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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. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    Nick, That's nonsense if you think about it - see my example in reply to Roger below - and also your own paragraph that follows. You rather contradict yourself apart from the point about selfies: standing out might be the first & last photo you make your name with. ;):eek: Cheers, Oly
  2. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    You'll have to define "consistently excellent" in this context for that to make sense to me.

    A picture of a landscape is a picture of a landscape. An individual likes it or does not. As with any art, there is no known objective criterion which makes one picture "better" than another. To claim that a picture is sharper than another is an objective statement that can be tested. Claiming that the aesthetics of one picture iare better than those of another is entirely subjective and cannot be tested in any meaningful sense.

  3. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    You're entitled to be wrong, as ever. ;)

    That's rather amusing, given some of the examples you're given - if you think people can readily break into making money with news photos as a day-to-day discipline, as just one example, you're well and truly living in the past. :)

    Point I'm making is that if you want to make a real living out of landscape photography, you have to have a name for it. Yeah, I can sell a few of my landscapes from all over the world to people all over the world, but it's the odd one here and there. I can sell ones of local views much more readily, because it's a lot easier to make a name locally - a portfolio on a tablet and a local business networking meeting - and some luck - and you're away, and these people tell their family, friends and colleagues. Tramp round the local cafes, pubs and restaurants with a portfolio or a full-sized pic or two and you have a chance of selling something. It's marketing, as flimlover says, but it's a lot easier to do that in your local area than by tramping round the rest of the world... ;)
    Sure, if you have a really outstanding portfolio, you can try bigger, but there is so much competition you have to be really lucky as well as really good.
    I agree with you that the best way in is through the day-to-day disciplines, I just think you're rather out of touch with what those are these days.
  4. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    Interestingly, you're doing now what I did forty years ago: having a day job and doing photography in between.

    I found a niche that worked in that place at that time and generally made as much from photography, each week, as I did from my other work. So long as you have the stamina, it's the best way I've found to enjoy your work. When it becomes work without enjoyment, though, it's time to decide which way you wish to jump.

    I suspect that's the dilemma that faces many people when they find that their needs exceed their income.
  5. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Not really. Most of that is just hack-work. The successful artist creates market demand.


  6. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    Others may have disagreed, but I think you are correct about that, Oly.

    There is another UK photo magazine, dealing specifically with outdoor photography, which is littered with adverts for courses and workshops. Although I am fairly active in the "amateur photography scene" in Scotland, many of those courses and workshops are located in Scotland and are offered by photographers whom I have never heard of. But, presumably, they make a living - or, at least, pocket money - from their work, although they certainly have not yet "made their name".

    Just three weeks ago I rose early and went up to Rannoch Moor, Glen Etive and Glencoe to try for some sunrise photographs. Coming home, I passed four different groups of photographers, apparently being led by "tutors" at work near the roadside. (Do they never venture more than 100 yards from the road?).

    The fourth group were actually taking photographs from a lay-by so, needing to stretch my legs, I drew in and had a friendly chat with the group and mentioned that they might be interested in a bunch of red deer that I had encountered down the road to Loch Etive. I hadn't heard of the workshop leader but, apparently, he knew my name (although I did not enquire how or why), so we got talking. In the course of conversation he dropped his voice and "confessed" that he could not make a living taking or publishing photographs but his "practical workshop" business was building up nicely.

    He was a nice guy and his students seemed very happy with what they were getting for their money - so maybe that is one direction that would-be professionals could look at.

  7. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Eric,

    I have already conceded to Oly that I overstated that one considerably, but I'd still say:

    In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king


    There's a sucker born every minute

    Huge numbers of amateurs are absolutely lacking in confidence about their own abilities, and provided it's not too expensive they will try to buy the extremely modest expertise of someone who is very little more skilled then they, but more of a BS artist.

    I've looked at the economics of running courses, specifically in Malta which is one of the most photogenic places on earth: http://www.rogerandfrances.com/subscription/pst malta.html

    The trouble is, a decent course with reasonable accommodation ain't gonna be cheap -- and by "reasonable" I'm not talking five-star hotels by any means. Friends who have been on courses report sometimes barracks-like accommodation and by the sound of it they didn't learn much.

