What makes Photography hard is not the actual photographing but every little thing that surrounds it. And for that, I’ve made a list. It’s all those small and sometimes big things that swirl around the job that you never imagined would be part of this crazy profession. Is it worth all of it? I think so. But it gets crazy sometimes.
So, where is the communication breakdown? What is it about being a photographer that most people don’t get? What is it that makes this job harder than it looks? If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.
It Tests Your Resolve Every Day.
This applies to most creative endeavours. For those of you who are not full-time photographers, I’m sure you fall somewhere on the love/hate scale when it comes to your job. Maybe you love it; perhaps you hate it. Most likely, you fall somewhere in between. Where you fall in between can and will change on any given day. But even if you love your job, it may not feed your soul. Your old job may have defined you to an extent, but not in the same way that being a photographer does.
For those who create for a living, it at least seems as if there is so much more at stake. I’m not trying in any way to lessen the importance of what anybody does for a paycheck. For me, though, every photo I put out there feels like a piece of me.
There’s a certain amount of vulnerability that comes with that, as well as pressure. The pressure to create. The pressure to surpass what you did the day before. The pressure to share your passion with the world, even if the world doesn’t necessarily like what you’re sharing with it. It’s a daily battle, and rising to the occasion– and the challenge– is not always easy.
It Swallows Your Free Time.
Golden hour. Blue hour. Sunrise. Sunset. Nights. WEEKENDS.
But even if your weekends aren’t filled with paid photography work, your brain is probably churning with ideas for personal projects and ways to improve your technique. Those who take your camera with you everywhere never really shut the photographic part of your brain off. If that works for you, I salute you. Photography was my life-long hobby. When it also became my profession, I had to force myself to put the camera down every once in a while and take back some free time for myself and my family.
Three Words: Cost of Gear.
Requires no explanation.
Benefits? What Benefits?
Unless you’re working as a photographer for a reasonably large company, I’m guessing that you’re footing the bill for your insurance– health, life, disability, and don’t forget the gear. Gear premiums aren’t usually that bad, but paying for quality health insurance out of your pocket can be extremely difficult. Vacation time? Forget it. You’re on your own, son. You need a steady– if not constant– stream of work coming in the door for this to work. That can be a very tough, stress-inducing pill to swallow.
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Crazy Working Conditions.
Combat zones. Hurricanes. Art directors. Bridezillas. Not to mention our seemingly inherent disregard for safety and common sense when it comes to getting “The Shot.” There are no more original ideas in a world where it seems, finding and creating those opportunities and images is no small task or challenge. This has a lot to do with your specific type of Photography, but whatever your style is, I’m sure you have stories to tell about crazy conditions. Especially freelance photojournalists. Being on call 24/7 with a portable police scanner as your constant companion cannot be easy.
More Photographers Than Jobs– You Do The Math.
Digital Photography– the great equaliser. Suddenly everyone’s a professional photographer. Lower overhead might have made getting into Photography more accessible, but it has also made it more challenging to stay in Photography. The professionals and the hobbyists are using the same gear.
The learning curve has fallen drastically. Learning the ins and outs of exposure and technique is still very important, but you can even get some perfect shots straight out of the box. More importantly, though, there are only so many jobs and assignments out there. It’s Economics 101. Once you start dividing a limited number of gigs between an ever-increasing number of photographers, somethings going to give.
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When you get right down to it, such a relatively small amount of our professional time is spent behind a camera. Once you start factoring in the marketing, the client meetings, the research, the location scouting, the social media, the blogging, and all of the other activities that have nothing to do with an actual camera in your hands, you may start wondering why you ever thought this was a good idea in the first place.
Too Much Noise. Not Enough Signal.
About a year ago, Zack Arias put together a fantastic video, and I urge you to take a five-minute break to watch it. In “Signal & Noise,” Zack talks about the importance of clearing out the petty, insignificant stuff that we stress about– the Noise– and concentrating on the property that matters. The stuff that makes us better photographers. The Signal. It’s not an easy thing to do. Sometimes you can’t help compare yourself to other photographers or stress how many people like your Facebook page. Too much Noise can make concentrating on the signal a pretty daunting task.
