The not so glamorous side of being a working photographer.
Disclaimer #1 I work part time as a banquet server at a hotel for extra income. I enjoy it as well, because its great money for the amount of work and a good place for inspiration if you can imagine that. I also have been to most likely more weddings this year than every photographer in town LOL not bragging just saying I could tell you some stories ;) Anyway there will be another post about this very thing soon. Possible title: why everyone should try working in the food industry at least once.
Disclaimer #2 : I don't proclaim to be some type of educator on business or photography. I am not a snake oil salesman. I don't have the "Quick 5 Easy Steps To Be A Successful Photographer" (if I did or if I followed every one of those steps that I've read countlessly I would be successful already, right?) The majority of the things I write in the blog are my own personal thoughts and opinions about matters. You can hate them, disagree, agree, enjoy, or call me a flat out hack. Go ahead I'd love to hear your voice.
It is discouraging at times being a full time or even part time photographer. A lot of it comes from the financial struggle which goes hand in hand with the struggle of fine tuning and creating images that not only you want to see but your cliental wants to see as well. But the struggle has also kept me hungry (sometimes literally) but hungry to get better and strive for better at my craft. If I wasn't doing photography I don't know where I would be. Which brings us to the un glamorous side of being a working creative. The truth that you will be hungry for a long time. You will be living week to week soup and bread. I did not get into this for the money, because frankly there is no money in it for me. I got into this because it is my language. I'm not too eloquent with words as you can tell reading this blog, but I do know how to talk with images.
To make things easier on myself and give myself hope for the future I've pinned a monthly costs for my business as well as living expenses to my wall next to my working desk. It is a good reminder of reality. And that is just the thing, the reality of being a working creative is this; I'm not out shooting models or flying around the globe (not yet haha hopefully in the future.) My current work is about working with real people and real issues. Lending my visual voice to whatever voice theirs is. I enjoy working with people who see eye to eye about the costs of being a creative in America. Bills need to be paid from all of us. Sometimes people don't the have money to compensate my fees and that is alright because I really try to have some type of exchange that is equitable for both of us. Which brings me to my point of equitable exchange.
It is something I would love to see happen across this consumer culture. I'm not speaking of bartering or trade work. I'm speaking of people working with each other to become honest about what goes into a product or service. To be transparent about what is needed to live and that both ends come out closer in the end. When I tell people my fees I get 50/50 reactions. One is, "Oh that's out of my budget. Is there a way to make it cheaper?" The other is, "Let us see how we can make this happen." At this point I either stand firm on my prices or I enjoy seeing that someone values my work and wants it. One of the biggest things I do value from other people is their time. Not just the time they take out of their day, but the time they take to be real with me and honest in their words. Another thing I value is the interest in my work. When I see people hire me not because I'm the photographer within their budget, someone they know, someone who gives out deals. I'm not the bang for your buck photographer. I'm sorry, just not me. But when I see people hire me because they enjoy my vision it brings me joy to be working with them. I value long term working relationships over a one time high paying gig any day.
Right now I'm trying to find out where my next gig will come from. What will November look like. Spreading my time like butter on bread. The biggest advice I ever gave myself as a picture taker was this: "Make images you want to see." And from that point on I've really tried to not compromise my time and work for marketing purposes. So in the next coming months I'm working on a lot of images I've had in my head for some time now. Will these images get me gigs? I have no idea. Will they preserve my voice as a visual speaker. Yes.
That said marketing to attract future clients is tough. Too much time spent leading down a road that could open doors means I'm not staying at the core of who I am in making that images I want to see. But it is the risk and gamble of it all that makes it fun and interesting. People take a risk on me using me as their photographer for the first time and for that I respect them.
I am very fortunate to have and be working with some amazing people at the moment who have gone from clients to great friends. I enjoy working with them and look forward to all the future moments that the future has. because it's what we know. To other photographers I say don;t be disheartened. If you find yourself making more money doing something else and you enjoy it. Go do that. You will save yourself a lot of time, blood, sweat, tears, heartache and money.To the photographers who don't know anything else, be patient. We do photography as a job because it's our skill set. It's our trade. It's our identity. And for me it's my livelihood.
Until next time,