A career in Photography? Perhaps not.

 

Early this week I was approached to shoot and write for another web blog. This sort of thing does happen from time to time and has been becoming more frequent in recent weeks. Along with the cover email, I received a very well written blurb about all the advantages of shooting with said partner. Promises of fast cars and girls littered the paragraphs and I am sure for somebody this would have been great opportunity to get a foot in a door somewhere.

However, aforementioned promises were followed by ones of “exposure” and “potential future work” and these made me flaccid faster than that limp dick werewolf movie – you know the one with the chick who needs to get some sunlight who has made about a billion sequels? Anyway, I really don’t understand what has happened to the industry, when did photography and creativity for that matter become such a cheap commodity? Last time I checked with VISA they did not accept “exposure” and “promises of future jobs” for payment. In addition, yes I know anyone can get out there and take a photo. But that is in the same way that anyone can be a friggin’ surgeon. It takes years of training and perseverance to really be any good at it.

The interesting thing was that the employer mentioned above also made a profit from their web blog. To put this in perspective, this would be like you walking in off the street to your local mechanic and saying, “Yeah mate, just swap this engine in for me for free and I’ll put small sign on my car, or I’ll pay you next time I need something” Business just doesn’t work like that. The idea of doing something that you are passionate about and sinking lots of money into the gear is that you will end up doing it for a job and getting paid! Not doing it for free, or in some cases for a loss. Oh yes, that’s right, it’s not free to travel, or hire gear, and I am no good at foraging for food so there is probably a cost in there too.

I will admit that I am part of the problem too; I guess I have done it to myself. But any time I have worked for “exposure” or for promises of “future work” by the end of the project I have just felt empty and dirty, like I had prostituted my services and my pimp had shortchanged me. And I doubt this is just contained to automotive photography sector too, although it seems that there may be some loose change in generic family portraitures. But how damn boring is that? I think I would rather learn to knit to be honest.

Please note that my rantings aren’t directed at anyone or any business in particular, they are more of just a general observation at this point in time. And I definitely wouldn’t want to discourage others!  I would truely LOVE to pursue a career in photography and journalism, but I just really worry whether it will ever be a viable source of income.

Lucky I am still young!

Matt

14 thoughts on “A career in Photography? Perhaps not.

  1. I agree Matt. I never ever thought a career in photography would be possible, especially shooting motorsport. But its funny since i started pushing the wedding photography im starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel and photography may be a viable option.

    I guess weddings is a different industry but where your client base is alot larger then alot of other fields and its something normal people can justify spending money on.

      • I wouldnt say its about finding the niche, more so letting the niche find you. In my opinion the things that usually work out are the things you dont try and force. I never intended to shoot weddings it just kinda happened and its awesome.

        Keep working hard and im sure it will find you!

  2. Truth dude, I read a book called Visual Poetry, it is written by Chris Orwig an instructor at The Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara CA. He talks about this exact thing. He’s says, and I agree, that your work holds less value not only to yourself but for who you are “working for” as well when done for “exposure” or “possible future jobs.” He also talks about times when doing pro bono work is good not only for whomever you are doing work for, but also for yourself as a well.

  3. I enjoy your blog Mr. Malcolm and this post struck a serious chord with me.
    I am an industrial designer and studying design management currently here in the states.
    I understand where you are coming from and I think right now this is the sign of our times, the sign of things that are currently happening, and how this is going to continue to be a problem. I whole heartedly agree that photographers should be paid for their work and what they do, Im currently trying to convince a company that they actually need to hire a photographer and graphic designer to represent their company/image/and brand but my advice seems to fall on deaf ears. I have done work for them that was told I would get paid only to have them take my work. I think this main issue right now is corporations and companies are trying to cut corners on money, sadly this falls on people who do great work for a living. It is my idea that the market seems to be so over saturated with photographers and creative types, companies just assume they can get it for free. It sickens me, but they realize these creative types are easy to come by, promise exposure and the grandeur of fame and recognition from a couple of free shots of something and any tom dick or harry with an entry level camera can “become pro”… at least in their own mind. Companies are taking advantage of these once sacred and honored professions and it upsets me.
    A very concerned reader from across the other side of the pond.
    ~Brent

  4. I feel like digital photography has blown up in recent years and there are so many PShop photographers that anyone that buys “ok” equipment but can work well in post processing just water down the industry. All I see in picture threads of events are a bunch of guys that watermark there photos and call them selves a photographer. Of course those guys are doing work for free which lowers the rate for quality workers like yourself.

    That’s mainly how I feel.

  5. I totally know where you’re coming from. I get the same thing with my drawings. I think people just don’t understand how much time, effort and money goes into developing the skills you need to do something really well.
    Or maybe they just think we’re stupid?

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