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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. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Indeed, but very sadly, you never seem to grasp that message yourself.

    Also, opinions that are just parroted and lack any sort of evidence to support them probably don't have an awful lot of validity, do they? It would be the height of folly not to challenge that sort of thing, I think - do you not agree with that?
     
  2. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    All true and exactly the point I was attempting to make. The truth is out there and there are different truths for different people. The trick is to find the truth that applies to you.
     
  3. KierFX

    KierFX Well-Known Member

    Thank you for the help everyone.
     
  4. willie45

    willie45 Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure if anyone on this forum earns money from being a FT tog. I suspect not. Maybe the OP should raise the same question in a forum where people do.

    I haven't read all the replies so maybe the point has been made, but I'm pretty sure the quality needed to succeed in most photographic disciplines is business sense not "artistry". Same as any other business really.
     
  5. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Willie,

    Mostly, though not always, I've earned more from writing than from photography; though without the photography, I'd not have earned the money from the writing. In the nature of what I do, however, I know and have known quite a lot of photographers who earn all their money from photography.

    No, photography is not "the same as any other business really." Of course you need business sense; but without a good deal of talent -- "artistry", if you like -- all the "business sense" in the world is useless. Overall (it's impossible to quantify, obviously) I'd say that I've met more good photographers whose principal reason for success is a deep passion for photography, than whose principal strength is "business sense".

    Admittedly I'm talking about the higher reaches of the business, and fine art, rather than high-street hack-work.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  6. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    willie, I don't but could have done and sort of did, at least was on the cusp thereof. But that's a long, long story. P/t phoggery (I note your FT tog :rolleyes::eek:;):D) had to be fitted into living with increasing pressures. The very point Roger was making and I agree with, to an extent, noting the realities of life.

    You need to remember, many of the posters here are past 55yo and all sorts of things start to happen then!

    Your final point? Right on! One of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Canon Chris) makes this point: you can be a rubbishy photographer and a good salesman (or have a special entry angle - celebrity perhaps?) and make a very good living from photography. He's a really good photographer - better than he thinks - and an even better salesman and has made a living from editorial, advertising & PR photography. You will not know his name even if I let on who he really is.

    You can be an excellent, nay outstanding, photographer and starve. You can be ahead of your time, misunderstood and die penniless but leave behind a body of work that grows in value. You can have moments in the limelight but quickly get forgotten. When Mr H. was breaking his rule about generalisations and stating: "You need to make your name before you can earn any money." the name 'Raymond Moore' shot into my head. Roger Hicks will now claim that is the exception that proves the (generalisation) rule but I can add others, perhaps my own although - weddings excluded - I may have outdone Raymond Moore on lifetime print sales already.

    Cheers, Oly
     
  7. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Oly,

    No I won't, because it means that if it were a genuine rule, there would not be an exception. "Prove" in this context is like "proving" a gun barrel, i.e. making sure it isn't destroyed.

    Also, you should remember that "all generalizations are dangerous, including this one". This does not stop people making them: it is extremely difficult to go through life without either making them, or acting on them.

    Third, there is a big difference between a generalization, aka a general rule, and a genuine unbreakable rule. Thus the "rule of thirds" generally works, but there are plenty of pictures where it patently doesn't apply. The rule that you need to put the developer in before the fixer, rather than the other way around, is by contrast a genuine rule: break it and you won't have a visible image.

    Finally, I really don't believe that "you can be a rubbishy photographer and a good salesman (or have a special entry angle - celebrity perhaps?) and make a very good living from photography." You'd need a very special and personal definition of "rubbishy" to defend that one.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  8. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    To be fair, I suspect Oly didn't mean literally "rubbishy", more "competent but uninspired", and that's plenty good enough for the "hack work", where salesmanship will get you much further than absolute photographic talent. Fine art stuff, or any form of top-end work is an entirely different matter - you need that talent, but it's helpful to have sales acumen as well, and above all, some luck.

    If I may borrow from a well-known writer on photography, there's a variety of quality plateaux at work here. For high street stuff, it's a fair bit lower than for fine art, and at that lower level, the law of diminishing returns applies.
     
  9. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Nick,

    Fair enough: there are indeed plenty of "competent but uninspired" photographers in the world who earn a living from their trade, but even they can generally get their exposures right, with adequate sharpness, pleasing colour balance and acceptable if dull compositions. This puts them well ahead of really rubbishy photographers.

    The thing is, I can't really imagine this as a worthwhile ambition, which is what I think Kieran has. There are easier ways to earn more money. Surely ambition must be based on setting your sights rather higher than the High Street: everyone I have ever known at the top of the profession has been a good deal better than "competent but uninspired", even if they have sometimes had odd specializations such as glassware or the petroleum business.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  10. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    I would certainly agree with regard to Kieran; I'll be quite honest, though, with regard to my own position I'm perfectly happy to earn some of my money from being competent but not especially inspired - it's a pleasant change from my previous job of nearly 30 years; it has made me learn a lot about areas of photography that have never been my specialism - studio lighting and portraiture, for one; it allows me to meet some interesting people, or at least some different ones; I guess it allows me to write off some of my gear against tax; and above all, it gives me some time to shoot what I really want to as well - I've got three days this week shooting cityscapes and landscapes. If I didn't have the bills to pay and the family to feed, of course I would rather do just the good stuff, but it's not a hardship to do the more mundane stuff as well - it's still more fun than what I was doing before, and I do feel like I'm helping my clients and being part of the local community.
     
