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Being A Photographer – 3

April 9, 2012

I am sure that someday (hopefully) I will look back to this day and laugh about how despondent the times seemed. I will perhaps think of it nostalgically and say “Oh those were the days when I was broke, scrounging for work and quite frustrated with the world in general.”

I know that might happen. But living in the present, being in that moment of frustration, I wonder  how I will take that step forward, make the success happen.

I have plenty of advisors and plenty of great advice. It varies from how to see photography not just as an art, but as a freelancer, as a full time business as well. About how to deal with cranky clients, about contracts and contract violations and being professional.

But in a country where half the population doesn’t seem to know the word ‘professional’ and majority of the other half who do know don’t seem to care about it, how do you function?

I seem to have wasted many of my resources and contacts and all those things that are supposed to be important to running one’s own business. I see people who I know are less skilled running their own units successfully. I see them flourish, get better with publicity and make more money.

A year ago, when I started my journey as a ‘full time photographer’, all I knew was I just wanted to shoot. A ridiculous conversation with a friend sort of highlighted my ignorance and naiveity about the business world. 6 months later, I learnt the hard way what the friend was trying to say.

I made mistakes and I hope to have learnt from them.

But it doesn’t seem to get easier as I get by. I still do not know how to negotiate. I still hate to tag myself with a label – commercial photographer, full time photographer,  freelance photographer, lifestyle photographer, street photographer, fashion photographer, food photographer, wedding photographer and the term I seem to hate the most ‘wedding photojournalist’.

I like to shoot and I often shoot whatever catches my eye. Of course, when you do that for money, you do need to ‘channelize’ yourself into certain, specialized areas. You need to explain to clients or people who do not understand the art about why they should be paying you to shoot photos of a certain thing. And the easiest way to lose a potential client is to say “You should be paying me cuz I want to take those photos.”

And these clients would also need a label to understand my expertise?

There are forms of photography that I love best but do not pay well, and of course, those bills do need to be paid. The tightrope walk between what you like to do and what you need to do to be paid gets frustrating at times.

There are ‘inspirational’ stories I hear about photographers who have shot exclusively what they wanted to and made it big. I am a little unsure about that path. Is it that the age of digital cameras is different, or I’m impatient, or I just do no have faith in myself that the method would work?

They too, we are told, went through these stages of frustration.

I don’t particularly want to be an inspirational story. I just want to figure out how to continue doing what I love for a living and make enough money to pay those bills. Without having to think of terms like marketing, business development and networking.

Any solution?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 9, 2012 12:49 pm

    A lot of top photographers have struggled with these questions. If you search for interviews with Sue Brice or Zack Arias they will often refer to the times they were broke and unable to reconcile with the business aspects of their work.

    Dont give up!

    • April 13, 2012 4:48 pm

      Hi Heyes,

      Thanks much for those words. Been reading up about Sue Bryce and she’s definitely an inspirational story!

      • April 13, 2012 7:36 pm

        Glad I could help 🙂

  2. April 13, 2012 9:41 am

    I just saw your pictures on Flickr and they are really great. It’s remarkable the industry doesn’t find you. Apparently, in business world, it’s not enough to be good, you have to market yourself. Find a photography team, or a partner. You’ll get notice much more faster.

    • April 13, 2012 4:49 pm

      Hi Ben
      Thanks for the compliment. There’s a lot of talent out there… I guess the problem comes in when you want to make that into a profession. 🙂 And as you said, market yourself.

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