    I know that I sometimes sound like a broken record on this one, but a week in Arles for the opening of the Rencontres -- 50-100 euros a day, plus the cost of getting there -- will teach most people far more than any course ever could. Maybe next year I should run a course in Arles, the week before the opening week of the Rencontres. Then people could see what I was talking about, after the course finished.


  8. filmlover

    filmlover Well-Known Member

    But Roger, it's the "hack-work" that paid the bills, rather important when you've a mortgage and family to support.
  9. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    I've long harboured the suspicion that "hack-work" and similar expressions are code for "things I don't like doing and lack the skill to do anyway". I have far more respect for an honest journeyman who does just what a customer requires of him than the self proclaimed "artist" who sets out to be a legend in his own lunch time.

    The beauty of digital is that people are no longer in awe of the "camera artist", because they can take a pleasing picture with their 'phone, if that's what they desire. There will always be space for the poseurs who sell themselves well but that space is now growing both thinner and more crowded.

    Probably the best way to make a living from landscape photography is to aquire notoriety in some other way, then capitalise on that to sell the pictures.
  10. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Indeed. The thing is that to begin with, photography has to be more important to you than the mortgage and family. Quite a lot of successful young photographers live and make their names without either, because they have to. Many fall by the wayside as they get older, into hackwork, and probably rightly so: there's nothing wong with hack-work, as long as it pays the bills and doesn't distract you from what you want to do. On the other hand, once you've made a name, it's easier to get the hack-work: name --> hack-work is easier than hack-work --> name. Most amateurs have no idea of what hack-work is, because they lack the skills even for that.

    A few people get around the hack-work with spouses who are the main wage-earners or who have family money. Even fewer get around it with incredibly supportive spouses/partners who are also photographers and who are willing to live on a shoe-string too. But if you start out with hack-work (or worse, as a happy-snapper in fantasy land, with an exaggerated idea of your own abilities), it's quite hard to achieve anything that anyone with any discernment or intelligence might regard as art. Not impossible: just very difficult.

    This is the basic explanation of why it's so incredibly difficult. At 15, Kieran is in with a shout. I wish him the very best of luck. I meet LOTS of photography students, and the simple truth is that even if they have the talent and the drive, things change when they buy a house and have children.


    Last edited: Oct 30, 2015
  11. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    We know how insecure you feel but you have taken some very nice pictures over the years, so stop beating yourself up about this. I for one really don't think of you "as a happy-snapper in fantasy land, with an exaggerated idea of your own abilities".

  12. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    Except if you've seen some of St Ansel's teenage photos (I have) you will know that it is as simple as pointing a camera at a scene and pressing a button. Pictures don't get 'took' unless you do! ;) :D

    "This is the basic explanation of why it's so incredibly difficult. At 15, Kieran is in with a shout. I wish him the very best of luck. I meet LOTS of photography students, and the simple truth is that even if they have the talent and the drive, things change when they buy a house and have children." Roger Hicks.

    Lee Pengelly, IIRC, won his first competition at 16 and was getting published regularly thereafter. Think he may have gone to work for PP as an 18 y.o. but my memory is so full of stuff I may have mis-remembered that. Keep on putting your work out there but bear Roger's warning in mind.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2015
  13. filmlover

    filmlover Well-Known Member

    This is the basic explanation of why it's so incredibly difficult. At 15, Kieran is in with a shout. I wish him the very best of luck. I meet LOTS of photography students, and the simple truth is that even if they have the talent and the drive, things change when they buy a house and have children.



    Correct, at 15 Kieran is entitled to follow his dream as far as he can. As you say, somewhere along the line, reality has a habit of stepping in when houses and families beckon.

    Another factor is the ever rapid advances in technology that is effectively closing down markets previously open to the photographer. Architectural photography is one example; CAD software has made it redundant. Photography related jobs in the newspaper industry have been decimated. The Daily Express used to have 25 staff photographers, today they have barely any. The paper is a shadow of its former self. Stories of regional newspaper group shedding staffers and telling their reporters (the few they have left) to go and take the pictures on their i-phones abound.

