Is it the best job ever? Well yeah, sometimes, most of the time really, but it also comes along with some bullsh** that not everybody realizes. I know that most people would imagine being a photographer is all glamour, all fun, all exciting… well here’s some things that really happen…
1. You end up spending a lot of time on your own
Because if photography is your job, then editing can take up a ton of time, and that means being stuck inside for days sometimes staring at a screen… on your own. You stare outside at the beautiful sun waiting for your eyes to adjust because they’ve been glued to an image you’ve been working on for the last two hours and don’t even know what it is anymore because square eyes do seem to exist.
It’s not all bad, you can work to music, or a series you’re working your way through in the background, but it is lonely, and you do start to feel antsy… or even sad. BUT it’s your job isn’t it, so you just have to keep on it till it’s done, because paychecks are harder to come by, and the sooner it’s done, the sooner you can get paid.
2. It’s scary
For SO many reasons. Maybe you got offered a job shooting product shots even though you’ve never done it before, but you have to accept because… well you don’t know when the next job is coming. WHAT IF THEY SUCK!? Scary.
About that next job… What if it doesn’t come? Well crap, that’s scary because the rent is due and what if nothing else comes up? Scary.
Someone has offered a job shooting a famous face, bloody cool right? Except what if you screw it up and no one ever wants to work with you again? What if they hate them? Scary.
Basically it’s all on YOU and that is SCARY!
3. Not so glamorous
It’s not all glamorous and shiny and easy… no, it’s messy and muddy and cold and sh**.
If you’re shooting editorials you often have to shoot summer in the winter and winter in the summer, that means shooting out in the freezing cold when your fingers go numb while you’re pressing the shutter and your eyes are streaming from the wind so you can’t even see through the viewfinder. I mean, this is the least of your problems, because one model is getting half-naked behind a tree to change outfits and a local dog walker has just come up to chat to you about what you’re shooting for.
Make up and hair, also not so glamorous. It takes hours, naturally, but then on set when you’re ready to take a killer shot, the stylist has to dash into shot because a bra strap is showing, or the hair stylist rushes on set because a stray hair has fallen. All of these things are important, mind you, but not so bloody glamorous aye!
Last year I shot an editorial in the center of Cambridge. The model dashed off to the public toilets and proceeded to almost faint, so myself, the stylist, make up artist and hair stylist sat for an entire hour with the model in a public toilet in the middle of a city, chocolate in hand, until she felt better. OH THE GLAMOUR!
So when you’re looking at a fashion shot, no matter how glamorous it looks, remember that it’s probably freezing, or boiling, that there are people dashing around, mud is probably stuck in places, bra straps are being monitored and many other random very un-chic things are going on.
4. We don’t have much of a budget…
How many photographers have heard that one? I have, many many times. Once again, you can’t turn most of them down because a job is a job… but 80% of the time you’ll give your price and the usual ‘budget’ conversation will follow.
5. 40% unpaid work.
Or more! Working as a photographer means you have to constantly keep shooting, updating your portfolio, trying new genres, experimenting, doing personal projects. A lot of what you do is unpaid, and necessary. It seems like you’re going out on your own with a camera for fun, but really you are keeping your work flowing, creating images to advertise yourself, or keep the creative juices flowing and yeah, sometimes, staying sane.
And of course there are the jobs you get offered for no money but you just have to take it because it’s too good of an opportunity to turn down. Not many of these do result in paid work, but it’s worth a shot right?
6. Creative block
It’s happen to the best of us and it sucks. You sit at home and stare at your camera and just have no bloody clue, and no matter how much Internet searching you do, or attempts at taking the damn thing outside, inspiration will just not come. It’s part of the ride, but it blows.
7. Another job
I don’t have another job at the moment, but I have had, and I needed it and a lot of working photographers I know do as well. We do it because photography work can go up and down faster than a fat kid on a trampoline, and in those times when it’s down, guess what? We still have to pay the bills, so yeah, a desk job, or working with kids or in a shop or as a waitress… we’ve probably done it all and dream of the time it can be all photography all the time.
8. Pretty people EVERYWHERE
This may just be me, I haven’t actually discussed this with other photographers mostly out of embarrassment, but yeah, my self-confidence ain’t the best, which is partly because working with models doesn’t do the best for your self-esteem.
I mean, if you’re away from them long enough it’s OK, but then you’re shooting again and they walk in looking tall and beautiful and perfect, and you start to feel like a hobbit again. It’s not just us that think it, it’s our cameras too, and they don’t lie! When I take a shot of them and they look perfect and the next day I take a self-portrait, well, I just want to burn my camera.
It’s our choice, we chose this field of work, but man, it really does suck not being perfect too.
9. We have wanted to quit 5073 times
Yup, truth, because it’s hard to believe in yourself all the time. Because there are so many amazing artists out there and no matter how many people tell you not to, you still can’t help but compare. Because it’s hard to be working all the time, and in those down times you just want to pull your hair out and punch a kitten. Because sometimes you just look at all of your work and think SH**!!!!! Because Because Because.
The reason we don’t quit is, we notice everything. The light, the clouds, the eroding brick, the climbing ivy, the homeless man, the peeling wallpaper, the derelict house, the flock of birds. EVERYTHING. So though we have a few days where we hate the world and photography, it doesn’t take long before we just keep noticing too much and HAVE to pick up our camera again.
10. It’s the best job in the world.
All the truths mentioned above included, accepted, this job still rules! If you can do what you love in life, then you’re the richest person in the world.
Just remember, never let your passion feel like a chore. Yes I have to earn money and pay the bills, but I love taking photos, always, so it might be a job, but it’ll always be the love of my life first.
About the author: Alexandra Cameron has been a professional freelancer for over 4 years with experience in weddings, live and promotional band photography, actor headshots, events, fashion, beauty and self-portraiture. Mostly though she is a dreamer.