Labour of Love? Try Love of Labor
When people say something is a labour of love, it’s usually “love” that gets all the attention. But with Photography, it’s at least as much labour as love. We’re talking about suitcases of equipment that can weigh over 50 lbs. Lights, reflectors, apple boxes – it’s heavy, unwieldy and of course far too expensive to leave in your car. When people tell me they are also photographers, my first comment is, “Is your back, okay?”
It’s Not You; It’s the Camera
You’re going to hear the following words spoken, “Wow, beautiful shot; you must have a nice camera.” After a while, you stop fighting it or trying to argue and accept that it’s not you but the equipment that makes those shots look so good. Resistance is futile. If you want to get back at them, tell everyone that the incredible photo that took you all Day to get was an accident.
You Will Fall Victim to Sensor Dust!
Here’s something all photographers go through at some point: your photoshoot is going well, you peek at some of the photos, and they look great! You get home and download them and finally see them on the large screen, and what’s that? Spots all over my beautiful sky! On every photo!? Why?
Welcome to sensor dust and hours and hours of retouching. It happens to everyone. We deal with it and get the thing cleaned and vow never to shoot in nature again. Don’t clean the sensor yourself. This is a job for a pro. Of course, the irony of ironies is that the closer to heart you live, most likely the further away from a camera shop you are, too. Create lasting memories through your Yarra Valley wedding photography that will be cherished forever.
There’s No Calling in Sick
When it’s shoot day, there’s no turning back. Unless it’s just a casual shoot, there usually are too many people relying on you to call it in for the Day. Fever? Runny nose? Headache? You end up just suffering through. The good news about being a sick photographer is that, often, actual shooting time is only a few hours. A good set of meds can usually get you through it.
When it’s critically deficient – like you need to get to the hospital – having a backup photographer handy can save the day for you. Keep your contact list filled with people you trust and call them as soon as you think you might need them.
Working for Free
It’s one of the more critical topics in discussion groups: the number of people who want free Photography. Photographers deal with this all the time. There are friends and family, people without means, non-profits, test shoots, self-generated assignments. As a rule, I make sure that every node has a value associated with it. It does not always mean cash, but it must always mean forward movement for my career.
Keep track of all expenses, even for test shoots and stuff you do to grow your business. It helps with taxes and puts the correct seriousness on your professional endeavours.
Your Work Gets Stolen
I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes bad things happen on the Internet. That extends to Photography, too. Browsers have made it incredibly easy to steal people’s images and use them without you knowing. It’s not uncommon to find your photo being used by someone else without your permission.
When contacting people about the infringement of their rights, it can pay to give them the benefit of the doubt, at first. A discreet and respectful approach might turn them into your next client. And I’ve never had anyone refuse to take down a photo. But there are resources to help you, legally, if you need it.
You Shoot but Don’t Always Show.
Some shoots pay you money but don’t end up in your book. Nearly all photographers I know have consistent work that they never show. And sometimes never even see! Big clients often take your images straight from the shoot and do the post-work with someone else.
As a pro, you learn to covet this kind of work. It is consistent, predictable and has the power to make your life manageable. While it may not yield front-of-the-website imagery, it should be prioritised and treated specially.
You’re Going to Use Two Lenses
After all of the listing and buying and wishing and collecting, when it comes down to the gigs you can’t afford to mess up on, most photographers rely heavily on the 24-70mm and 70-200mm for a large portion of their shoots, if not the entirety of them. In truth, most nodes don’t last very long, so experimenting with lenses isn’t even an option. In these high-pressure affairs, you’ll end up using what you know is going to yield results. And the rest of the lenses sit comfortably in your camera case.
The best way to spend your extra money is on two bodies. Nothing will save you time, like being able to grab a second camera with your second lens already on it.
You’re One in a Million
No, there are a million photographers out there, and you’re swimming around trying to stand out like a sardine in a swirling school of other frantic sardines. Welcome to the new world where incredible equipment and self-promotion have been democratized to the point of ubiquity. Sounds horrible? It’s not so bad. Think of it this way: there are tons of us to sympathise with what you’re going through and meet-ups all over the world! Nobody complains that there are so many engineers, doctors or lawyers (okay, they complain about the lawyers).
And besides, the demand is growing, too. Social media and the world of branded content has made this a priority for nearly every company on Earth. You’re in a rapidly growing field, with plenty of work to go around.
