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Thread: Do you really? Why?

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    Do you really? Why?

    We often have a discussion on where we stand in the industry or where we would like to be either now or in the future. These are my thoughts and just one perspective, an important one because it comes from a lifetime involvement with photography be it motion picture or print.
    After a lifetime of taking photos for money, satisfaction, communication or whatever I feel there are three distinct vocational areas one could place themselves, if tags are important.
    Firstly, there are the masters, people who have devoted their life to photographic skills, style, maybe genre, but most of all obtaining perfection in their visualisation. Most of these people are well known for their achievements and like artists and musicians of note, are more recognised after death than during life, with some exceptions.
    Secondly, come the professionals, people who practice photography for a living, people not dependent on other income for survival, not necessarily the best photographers in the world but good enough to gain acceptance from a marketplace.
    Thirdly, the enthusiast, a vast group of people who thoroughly enjoy photography, learning and developing style, very good with the technical and creative art form and a vast reservoir of future masters and professionals if they have the desire to move on at some time in their life.
    My perspective is that of a professional having earned my living from the mid-eighties either by taking photographs or making films. It can and will be different from other professionals simply because the industry, as part of the film industry, is the largest employer in the world. And this is what I want to talk about.
    Folk who want to move from being an enthusiast into the professional world often are focussed on "selling" photographs or "doing" weddings. These are in fact the least successful parts of the industry. Whilst they can be a step forward very few survive in this self driven section of photography. Like any other creative endeavour the impetus for success must be client/audience driven. In simple terms you can't go out and tell people they should like your work. We need to go out and ask what they want and then create it. For many this is not easy simply because they don't have the experience or qualifications to handle the variables.
    The point of this story is that we need to understand that photography as an industry is huge and I believe there is a genre for everyone who wants to make a living from it. Technical skills, like any profession are limited to 20% of your skill base. Most of the other things you need to know or learn are business related, marketing, accounting and communication etc.
    Currently my skill base is with publishing and writing for magazines and newspapers, still photography for the motion picture industry, product and talent shots for publicity and travel based photojournalism.
    For the curious I've attached a cover for a video magazine, one of many, which is a composite that paid really well. The magazine also included a number of other photos attached to stories and from that issue alone would financially meet most photographers requirements for the month.
    Anyone contemplating a photographic career is welcome to ask questions but those set on selling photos or joining the wedding industry may need to look elsewhere.
    Shoot!
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Photojournalist | Filmmaker | Writer | National Geographic | Royal Geographic

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    At TAFE we were often told that there isn't much money to be made in magazines, perhaps they were only talking about fashion. They gave us examples of what the typical photographer would make for a spread in Vogue for example, and it wasn't much. It's encouraging to know that you think it would be worth pursuing.

    I've always been more than a little hesitant to step out into the freelance world, having watched many people within the Aussie film and music industries barely survive waiting for the next job to come along. When I am thinking about my possible future in pro photography I'm trying to work out ways to work for myself but also not be reliant on clients such as ad agencies or production companies. Rather I'm wondering how I can service clients directly, such as doing portrait photography and similar (no not weddings or sports!). This would require a great deal of marketing obviously and I'm keen to learn those ropes.

    It was good to hear that the technical stuff is only about 20% of what it takes to make it. I have worked for many small businesses in the past, however not photographic ones, do you have suggestions on where to go to learn about marketing and business related side of things specifically geared towards photographers? I've looked at TAFE small business courses but not sure that its really what I'm after.

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    Hmmm!! Each TAFE is different but reliant on a particular lecturer for a point of view and that can be narrow and often out of date. You make a good point about magazines and I guess the key is to diversify.
    And diversification is important career wise in just about any occupation so it's handy to build up a number of related skill levels. I started in filmmaking and developed writing skills and then found my photography was useful in developing complete packages. I built up my technology skills and now design and build video editing machines for professional studios. Got so many questions on how I did this that I became an IT journalist and write for magazines, do their product shoots and occasionally covers. It's all related but often the individual components stand alone and I avoid the usual filmmaking downtime.
    Business wise you obviously need to understand the basic balance sheet and profit and loss but the real skills you need are in dealing with people, from Mums and Dads to executives (often one and the same). Some marketing skills are essential but most of all you need to be organised (planning). One thing I've learned over the years is that big (in this industry) is not always beautiful. I closed down my television studio over 15 years ago and have never looked back.