    We're told it's all about progress.....trouble is no-one seems to be able to explain just what it is we're all supposed to be "progressing" towards?
  14. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    There may not be many, but some people do make a living without hackwork. A few even have children as well: cf Larry Towell, http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_9_VForm&ERID=24KL535NDZ

    It's not so much "reality" as "choice": not everyone makes the same choices.


  15. PhilW

    PhilW Well-Known Member

    Surely it's about the democratisation of photography?

    Most people like to have half decent pictures of themselves, their loved ones, and important events in their life.

    The huge improvements in photographic technology have made this aspiration available to millions of people who previously couldn't afford (or chose not to spend money) to hire a professional photographer.

    Then if you factor in all the enthusiasts such as the vast majority of the people on this forum who now have access to home printing and processing tools that for so long were only available to the rich (I mean the ubiquity or the digital darkroom compared to the scarcity of the chemical one.

    Well that is what we are "progressing" to. A byproduct of this is, as you have said, that with more 'normal' people taking vastly more better pictures there is less room for the "Pro". But as they were always a tiny percentage of the population I think it's fair to say the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few here.
  16. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    That's the commonly-held view, for sure; however, I don't believe it, at least as a complete theory.

    The press have replaced pros largely with "citizen-journalists" because they can, but above all because they rather have had to; falling printed circulations but the requirement for more pics altogether have driven that financially.

    Traditional stock has clearly been eclipsed by microstock; that's perhaps the clearest example of "democritisation."

    However, the bit that I don't think holds water is that Joe Public believes they can do as well as pros, and that pro photography has no value; in actual fact, I think most people are fully aware of their own limitations; yes, they can all produce the sort of thing that SA's been showing in this thread and several others recently - nice enough snaps, but not pictures they would put any value in. And yes, there are more selfies and pics taken than ever, BUT if anything, I think that's made people value picture of more artistic and/or technical quality all the more; I think that people are that bit better-educated about photography than they were, for the most part. That's certainly the message I get from portrait photographers I've spoken to, and from my own clients and prospective clients too - however, they do expect more than the Venture-style shot these days. ;)
  17. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    Thanks for the faint praise, I think :D

    Are we in danger of getting hung up by arguing from the specific to the general, here? Individuals like yourself, Nick, see one view of the world, others like myself or Phil, another. The big picture will include those individual observations but will be, well, bigger.

    There will be a place for those who are utterly determined but the competition for what little of the cake is left will be much fiercer than before. You've shown it can be done and I think that it will be people like you that will succeed, by being multi-skilled and having one or more alternative income streams, which together provide for your needs.
  18. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Nick,

    I'm not sure about this. A lot of people really don't realize how bad they are: it's another manifestation of the Dunning-Kruger effect, only to do with artistic discrimination rather than intelligence. They'll look at something; say "I could do that"; try it; do it very badly; and fail to see any real difference between their own snaps and a far better executed version of the same thing.

    If you try to point out the differences, some will say, "Oh, yes, I see now what you are talking about" and will work at becoming more discriminating. Others will say huffily that it's all a matter of opinion and that their opinion is worth as much as anyone else's. Presumably they'd not say the same of a doctor's opinion or a lawyer's opinion, because they'd realize there's a difference between an informed opinion and one that isn't; but they may have a sufficiently low regard for art that they refuse to accept that it is a fit subject for study or analysis.

    In other words, some of Joe Public may see a difference between a competent photographer (professional or not), and others won't.


  19. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    True; the danger is with generalisations of any type, there's no uniform situation out there - there is no one Joe Public. But I do think that the standard received opinion as stated by SA and Phil is not particularly helpful if you want to make money out of photography, because it doesn't cover the people out there who will pay for photography, and there are more of them than that model would predict.
  20. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    ...which it is.

    Your friend Punning Crewcut would probably class an individual, who believes their opinion to be of more importance than another person's opinion, as being, to use a technical term: a wee bit awa' wi' the fairies.

    That's the problem with this sort of discussion, all opinion is equally valid but some aggressive and ever so slightly self important individuals forget this and start challenging the opinions of others instead putting forward their own in a friendly and polite fashion.

    All that's required is a little humility.

    Yours, ever so 'umbly

    Sej :cool:

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