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Thread: Who switched from hobby/part time photography to full time

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    Who switched from hobby/part time photography to full time

    Hey guys,

    Just posing a question to the AP community, this is really coming off a few stressful weeks at work... So the question to you All is who here has moved away from the corporate world and focused Full time on photography, be it portraiture/weddings etc

    What were the hurdles/challenges, if any faced? How long did the transition take? Was there any regret.

    Just love to hear success stories of those who broke the shackles of the 9-5 and moved to photography as a career?

    Cheers
    Chris

    Disclaimer: I wouldn't considering the move soon, but love to hear the paths taken by members here
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    hey Chris, I would think that if stress at work is the problem, trying to make a full time living from photography wouldn't be the answer. That's not to say it can't be done, just it is certainly not an easy path these days, but it would definitely take you away from 9-5.

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    Its a tough industry and retracting. I wouldn't even consider it until I was no longer able to come even close to not being able to fit all my paid photography jobs in my weekends or weeknights
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lani View Post
    hey Chris, I would think that if stress at work is the problem, trying to make a full time living from photography wouldn't be the answer. That's not to say it can't be done, just it is certainly not an easy path these days, but it would definitely take you away from 9-5.
    Don't worry Lani, I'd take a bit more thought before I'd do anything rash - I've had quite a few moments like that haha

    Just want to hear if any stories from the AP community have done the whole... corporate to photography route.

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    Member jeffde's Avatar
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    Well today i start full time as i got laid off yesterday from the FT causual job that i have been doing for 4 1/2 years. I have known its been coming for a while so have prepared.

    I also recently got another PT job 10 hrs a week which will help pay some of the weekly bills....

    Wish me luck!!!
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    I did. It was 1982 when I finally took the plunge and opened my own studio. Took out a loan and bought a 500 C/M 'blad and a very second hand 4x5 Toyo. Didn't bother with 35mm - that was considered way amateur back then. I finally retired last year (2009 GFC was the straw that broke the camel's back) but revenues had been going down for quite a while. Even Advertising Managers/Product Managers/Marketing Directors are often unable to distinguish good photography from mediocre, and cannot understand why I asked $1200 a day for photography when they had people in their companies who had "pretty good cameras" and a computer.

    I still shoot a bit but can now afford to be choosy about the assignments I take on.

    When I first opened my studio I realised just how little I actually knew and so started assisting. I was fortunate to work with great Aussie photographers like Mark Anthony, Phil Haley, Peter McIntosh and others, while I hussled my folio around picking up small assignments here and there. As I got better and my folio improved, I got better assignments. Eventually I was being hired to create campaigns as well as just do the photography. I ened up making over 300 TV commercials as well as many print and outdoor ads.

    Unfortunately, I just don't think those doors are open for young 'togs today. Most pro's can no longer afford to take on assistants and the budgets simply aren't there for print ads any more. I remember having a budget of $15,000 to shoot one print ad for Apple; that was in around '95. Today they'd do the ad in CGI, it's cheaper than shooting it in real life.

    But I do believe there are new opportunities with the development of hybrid cameras and that most advertising will now be shot as video and stills pulled for print work pulled from the finished movie. Cameras such as the Red are more than capable of doing this now.

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    I'm a bit late on this one, Chris but I think your question needs to be expanded. Like Franko I left management in the banking industry in the mid-eighties and built a television studio in Brisbane doing docos, commercials and corporate gigs. Two things were important. Firstly, the television industry was growing at that time and secondly I had a vast business client network courtesy of the kind of work I was doing at the time. Before leaving the bank I honed up my sales and marketing skills and got myself into their marketing branch. Preparation for change is critical. I did toss up between videography and photography but the former won out being far more lucrative even at that time. It was my involvement in the video business that got my first gig with National Geographic and they've worked hand in hand ever since so there is both opportunity and a degree of luck (luck is understanding opportunity) involved.
    I think if you look at photography (or any activity) as your sole business it may be an uphill battle. If you combine any number of related skills the market is much easier. i.e. in my case video, photography, journalism & creative writing plus a strong interest in technology which binds the skills. I haven't had to work for a living for years but I do and enjoy every minute. Still can be done despite many soothsayers with untested opinions.
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    While I had been selling my photographic work since 1975, I had no need to depend on it as a full time income, in 1988 I was forced by injury to retire from performing. It was unexpected, and therefore I had no specific plan, other then I knew among many things I could sell my photography. Could I make enough from it to live off ? Well while I was achieving a reasonable level of success, I had many other interests, which offered me different income streams. While that was good, it was also bad because I was always being distracted by time and energy requirements fulfilling those alternative options. It wasnt until I moved from the UK to Australia, and I was virtually forced by circumstances to take the plunge and work in photography full time to be able to live off it as a full time photographer.

