PHOTOGRAPHY: Career vs Hobby
Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”Ages later Mark Twain went on to say, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” These two incredible quotes, from different times, mean the same, but do they adhere to the reality? This could be a topic open for a debate, but the focus here is on the experiences of the photographers who moved from being a hobbyist to being a professional… which simply means they opted to earn their livelihood by clicking pictures every day. These professionals obviouslylove everything about each assignment they accomplish and have a compelling story to tell.
Shooting for money is significantly different from shooting for the sheer love of photography. Following is the list of factors that changes the game completely!
Commitment to demand against instinctive shooting
The word ‘freedom’ here is all about functioning within the limits of professional focus. A fashion photographer must stick to the client-brief. This may also mean forgetting the art aspect of photography and working with not-so-creative flat lighting. A wildlife photographer may be asked to take ‘clear subject’ pictures paying zilch heed to the animals’ unique behavioural facets. A wedding photographer may need to overlook the fine-art aspect because that’s not what the clients are keen on showcasing in their albums. The probability of occurrence of these examples happens more often than not.
Shooting for visibility
A lot of photographers are guilty of shooting for promoting their business, and not promoting the artist within. More often than not we end up shooting people evenwhen our interest lies in clicking abstract images, sometimes even out of everyday objects. These abstract pictures may make no sense to anyone else but ourselves. This has taken a lot of photographers away from shooting what they really love to shoot.
Striving for perfection
Even if it is the flaw in a picture that defines it, being a professional you cannot avoid the fact that you may need to embrace perfection. How many times do wedding photographers choose to capture the mood of a scene against a perfectly lit image with precise skin tones? Not many, if you don’t want to risk losing a customer, without even having an idea if the client would actually love it or not. Going by other’s experiences there’s one in a thousand who actually loves it.
Not fun anymore?
When was the last time you were making pictures instinctively, for the sole purpose of deriving pleasure out of it? Rather than spending all your time learning a new technique that might boost your business and practising the newly learnt technique till you no longer want to think beyond it.It’s facile to justify that we pursue photography for our love for it and we need to do it the way we actually love doing it. But the hard reality is that if you are doing it for money, you are not always going to be able to do it this way. You have to learn the act of ‘one for the kitchen and one for the soul’ well to find that balance.
However, people who have seamlessly been able to achieve success in fusing both love and money into their images vindicate why it is not impossible to photography the way you love it. All of the greats of photography have shown how it is done. Few of them include Ansel Adams, Jerry Ghionis, Gregory Heisler, Raghu Rai and Joseph Radhik. All you need to do is figuring out how you could make it work for you.
Types of Photography
With more than fifty types of photography floating around, here are some of the broader categories for people to take up!
If you love nature and like to stop and look at the beautiful scenery around you and freeze it in a frame, you would definitely be interested in Landscape Photography. Newspapers, magazines, calendars could be your clients. You could even sell your photos to stock photo sites like Alamy or Getty.
One of the most revered fields in photography, journalistic photography aims for the Pulitzer! This field deals with assignments that showcase frames that ‘say a thousand words’ and can really bring about a movement. Obviously enough, you get to work with all kinds of media houses or as a freelance journalist, handle independent assignments for a whole lot of clientele.
This genre of photography focuses on animals and their respective natural habitats. The behaviour of animals in the wild too is key. These pictures mostly go on to be printed in journals and displayed in exhibitions. The photographer has to have a lot of patience. Wildlife photographers make money from cash prizes, by selling their images to galleries and online picture libraries like Nature Picture Library and National Geographic Images.
Portraiture ranges from clicking the members of your family to friends to pets. Dentists, orthodontists, paediatricians, optometrists, dermatologists, make-up artists, spa-owners, hair salon owners, jewellers, veterinarians, pet boarders, Gym and fitness centre owners, and tutoring centre owners could be some of your prospective clients.
Sports or Action photography
This genre of photography specialises freezing decisive moments in various events of sports. This is one of the very difficult types of photography. One has to be really attentive and alert. It requires practice and adept with equipment. Sportsmen and teams, media houses, government departments organising sports events, corporations sponsoring sports events and the likes are some of the entities hiring sports photographers.
Structures, houses and buildings are clicked from different angles in this form of photography. This aid creates a positive impact on potential buyers of real estate. Real estate companies and dealers are the most promising clientele.
Event or wedding photography
Wedding photography being a narrowed down version of event photography has been too much in demand in the pre-COVID era. A person dealing in this genre has to be a portraiture photography expert and needs to possess extremely good editing skills. Event planners, wedding designers, the to-be bride or groom or someone close to them hire your services.
This type of photography is mostly used for promotions, advertisements and fashion magazines. Models displaying clothes, shoes, accessories etc. are clicked in a glamorous way. Fashion labels, models, actors, advertising agencies, Instagram influencers are the most prominent recruiters for this genre of photography.
