Photography may seem like a very glamorous career. The entry point is very low, and you can start with 0 investment: just use your phone. However, as you progress further and further, you may encounter that there are several things you didn’t expect photographers to do. In this article, I will go through some of those.
I started off taking pictures as a hobby. I never imagined that it would become a job where I get to work with some of the most incredible people and meet fantastic friends. I also never thought I’d be doing the unglamorous side of photography. I mean, come on, how hard can it be? You simply need to be good at taking pictures. Right? Well, wrong.
A lot of BTS videos on YouTube, especially the ones with large-scale fashion shoots, show that all the photographer is doing is simply having a jolly with the crew while the assistants and techs figure stuff out. They go over to makeup, check if the glitter is right, and go back to having their coffee and mingling with the models. While that may be true for the photographs who work at the highest level, it surely isn’t for the mere mortals such as you and me. Here are some of the nasty things that I didn’t expect photography to be.
It Is Physically Demanding
Have you ever seen a gaffer who is not fit? I haven’t. This is because as soon as you start getting light stands, especially the good sort, your gear weight will grow exponentially. My first light stand was a 1kg endeavor, my last one was a 10kg one. And the thing is, you quickly realize that you need 10 of those. Add lights and sandbags to the mix, and soon you have a very heavy rig that you pray won’t fall and split open your subject’s head.
With all the carrying and lifting you do, you can be sure to cancel your gym membership and work out in the studio. So much so, I use old gym weights as sandbags.
The problem we never admit but all face. When you’re starting out, it may seem, even unconsciously, that in order to become better at photography you need to have lots of gear. I was the same, so one of the first things I did is invest in gear, as much gear as I could. Given that I had little to no money I was lucky to not buy too much, but I was unlucky to spend that time on reviews and wishlists.
Business Is Key
The problem with art education and art jobs is that artists can be brilliant at art but rubbish at business. This isn’t ideal and can lead to you quitting while being great. I don’t believe that any photographer who is in the greats sucks at business. Sure, the agents and other folks take care of the day-to-day, but the photographer is also responsible for their company, which they own. Marketing and other things are also among the responsibilities. If you’re deciding between art school and business school, save the money and go to a business school. Just make sure you don’t forget the art.
Business-wise, it is also healthy to keep in mind that you’re a photographer after all. You didn’t choose to be an accountant or a marketing expert, and pick the extremely long way of getting there by being a photographer. Rather than the opposite, you chose to be a photographer by being a good marketer and accountant. Still, there are a lot of things professionals know that you don’t. This is why photographers sometimes hire agents, or marketing staff to help them out be more profitable.
Just think about it: while you’re shooting your agent is closing off another deal with a client, meeting new customers, and making sure you’re paid. Your success is their success, so they are motivated to get you as much money as they can. In any case, having a separate person and outsourcing things that are not “art” can be good once you get to a level of work where you can’t cope or need to expand.
People Assume You Work for Free
This is a slightly edgy one, but one we need to talk about. People usually decide to pursue professional photography because they really love it. I don’t think too many people would be picking photography because it’s a way to get rich quickly. If anything, it is a very slow way, and it will take you several years of working for free to start making money. It’s a skill, really. Both taking pictures, as well as making money with those pictures.
But as you become better, people will still ask you for work assuming that you’re happy to do it for free. There are two sides to this medal: you should be happy to work for free because of how much you love the project, but you should never do it – unless it is your own project.
As a fashion photographer, I know diddly-squat of product, or automotive, or real estate. Yet there is always someone who asks me if I can photograph something that is not my cup of tea. I mean, sure I can take a nice car picture, but it won’t be nearly as well-done as one coming from a professional automotive photographer.
On top of that, some people will expect you to work for free, because you’re an artist and you’re supposed to love what you do. It is sad that it is assumed that people in 9-5 jobs don’t love what they do, because some of them actually do. So, if you ask a really motivated accountant to do your accounting for free because it is their passion, you are likely to be in for a polite no. yet when you ask some photographers to do the same thing it is okay? It is sometimes hard to say no because that’s just how we are, yet learning to say no to things where you think you should be paid is a good skill, that leads to more bookings. Once your work has a price tag, you’d be surprised to know how many people are actually ready and willing to pay for it.
Overall, these are the 4 main things that I was not prepared for, but head to learn to get used to. Summed up, you should be a good businessman who knows how to run a company. You should really make sure that you are motivated, but also paid, and that that money is not going on a gym membership, because with all the lifting you’ll be doing, you won’t need one.