So I’ve spoken before about the importance of “shooting for yourself” to maintain a good balance between shooting the work you need to shoot and shooting what you want to shoot. But……
I’ve noticed over the past few months around the various photography groups on Facebook that there are a lot of photographers looking to break into the industry professionally and work on a full-time, or even a part-time basis. No problem with that.
But what I also see a lot is photographers shooting genres they’re very unlikely to get paid work in and shooting very little if anything of genres they will get paid in. This just doesn’t compute for me.
I guess its a little like a footballer who wants to be a striker, but attends goalkeeper training everyday and thats all that people know them for. Or thats the way I see it anyway.
I talk to photographers all day long through my 1-2-1 mentoring, my training and the groups I run and its pretty much the same across the board for photographers who are looking to make the jump from part-time “amateur” to a full-time “pro”, a lot of these guys aren’t setting themselves up for success. They don’t particularly understand what it is they want to shoot, but more importantly, what it is they may have to shoot in order to succeed.
In a dream world I would fly around the globe shooting fashion campaigns for big brands. Yes, that’s the dream. Yes I’m taking steps to try to do that, but at this moment in time, that dream doesn’t pay the mortgage and put food on the table. So what do I do?
I shoot the jobs I have to shoot to ensure my family has a roof over their head, food and some of the nice things in life. This is shooting what I have to shoot. Doing this allows me the time to shoot what I want to shoot. Don’t get me wrong I’m still quite strict in the work I take on and the genres in which I work. I won’t accept just any commission but ones that work with my brand and previous experience.
Now shooting what I want to shoot is a bit of a dual meaning. It’s shooting something that is fun for me, interesting and helps me stay creative. But it’s also adding more work, experience, knowledge and depth to a portfolio that is aimed at achieving my goal of working within a specific genre or part of the industry.
I still stand by my belief that shooting for yourself is essential in staying motivated, trying new things and being creative, but, if the aspiration is to be a full time professional this needs to be tailored in a more direct way. A clothing firm isn’t going to hire you to show off their garments if your portfolio is full of Art Nude or Cosplay images. By the same token a Sporting club won’t book you if you can’t show a degree of competence in that particular area.
My biggest bit of advice would be to find the areas you want to work in, figure out if they’re going to deliver the income you want. The chances are, it probably won’t. Then you need to figure out what else you have to shoot in order to achieve the £X you want.
I always think back to a photographer in my area whom I’ve spoken to several times online but never met. He set up his photography business revolved around one concept which ultimately became floored. There just wasn’t the demand for this particular type of work in the industry up here in the North-East.
Rather than look for other avenues to work in, and believe me there are 100’s, he pretty much gave up on his dream of being a full time professional photographer. Now its not a case of being a Jack of All Trades, but, you’ve got to be quite dynamic in the photography industry these days. There are very few photographers who are in fact just photographers. Even looking at some of the biggest names in the industry, they shoot across multiple genres, offer training, online courses, books, etc.
So for those wanting to make the jump over to being a Full Time Pro, please think about the work you’re doing, and how it can deliver the career you want. If it’s not adding to your chances its probably taking away from them!