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Author Topic: How do you earn a living?  (Read 10002 times)
HSakols
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« on: March 01, 2013, 09:09:44 AM »
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I'm curious how you make a living so you can pursue your photography.  If you are a professional photographer, I curious what it is that generates the most income?  eg weddings, advertising, architecture.....  Somehow I don't think many are earning enough to live on by selling fine art prints alone.  Thanks to the fact that I don't have children and have a job as a teacher, I have some money left over for my hobby. 
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Chairman Bill
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« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2013, 09:12:57 AM »
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I fill young heads full of stuff & nonsense, at a UK university. It doesn't pay enough to keep me in the D800e & big fat flashy lenses-style I'd like though  Sad
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SunnyUK
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« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2013, 09:13:40 AM »
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I earn my living as an IT consultant. Photography is my hobby.  

Computers used to be a hobby many years ago, but after they became my profession, it stopped being fun. So I'm keen on NOT turning photography into a job.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2013, 10:42:05 AM »
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I filled young heads full of stuff & nonsense at a U.S. University for 35 years, grabbing time now and then for a little photography. The job paid a pittance, as Chairman Bill has suggested, but with my retirement I can now spend more time on photography.

I just took down a gallery exhibit with 38 of my prints, 9 of which sold! The proceeds will almost cover the costs of putting on the show.

The best photographers that I know personally all subsidize their passion with income from other sources.
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Rob C
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« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2013, 11:08:37 AM »
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I'm curious how you make a living so you can pursue your photography.  If you are a professional photographer, I curious what it is that generates the most income?  eg weddings, advertising, architecture.....  Somehow I don't think many are earning enough to live on by selling fine art prints alone.  Thanks to the fact that I don't have children and have a job as a teacher, I have some money left over for my hobby.  



I'm retired and not (obviously) of today's generation of young turks; maybe my take's redundant.

I did weddings and passports and every goddamn thing that came my way for the first six months of working on my own.

One rainy Glaswegian afternoon at a wedding, standing on the steps in the gloom, awaiting the arrival of bride and Papa, I had this vision of David Bailey drive past slowly in his Rolls-Royce, smile at me and vanish into the murk.

So help me, I swore there and then that never, ever again would I do anything but that which had driven me to become a photographer and go solo: fashion photography and anything to do with girls.

I’d never shot a single fashion pic in my life but I had absolutely no doubt that I could and would. And then I did. Didn’t make me rich and it was a dying market because most of the Scottish knitwear industry, once huge, was being swallowed up by English groups and the work moving south to England, both photographic and manufacturing. As that work shrank I decided to try calendar design and production for a couple of fashion clients as an adjunct to shooting their twice-a-year ranges and that took off and, from there, I moved outwith fashion and I ended up doing nothing else but calendars for some years. Much better return than fashion ever offered – in my world, at least. The calendars also supplied most of the product for my photo stock with Tony Stone.

I also used calendar product for holiday brochures of which there were a few doing the rounds for a some years, mainly after I left the UK to live in Mallorca. I shot hotels and apartments too, for these productions, but as with everything, that changed and photo-students began to do it for the trips… no money, just slavery abroad for a week or so.

Yeah, as a business, it has been going south for almost as long as I can remember. When I started, I just didn’t know that for most of us, the best had already been. The supers always did and still do very well, but that’s life in the art industries. And there’s one of the really important issues: we sometimes aren’t quite aware that we are in an industry, where all the industrial laws of profit and loss apply just as seriously as in farming, a grocery shop or for Boeing.

In retrospect, I think I did the right thing: play for the big one, the one you think you can’t live without, and if it doesn’t roll your way, get out with as little pain as you can and do something normal, probably boring but with reasonably secure tenure and a handy little pension at the end of days! But, if it’s art, never settle for second-best because you’ll probably end up hating yourself for your own betrayal.

I see folks around me here with several pensions, reasonable health and comfortable lives. None were photographers. It doesn’t look such a bad deal now…

Rob C

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WalterEG
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« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2013, 03:20:56 PM »
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I have worked as an imaging professional in Television, Film and (mostly) Photography since 1965.

In the beginning there was portraiture — fashion, beauty and publicity — and nudes.  Working in a general practice commercial studio that meant I also shot product and food along with industrial and architectural assignments.

When Playboy and Penthouse started in Australia I moved to working solely with them and other men's market publications, holding positions such as 'Photographic Consultant' and 'Glamour Editor'.

In the early 90's I tired of the cavalcade of epidermis and packed it in, switching to architecture which is where I remain.  I have also shot for a customised Harley-Davidson magazine for over 30 years.

