I was recently asked to give some help to a young 16 year old who wants to become a professional photographer. Rather than speak direct with the young man in questions (although I’d be more than happy to help him in the future), I felt it might be time to write a blog post on this topic.
Please remember, this is only my thoughts and opinion. I will try to get a few of my professional friends to make their comments below so that we can see how they see the situation.
Before writing Ive had to give some thought about how to pitch my thoughts and comments to someone of such a young and influential point of their lives. I think 16 is just about old enough that I wouldn’t have to hold much back.
Well, where do you even start with advice on this subject ? I think the thing that comes to the forefront of my mind is there are so many different fields of Photography you could get into. Landscape, Seascape, People, Street, Wedding, Press, War, TV,
Documentary, Drone, Forensic…, to name but a few. I would suggest to keep them all on your list and perhaps sample them all before forming any definite opinions on them.
At the time of writing, My personal experience of being a professional photographer is only 3 years in length. Prior to that I had worked for North Yorkshire County Council. I was sacked by them in 2015 after 20 years. Those people who know me, know the history of that.
I guess if you were thinking of getting into Photography as a career you would have to give some serious thought to who would employ you, or would you want to be self employed or freelance. Working for someone has the security of a wage every month, and all the benefits that come with that. Being self employed means you only get paid if you get the work and complete it. I believe Self Employed photographers today need many strings to their bow. Unless your work is of an exceptional standard, you may struggle to pay the bills on image sales alone. So you might need to shoot weddings, and maybe sell some images to the press, whilst shooting some photographs for Holiday cottages etc in order to get enough money each month to pay the bills.
So would you rather be employed or self employed ? I think both have they’re benefits. As mentioned, if you work for an employer for a set number of hours, you will get a wage every month. However, you are taking photographs for someone else. On a stormy day in January you might want to be Photographing the snow and Mountains of Glencoe, but your boss wants you to shoot images of the new company car. the latter sounds like torture to me, but if you want that income then you have to do as the boss asks. if you work for yourself, you are the boss, you can go photograph the Scottish Highlands or head to Northern Scandanavia for the Northern lights. but remember, you have to make money from those images you capture, otherwise you will soon be unable to pay your bills.