AskJaded: Should I go pro?

Hello sir,
Can I pester you for a bit of advice? I’m a bit of a photographer, which I am sure you’ve heard many times, and I am in two minds whether to try and make a leap into attempting to make 1p from a photograph one day. Like so many, I did a lot of photography for my¬† (media) degree and have done one or two little paid jobs, but my degree covered more art stuff rather than photo-journalism, although I love photo-essays etc. So I don’t really have lighting/studio experience for example and am still quite raw (no pun intended, honest) when it comes to technical aspects.

I’ve done a couple of non-paid photo jobs recently, and have seen how extremely difficult/competitve it is as an industry. And there comes a point where the whole
non-payment issue becomes well, even more of an issue! I do love photography/images very much but I really don’t know whether it’s better to keep it as a passionate hobby.

Anyway, I do not wish to ramble, even though I have, so any kind of advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

HopefulSnapper

On the panel are JadedSnapper, PhotoYoda and OldTimeTog

OldTimeTog: Don’t

JS: Don’t what?

OldTimeTog: Don’t do it. That’s what I tell every work ex that comes through the door.

JS: But I thought you were my inspiring leader, training the next generation?

OldTimeTog: Yeah but I’m only a few months off retirement so it’s time to be honest!

PhotoYoda: Ridiculous you are. That’s the 1-0 of your mind

OldTimeTog: What are you on about?

PhotoYoda: Every snapper says ‘Don’t do it’ to the work ex whilst going to a Premier League game, getting the freebies and earning a bit of cash on the side. Nonsensical.

OldTimeTog: What!? I’m just saying I wouldn’t go into it if I had my time again

PhotoYoda: And what happened last redundancy round?

OldTimeTog: Well I ran for cover of course!

PhotoYoda: You see, your advice is pointless. You won’t do it yourself, and you never will. That’s the 1-0 right there

JS: Well, he does have a point, there’s no money in it

PhotoYoda: Yes at the bottom it’s low paid, and we’re not sure if there’s a top anymore…

JS: So why tell someone to join the snapper trade?

PhotoYoda: Yes but you cannot tell someone not to do the job from the vantage point of living it everyday and taking all the benefits

JS: Benefits? I thought they were being cut?

PhotoYoda: That’s a different issue. How much have you earnt freelance this year JS?

JS: Erm, about an extra month’s salary…

PhotoYoda: You see that’s my point little fruitbat. Yes it’s low paid but you can earn money if you put the effort in! In fact it’s the same as any industry

JS: No it’s not, what other industry has a thousand weekend warriors undermining the trade?

PhotoYoda: But are they fruitbat? Are they?

JS: Erm, yes

PhotoYoda: Being the oracle of truth I don’t normally link to other sage snappers but please have a peek at Zarias’ post on the cheap snapper brigade. You can’t stop other snappers existing.

OldTimeTog: Unless you have a flamethrower

PhotoYoda: Erm yes, the point is fruitbats that only by working for yourself will you make money

JS: You could also crash and burn

PhotoYoda: Such a jaded snapper! If you go in with that attitude you will crash and burn. The point is to treat yourself as a professional you plonkersaurus

JS: But should HopefulSnapper go pro?

PhotoYoda: They already are!

JS: What?

PhotoYoda: They already are my fruitbat! They maybe at the beginnings of it but HopefulSnapper has been paid for pictures, and isn’t fool enough to grant CreativeCommons on their Flickr

JS: But HS still does a desk job

PhotoYoda: If you’re starting freelance, that’s how you start plonkersaurus! Start small and build your business till it’s time to go full time!

OldTimeTog: But HopefulSnapper doesn’t have the technical knowledge. They say that themselves!

JS: It never stopped you Mr GripAndGrin

OldTimeTog: [tapping badge on chest] Remember this when talking to me

JS: [reading] ‘BossSnapper’

PhotoYoda: Yes but the technicals come with doing the job! And scouring the t’interweb for useful photography sites

JS: What, ones that contain, erm, pictures?