My real photographic passion is in my personal work which is a mix of art-nudes and anomalies of the built environment.

As the earning potential of commercial photography has been eroded due to a variety of forces in recent times I have taken to supplementing my photo earnings with Admin duties for a community organisation.

It was nice in 1965 to see laid before me a range of lucrative options from which to carve out a career.  I'd hate to be a kid starting out today.

Cheers,

Walter
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AFairley
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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2013, 03:40:56 PM »
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I went to art school, and in the late 70s- early 80s, I had a very small studio in NYC specializing in shooting jewelry and crafts objects, after I got married, I gave it up for a more steady income in a variety of careers, the latest one of which is attorney in a small law firm.  The good news is that I can afford decent gear (DSLR, not at the level of MFDB), the bad news is that I don't have as much time as I would like to use it.
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Dave (Isle of Skye)
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« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2013, 04:11:53 PM »
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I started in engineering, then went to college and then university to learn computing in the very early days of computing. Eventually ended up teaching advanced computing and digital imaging and design at a large UK university (teaching at Uni seems to be a pattern for those who have already replied to your question). Eventually got tired of jumping through all the hoops at the Uni, so went on to work with the war wounded and visually impaired military service people returning from various war zones, usually head shots or land mine and rocket propelled grenade damage etc, again teaching all aspects of computing as well as photography, but more importantly trying to connect people back into society through the creative use of all manner of new technologies. Also taught night school for PS and photography and of course computing in its various guises. Also did some commercial work, product stuff and holday/brochure work for a few large organisations - but none of it paid very well, although I did get to travel to some nice places.

Took early semi-retirement and moved 500 miles to the IoS to concentrate full time on photography, where I now sell my work in various galleries and of course teach photography workshops and advanced PS etc. Still doesn't pay very well, but we are just about comfortable enough and old enough for it not to be the main issue anymore.

It is the passion for photography that drives me and most other people who do it I assume, so I don't ever think about profitability or ever have for that matter, I just do it because I feel compelled to do it and of course I also very much enjoy it. So everything I now earn from photography however large or small, is a bonus.

Dave
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2013, 04:17:53 PM »
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Slightly of topic but that was a wonderful mini-biography Dave.
I always had a lot of respect for you but much more now.
I will be looking at your image making with new, and hopefully better informed, eyes to see how your life experiences may be informing your creative approach.

Tony Jay
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David Sutton
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« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2013, 04:37:15 PM »
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I teach classical and flamenco guitar privately. The bad news is that there is no holiday or sick pay. The good news is that even after an earthquake sent many students to other parts and the studio to heaven, there is still enough to finance other interests. I was a working in sales when I began learning music at age thirty, which is late for a career change. But it undoubtedly rescued me from what I felt was a useless life. To be able to contribute to a community in a meaningful way and to be paid for it is wonderful.
As Eric says, most photographers who are still enthusiastic about what they do have second incomes. We are lucky if exhibitions cover costs, but there are some things in life more important than money. We hope that our images have meaning and add something positive to our corner of the world. Whatever else we do to earn our living I believe it important to cultivate the gift of enjoying our work. When I don't look forward in the morning to spending the day teaching, I'll retire or look for something else. Though age may get me first.  Smiley
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Stan A
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« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2013, 09:38:13 PM »
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I'm brand new here, but I'll play. I'm a cop, I see a lot of ugly in the world and what people do to each other so I use photography to capture the beauy in it if I can. Ironically I didn't do a lot in the hobby for some time, but my photography skills ( for what they're worth) landed me a spot on our crime scene team as a photographer. I convinced my department to go digital, which resparked my own interests....... Sunsets are much nicer to shoot than dead bodies (pun kinda intended)
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David Sutton
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« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2013, 10:38:00 PM »
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I'm brand new here, but I'll play. I'm a cop, I see a lot of ugly in the world and what people do to each other so I use photography to capture the beauy in it if I can. Ironically I didn't do a lot in the hobby for some time, but my photography skills ( for what they're worth) landed me a spot on our crime scene team as a photographer. I convinced my department to go digital, which resparked my own interests....... Sunsets are much nicer to shoot than dead bodies (pun kinda intended)

Welcome aboard sir, and thank you for your contribution.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2013, 11:25:18 PM »
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Slightly of topic but that was a wonderful mini-biography Dave.
I always had a lot of respect for you but much more now.
I will be looking at your image making with new, and hopefully better informed, eyes to see how your life experiences may be informing your creative approach.

