I’m only 23 and I don’t want to play it safe my whole life and never really find work that I enjoy. Here is where I am stuck. One of my greatest passions is photography. Now I know that being a photographer is not the most stable income. But man, if I could make just enough off of it to let me work less hours at my day job, that would be an awesome start to my pursuit of happiness.
My problem is I don’t really know how to start. It’s sort of a competitive world and I’m also not in the position to go buying all of the gadgets I may need. I’ve been looking into selling photos online on sites like istockphoto , dreams time and so on. I just don’t know how to be successful. I have also thought of making photo books on blurb.com, or selling postcards with my photos on them to local artsy boutiques. I guess I’m just a little overwhelmed with it all. I’m afraid of putting a bunch of work/money into it and realizing I’m doing it all wrong.
Any advice or tips are greatly appreciated.
Narrow down on what you like to photograph, figure out your photography niche and then see if there is a luxury market for that. If not, my advice for creative careers is don’t become a cartoonist because its profitable if you really just wanted to paint realistic nudes. My other two cents is you may want to look into a job you enjoy, that doesn’t feel stressful to you, and that has a part time nature to begin with… perhaps something that requires you to travel a lot. Traveling can marry a photographer very merrily, in my opinion. Talk to someone that works that job.
Also, there are some talented photographers (or artists) that are making a living, and then there is a talented plethora that are working another job while begging a friend of a friend to be their wedding photographer for 80% less of original cost they would charge because they’re extremely broke. What separates them is marketing yourself. There are a lot of resources online that will break this down for you if you are interested in that too. Stock photos and trying to get picked up won’t generate considerable income by itself, and besides being a businessman of your craft you’d also need to show a strong stand-apart characteristic that publishers will look for. Basically, I’m talking about your niche again.
meanwhile you could use sites like kickstarter to generate money for select supplies necessary to further your work. Or another unrelated income that feeds your spirits and inspires your photography eye. Personally, I find that these jobs tend to work better than working in a related field that you don’t want to be in or makes you feel unsuccessful (like a cvs photo developing department), so think your options through to see which one keeps you going as a person and maybe can expand your networking to get yourself out there, inspire your eye to create fresh ideas in free time, or makes bank fast on something you don’t mind doing/ doesn’t drain you physically or mentally but unrelated to photography.
@sbaertat, I agree with inna, it’s good to find a niche for your photography.
Also, if you can stand it, it may be worth building up a business in shooting something with reliable demand like weddings, actor headshots, or events.
Maybe you have a connection that leads to photography gigs. For instance, a friend of mine was always around movie sets, and she ended up being the “behind the scenes” set photographer for a bunch of productions, and made money that way. If you do good work and are professional, people will hire you back again and again, and recommend you to their professional friends. I’m a video producer, and 100% of my work comes from word of mouth.
If you partner up with a makeup artist and find some studio space (all you really need is a backdrop and 2 strobes) you can do headshots all day long.
Let’s say you love the music scene. Ask a club manager if they need some photos of the house band. You’ll come in, shoot them performing and do some group shots for free if he’ll recommend you to the bands that come to play there. They might have 10 bands a week, and if every one of them has your business card, that could turn into shooting gigs, tours, press photos, whatever.
Be bold and ask for what you want. There’s no shame in saying what you hope to get out of a business relationship. When you’re offering a valuable service, people will be happy to pay you accordingly.
I know sometimes it seems like doing commercial work is “selling out” but the truth is that if you’re strategic, you could make enough money doing the type of thing you love, accumulating equipment, experience, and contacts, and still have LOTS of time to go play, travel, and shoot those special things that call to you.
And sometimes it’s nicer if your favorite subjects to shoot are not the things that bring you money, because then deadlines and sales and expectations don’t interfere with your simple pleasure of doing it.
Good luck! It’s certainly possible. Keep at it. It takes many years to master a craft, but there is a great deal of pleasure along the way!