A photographer wrote to me today and said he's seriously considering quitting shooting altogether. He asked me for any advice I might have regarding what he's doing wrong. He wonders if his work is "just shit?" He's curious why people (make that people who might pay him for his work) don't give him respect and if that's why nobody ever offers to pay him for his photography. He can't understand why he pours so much effort into his photography with so few rewards... monetary rewards, that is.
Whew! Tough stuff to respond to!
Still, I took a stab at it. Basically, here's what I told him, although I've edited and/or added more for the purpose of this blog update:
These days, there's few career choices tougher to succeed at than photography. Leastwise, in terms of getting paid for your work, especially if your work is shooting models. It seems more than a few photographers, for whatever reasons, are pursuing photography "careers" either for some bizarrely altruistic reasons or as a result of some other, career-building strategies... if strategies they be. In other words, they're willing to work for free or for very little which means others, i.e., those not so willing to work for free or for very little, find themselves often competing with free or with absurdly low rates. No surprises there, right?
This is especially true for shooting models, whether it's glamour, fashion, beauty, commercial, whatever. It's also true for headshots and portrait work, editorial, even sports and some other photo-journalism gigs. Photography, in this digital day and age, is now on a par with writing, acting, being a musician and so many other creative and artistic endeavors which have always been extremely tough career choices. Often times, the toughest of career choices. Know anyone who has tried to "make it" in Hollywood as an actor or a writer? If so, you know what I'm talking about.
With photography, there's an incredible amount of competition these days. (Not just from those working for free.) There's probably more competition than ever before. That competition, I told the dude who wrote to me, probably has more to do with what he's experiencing than anything else. "Do you need to continue learning and developing your skills?" I asked him. "Of course!" I answered for him. "That never stops."
But I also explained that the decision he should first be considering might have more to do with whether he's willing to keep on truckin' in a crowded, uber-competitive, field. I told him he needs to consider and evaluate what his level of determination might be and, once he does that, honestly and truthfully does that, if he's willing to persevere and compete in an almost unbelievably tough industry. You know, that sort of stuff. I also told him it's not so much about whether his work is "just shit" because, whether it is or not, he can always continue developing and bettering his skills providing he's investing enough time and energy learning, reading, experimenting, and practicing. "Practice, practice, practice!" I told him.
Still, there are no guarantees no matter how hard someone tries or how much time or resources they invest in learning, in gear, in honing their craft. These days, I'm not sure if the cream always rises to the top. Unless, of course, it's actual cream and it's poured into a cup of Joe. (Other dairy and non-dairy products act similarly.) Accepting that it's a really, really tough photo-world out there is a really, really tough thing to come to grips with when someone really, really wants to shoot cameras pointed at models for a living.
Sure, some photography genres might be easier to make a go at: weddings and events and other, related genres come to mind. When I say "easier," I don't mean they're easy. I guess what I mean is they're sometimes easier to get paid for doing than, say, shooting models for a living. Like it or not, that's the cold, hard, inconvenient truth. And by the way, these days it ain't so easy for established model shooters to keep getting paid for what they do. Certainly not as easy as it once was. (Not that it ever was all that easy.)
Sucks, don't it?
For this update, I thought I'd post a "cleaner" pic than I normally do. It's from 4 or 5 years ago and I'm not too thrilled with the post I applied to it back then. Oh well. WTF, I'm posting it anyway. For the life of me, I can't remember the model's name. Getting old (and all that goes with it... like big, gaping holes in one's memories) sucks even worse than trying to still make a good living as a pretty girl shooter.