Photography can be a very rewarding career both financially and creatively. But like most professions, there are are successes and failures. And there are some niches that are much easier to make profitable than others…
There are also “successes” that are really failures. Here’s what I mean by that…
Take the wrong path, and you may be a financial success, but you may not have the lifestyle you want — you may end up with a job or studio that ties you down and/or clients that demand your time when you don’t want to give it to them.
The reverse also holds true, too… you may be dead set on doing a certain type of work, but if you can’t get the financial success you want, you won’t get the lifestyle you seek.
Should You Start A Photography Business or Get A Job In Photography?
As you will find out (if you’re not already aware), the person who gets sales and owns the business, gets the lion’s share of the profits. They also have ultimate control over their lives — and done right — the freedom to work where and when they like.
When you work for someone else, you are really just enabling someone else’s dreams and vision. You’ll get paid and may get paid well (photography jobs, however, are not generally high paying), but you will have little control over where and when you need to be somewhere and the environment that you work in.
You also have no equity. Businesses can and do get sold that that can be a big payday for you if you are an owner.
Not everyone is suited to being in business for themselves. But for those who are, the rewards can be great, and there is no artificial “employee ceiling” on what you can accomplish or earn!
Getting The Information Needed To Become A Photographer
There are many ways to get the information you need to get your photography career started, and no “one size fits all” answer.
Here are some choices to consider…
Attend a “normal” photography school — if you have the time and money, this isn’t a bad choice. At a good photography school, you will get a solid technical foundation. The downside is, it can be expensive, slow, and devoid of the business skills you need to make money with your camera.
I once had a student of a major and well-known photography school tell me that he spent an entire semester costing $20,000 “learning how to photograph a soup can,” and nothing about career development or how to proceed in the business of photography. Now I’m sure there were reasons for the school teaching in this manner, but speed and completeness of career development wasn’t one of them!
Get a job as a photographer assistant — If you can get the right situation with the right photographer who will take you in, teach you, and not be worried about the day you’ll take off on your own and become a competitor, this is a great way to start your career. The problem is, those situations are few and far between. It’s more likely you’ll find yourself used, abused, overworked, and way under compensated.
Over the years I have heard quite a few stories from photographers who have had jobs with the large photo providers and they are not happy stories about being creatively challenged and well paid. They are stories of long hours, low pay, and pressure to sell print packages. Not all job situations are that way, of course, but if you take the job route, you’ll want to be careful to steer clear of those situations!
Just do it — Many people “fail” simply because they never get started — and for sure — one of the most powerful ways to get to your career going is to start “acting the part.”
The “glitch” with this method is that many people who try to get started on their own proceed with misconceptions and missing information. This causes them to not get going as quickly as they should, or end up being unsuccessful altogether.
When I talk to people who have struggled to get a photography business and career going there are many reasons, but the most frequent one is loading up on photographic equipment and skills and not balancing it with solid business and marketing skills.
Take a home study or “distance learning” course in photography — I’m a little biased towards this type of learning because I’m a heavy user of it, as well as a provider.
There’s a good reason — the right information can cut years off your learning curve and career development.
Also, home study courses are extremely accessible, can be targeted to specific needs, and in my opinion, represent the best value in education today.
The downside is that you have to be self-motivated and able to make use of a less structured environment than you would find in traditional education.
There is also extreme variance in the quality of home study courses and other non-traditional educational materials — some are very good; some are not.
Many of our enrolled students have taken other “normal” courses and they report a similar problem — they’re too general, and not complete enough to help get a career going effectively and quickly. While there is certainly a wealth of home study information available, the trick is finding the one that is right for you — will get your career going in the direction you want — and one that gets the job done completely and with quality.
OK, I hope you’ve enjoyed and benefited from our discussion about photography careers. If you’d like to sample the “Not Your Normal” perspective on getting a photography business and career started — how you can make very decent money with your camera while maintaining control over your life and time — check our our free photography business course.
I think you will enjoy it. It will give you a solid overview of how to get started and you will get a good idea ~ at no cost to you ~ if this kind of business is right for you.
director and co-founder
Not Your Normal School of Photography