A photographic way of life as a path for earning a living may be on shaky ground due to the proliferation of digital technology and the spawning of cameras that allow anyone to take at least a reasonably decent image. To continue in the pursuit of photography to put bread on the table there are a multitude of obstacles to overcome. Is it worth investing in an education at an institute of higher learning, is a major question to ask and answer, before a person takes any other steps.
Maybe not. If an individual has a burning passion to express themselves using images, the answer is clear. That being stated, it may not be necessary to seek a formal education. There are other venues to pursue, a formal education may have its good points, other practical methods may be more suited to some personalities. Several methods spring to mind; a photographic assistant, finding a mentor, researching a library, either online or actual hard copy books, tutorials, seminars, practical experience.
Which avenue is the best street to go down, is the next question to answer. If a person knows themselves well, it is an easy choice to make. A combination of all of these elements may work best for most people; It is the most well-rounded approach and has the most to offer. It will also take the longest. However, the preponderance of knowledge gained increases as one’s variety of experience multiplies.
Photographic technology is a train. Each stop along the way provides an opportunity to engage, exchange, absorb, and encounter new material. New tools, new techniques, and new ideas to assimilate from different individuals along the way, are passengers on this vehicle of knowledge. Take a seat and ride these rails. Photography as a way to earn a living is a journey.
As one grows in experience but is not yet paying the mortgage with developed skills, a serious question arises and has been debated and fought about for a long time. The question is whether or not one should offer their services for free until they are established as a professional photographer. The short answer is no.
The explanation takes a few more sentences. For example; A person has been working as an assistant for two or three years, the boss is out and the phone rings with an invitation for the assistant to cover a sporting event. The person goes to the event and meets a famous photographer who knows the assistant’s boss. Famous photographer takes assistant at the event into his confidence and gives him the name and phone number of the editor of a magazine that is looking for new talent and will publish front page images of this assistant if they find an image that will work.
The assistant calls the magazine. The magazine has seen his pictures and will offer the front cover with his photo credit. Great prestige and possible future assignments from other magazines and this magazine also are available. The assistant asks for the magazine’s pay scale of pictures for the cover. Magazine says no money just credit and bragging rights that might lead to future assignments. The assistant says thank you, but no thanks and hangs up. The one major question this assistant asked himself was; is the person on the other end of this phone conversation working for free?
A working person only has value when they have worth. If working for free, that is what they are worth, nothing. A person may price themselves according to experience and knowledge. As one gains knowledge and experience, value may increase, and it should. At some point along this path self-confidence will also appear. It will reveal itself in a subtle way.
When people being directed at a photo-shoot listen and follow directions in a complimentary way, self-confidence has appeared. When the butterflies of anxiousness disappear in the first ten minutes of shooting an event, self-confidence has opened the door. When there is no question about which lens to use for a particular situation, self-confidence has opened the f/stop to a positive image. A person’s rate of pay rises at this time. A photographic way of life is what a person makes of it, be it medical or industrial, or commercial, or any other paying profession. Part Two – The Business End of Photography will follow soon.
Opinion by Andy Towle