It deals with the art of clicking pictures of various items in a way that it immediately appeals to the viewers. The photographer needs to pay attention to the context in which a certain product is to be presented. Ad agencies, food business owners, jewellery business owners, e-commerce businesses, marketing and sales agencies would hire your services.
Making photography a career
With the constantly changing world, photography trends too keep on changing. And they are changing so fast that one needs to keep up to understand people’s interests and demands to be able to adapt the services they need. Trends tend to break a lot of conventional photography rules, and recycling not being new, some trends do make a comeback. In the quest for trying to stand out in the already overcrowded community, photographers try everything they can.
The conventional way to make a career in photography is by learning photography through one of the colleges offering photography as a course.
TOP COLLEGES IN INDIA OFFEING A PHOTOGRAPHY DEGREE
Delhi College of Photography. Light and Life Academy, Ooty. Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University, Hyderabad. AJ KidwaiMass Communication Research Centre. Asian Academy of Film and Television, Noida. Osmania University, Hyderabad. National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. Sir JJ Institute of Applied Arts, Mumbai. National Institute of Photography. The Indian Institute of Digital Art and Animation, Delhi. Pixel Institute of Photography, Delhi. The One Goa School, Goa. Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication, New Delhi.
You could take a call on if you want to build yourself as a freelance photographer or land an in-house job.
In-house photographers are considered employees and qualify for all employee benefits. Some of the examples would be:
At an e-commerce brand headquarters creating images for their on-line store and distribution channels, at a photography company capturing events and tours, at a wedding photography company shooting weddings, at a modelling agency clicking fresh talents, and at a photography studio clicking portraits, to mention a few suggestions.
Although freelance jobs are not as stable as traditional employment, there are some serious benefits to going freelance. Freelance photographers lock a much higher per-hour priceand because they are not committed to any one organization they have the liberty to explore and pursue a wider variety of opportunities. As a result you get to build a more diverse, creative and expansive portfolio.Few of the sites offering photography job search in India would be:SimplyHired, glassdoor, indeed, QuikrJobs, TiMESJOBS, Naukri.
Social media platforms offer a great place to network, come across new opportunities, connect with potential clients and bag your next freelance job. Some of the best networks for leveraging to build your freelance photography career are:
LinkedIn – Linkedin is one social media network focused on everything business which makes it the first choice for job searches. Along with searching and applying for jobs directly, you get to connect proactively with people that you would actually love to work with.
Facebook – Facebook has umpteen number of groups that cater to photographers and photography jobs. Those groups are an amazing place to network and learn of new opportunities and grow your freelance photography work.
Instagram – Instagram being a purely visual platform offers a great deal to showcase your work and get noticed to land few of your own photo-gigs.
Making it your own
If you have already crossed that college education period in your life, and are trying to turn into a pro from being an enthusiast, here are some of the steps that could help you introduce yourself to photography as a career and build your business.
Research and analysis
Start with yourself. What motivates you to take up photography professionally? What are you looking to gain from your work? What makes you stand out? Which genre of photography you are driven towards the most? If you don’t have the answers, practice with different genres. Shoot something or the other every day. You got to discover yourself as a photographer and strive to improve the quality of your own work. This would help you take informed decisions and make plans for your career. Study the market. Be aware of the global trends. Try and discover gaps that you could address. Work hard on your quality and develop a unique style of yourself. Figure out the average prices in the market. Set your own pricing.
Explore what all regulations that apply in your area of interest and make your business official. Find out the regulations regarding what all and where all you can shoot. Regulations vary from place to place. Convert the oral agreements with the clients into legal contracts. You could keep a template and adjust it for every project. All that paperwork is burdensome but it’s definitely worth it.
It’s better not to invest before you earn. Start working with what you have. Always remember the artist is far more important than the gadget. Try to perfect your quality and technique as much as your own gear allows. You could consider renting when a high-end assignment calls for more than what you own. Rental fees are very reasonable and help you get hands-on experience with a variety of gadgets eventually giving you that clarity regarding what all you need to buy.
Find your niche
With no limit to the number of genres you could explore, as you become professional it’s always better to focus on a particular niche. While being driven by the professional aspects and internal drive, do not ignore the commercial aspect involved. Keep in mind that some niches pay well and some don’t. Moreover, specializing gives a clearer picture of your brand to your audience and as a result the right clients have a better chance to discover you.
It’s important that you have a website of your own. You could direct your potential clients to your online portfolio instantly. A professional photography page on Facebook, Instagram and other major social media platforms is vital. At least one picture should go up in a day. Visibility is the key!
Indulge in casual networking. Introduce yourself as a professional. Offer taking portraits at local events and gatherings. Later e-mail them the pictures with links to your websites and social media handles. If they like your work some of the attendees may want to hire you for a paid assignment. Your earnings would depend on the wealth of your clients too. Do pay attention to the kind of events you are attending.