PhotoYoda: Yes those ones. Talking to snappers, proper good ones, and t’interwebbing is better than half the photography courses going!

JS: So should HS go pro?

PhotoYoda: HS should keep broadening their snappering till the opportunity arises! Then they can take that snapper job, or just amass enough experience to be a full time freelance. Where they do have enough experience they should charge as such. Only then can their talent and business grow.

Dear readers, feel free to chip in with points of advice and resources!

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About jadedsnapper

Reinforcing the stereotype that local press photographers are more miserable than the people they photograph
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6 Responses to AskJaded: Should I go pro?

  1. Terence says:

    JS – I’m convinced! Time to go pro

  2. f2point4 says:

    I’ll keep gathering experience, I think. I’ll still charge if anyone actually WANTS the pictures, though. :-)

  3. Rob Nunn says:

    I’ve quit my job, bought all the kit i will ever need on my credit cards, and I’m ready to roll!

  4. JS
    Don’t you think Zarias argument is a fatally flawed argument?

    What it doesn’t allow for is the cannon fodder effect. For every Cheap photographer cut down in the charge towards success there are another two prepared to pry the SLR from his (or her) dying hand and continue the charge. Think 1942 Russian front, 1 rifle between 4 Soviet soldiers and a handful of bullets each to stop what was then the might of German army. Eventually not only did they stop them but turned them back and took Berlin from them.

    But back to the photography, cheaper non pro equipment with ever increasing quality is resulting in more people who in the past thought “I would love to do that but can’t” are actually giving it a go. Many do not understand the business model and eventually drive down prices which clients get used to so when you try to push the prices up you loose business. Rule one of Business negotiations Start with a High number and negotiate down. That’s because it doesn’t work the other way around ask any wealthy successful business leader.

    So I’m afraid I have to agree with OldTimeTog (which is odd considering the name of my blog lol ) don’t do it. I have seen my business turnover halve in 5 years despite wonderful arguments to the contrary its a dying industry and soon photographers will be looked upon like coal miners.

  5. jadedsnapper says:

    Sir! Your metaphor is delicious. In fact divine. And it underlines the great problem facing the snapper today. I agree with your notion of the cannon fodder effect. With literally dozens of snappers leaving college every year (and even more enthusiasts simply learning from t’interweb) there’s an inevitable decline in value, even if these snappers only do one job each before getting bored.

    The fact of the matter is that this will not change. So how do we deal with it? Well talking to these photographers goes some way, these part-timers need to be educated as to how valuable their work is. And that does seem to be happening to some extent. On twitter for example, there’s many a part-timer who defend their work as strongly as a pro. And that’s a good – if small – process. Similarly ‘citizen journalists’ who have rang my paper are now asking for payment far more often than in the past. That’s nothing to do with me gently hinting towards it of course ;)

    The above post is (and to some extent the blog itself) is geared towards those photographers as much as the ‘pros’.

    To my mind there are three outcomes that most photographers are going to fall into:

    1. Quit.

    Frankly I know many snappers at the start of their careers with degrees and skills in other areas who see the wages that the regional press and small agencies pay and think ‘Are you taking the piss?’. To which the answer is: ‘Yes, yes we are’. And with little prospect of promotion or payrise just what is the point?

    2. Go part time.

    Or call it a ‘portfolio career’ if you want to be fancy an’ that. At the end of the day there’s many aspects of photography that can be balanced with another job. More full time professionals are going to find themselves in this category than ever before. In fact, the process is already happening quite aggressively with more photographers taking up positions as lecturers in colleges and other related work.

    3. Go Posh.

    Now we all know that the average PR job is subject to this downward spiral. But is the same true of high-end commercial and advertising jobs? What about fashion? Now that’s not much comfort for snappers in the regions, but I still think there are high end clients, and they’ve not much interest in hiring a joker. The caveat is that’s there’s not that many of them and they may well be tied up by snappers already occupying that market.

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