip NoVaMac macrumors G3

    Chip NoVaMac

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    Dec 25, 2003
    Location:
    Northern Virginia
    #9

    Attached Files:

  10. asdf123 thread starter macrumors member

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    Sep 14, 2004
    #10
    Thank you for the advice Chip...you are a fantastic photographer!
     
  11. Chip NoVaMac macrumors G3

    Chip NoVaMac

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    Dec 25, 2003
    Location:
    Northern Virginia
    #11
    {Blush}

    Thanks, I like what I do. I wish that the ones that could pay the bills see what you see.

    I joke with my sister that she could be very wealthy if I were to die before she does. For many "artists" are not "discovered" until they die. This may be more true with more people having access to cameras.

    One only has to look at the images from 9-11 in NYC. From the "grainy" image of those leaping to their deaths on cell phone camera images. To those with P&S and SLR digital camera. It gets harder to come up with images that tell the story, or mean something in other ways.

    Here are a few from my Reykjavik/London trip in late February:
     

    Attached Files:

  12. Chip NoVaMac macrumors G3

    Chip NoVaMac

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    Dec 25, 2003
    Location:
    Northern Virginia
    #12
    Thanks again, but here are some more of my favorites from the above travels....
     

    Attached Files:

  13. dogbone macrumors 68020

    dogbone

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    #13
    Many of the shots show that you have a good eye. So you are 75% of the way there. Trying to make a professional living is tough though and cutthroat. You do need a fair share of luck. Take Hamilton's godawful soft focus tepid soft porn, that sort of kitch would not have got him anywhere had he not been a royal. Snowdon on the other hand could take a shot.

    Although it is less convenient you might consider honing your skills with a leica m (read rangefinder) You should be able to pick up a second hand one relatively cheap. This is the ulitmate reportage camera where you want to be real inconspicuous. It doesn't intimidate the subject as it looks like (to them) some sort of old happy snap camera.

    It will also train you to look at the scene rather than through the eyepiece only and even throught the eyepiece you are more in touch.
     
  14. pedrov macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
    #14
    these night shots chip are very fantastic.
     
  15. Chip NoVaMac macrumors G3

    Chip NoVaMac

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2003
    Location:
    Northern Virginia
    #15
    Thanks. The last three were shot with the Panasonic LX1.
     

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