In the recent past, I have been part of a mentorship program in which I have worked with several emerging photographers at different levels. It doesn’t take most aspiring photographers long to figure out that a considerable part of the general public love and respect photography, although they mainly see it as a great creative outlet or hobby. Many people don’t think of photography as a career, I am guessing this is due to many reasons. That doesn’t make it so. Technology is nothing new. Film SLR’s eventually had autofocus capabilities, there were point and shoot film and digital cameras, the list goes on. Now point and shoot cameras have been replaced by smart phones. It’s a convenience available to everyone. Most people know that doesn’t make them photographers, nor do they need it to. Most of what people do is shoot pictures of things they would never have wasted film on in years past. Photographers still have a purpose, it’s just a matter of each one finding their client. What gives the public an indifferent attitude towards hiring professional photographers? Let’s discuss.
Look at antique photographs –
Photographers were once considered skilled tradesmen (Or women, just a general term) and rightfully so. Look in antique shops for family or portrait photos from 100 years ago. You can see the skill the photographers possessed and the attention to detail. Look at the lighting and composition, and how well the prints have held up. This was not done by taking shortcuts. Even though far fewer professional photographers operate in studios anymore, 100 years later, you’d think technology would enable more impressive photography. If you can look at photography from past professionals and a good percentage of photographers today and not wonder why we’ve gone backwards in quality, you’re not paying attention. The shortcuts and lack of understanding of theory from more photographers today helped decline the perceived value of photography.
No entry barriers-
Logic should prevail, it’s not a good long-term decision to get into a business you don’t know and understand. It takes research and working as an apprentice, and learning from experience to hone your craft to be able to carry a business. Many don’t want to do that anymore, and the pricing numbers are arbitrarily picked by some newer photographers. I’m not begrudging newcomers. But there is a difference between making a good hourly wage and running a sustainable business. We’ve reached a time in society where you don’t even have to be a great photographer to be financially successful. It’s all about the marketing and personality. There are some great photographers who aren’t great at marketing who perish, sadly. But that’s where we are.
How can customers think of photography as a career when it’s not operated like a business? –
Professional photographers who put out great work and operate professionally will command their rates from the right clients. There are also newer photographers who don’t use contracts, invoicing, or truly have any idea how to operate a business. For a low stakes photoshoot, fine. But there are times when you have to hire a professional, but it won’t be as cheap. You get what you pay for. Not every client will get that, and that’s ok. A true professional is measured by their skill, attention to detail, how they conduct business, and most important of all; how they perform in less than ideal conditions.
The tools are more readily accessible, and more people are trying it. Pans don’t make the chef. Professional photographers, we have to keep our eye on the prize and realize things change, and keep pushing on as long as it works for us. Part of doing business is setting boundaries and avoiding the wrong clients. It’s harder work than many think. If someone doesn’t want to pay my price, so be it. I’m not out to get rich, but I don’t feel like giving away what took me years to learn, and what I’ve invested in my business. I can’t worry about public perception, although most understand the value of hiring the right people for the right job. Some learn from their mistakes, others keep repeating them, Nero fiddled, George played golf.