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Is it viable to be a photographer for your day job?

Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by KierFX, Oct 28, 2015.

  1. KierFX

    KierFX Well-Known Member

    Hi there.

    Think I might have put this in the wrong section, and if i have, my apoglises.

    I've been thinking recently about what I want to do when I leave school and this has left me confused. I am only 15 at the moment so won't be leaving till next June but after that I want to go to the Plymouth College Of Art and do an Extended Diploma in photography. Is it worth me doing a course in photography? If I did this course, I'd like to be able to make a reasonable amount of money from my photography and eventually be able to do it as my full time job but is this viable? I know getting into photography is a tough business, especially landscapes which is what I enjoy. So my question to you guys is would it be possible for me to achieve being a landscape photographer as a full time when I finish school? My portfolio is www.kieranlewisphotography.com if you're interested in evauluating my work and seeing if i'd be able to achieve my goal.

    tl:dr I want to be a full time photographer is this viable?

    Thank you.
  2. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Hi Kieren, that is a tough one.

    It is really good to think now about what you want to do in the future.

    The "text book" career advice is to have a five year plan which says where you want to be in 5 years and what you need to do, by when, to get there. Include who you need to help along the way, a mentor is key. This plan and progress to be reviewed every six months. It might sound trite but the guys and gals who are fighting their ways up the big corporations do exactly that in order to get the range of skills they will need to be CEO. They need to fairly selfish in making/taking opportunities.

    So you need to work out what skills and experience you need to be a successful photographer in X years time and make a plan for how you will get there. When you have that set out you will have a much better idea of the challenges and chances of success.

    It is undoubtedly (very) difficult to make a living from photography. But people do, so it is not impossible. Research who they are, what they do, and how they got where they did!
  3. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    UK Colleges tend to have a bias for their courses - ie they teach photography but may weight part of the course to a particular discipline within photography, although that may change over a period of time. It may be worth checking whether the Plymouth course would be good for landscape photography. Don't forget Falmouth, either. Cannot remember offhand what their specialisms are, think it was fashion and something else, documentary and fine art maybe? If the latter two, then Falmouth might suit you.

    Give Lee Pengelly a call. Think he's still based in your part of the world. Try not to catch him at a bad moment - offer to phone back if not convenient. Ross Hoddinott, also in the s-west would be another one to talk to.

    Generally speaking, it is just not possible to make a living at all shooting landscapes in the UK. That's a fact. An absolute. For forty years at least. Which is why Charlie Waite, Joe Cornish, Lee Frost, Colin Prior, Lee & Ross and others have all done it! :D If you want it badly enough and are not unlucky . . . . .

    Good luck.
  4. Learning

    Learning Ethelred the Ill-Named

    Are you absolutely committed to and exceptionally good at photography?
    The number of day job photographers has fallen drastically with the popularity of camera phones and social media. But there are still really talented career photographers. Some of them are not from especially privileged backgrounds, but if they were not, then they had the confidence and balls to move in circles in which they were not at at home.
    Personally I would not want to be a 'day job photographer'. What could be more boring? But if I had the attributes to be a great photographer, and I haven't, then maybe that would be ok. Also don't forget that great artists, including photographers, are often troubled souls.
    Lots of young people do college courses that train (and I use that word rather than teach, deliberately)competent photographers. They produce far more competent photographers than there are jobs.
    I would hate to discourage a buddying Bailey. I know that there is no risk of doing so. A budding Bailey would not care a **** what anyone on this forum thought. Star photographers are more rare than football stars.
    How many photographers does it take to photograph a football team? .... One. Of course, a joke but you get the point.
    A safe career in a solid profession and photography as a hobby or take the risk and make photography your life? Your choice, but you better be bloody good if you take the latter course.
  5. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Kieran, For a view on dedication to landscape you might, if you haven't already, take a subscription to onlandscape which has reached issue 101. All the back issues are available to annual subscribers!
  6. Gezza

    Gezza Well-Known Member

    Of course its possible to be a full time landscape photographer if you want it enough. I cannot comment on the uni route as I am sure others would have a much better idea of the student/full time pro success ratio. I am sure there used to be somebody on this forum several years ago who left a westcountry uni, got a staff job on a local paper. got poached by a large paper group and I believe he cracked it in America all within a few years. This must have been maybe 6/8 years ago. I think that was a remarkable success and Im sure somebody on here will remember who he was. I think several landscape/wildlife photographers started their careers by making submissions to local magazines (Cornish Life etc.) and testing the waters and building from there. Several get their start by winning national/international landscape/wildlife competitions (Adam Burton/ Bart Heirweg) There are many routes you can try and it is possible...... Think hard... it could take a day or two.
  7. Ilovemycam

    Ilovemycam In the Stop Bath

    OP...Some people make a lot of $ at it, most don't.
  8. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Honestly? No, not really viable - not if you want to be a full-time landscape photographer. It's not impossible, but you will have to be extremely dedicated, pretty talented, and quite lucky. Or else exceptional.

    The easiest part of being a professional photographer is taking the pictures; the hardest part is selling them. If I knew a magic formula to earning money from landscapes, that's what I would be doing. Instead, I'm helping local small businesses with whatever they need photographically, which brings some money in and gives me some time to actually take a few landscapes in between - and I do flog a few of them to my clients. Which is all a bit more fun than the business consultancy that fills the gaps, and a lot more fun than working for a multinational.

    So if you have a real passion, go for it; if not, think of something else.
  9. KierFX

    KierFX Well-Known Member

    After thinking about it and taking into consideration what you have all said - I have decided I will take the course in Plymouth and then see what happens; If I dont manage to pursue doing it as a full time job at least I will have the increased skills in photography and the experience the course will give me!

