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FORUMS Post Processing, Marketing & Presenting Photos The Business of Photography 
Thread started 09 Nov 2010 (Tuesday) 20:58
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Help Me with Career Choices!!!

 
JackStrutz
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Nov 09, 2010 20:58 |  #1

Ok, I am a senior in high school and as the application process is on in full swing, I need to start thinking about what I think I want to do with the rest of my life.

(please note that anything I say here is not meant to be arrogant or cocky, I am just stating things in the most simple way possible.)

Here's my dilemma.

I have an IQ tested in the 99th percentile. I am very good with science and I have an INFINITE number of interests in fields related to these subjects.

I also am a pretty good photographer when compared to others my age (and even with some people with many years of "experience").

I had not even brought photography as a career into consideration until recently when constant urging of my peers has caused me to begin to question what I previously hadn't even considered--and this lack of consideration is not because it hadn't dawned on me that photography is a viable career but because I know how much more competitive the field will become as all these "photographers" (and I use that term loosely) begin to emerge and I know that I have mind for something math or science based (how was that for a run-on sentence :P)

I feel like pursuing a career as a photographer would be the lazy thing to do. I am decent at calculus and I'm sure that I could be much better if I were to apply myself in my class and I had been considering a career in computer or software engineering but I'm not sure if I could see myself being happy in any of those careers.

Basically, my question is, with the increasingly easy (and more affordable) access to camera gear previously unavailable to the consumer public, is there a way to make a decent living as a photographer?

I'M LOOKING FOR HONEST, AND COMPLETELY OPEN ANSWERS!!! I AM EXTREMELY STRESSED ABOUT EVERYTHING THAT IS GOING ON WITH MY LIFE RIGHT NOW AND I'M NOT LOOKING FOR PEOPLE TO BEAT AROUND THE BUSH WITH ME RIGHT NOW.

Please feel free to check out my portfolio http://www.flickr.com/​jackstrutz/ (external link) and my retouching portfolio at http://www.jackstrutzp​hoto.com/ (external link) and let me know if you think I have what it takes.

Please also understand that I realize that at the end, photography is a business and it is going to come down to how well I sell my photos. I am pretty well oriented when it comes to business and I know how to get things done from that standpoint.

I really really do need some guidance in this matter.


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HeaTransfer
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Nov 09, 2010 21:09 |  #2

Just my opinion, keeping in mind that I'm NOT a pro:

Go to school. Keep shooting while you study. Get your degree. Unless you're truly a one-of-a-kind exceptional photographer, in which case you'd know that you were, getting your Piece of Paper will open up more enticing doors for you than photography will. Hell... study optics or semiconductor type-stuff and find the crossover between the two.

You can try your hand at running your photography as a business while you're in school and might have a little bit more money when all is said and done, can work on your business skills, and if you end up disliking what you study, you can keep photography as a fallback.




  
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Mark1
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Nov 09, 2010 21:23 |  #3

If you go the photography way.... Be a buisness major with a photo minor. Its is way better to be a average photographer and a good buisnessperson, than it is to be an average buisnessperson and a great photographer. Nobody really cares how good you shoot if you cant keep the doors open for them to be able to hire you. And you will get enough learning in the classes needed for a minor to support the skill set needed. And if the photo fails for you, you have a useable degree to go another direction. A Photo degree is about the same as a P.E. degree if you dont use it.... Its only good to get you in debt.


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mckinleypics
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Nov 09, 2010 21:26 |  #4

Follow what you like to do. Don't worry about money or competition. If you are passionate about what you do you will rise above the rest. Don't be stressed now, it's too early.


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adam8080
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Nov 09, 2010 21:52 |  #5

I haven't looked at your pictures because it really doesn't matter. Making a living in photography is all about running a business. Take classes for business, marketing, and accounting which will really help you. Now you need to decide if you want a nice stable desk job (engineer) or something else you may be interested in like photography. Just because you like taking pictures doesn't mean you will like owning your own photography business. Money isn't everything in life, but a stable well paying job is a lot. Especially if you are able to take pictures for fun whenever you aren't working.

I went to school for engineering and dropped out to become a photographer. I have a background in art and design and have worked in and with many small and medium sized businesses.

My recommendation:
Go to college (for business if you want, or for something else but not for photography), and while you are in college, start a photography business. Run it for 6 months to a year and decide if it is for you or not.


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symbolphoto
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Nov 09, 2010 22:14 |  #6

Agreed on all accounts. Dont go into photography full tilt. Doesn't matter if you are Albert Einstein... you need business sense over shooting ability. Truly and Sadly.

