Can you survive as a photographer in the digital age?21 July 2013
A friend once said to me “the best way to make money from photography is to sell your camera!” Welcome to photography in the digital age!
Can you survive as a photographer? A lot of photographic colleagues I know are all saying how difficult it is to make a living in the digital era. It seems the digital camera has caused an explosion of so called professional photographers. They buy a camera, set up a website, fill it with Istock photos and they are off!
As a photo retoucher, I get to see the fruits of their work, especially “The Wedding Photos From Hell”. The digital photographic age for me in some ways is a blessing, I get so many wedding retouches to do, to try and add some sparkle to what is supposed to be one of the most memorable days…..
But I digress, this blog post is not about photo retouching and restoration, more it is about photography, and how to survive in this fiercely competitive market. I mean how do you compete with “Free?” I kid you not, living in London a few years ago, I was surprised to see the amount of adverts by photographers who were willing to do wedding photography for free, just to add to their portfolio. Well the first mistake is to offer low prices, you will always been perceived as lacking skill or confidence. in fact quite often people would rather pay more, just for that idea that they are getting quality.
I read a blog by a photographer once (a successful one), who said he was tired of doing boring formulaic wedding photography, he wanted out of that market so he raised his prices significantly. Now he is inundated with wedding photography bookings. actually he is quite happy now as he can be selective of when he works as he is earning a decent amount per wedding photography session.
Start off by having a decent properly serviced and working camera. Get a website or a blog, where you can showcase your work, make sure the website or blog is clear in layout, you will not believe how impatient some web surfers are.
Social networking is vital, create an online presence, look for people in the same field as you and try and connect with them via all the usual suspects, create an Instagram account and add your pics.
I do not even have to really say, but you need to know how to take good pictures, you need to be technically savvy to be able to adapt to changing circumstances (lighting, exposure etc). Try to create a unique style, one which people can start identifying a certain type of image to you. For example, depth of field (I personally like shallow depths), perspective – create a unique perspective.
Learn at least how to do some basic photo retouching work. You will not believe how grateful a client will be if you have at least removed the dust from the images (the curse of the Digital DSLR). Here is a link to download a PDF highlighting various types of photo editing. I suggest at least checking out the basic retouch example. That is really quick and easy to learn. I had a photoshoot for Total 911 once (yes I am not only a photo retoucher). They specifically asked for Raw photos (unedited), but I actually sent retouched and toned photos instead. I did have the originals on standby to send, but got a reply back from the client, that they loved the photos and were going with them.
I know it is difficult to survive as a photographer in the digital age, but if you really love photography, keep trying, keep pushing yourself and most importantly, when you get the chance, give the client something to remember you by.
Featured image by Joshi Daniel, a very talented photographer.