Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The difficulties of trying to break through as a photographer

I'm a hobby photographer. I practice photography solely for fun. That is, I've never earned anything with my photography. I'm a poor student with a debt increasing every single day, so I'm trying to make money by photographing. But it's more difficult than I had imagined. The idea sounded simple at first: "take pictures for people, then people pay you for the pictures". I've slowly learned it's not all that simple...

The thing is:

  • It's difficult to find people willing to pay for your photography.
    You need to start with connections. If no one knows you, no one knows you're a photographer, then no one's willing to pay anyway. If no one knows you, you cannot possibly be a good photographer - otherwise they would know you already. There are a couple of things you can do to widen your reach as a photographer however. One idea that I did, is to become a voluntary photographer. This might sound counterintuitive, but it helps getting known. I myself am a photographer for my study association. Not only does this help me practice photography on people, it also gave me a group to discuss photography with and it looks great on your resume. The other idea is to print business cards to hand out to any stranger you take pictures of. I'm planning on at the very least making business cards for handing out, after a friend pointed out the idea. And remember: make sure the card not only shows your contact information, but also a link to your portfolio. No one wants to hire a photographer not knowing what they're capable of.

  • People don't take photographers seriously.
    If you think about fashion modelling, what do you think of first? The models themselves, the clothes? Or the photographers that make the models eventually shine? If you think about the news, do you think about how much effort the photographers put into getting the best shots possible of extremely dangerous scenes? I thought so. I recently had the pleasure of being in an email conversation where one party wanted some photographers from our study association to take pictures at their large party. That party offered us photographers nothing but "free entry to the party". What they asked for was one photographer that could be there well before the party would actually start, they had specific locations where the pictures would have to be taken and worst of all, the pictures had to be available directly after the party and would be uploaded to social media for free. This alone shows how disrespectful some are towards photographers.

  • People don't take you serious as a photographer.
    If you're a hobby photographer trying to become professional, how could anyone take you seriously at first? You're just one of many who happens to own an expensive DSLR. And if you're around my age as well (19 as of writing), then you don't even look professional. Having a good portfolio doesn't always help either. It's again one of many portfolios. You would have to have an exceptionally good portfolio for anyone to notice and spread the word. Odds are that you don't have access to a studio with perfect lighting, you don't have a full frame DSLR and you don't even have all kinds of lenses since you haven't made any money with photography. The good are getting better, while the newcomers are having trouble breaking through. But don't give up. As long as you keep trying, some day someone will notice you. Some day someone will admire your creative attempts at photography. As long as you keep some creativity in your shots...

So there you have it. The main reasons why I haven't broken through. I need to become better. A photographer always improves. I need to add variation to my online portfolio, as I have too little people's photographs, which is what most people would pay for. But then again, most photos I take are of people I know, and I don't want to upload friends' and family's pictures they might not like to the magical world of the interwebz, no matter how great...

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