Just go for something else and as others have seen keep shooting as a hobby. I looked at your images, and they are all good. Very good in fact, but do they stand out to make you one in a million? No. Sorry, you wanted it straight and you got it.




  
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ImCBParker
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Nov 09, 2010 23:44 |  #7

Jack, you are off to a good start and your work is better than most young posters here with the same question. So congratulations on that start.

All things considered, I have to agree with others here. Regardless of your passion, you also have to be smart about your contingency plan. Situations change, passions, etc. Study skills that are transferrable regardless of profession, classes in business, marketing, etc. Then minor, or take classes in photography on the side.

Best of luck Jack.


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Agnu
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Nov 09, 2010 23:57 |  #8

Making a career out of photography is certainly not the 'lazy' thing to do, as you put it. It will require a ton more work that you realize, will be very competitive and difficult, and chances are you won't make much money out of it. You will not get anywhere in this industry if you see it as a 'lazy' job. There are 1000 other kids out there of your age who are better photographers than you are - and you will be competing with all of them for what is a rapidly decreasing market. If I was you, and you aren't 100% dedicated to every single aspect of image making, then I don't think you should try and apply yourself to photography. You seem very talented in many areas, and whilst one of which is photography, I doubt it's your strongest.

The best and most true line that's ever been fed to me about this business was by one of my teachers when I started my degree a couple of years ago.

"If you don't live and breathe photography, you will not make it. It should be the last thing you think of before you go to bed, and the first thing that comes into your mind when you wake up in the morning. This career is akin to starting rock band - if you're not 100% dedicated, willing to risk everything, and don't have something 'special', then you will not make it. Chances are 4/5 of you won't make it anyway. Go get a job at Coles if you want to have an easy living. Stay here if you really think you have what it takes."


Angus Scott Photography
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JackStrutz
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Nov 10, 2010 00:10 |  #9

I feel like I offended you. What I meant by "lazy" was that I feel like pursuing photography would mean that I am neglecting the other gifts that I had. I meant it as lazy intellectually more than lazy as a workload because I realize what it takes to make it as a photographer in these days.

I also realize that I am not one in a million and I didn't mean to imply that at all.


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Agnu
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Nov 10, 2010 00:23 |  #10

Oh, sorry if I sounded defensive! I didn't mean too, haha. I was just trying to give it to you straight - but yes I did misunderstand what you meant when you said lazy. Still, it does take a fair dose of intelligence to be something special at the moment. I mean, to be a good photographer you need a good understanding of physics, maths and creative perception - these are necessary no matter what you do, then you will need extra skills depending on the genre you decide to specify in. For example, I shoot Automotive - I need to know how different types of paintwork will reflect/absorb light before I even see the car, just by a basic description, so that I can start drawing up lighting diagrams and making decisions on locations, time of day etc.

I'm in the 97th percentile in intelligence as well, and I'm also 19. This is why I felt like I should be a fairly good case for you to look at. I, on the other hand, haven't even considered doing anything else for a living. Not once since I was about 13. I don't have any other skills besides this one, and 3 years ago when I left customary schooling to pursue this career, I made the big decision and took a pretty incredible risk. As of right now, I only have two pieces of document that will ever get me employed - one is my low-level degree in Photography, and the other is my portfolio. Bordering on 20 years old, that can be a little scary - but it's also exciting knowing that I don't have a choice but to stay motivated, and motivated I am!

All I'm saying to you, which you can take or leave, is that if there are other things out there that you're better at, and have more interest in, chances are they will be a better path for you. You can always shoot in the meantime, and do what most professional photographers do, and change careers at around 30. At this age though, unless you know that this is what you will be doing for the rest of your life, the far safer option is to go to secondary schooling and get a degree which will actually ensure you some form of stable employment in a field you enjoy. You can always change your mind later, but if you go down the photography road now and decide later that it's not for you, it will be a lot harder to go back without any form of accreditation or degree in any other area.


Angus Scott Photography
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amfoto1
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Nov 10, 2010 09:36 |  #11

Some of the most successful photographers also have a lot of expertise in other fields.

For example, I think George Lepp has a degree in biology or natural science, although his honorary masters degree is from Brooks Institute. I know Tom Mangelsen's bachelor degree is in biology, although he studied business before that. Both are world renowned wildlife photographers. Many in the wildlife photography field work closely with various research scientists, supporting scientific studies and such, too. It's an entre to some photo opportunities they otherwise might never see.

I know several equestrian photographers who have background as competitors, breeders, judging, and often the education to back it up.

