Nobody truly “makes it on their own.” Whether it’s as complex as a mentorship or as simple as a passing piece of advice, every professional has had some level of support or guidance on their way up.
I had an interesting conversation the other day. I was fortunate enough to chat with photographer Ben Von Wong about inspiration, creative vision, etc and he made a rather fascinating comment: “Provide boundaries and problems to spark creativity.” (Paraphrased)
As a professional photographer, I regularly engage in discussions about my career choice. Sometimes it’s mentioned how lucky I am to be in a business where I get to take pictures all day and don’t really have to “work” like normal people do. Other times I get to hear inspirational stories from industry up and comers – how they took senior portraits of their neighbor’s nephew and realized they should open a photo studio.
The adventure through the career of a professional photographer is exhilarating to say the least. From photographing squirrels with an iPhone to shooting for National Geographic in a matter of months and from a fixed income to a 6 figure salary in less than a year, a professional photographer is truly blessed.
For career photographers the world over, there are a number of perks that make it a dream job. I’ve compiled 20 of the top benefits:
1. Anyone can do it.
The phone on your camera produces images 12 megapixels and up. With Instagram filters, it’s easier than ever to express your own unique view of the world with any of the built-in presets.
2. It’s a great career for shy people and loners.
The beauty of a camera is it creates a barrier between you and your subject. Just bring the camera up to your eye and all you have to do is watch and push a button. No more worries about actually having to interact with a person!
3. It’s all about the gear.
Photography is the great equalizer. It all comes down to the camera. As long as you have a better camera than the next guy, your pictures will come out better. It’s simple science.
4. One decent portfolio will get you any client.
People looking for a photographer tend to be incredibly open-minded. It’s natural and easy for people to look at beautiful pictures of wildflowers and instantly know you’re the perfect photographer for their upcoming fashion shoot.
5. All professional cameras are incredibly user-friendly.
Hi-end professional cameras (commonly called DSLRs) come with different “modes” that make shooting in any situation a breeze. Taking little Billy to his soccer game? Just turn the dial the icon for the person running. Showing off that stunning new azalea bush? Switch it over to the flower icon. So easy a child could do it!
6. Almost every photographer finds their true passion in a matter of weeks.
Portrait photography, advertising, and commercial product shoots make up for a surprisingly small amount of business in the photographic industry. The images that usually sell the fastest and for the largest profit are macro pictures of flowers and insects (which can be commonly found in your backyard), sunsets, any landscape shot from a moving vehicle, and cat pictures.
7. Social media pretty much handles your marketing needs for you.
Facebook, Instagram, Flickr… these are only a few of the hundreds of outlets at your disposal. With today’s rigid internet security measures in place, it’s never been easier to safely and securely show off your work. But even with today’s regulations on pirated imagery, you can never be too safe. Be sure to always add a large watermark of your company’s logo to the center of every picture.
8. If you can shoot one thing, you can shoot anything.
After all, it’s the same camera for each picture – there’s really not much difference. Weddings, fashion, and photojournalism all come down to the people. They’re nearly identical.
9. Customers are more than happy to let you express your individuality.
When it comes to photographing people, you’ll find very few customers have pre-existing ideas of how they want their pictures to look. Asking a photographer to replicate a picture they saw one time or to make their images look like a Vanity Fair ad is a terrible faux pas. Nearly everyone understands this breach of etiquette and it’s unlikely to ever hear such a request.
10. Copyright and licensing laws are surprisingly easy to understand.
Unlike the United States tax or legal code, the laws governing ownership of artwork is very straight forward. “The person who takes the picture owns the picture.” It’s so clear and to the point, hardly anyone will ever be confused about their rights to reproduce the images.
11. The money’s great!
It’s a standard of business that a quality product demands a respectable price. When it comes to cherished images of loved ones, advertisements for the season’s hot new product, or coverage of a once-in-a-lifetime event, you’ll find customers are more than happy to spend that little extra.
12. It’s all about the art.
Paperwork isn’t for everyone. One of the best reasons to become a professional photographer is knowing all you have to think about is crafting award-winning images. As a professional, I spend the majority of my days in “the field” capturing fleeting glimpses of the beauty in the world around me. In fact, writing this list is probably the most I’ll even look at my computer this week.
13. It’s one of the easiest jobs to talk about.
Imagine an efficiency expert meeting a new group of people. By the time they explain the intricacies of their job, people might be more confused than when they started. But, as a crafter of unique imagery, all you have to do is tell someone you’re a photographer and they’ll instantly understand that you take pictures at weddings.
14. Getting constructive feedback of your images is an almost effortless process.
Everyone has an inherent ability to determine what makes a picture aesthetically pleasing. All you have to do is send an email of a few dozen full-size, uncompressed pictures to a friend and they’ll be able to tell you what works about the images and what doesn’t. A few sources of good advice might include your grandmother, your neighbor, open-content online forums, Jim in the cubicle around the corner, and 4chan.
15. General education doesn’t really matter when your business is art.
Remember, a successful photography business is about the pictures. There isn’t really a reason to know mathematics or finances. That’s what an accountant is for. If you were never great in English class, don’t worry yourself too much. As we already discussed, photography is a business for “the lone wolf.” There aren’t many instances where presentations or one-on-one meetings come into play.
16. Contracts are a thing of the past.
Gone are the days when simple things like a stay at a hotel or joining a gym require pages and pages of paperwork. Integrity, honesty, and a sense of moral right and wrong are all people need to uphold a deal. The only legalese and business savvy you need to know is how flash those pearly whites and deliver a firm handshake.
17. Once they start, jobs don’t really change.
The professional art industry is one built on mutual respect. You’re offering a service that your customers are paying for and they understand the boundaries of what that means. One of the most delicate situations in a customer-photographer relationship is asking for more than the initial agreement. If at any point your customer asks you to shoot longer or include extra files, happily accept the request. Once the project is done, they will be eager to compensate you fairly for your extra effort.
18. Photoshop will fix any mistake.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a burger flipper, a federal judge, or a heart surgeon – people make mistakes. The beauty of photography is those mistakes don’t have to be permanent. Let’s say you’re photographing a bride after the big dance and her hair is stuck to her forehead sweat. There’s no need to interrupt everyone’s fun to brush the hair aside, just open the file in Photoshop and click the “Fix Hair” icon in the tools pallet.
19. Career advancement is virtually guaranteed.
Just like professional athletes, many of the highly successful photographers are “discovered” by talent agents. By utilizing photo-sharing websites like Instagram and Flickr, It’s easier than ever for agencies to find your work. Just upload a few photos a week and you’ll be solicited for projects in no time!
20. It requires almost no specific training or education.
In the end, your career is all about creating show-stopping images, conveying your unique view of the world around you. If you have an expensive camera, you’re guaranteed to craft masterpieces. Just throw it on “auto,” click away, then sit back and wait for the money to come rolling in!
A big thank you to Ben C. and Elayne G. for their inspiration and help with this list!