Tony Jay
I'll second the motion!
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-Eric Myrvaagnes

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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2013, 11:35:18 PM »
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Architecture and fine art b&W prints-full time since 1978.
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Kirk Gittings
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Schewe
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« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2013, 12:17:12 AM »
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I'm curious how you make a living so you can pursue your photography.

Now? Or when I was working? Big difference...

I got into commercial/advertising photography in the early 1980's after graduating from RIT with two degrees in photography. I spent a few years shooting "product" and "food" before getting into what's called (or was) special problems–often involving special effects and/or special rigging and model making. In the late 1980's I also got into commercial film direction.

In the early 1990's I got into shooting for digital imaging–figuring out how to shoot multiple elements and how to put them together; first with a 3rd party digital imaging artist (Raphael from Huston TX with NASA digital stuff) then later with my own imaging systems and Photoshop.

That worked well in the 1990's where I made an obscene amount of money producing images that were, well, impossible to produce. That sort of ended around 9-11-2001 (not sure if anything relating to that date is relevant, but that's when I saw budgets falling and AD's being complete idiots and assholes).

Since early 2000's I've branched out to; developing software (PixelGenius.com), speaking and teaching and writing (a few decent books) and leading workshops and the occasional video tutorial. I still shoot personally (I don't really accept clients these days).

The other thing I got good at is investing...I made a ton of money in the 90's (because I could charge as much as I wanted to do the impossible stuff I did). I was so busy I really didn't have a lot of time to blow the money I was making and I've been reasonably good and increasing my net worth by careful investing (without really having to do a lot of "work", per se–the key is to buy low and sell high).

Photography is now really just a way of life for me...pretty much all of the stuff I do involves photography in some way–although I don't do it commercially any more.

I don't have a good feeling about commercial photography these days...clients are cheap idiots (IMHO) that would prefer to buy the cheapest shooter and fix it in Photoshop. In general, the level of expectation of quality has taken a nose dive...

I never really got into shooting anything other than commercial, advertising work. I've shot my fair share of product, still life, food, special effects, big production, people, lifestyle (but not fashion). The thought of shooting a wedding gives me the willies...I could simply not stand the pressure. I can do portraits pretty well, but I could NEVER deal with retail. The thought of just anybody walking through the door would drive me nutz.

Do whatever you need to do to enable what you want to do...I really don't do much of anything for money, but everything I do tends to produce money. One big factor is to have multiple streams of income from multiple sources and always keep busy doing something productive.

I'm not interested in being a fine art photographer...all the fine art guys I know work way too hard and again, I'm not good at retail. I have zero interest in making prints for other people to buy because I have to interest in dealing with those people. I end up saying what Rhett Butler said in Gone With the Wind:"frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn". Yeah, I'm a butthead and pretty set in my ways. But, I have fun!
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kikashi
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« Reply #15 on: March 02, 2013, 01:31:50 AM »
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I'm a barrister. I was a surgeon for ten years or so. I've written software in the past but I find I don't have much time for it now.

Jeremy
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RawheaD
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« Reply #16 on: March 02, 2013, 03:05:39 AM »
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I'm a relatively recent archaeology Ph.D. but have yet to score a job in the academia, which is what I want.  In the mean time, I put bread on the table mostly through translation and interpretation work between English and Japanese.
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Wills
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« Reply #17 on: March 02, 2013, 03:08:00 AM »
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I'm a full time photographer all our household income comes from portraits.
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Rob C
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« Reply #18 on: March 02, 2013, 03:54:56 AM »
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1.   "I don't have a good feeling about commercial photography these days...clients are cheap idiots (IMHO) that would prefer to buy the cheapest shooter and fix it in Photoshop. In general, the level of expectation of quality has taken a nose dive...

2.   The thought of shooting a wedding gives me the willies...I could simply not stand the pressure. I can do portraits pretty well, but I could NEVER deal with retail. The thought of just anybody walking through the door would drive me nutz.

Schewe"



Schewe -

I never realised just how similar some of our attitudes.

Had I but had the business head too...

Rob C

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Schewe
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« Reply #19 on: March 02, 2013, 06:53:00 AM »
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Had I but had the business head too...

Well, I actually fell into that by accident–it was something my father kinda forced onto me and I developed some skills more by serendipity that by intention. I don't really take much credit for myself...it was really a situation where I was so busy, I didn't have the time to waste a lot of money. I ended up investing much of the proceeds of my work in good companies that ended up doing really well. I wasn't kidding about buy low and sell high :~) That works pretty well!
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