You Inevitably Become a Photographer/Accountant
Want to get a laugh? Ask a photographer who their bookkeeper is. As a photographer, you’re also the CEO of your own business and CEOs of a one-person company have a lot on their plate. There’s marketing, bidding, doing estimates, research and prep work. But the hardest of all of it is managing the books. Because if there’s one thing I know about photographers, it’s that we didn’t get into this because of our accounting skills.
Get yourself on board with some accounting software, be it QuickBooks, FreshBooks or the like. The good ones can track expenses, build estimates, convert to invoices, create re-usable assets and even collect payment—all in one place.
If you want to do it right, get an LLC and a business account at a reputable bank. This is going to make life a whole lot easier right around tax time.
You Only Get Credit for the Images
Being able to meter, aim and shoot is a great starting place for a photographer, but that’s just a fraction of what you do. There’s a ton of work on either side of the shoot day, including location scouting, casting, coming up with an idea, hiring crew and keeping it fun and lively on set. And that gets you through shoot day. Afterwards, you’ve got to do the processing, cropping, retouching and delivery. Sometimes in multiple sizes! What about video?
Despite all that you take on, in the end, you’re judged almost entirely by the quality of your shots and your portfolio. It’s just how it is; people are focused on the end product and assume the rest of it is easy. Don’t let this keep you from putting a proper estimate together for clients. All of it, from start to finish, is billable. We have an exclusive range of wedding photography Mornington Peninsula services. Check them out here.
You Get Burnout, Regularly
Only a tiny portion of photographers can afford to have a staff around them, and most are managing everything from marketing to post-production. This puts an incredible amount of pressure on you, and it can regularly just burn you out. Photography is like having a full-time hustle until you become big time – then you have a rep and production companies helping you out with every step. But until then, you get used to a few mental breakdowns.
Talk to other photographers, especially pros with more experience than you. They can guide you through difficult times and are among the few who truly understand what you’re going through.
The Beauty Fades
Most photographers who’ve been shooting for a long time develop a kind of jaded, been-there-done-that attitude. “Photography? Meh, it ain’t what it used to be.” This is the nature of having shot so much, to the point of losing a bit of the romantic vision of what can be done with a camera. Suddenly, the beauty of golden light or a nice pocket of light on the street just kind of looks normal to you. Soon, the feeling of “I can’t wait to get out and shoot!” shrinks and gets replaced by “I can’t wait just to be able to leave my camera at home and go enjoy myself.”
Then You Find out You’re Not That Original
This is true no matter what you’re shooting. No matter how amazing your moment. No matter how dramatic your scene. No matter how creative that architectural crop is. No matter how oddly you place your models. No matter how shallow your depth of field. There’s someone else who’s probably tried it and maybe even done it better.
As it turns out, though, this perhaps painful feeling is a step to an even more incredible sense of inclusiveness. Because to get great at Photography is hard work. So by the time you reach a place where your work looks as good as others in your genre, you’ll be glad to have gotten there and taken a seat at that elite table.
You Discover There Is No Career Path
You’ll know photographers who get more work than you, who do bigger photography jobs than you, who’ve been doing it longer than you. But none of them is “higher” than you. That is, all of us are essentially at the same place in our careers: we are photographers. Unlike some other professions, you don’t make those incremental increases in stature with newer, better titles and consistent pay increases – all of which help measure progress and growth.
On the plus side, you’re free of the corporate system that keeps you constantly in review, on edge and slave to the grind.
Many photographers are adding things like video, animation overlays, cinemagraphs and even social marketing expertise to their skillset. While Photography might be a simple gig, there are tons of ways to expand.
So, Is Photography a Good Career?
If you are thinking about pursuing a Photography career, there are a lot of routes you can go. In our opinion, yes – Photography is a promising career if you are willing to put in the hard work to make it happen.
- The good news is: there are many opportunities for photographers out there.
- The bad news is: it can be tough to find worthwhile ones.
With this in mind, the question of whether or not Photography is a good career route is pretty open-ended.
Is it worth it?
The simple answer is: yes. There are few things more rewarding than pursuing something you love to do for a living.
We have backgrounds where we have worked at many jobs – for corporations, social services, and so on, but nothing compares. At the best of times, Photography does not feel like work. With great clients, it’s like we’re just hanging out with some friends, taking photos along the way.
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Photography has granted us opportunities to do things we wouldn’t have thought to do. It has been a big motivator to travel, too. Looking back at everything we have done and achieved, it’s impossible not to be proud.