Don’t take too much pressure to get clients in the beginning but at the same time do get out of your comfort zone. Telling people what you do makes a lot of difference. The more the number of clients the more that amount of experience for you, and experience plays a major role in making an amateur a pro.
Educate yourself by studying the works of iconic photographers. Learning is vital when you are starting out, and in photography this learning never stops! Consider taking up some online courses and in-person workshops. You could find a mentor to heed in the process. Practice as much possible, even when you don’t have clients. Shoot something every day. A great way to do it is by creating a 365-day project, where you click one photograph a day for one whole year. Post it onto your online profiles. Try to educate yourself on the business aspects of photography. That will help boost your professional photography career.
If you are willing to put in the hard work to make it happen, yes, photography makes a great career choice!
From freezing those precious moments at a wedding to capturing the northern lights in a timespan of months and going from a minimum wage to a six figure income in a year’s time can be an interesting phase in the life of a professional photographer. There are many reasons that make photography a great career option, including:
You get to capture that moment that lasts forever and goes on to become a memory forever. No matter how accessible photography gets, this idea is not to be taken for granted.
It is one profession that lets you express your own individuality. You don’t have to change for anyone and can insist on being what you are. They choose you over others because they share your sense of style and vision. You get to be true to yourself.
Through the images created by you, you get to tell a story. And others get to relive the story that truly matters.
Photography would take you to places you have never been to. It gives a whole new meaning to business trips. Instead of corporate meetings you get to capture landscapes, destination weddings, adventure travels and the likes.
You become your own boss. You are in complete control of your own time. Need some more family time? There’s no one to stop you from having that.
Because photography is always evolving, you get to keep learning. New gear, new lighting techniques, more editing tricks – the list goes on! Learning something new all the time keeps you going. There’s no sense of feeling stuck.
Photography conferences are a lot of fun. No matter which part of the world you are in, you always get to find that one conference that excites you. You get to network so well with the peers from such far-off places, you never know when you might need them to cover for you or they need you to cover for them.
No two days are the same in photography. One day you are enjoying a wedding or an eventful studio action working with a group of people, the next day you are busy editing. Even if you have two shoots of the same genre in one weekend, its never the same. You get to see different faces, get to be at different places, experience something different each time.
Money could be the last reason a photographer decides to pursue photography, but nobody enjoys starving! While few of them might disagree, but most of them would tell you there’s very good money to be made in the industry. You having the freedom to set your own price and handle all your bookings. Photography is indeed magical in more than one way!
Challenges of being a photographer
The life of a photographer at first glance seems like a wonderful journey. Spending your time travelling the world creating beautiful art which is admired by everyone is a dream for most. But that doesn’t mean you can’t become that successful photographer. To live that dream all you need is to deal with a few struggles that photographers around the world face. Some of the most common challenges are:
One of the biggest hurdle one photographer could face is rejection. Your services will be declined by the clients in favour of those from another service provider or a photographer. Even the greatest photographers in the world face rejection. The big difference between one successful and one unsuccessful photographer is that the successful photographer has learnt to shrug off those rejections and plough on.
The spending never stops when you are a photographer! The equipment costs are too high. The camera you own now, and all of the future cameras you are going to own will keep making you feel that the one you currently have is not good enough for your purpose. Then there are lenses, accessories and gears that you would keep needing to buy. You could find yourself shelling out money on books, workshops, classes, trips and more to keep honing your skills every now and then.
Nowadays, everyone is photographer! They may not all call themselves one but if they have a smartphone then they may just use it rather than coming to you for professional services. Moreover, you would have all of the seasoned professionals as your competition. For example, if a bride-to-be has three options, and she gets too appalled by the prices quoted to her she will find a friend with a DSLR to do the job for her for free. It takes something special for you to get noticed. As a photographer you will have to learn to not only lose gracefully to the competition but also to make yourself stand out in the crowd.
If you are making images everyday it could turn into a grind where you are merely doing a job rather than creating art. There are some blessed photographers who can make art every day, all day and not at all get bored of it. If you aren’t one of them, try to keep your ‘work’ photography and ‘fun’ photography separate. If you are busy pursuing one genre all day, then save that other genre that you are truly passionate about for the times when you are taking a break from your job.
Deciding on turning your hobby into a professional venture is always going to be exciting. It can get overwhelming in the beginning. It all starts with a passion. Without that deep love and a need to be a photographer there is little point in starting on a journey to turning into a professional photographer since passion is, in a way, the fuel with which your creativity burns. We get to hear often that ‘nothing comes easy in life’. Photography too will never be a cakewalk. It will have its own share of hurdles and problems. There will be times when one will start questioning and doubting their own decision if they were right because, trust me on this, people do pull you down. And that can happen to both a beginner as well as a professional photographer. Unless you are brave for the challenges, do think it through thoroughly and then take a call. And remember, nothing compares to being able to make a living by doing what your true passion is.