Hey Dorothy, you are no longer in Kansas! Welcome to the land of consumption. The land where media is everywhere and your services are always in demand, but hardly ever paid for. How did we get here you ask? Well, that subject can go a little deeper, but for now here is the short end. Due to the increase in technology going mobile, the everyday consumer is also the everyday creator. Industries are being fed free media between social media networks, while taking advantage of the hungry freelancer.The value for your services are constantly in demand,but the value of your services remains in fluctuation. These unstable conditions have caused photographers everywhere to brainstorm to near madness on how to succeed in today’s matrix. Where is the budget going to come from? Who am I really looking to get as a client? How do I get them? The list continues and volatility finds the photography industry in a disarray. Luckily, I found the Marauder’s Map of all things photographic and can lead you on the path forward if you, “Solemnly swear [you’re] up to no good.”
It’s Okay To Be An Amateur!
This is a very important point to make. A lot of novice photographers are taking compliments on their work and using it as fodder to promote a degree of professionalism that has not been earned. This is very dangerous for the industry as a whole, because it dilutes the word “professional” and removes all measures of the craft. It’s okay to be new, to be a student, to still be growing and learning, and taking on one experience after another, especially if you have desires to become great at your craft. Find someone who has years of experience working within the field of photography that you are passionate about and reach out to them. Apprentice wherever necessary. Just don’t tarnish the entirety of the industry by using rhetoric that makes you appear to be on the same levels as those who have earned these titles, these rates, these accolades. It not only diminishes their value, but it diminishes yours as well.
It’s Not The Equipment, It’s You!
I used to believe that what made the photographer was the equipment they used. I remember nights talking to my girlfriend Laurin, telling her, “I just want to be as good as these other photographers who get published in all of these fashion magazines. I researched what they used, and they use these full frame cameras and I need to get one. I found a combo for $2500. If I get that, then people will start to see that I have good work!” Clueless me!
Good thing she didn’t know much about photography because she probably would have agreed with me if she did. I found a host of articles that kept saying that if I wanted to start out as a photographer I needed a camera and lens that was worth more than I made in a month working part-time at Banana Republic. Here’s the truth behind the fiction – Yes, better equipment helps. Cameras that are full-frame, lenses that have higher aperture ranges and lighting that has more consistent output and shooting options. All of these things will improve upon the quality of your work, but it will not make you a good photographer. The camera technology today, even with basic crop sensors, are far superior to the film cameras of the past, however, the photographers who used these archaic devices have managed to create such imagery that stands the test of time. What made them great photographers?
- Understanding Composition
- Understanding Exposure and its relation to moods and emotions
- Understanding Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, and how these things work in tandem to produce a photograph.
- Understanding time and its hand in the creation of a moment
- Understanding the constant need for imagination
No amount of money can pay for what needs to be learned through good, ol’ fashioned study, practice, and experience. Start there and build up.
Charge Accordingly…Or Don’t Charge At All!
Some of the biggest mistakes being made today are choosing rates, clients, and building a career as a photographer. I don’t put any blame on individuals as much as I see a need for the industry itself to bare the weight of the current condition. Almost everyone has a smartphone equipped with a camera and by 2019, 2.5 billion people are projected to own a smartphone. Billions of people are on social-media, and by that, are photographers when they share their photos to the world. There are a plethora of apps available that give the illusion of the photography professional. Take Huji for example, an app that uses a filter to simulate a true film photograph. As the trend of Polaroids and Film photography came to a head, this app seized the moment and became the go to for the influencers of the day. What did this do? It made the value of a film photograph diminish to the level of hobby shop nostalgia. As photographers, it is our responsibility to uphold the value of our craft, and to align ourselves accordingly with our prices. It benefits no one, including yourself as a photographer, for you to charge as a professional when you’re an amateur, or charge as an amateur to undercut another professional. What this does to the market is blur the line as to what is, and what isn’t fair value. Select rates, clients, and business structures that not only benefit you, but the industry as well. You must earn your rates, and until the time comes for you to make $5,000 for a full-day photo shoot *wink* *wink*, shoot for free, and work your way up based on what is fair market value. Don’t cheat the system.
Far be it for me to approach anyone as if I’m an expert in the field. I humbly adorn myself with the title “Photographer” and nothing more. I have worked within the fashion industry for four years now; I have been published by both independent magazines and internationally established ones;I have worked with modeling agencies, advertising agencies, shot campaigns, and have made more than $1,500 for a single photo shoot. None of these things overshadow the reality that I am still very much learning. I’ve changed my website over many times this year I’ve restructured my price listing;I’ve started studying more of the technical aspects of the craft for three hours a day everyday since moving to Los Angeles this spring, and I’m still learning how to compose better photographs. The point is, success as a photographer will come. If you commit to the journey, you don’t cheat the process, and you don’t put faith into your equipment more than you do yourself, it will come sooner than you think. Just have a little faith and have a lot of fun.