  11. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Nick,

    Sure. I read a lovely quote from the comedian(s) Mitchell and/or Webb yesterday: "When we arrived in London, our main artistic ambition was to be warm and dry". Many of us feel this sometimes, but the point is that it isn't the height of our ambition: cf Browning's Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for? Aim low, and you'll generally end up lower. Aim high, and you're in with a chance.

    And, with age, a quiet life does have its attractions. It's just nice to have done a few things on the way. And to carry on doing some of them.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  12. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Precisely, Roger.
     
  13. willie45

    willie45 Well-Known Member

    Hi Roger

    I don't doubt that there is a layer of photographers to whom what you say applies but I'd have thought most bread and butter togs don't produce much in the way of art. I imagine that the circles you move in are not typical of professional photography as a whole. I know a fair number of pros too but they tend to be locally based and not working for books, or exhibitions or magazines. They are mostly wedding, event, or family/children photographers, though I know a couple of product photographers thrown in.

    Most of the wedding togs for example, would probably agree that they produce dependable results in the context of their clients' expectations. They are knowledgeable in terms of producing a good outcome in a variety of lighting conditions and under a considerable amount of time pressure.

    The average Press photographer of those that are left, surely relies more on "personality" ( I'm being kind ) and sharp elbows than artistry. Does the average sports press guy have a lot of art in him? Maybe. I'm not sure.

    In that sense they are no more skilled than most tradesmen. I would contend most togs are at that level. They rely on business expertise, people skills, sales ability and presentation skills as well as a good deal of technical knowledge to achieve consistency to make their money.

    Mind you, It seems that even a number of high profile photographers seem to rely more and more on training or sponsorship to supplement their income.

    I always wonder why people come on this particular forum to ask such questions and not one of the more pro - oriented sites. Really the only candidates for professional eminence are Roving Mike and yourself and as you say, you don't primarily make your living doing it and as far as I know neither does Mike.

    Anyway, to the OP good luck in your career and whatever you end up doing I hope you enjoy it :)
     
  14. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Willie,

    Yes, I suppose we are talking about different things, but then, when I was earning all my income from photography I was working in London, and working mostly as an assistant with high-end photographers in advertising photography. Then when I was doing the Pro Lighting series, again I was working with very high-end photographers, almost all in big cities. Now I do the Final Analysis series, I'm looking for seriously good photographers with a strong personal vision.

    As I pointed out to Nick, it's a question of ambition, and I can't really imagine having an ambition to be a mediocre high street photographer. I take your point that they exist (though in ever diminishing numbers) but it strikes me as an odd ambition to aspire to.

    I'd still say that "rubbishy" is an overstatement (Oly's I know, not yours) but I'll cheerfully concede that at the bottom end of the market, the "quality plateau" of photographic skill required to earn a living is probably lower and more easily achieved than the "quality plateau" of sales, marketing and business skills.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  15. willie45

    willie45 Well-Known Member

    I can see what you mean but I would imagine the appeal of being your own boss, flexible hours and working with people might be enough for many.

    The whole artist thing is a bit academic in my case as I'm not a greatly artistic photographer. I'm technically competent enough to get a decent result; that's it. However, I have made a bit of cash from it.

    I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed doing weddings. I'm no Lovegrove and it wasn't just the photography I liked. It was the buzz, the people and being a part of someone's happy day that I enjoyed.
     
  16. KierFX

    KierFX Well-Known Member

    Wow this is proofing to be a popular thread. Thank you for everyone's help its much appreciated.
     
  17. willie45

    willie45 Well-Known Member

    All the discussion aside, I'd always say the best thing is to do what interests you and give it a go.

    I have always regretted not following the career I really wanted ( not in photography ) due to pressure I felt at the time. I'm 60 now and although I've not been unhappy in my career, have been moderately successful and fairly secure financially to date, thats quite a few years to regret something ;)
     
  18. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Kieran,

    As a matter of interest, what ARE your ambitions in the realm of photography. Where would you like to be/what would you like to be doing in (say) 10 years time?

    Of course it's difficult to the point of impossible to imagine being 25 when you're 15, and the odds are that everything will change anyway. Even so, it's an interesting exercise.

    The classic question when it comes to planning a future is that we have no idea what will happen when slood is invented. What's slood? We don't know: it hasn't been invented yet...

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  19. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Willie,

    All very true. Also, I don't know about you, but Frances and were both given an extraordinarily limited range of poor choices by our careers teachers at school, with absolutely no emphasis on creativity.

    The one thing we'd both like to have done barely existed at the time, and certainly we'd never heard of it: experimental archaeology.

    Afterthought: Not sure that "interest" suffices. "Passion" might be more necessary.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  20. filmlover

    filmlover Well-Known Member

    I spent nearly 40 yrs. as a pro., the first 18 years in the old Fleet Street, working for one of the broadsheets, a couple of tabloids and an evening paper. At this time you were encouraged to exercise your artistic ability, it was the tail end of the photojournalism era, when even with the tabloids, if you got a good result from a news story, they weren't afraid to spread it across the whole page.

    It wasn't to last. With the move away from Fleet Street, newspapers underwent a transformation, out went most of the real characters from all backgrounds, and in came the "grey suits"...(university educated of course)..."Corporate identity" took over. The new breed of editors, from their new chrome and glass emporiums, decreed that crass "stories" about showbiz celebrities was the new genre......the paparazzi were welcomed in.....many talented staff photographers left when they saw the way things were going.

    I drifted into public relations work..it was often more artistically rewarding than being dispatched to doorstep some celebrity, more famous for her drug habits than her talent... the new daily diet for the tabloid Press.

    Finally retired early, relieved at no longer having to earn a living by it, went back to (mainly) black & white film photography...which I find more personally rewarding.
     

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