    Its one of those two way streets really. You need to spend all of your time involved and then you will be able to gain a full time living out of it. I see many people wishing that they could move their part time business into full time, but dont or cant take the risk of losing their dependable income.

    When I eventually "made" that decision to go full time, I spent the first year spending/investing money. Taking out a year long lease on a studio. Getting my first $30,000 lease for capital investment in gear etc. Then in the next 5 years took out several more after each short term lease was paid off. All of them a min of $15,000 - $20,000. And while doing that I was needing all of my income to support all of my other living and business expenses. It wasnt easy then, and I'm afraid its not easy now. I would estimate that I work on average a 84 hour week. So you need a great deal of self discipline to continue at something even when you're putting all of that work in, and its not always producing any financial rewards.



    There was a very different level of skills involved a few decades ago, and trial and error learning (I was/am completely self taught), requiring a certain level of financial risk - ie film cost money, developing cost money - stuff it up and it still cost you. Today trial and error learning has very little financial risk. Which is great on one hand, but bad on the other. While the amount of on going capital investment appears to be less, I'd suggest that its actually increased significantly. And that lack of financial risk also means that there are many more players in the market, with a buying market that is shrinking hugely, because a great deal less value is placed on visual stills imagery; because that appears to be so much quicker and easier.

    But that doesnt stop the entrepreneur from jumping in and finding markets. I did many years ago, and I still rely on doing the same thing today; which is finding a market that needs you, and filling that niche. Diversification has always been a key to success, and todays market that is much more of an important key to a success story. All in one packages - shooter, writer, graphic designer, business manager, and more, is the way to go.

    And FWIW, what Redgum has just said, I totally agree with and support
    Last edited by Longshots; 12-06-2011 at 9:49am.
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    Chris, another thing to keep in mind is your image. Not the photographic image but the corporate type. If you want to deal with government or medium to large corporates you need to be seen yourself as an organisation, not an individual operator. This can be done in the early part with smoke and mirrors. Form a few companies each handling different aspects of your work (i.e. photography, marketing, technology) and sell this to large organisations who will look for safety and avoid independent operators (such as fly-by-nights) like the plague. You will certainly command bigger dollars this way. You see, there's a practical side to multi-skilling and multi-tasking. If you need evidence of this working simply read the biographies of the Top 100 in Oz. Like William said, you need to be entrepreneurial to succeed in the creative arts (or most business).

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    Chris - I think I said it before somewhere - you need to know about your business, that is photography, and about business. Most of the posts allude to the normal commercial forces at work.

    The best example is Poppy King - she grew her interest in lipstick to a 6.5 million Dollar company and went broke. She knew her business but didn't know about business. Now if you are an astute business person and have successfully operated businesses before you would not need counsel. But, by contrast, if you have not operated a business, put the camera down and do some legitimate courses. Like most on this site, you get asked to do set work often, and offered legitimate amounts of money. I decline, because my photography is not a business. Moreover, many people think that because friends offer cost recovery, complete strangers would therefore beat a path to your door!

    I imagine it would take quite a substantial amount of time and financial resources to set up a proper business, and a bucket of loss leader contracts to establish your port folio.

