Tamara Lackey recently sat down with Chase Jarvis to talk about how he became a successful photographer. Chase offers a lot of really good high-level advice for aspiring photographers based on his own experiences — both the successes and the failures.
Is it your dream to become a professional photographer? Magnum photographer Christopher Anderson says you should focus more on the word “photographer” than the word “professional”:
Forget about the profession of being a photographer. First be a photographer and maybe the profession will come after. Don’t be in a rush to pay your rent with your camera. Jimi Hendrix didn’t decide on the career of professional musician before he learned to play guitar. No, he loved music and created something beautiful and that THEN became a profession. Larry Towell, for instance, was not a “professional” photographer until he was already a “famous” photographer. Make the pictures you feel compelled to make and perhaps that will lead to a career. But if you try to make the career first, you will just make sh*tty pictures that you don’t care about.
IdeasTap has a great two-part series in which Magnum members offer advice for young photographers looking to get into the game. Definitely worth a read.
Photographer Michael Freeman says that although things are getting tougher for professional photographers, the “consumption of imagery in all areas is actually increasing”. Professionals therefore need to think more about marketing themselves and specializing in a particular niche.
This comment posted (and deleted) by Reddit user WonkoTheLucid shows why photographers need to make sure their websites are secured properly:
My friends wedding photos were posted with watermarks on a photo reprint site for sale. The prices were a bit outrageous. Another friend who does web design clued me into manually entering the photo address to display a full resolution photo without a watermark. I wrote a script and downloaded 500 free high res photos. Burnt many dvd copies and mailed them to a bunch of random people who were at the wedding.
If you’re a professional photographer that lets clients review proofs online, make sure the high-res, non-watermarked versions of the photos aren’t accessible by simply changing a portion of the URL.
Poke around on Craigslist, and you’ll find that it’s filled with ads selling professional services at dirt-cheap prices, including photographers offering to shoot weddings for just a few hundred dollars. Does this spell doom for the wedding photography business? Probably not.
Well yesterday [a friend] called me and I could tell he was kind of upset. I asked what was wrong and he said “Jeff, do you know what they are charging for weddings on Craigslist? How can I compete with a $300 wedding?” I told him flat out that he can’t, nor should he. It took me a few minutes to get through to him but when I did, he finally saw the light. I asked him if he thought that the people that were hiring a $300 wedding photographer would pay $2500 for the same service. Probably not. That’s means that he isn’t really competing for those customers. His customer is the one that recognizes the value of a true professional that will deliver professional results. Get that? The key word here is professional.
His point is that you shouldn’t be competing on price, but on quality. Focus on that, and you’ll be targeting a different segment of the market.
If you’re a professional photographer taking your camera into extreme environments, the cheap plastic body cap that comes with your DSLR might not cut it. That’s where LockCircle comes in — it’s a solid billett aluminum body cap designed to seal your camera from the elements while providing a special grip for removal even if you’re wearing thick gloves. They’re available for Canon EF mount cameras in silver, titanium, and black, and will soon be available for Nikon’s F mount as well.
You’ll need a thick wallet in addition to your thick gloves though: unlike the plastic caps, which sell for a couple bucks on eBay, LockCircle caps will cost you $99 each.
Here’s a neat little behind-the-scenes video in which Michael Ivins, the official photographer of the Boston Red Sox, talks about his experiences with shooting baseball. He offers some good tips that apply to other sports as well (e.g. try and anticipate).
You know the “anyone can cook” mantra spoken by Chef Gusteau in Pixar’s Ratatouille? It seems the same can be said about other forms of artistic expression as well, whether it’s photography or painting abstract pictures. Two unusual artists we featured here before were 3-year-old Ruby Ellenby and Cooper the photography-lovin’ cat. The above video shows Aelita Andre, a girl who became a professional abstract expressionist painter at the age of 3 and is called a “prodigy of color”.
Did you know that the world record for “youngest photographer” is currently held by Zoe Fung Leung of Hong Kong? She was only 2 years and 70 days old when she held an exhibition and print sale at Plaza Hollywood. If you have a child that’s younger than that, stick a camera in their hands and hire a good PR representative — the record may soon be yours theirs!
I actually can’t think of a worse business than photography. I honestly can’t. In fact, if I were teaching an entrepreneurship class at a business school this would make a great exercise: Have my class think of a business that builds zero equity, had zero scalability and zero barriers to entry. It would be interesting to see if my class could come up with professional wedding/portrait photography. Knowing what makes a bad business would be very helpful in designing a good business.
The bottom line is this: from a wealth-creation standpoint, photography is a lousy career. But you probably already know that.
On the flip side, if you’re toiling as a photographer, you’re likely driven by a love of photography, not a love for money. Kim has some helpful tips for how to do photography as a career while staying smart financially.
The photographer and I settled on $2,500.00/shoot day for his basic creative fee. But what about the licensing fee? There were some factors to consider. The agency and the client were both pretty big players. The client was going to get a lot of use out of the pictures, and they stood to gain a lot from them, all which suggested a solid fee. Applying slight downward pressure on the value was the fact that the photographer didn’t have a long track record with automotive advertising, the spontaneous nature of the shoot made the campaign a little risky for the client, and this campaign was only one of several that they were producing for that brand. After consulting my usual pricing guides and agency contacts, I chose to price the first 20 images at $80,000 (effectively $4,000 each), with the option of the next 10 at $3,000 each and the 10 after that at $2,000 each.
You can read the rest of the breakdown here — it’s quite illuminating.