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    This could become an interesting topic, or it could take a rather quick downward spiral.....

    I suppose, my question to you is "Were you consigned to shoot those pictures?". While i have limited experience with final publication, I do know enough people to understand that getting a picture in a magazine as a freelance would hardly put enough food on the table for a day, let alone a week....But, then again, I suppose it depends on the magazine. I have heard anecdotal accounts of leading motorsports magazines paying in no more then double digits for published images.

    How does it apply to more specific press and magazines? Unless you are staff, is there enough out there to actually make a reasonable life out of it?

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    One photo here or there really won't cut it unless it is a very rare or sought after shot. To receive worthwhile payment from a magazine for freelance work you really have to be looking to write the story as well as contribute all the pictures to go with it. This will see you earn an average weeks wage for the one article (depending on the company and their pay-scale obviously) but you have to be mindful of the time it takes for the whole process. And as John said "planning" is everything.
    Attitude is everything!

    Cheers, Paul

    Nikon

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    I think, Hoffy, you've missed the point. I don't make a living out of publishing photographs. There seems to be a misconception in the photographic industry that you can make a living from one activity be it selling photos ad hoc, publishing photos individually, even doing weddings.
    As Paul pointed out to earn a good income it needs to come from a variety of sources. In my case writing, filmmaking and photography. To answer your question, was I consigned to shoot those pictures, the answer is yes and no. Yes, because my partner asked me to do them and no because I have an investment in a number of independent magazines and on-line publishing sites. You should ask Packer or Murdoch how difficult it is to get there stories/pictures published. Not anywhere near that league but it's a great business model.
    I guess the reason I raised the issue was that most punters here that want to go into business for themselves really have no idea how important diversity is in the overall plan. Buy a good camera, practice for awhile and go and make a fortune. That will never work but there are ways to succeed, you just need an open mind and think outside the box.

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    http://steveaxford.smugmug.com/ Steve Axford's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Redgum View Post
    I think, Hoffy, you've missed the point. I don't make a living out of publishing photographs. There seems to be a misconception in the photographic industry that you can make a living from one activity be it selling photos ad hoc, publishing photos individually, even doing weddings.
    As Paul pointed out to earn a good income it needs to come from a variety of sources. In my case writing, filmmaking and photography. To answer your question, was I consigned to shoot those pictures, the answer is yes and no. Yes, because my partner asked me to do them and no because I have an investment in a number of independent magazines and on-line publishing sites. You should ask Packer or Murdoch how difficult it is to get there stories/pictures published. Not anywhere near that league but it's a great business model.
    I guess the reason I raised the issue was that most punters here that want to go into business for themselves really have no idea how important diversity is in the overall plan. Buy a good camera, practice for awhile and go and make a fortune. That will never work but there are ways to succeed, you just need an open mind and think outside the box.
    I couldn't agree more. I think you need many strings to your bow to make a go of photography. When one area drops off, another will pay the rent, then another may strike it rich - for a while.

    As far as magazines, etc go, just put yourself in an editors shoes for an instant. As far as magazines, etc goes, what is better - to get a complete, ready to print article from one source, or to have to go hunting for photos, then a writer, then edit it all yourself, and get it all done to a timeline. Everyone wants an easy life, including editors.
    Last edited by Steve Axford; 16-09-2010 at 9:52am.

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    Interesting but I keep running into this business plan.
    Magazine on line or in print charge for advertising charge for access SUCK IN CONTRIBUTORS to supply content for free or only credit. Yep its a great plan if you are the proprietor but if you think the byline is worth anything your wrong, money is the only reason worth submitting anything for.
    I also wonder how sustainable plan like that is you would think or hope contributors would wise up but there's one borne every minute isn't there.
    Thanks Steve
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