    I think that one interesting thing is the number of young gregarious and engaging photographers, who hang around shopping centres, hospitals and school formals, doing a great job of selling themselves but the actual photography is so formulaic it is incomprehensible that anyone would want to buy it, but I guess they do because they don't want to hurt the young persons feelings. Establishing the "difference engine" could reveal remarkable take up .....bu then it depends on what photography you would want to do!

    Good luck - which ever way you go.

    berni
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    I would love to but I don't think there's enough of a market for the type of photography I am interested in. I'm not into fashion, product, stock or sports photography, I'm not ballsy enough to be a photojournalist, and I don't like the idea of studio portrait photography. I would consider wedding photography, but that's a saturated market and you need something special to stand out in the crowd. I can't see there being much money in landscape, architectural, abstract or nature photography.

    If I were going to consider trying to make money for my hobby, I would probably go into restoration, but again, that seems to be a pretty competitive market which is hard to get into.
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    If I were going to consider trying to make money for my hobby, I would probably go into restoration, but again, that seems to be a pretty competitive market which is hard to get into.
    you would not be able to compete with photoshop experts in India and China doing restoration work and editing for a few dollars per photo and even less.....

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    Member khendar's Avatar
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    That's what I mean by it being a competitive market The only way to succeed would be to let your skills speak for themselves and to not even bother trying to compete price-wise. There will always be a section of the market who values quality over price and some people (myself included) refuse to go offshore for services such as this for that reason.

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    Was a challenge in itself to move from being a hobby into a part time business.
    Working part time has certainly shown me how hard it would be to make ends meet if I tried to use photography as my primary income.
    At this stage I'm just happy it's paid for all my gear and made a little pocket money.

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    I'll add a different route. Being a professional nature photographer is pie in the sky but I guess I've proved that if you're obsessed by it, eventually it will happen. It's good to be forewarned frankly, but the other side is, if you really really want it, and are prepared to make the sacrifices, then eventually, you'll get there.
    My route, briefly, was to do it compulsively in my spare time (all of it) and regularly make time, treating alternative careers as stopgaps (printing industry, then wildlife ecology). These fed into the photography with knowledge. When my portfolio had tens of thousands of images, I started a photo library. Eventually my images were noticed and I was asked to do specialised assignments. That led, after ten years of living cheap, to a salaried staffer position with an NGO.
    Over the years, I spent so much on film and processing that I could have bought two houses - I invested in myself instead of real estate. I still work 7 days a week 14 hours a day on it. Whether the end result is worth it is a question with no answer, but if it's in your blood, and 9-5 isn't, maybe there's no question, either.

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    Ha! There you go Ecopix. A man that is constantly given good advice, evaluates its worth, and will die extremely rich with a huge smile on his face. I'm just disappointed you only work 14 hours per day. Where is your commitment?

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    It took me 4 to 5 years (more 5) to eventually go full time, with a ton of stress and many times wanting to give it up. Even now, its still stressful at times, its a lot of hard work and having a business does take a lot of the fun out of taking photos as now Im making images for clients (who all happen to mostly want the same thing) and not for myself so I do get a little bit bored doing and looking at the same images day in and day out.

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    I think I am deluding myself to think that I could become a full time photographer in the next few years but I like having that challenge to work towards. I work a 40 hour week doing contract work in an industry I really have no interest in, but I get paid well. So do I waste my life making decent money while going brain dead? No, I will use this job to pay bills and save while I slowly work towards incorporating photography into my working week.

    My intention is to pay lots into my mortgage, save, and keep shooting when I can over then next two years. Then, I will cut back to 4 days a week and use one day a week to focus solely on photography. And I will keep at it and a few years after that, who knows? Maybe I'll be able to 2 or 3 days a week of photography but I am being realistic and will just work as hard as I can. It's either that or succumb to boredom for 40 hours a week. No thanks!

    I love reading these stories, really inspiring stuff.

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    Hi all, thanks alot of these inspiring information and stories!. As a student thinking about his future, this certainly helps put things into perspective for me =) hopefully it helps out the person who started this thread too!

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