It is difficult to say if photography will be a viable career field in the future. Probably some aspects of it will survive, but it's changed dramatically in the past 10 to 15 years. I really have a hard time predicting where it might go. Photogaphers have to wear more and more hats. They have to be good writers, teachers and business people, as well as skillful shooters.

A lot of the entry level work is flooded with wannabes: Wedding phography, local event/sports photography, too. Stock photography is no longer as viable a sideline as it once was, due to micro stock flooding the market with cheap images from amateurs willing to sell use of their images for pennies.

Blame cheaper cameras that are so automated almost anyone can make a good image, if they just set a high frame rate to 'spray and pray'. It's the 1000 monkees in a room with 1000 typewriters and an unlimited supply of paper (although now it's probably with laptops instead)... eventually one will write the Gettysburg address word for word.

Print media used to cultivate photographers. Now nearly all print media are struggling mightily just to survive and using cheaper and cheaper means of getting photos to enhance their content, few staff photographers any longer.... stock, freelancers, reporters with cameras (still + video for their websites)... even begging for free submissions from their readers! It's pretty sad.

Not long ago the Smithsonian was advertising for a Director of Photography. Their requirements were amazing... basically they wanted someone at the top of their game... and offered all of $65,000 a year for it. I'm not sure that's much above the poverty line in Washington DC. Of course, having the Smithsonian on your resume might be worth a fortune later in your career!

What I would suggest is either find an area of study where you can work as a photographer too, such as the example of a biology/natural science background for a wildlife photographer.... and/or get a business/marketing degree. Later if you wish pursue a degree in photography... Or make it your minor and practice intently, while focusing on that other degree in a field where you have a high level of interest.

I think the most successful photographers in the future will be the ones with a lot of specialization. But, at the same time you have to be open to expanding your repertoire into other areas in case your area of specialization dries up. I have a friend who is well known as an architectural photographer, has made a nice living from it (among other things). Intense, low cost competition in residential architectural photography now has largely eliminated that market for him. He has to branch into other areas, and is fortunate to have other niches he is working or has prepared himself to work.

On the other hand, commercial architecture might still be a thriving field. There was a post here recently by a photographer who works in an architectural firm, relating to shooting commercial buildings. His (her?) "day job" is as an architect, and the photography is a sideline. But if they wanted to pursue the photography more aggressively, I can see were this background would really make them stand out among the competition. He (or she) has "inside knowledge" of the business.... how architects like to see their work portrayed, what's important in a building that others might overlook, what the deadlines and pressures are within the architectural firm and what needs they might not be telling the photographer about, that they might suggest to further meet the client's needs.

Now, all types of construction - both commercial and residential - are slow in the U.S. in the current economic climate. So there is bound to be less work to go around. The photographer with the most expertise, inside knowledge, a good business plan and solid marketing efforts will be the one who survives.

Ultimately, do what you love and you will usually see that everything else falls in line. If you have a couple fields you feel passionate about, photography being one of them, you will be all that much more formidable.


Alan Myers (external link) "Walk softly and carry a big lens."
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Jigglypuff
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Nov 10, 2010 10:38 |  #12

As a side gig, you can always shoot for your prospective school's newspaper.




  
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nonameowns
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Nov 10, 2010 11:09 |  #13

relax

go for photography as your job but DO TAKE business/market related classes. Because it's mostly marketing and understanding business that will help you survive than just knowing how to shoot.

80/20

marketing, shooting
keep that in mind ;)


Proud owner of Canon EOS-1D Classic :cool:

  
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Fernando
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Nov 10, 2010 12:50 as a reply to  @ nonameowns's post |  #14

Right now I understand it seems like you have to make so many decisions.

Here's the truth. You don't. Do whatever you want, change your mind, experiment. If you get yourself in a room full of 30-year-olds and ask them what their degrees are in many will not be in the field they're working in...patent lawyers and cardiologists notwithstanding.

I started as an Chemical Engineer (like you 99th %-ile on every standardized test), my PhD was in Literature, I spent a while in operations management in high-end retail grocery, and now I'm a banker...who shoots for fun.

As I told my wife about a week ago. I could have stayed in engineering (I was relatively successful with Chevron Research and Technology at the time) and right now I'd probably be somewhere in middle+ management, making a bunch of money, on wife #2 visiting my kids from marriage #1 every other weekend.

Instead I'm happy and may some day shoot for more than fun.

-F


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Shockey
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Nov 10, 2010 12:55 |  #15

Photography is a very tough way to make a living and it is going to get much tougher.
If you have other options this is a no brainer.


___________
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