    Thank you all of you for your help.
  10. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Please lose the mind set "and see what happens". If you are serious about being a phtographer really think about what skills you need. I don't know your background but, say for argument sake, modern languages. A native english speaker fluent in three other languages will have much more opportunity than one who doesn't.
  11. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Kieran,

    Of course it's possible -- clearly, as some people do it -- but that's not the same as saying it's easy. You're already an excellent photographer, so what do you think you are going to learn at Plymouth University? One thing you certainly won't do, unless Plymouth had changed beyond recognition since I lived there, is make many useful contacts.

    In fact, I'd suggest that you'd do better to spend a week in Arles for the Rencontres than to spend a year at university in Plymouth. There are accounts of several Arles Recontres on my web-site: PM me with your e-mail address and I'll send you a more recent one. As soon as your parents think you're old enough -- you probably think you are already, and you may well be right -- get down to the opening week of the Rencontres in early July. The magic word is "Rencontres", meeting people, though unfortunately the same word is used for frankly sleazy dating sites. A basic room and basic food will cost you maybe 60 euros a day; a pass, as far as I recall, is another 45 euros or so; and you have to get there. In Arles, transport costs nothing: you can walk everywhere. Book into as many portfolio reviews as you can; go to lots of vernissages; talk to other photographers.

    I'd also agree most heartily with PeteRob. You can pick up more than enough photography on your own, without going to university. If you feel the need for a degree, study something different: a photographer with a degree in something else will always pique people's interest more than -- yawn -- yet another new photography graduate. I found law very useful, but what would have been REALLY useful was dropping the "see what happens" mentality much faster, and making a real effort to be a photographer. A degree is useful when you're applying for a grey job with a grey employer, but quite honestly, there are no employee jobs as a landscape photographer except conceivably as an assistant -- and no-one is going to care if you have a degree when you try to talk your way in to that.

    There's rarely much money in it, unless you're very, very good and very, very lucky; and one way to ensure the latter is by making as many contacts as possible. Real, face-to-face contacts, not LinkedIn or the like.


  12. KierFX

    KierFX Well-Known Member

    Okay i'll lose that mind set, and yeah i'm a native English speaker but know no other languages. I did French and Spanish in school but it was really basic and I didn't pay attention/messed around. I'll look into studying other languages in a bit.
  13. KierFX

    KierFX Well-Known Member

    Thank you Roger, It means a lot for you to call me an excellent photographer, anyway, I don't really know what skills i'd learn doing the course - I need to get better at exposing a scene correctly but I guess I could self-teach my self like I have so far already. I will try to loose the mind set of "see what comes" but I just kinda assumed I would do the course and then BOOM INSTANT JOB, but clearly after thinking about this is not the case. Also, I'll look into the Arles Rencontres right now and i'l also private message you my email address right now.

    I was speaking to my careers adviser at school and he said that doing a Extended Diploma (BTEC) is more actually doing photography, rather than studying it. He also said that if I did a A-Level Photography then that would be more about critiquing photography and learning the art of it. However, if I did the Diploma that would be my primary course and would do nothing else. But if i did A-Level then I could study Photography alongside say, a couple modern languages and that could increase my chances of getting contacts as Pete said.
  14. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    If you want to make a career in landscape photography start now & do it the Lee Pengelly way. IIRC, Lee Frost started early, too. The other alternative is the happy accident or deliberate choice later on after paying your dues doing documentary/news, advertising, fashion and editorial.
  15. Vivid Blue

    Vivid Blue Well-Known Member

    It is viable obviously, but only for very very few landscape photographers. Selling landscape prints is extremely difficult as everyone has a camera now and thinks they can take great pictures (even if they can't), and the cost of making high quality bespoke prints is more than most want to pay, they see cheap, mass produced canvases in The Range and will want your pictures at the same price. Most professional landscape photographers seem to make a large part of their living by running workshops.

    I don't think you'd learn much about landscape photography at university, maybe the best thing you can do is to actually book a workshop with the like of Charlie Waite, Joe Cornish, Mark Littlejohn or another top name. Study books like the Landscape Photographer of the Year series to see how some of the best use light and compose. Having said that, it's important to find your own style because you won't become a pro by copying others.

    Once you've picked up your skills, it's worth entering prestigious competitions (Landscape Photographer of the Year, International Garden Photographer of the Year, Outdoor POTY, Wildlife POTY etc), a win if you're exceptionally lucky would raise your status and possibly give you an opportunity to turn professional.

    Another option is to be a portrait or event photographer by day and be a landscape photographer purely as a hobby. There's still a market for people photography and most of the very best landscape photographers around are amateurs. Look up the likes of Scott Robertson (who might still be on this forum) and Lee Acaster.
  16. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    Of course they can. Point camera at landscape, press button, job done.

    Why pretend it's difficult?

  17. KierFX

    KierFX Well-Known Member

    I can't really tell if your being serious or not, but being a good landscape photographer is not as simple as pointing a camera at the scene and pressing a button...
  18. KierFX

    KierFX Well-Known Member

    I've looked into Joe Cornish's courses and hopefully will buy one in the new year. I think being a different type of photographer such as portraits or event is a good idea as it will still allow me to enjoy the hobby but still doing it as a job.
  19. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    I am and yes it is, in my opinion.

    There are no objective criteria for any form of art. It all comes down to whether you like it or not. Everyone is, of course, free to hold any opinion they wish, provided only that they don't try to impose it on others...

  20. KierFX

    KierFX Well-Known Member

    Can I ask what area of photography you do? You're opinion seems kinda ignorant to me but that's just my opinion.

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