I’ll tell you why.
I. Why do you want to have a career in photography?
First of all, ask yourself– why do you want a career in photography?
I know for myself, I once dreamed to make photography my living.
The impetus was this: I wanted to make my passion my living. And photography as my passion.
I had this fantasy. I would travel the world, and photograph to my heart’s delight. I saw having a day job holding me back.
But now fast-forward 11 years later (age 18 to age 29) I have achieved the dream. I have 100% freedom over my time, I have financial independence, and can photograph whenever I want.
But you know what the funny thing is? I don’t make any more photos now than I did when I did when I had my boring 9-5 office job.
II. Traveling or photography won’t make you happy
The truth is — I think we are all seeking personal meaning in life. And we think that traveling to exotic places and photography will give us this ‘truth’ in life.
But the truth is that traveling and photography can only be used a bridge to help you find truth in life. To me, photography led me to studying philosophy — and I found the meaning of my life in photography wasn’t to make photos– but to make meaning in my life. And to share with others how to conquer their fears in life, and to become the best versions of themselves. To find personal meaning in their lives. To find appreciation in their loved ones. To use photography as a tool to meditate on life and death.
III. Practical advice on how to make photography your career
So if you are still stubborn and want to pursue photography as your career, some advice I will give you. Of course, this advice is all directed to 18 year old Eric.
1. How are you going to make money?
You need to make money to make a living from photography, your passion, and career.
My tip: charge 25% more money than you think you should.
Another tip: either do work for 100% free, or charge a lot of money for it. Nassim Taleb calls this the ‘barbell’ strategy to business (and life) in his book ‘Antifragile.’
I think in today’s world– (as more and more people get iPhones, and high-end digital cameras get cheaper), the value of photographs is going to go down. Eventually, there will be a day where an image will be worth $0.
2. Charge for experiences, not photos
But what can you charge money for?
My idea: Charge for experiences.
For example, a photo experience can be teaching a photography workshop or tour, documenting the experiences of someone’s wedding, or creating a narrative for companies (via images).
And charge a lot of money for it.
Give away your photos for free (that is what I do) — and charge a lot of money for limited-edition prints.
I think this will be the only way to survive as a photographer or image-maker in the future (if you want to make photography into a career).
3. Hold onto your day job
What I did when I was 21 years old (fresh out of college) was to get a $40,000 office job (Online Community Social Media Manager for a tech company), and I used my free time to build up this blog, and my online presence.
I think it is good when you are starting off to get a ‘normal’ job. It will teach you how much the office world sucks– but will also give you practical money that will help you pay the rent, while you build your empire on the side.
4. When should I jump?
I got lucky — I got made redundant by my company (in the tech bubble). So after building this blog for about a year, I announced I would do workshops for a living — and from age 22-29 (7 years later) I’m still here.
5. Can I become rich through photography?
I grew up poor, and now I have more than 100 racks in my savings account.
The way to become rich is very easy: create massive value (10x more than anyone else out there), make money, and live below your means.
For example, I can afford any digital camera on the market (any digital Leica or even medium-format digital) but I choose to shoot with a $600 USD Ricoh GR II camera. Partly I just think it is the best camera that exists. Part of it is that I don’t want to fall victim to GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) that has (in the past) drained my money.
I used to shoot a lot of film, but now I’m shooting more digital — to save money.
Buying a new camera will not make you get more clients or make more money. If you think you need to buy a new camera for your business, don’t buy it.
IV. Should I go to photography school?
Save that $200,000 of debt from photography school to attend workshops, to travel, to experiment, and to setup your own business. Start your own photography blog, and build up your social media presence.
V. Conclusion: PAVE YOUR OWN PATH
If you want to pursue a career in photography, don’t take the beaten path.
Combine your outside interests, and see how you can make enough money to live.
And then ultimately– always ask yourself:
Why do I want to make photography my career?
Then ask yourself the question why 5 more times– then figure out what direction to take your life.
Learn how to follow your passion for a living:
- How to Become a Photography Entrepreneur
- How to Do What You Love for a Living
- Should I Follow My Passion For a Living?
- How to Create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
- How to Fail Big
- How to Invest in Yourself
- How to Be Bold in Photography and Life
- Mission: Cover Your Rent and Food
- 1,000 True Fans
- The “10x Principle”: The Only Difference Between “Success” and “Failure”
- Make More Value Not Money
- We Live in a Photo Utopia
- Can Photography Change the World?
How to Teach Photography Workshops
- How to Make a Living Teaching Photography Workshops
- How to Become a Photography Teacher
- How to Teach a Street Photography Class
- Why I Teach Street Photography Workshops
How to be a Full-time Photographer
- How to Make a Living From Photography
- Why Make Money With Photography?
- The 3 Principles of Making Money With Photography
- Advice for Aspiring Full-Time Photographers
- Don’t Go Into Debt For Your Photography
- How to Brand Yourself as a Photographer
- Trust: The Most Important Thing You Need to Succeed as a Photographer
How to Start a Blog
- How to Make a Living with Blogging
- 50 Blogging Tips For Beginners
- How to Start Your Own Photography Blog
- A Photographer’s Guide to SEO, Blogging, and Social Media