A major question and concern for many photographers looking to make photography a career these days is “Can you make it as a photographer”? Brandon who is currently in college and is the photo editor of the school paper asked me this question during a recent SKYPE call. With the barrier for entry at a low point and the easy access to pro gear many people have flocked to being a photographer in the hopes of making it big. But the question still remains can they make it as a photographer today?
To answer this question I want to step back to a personal experience I had in the past with a Sports Illustrated photographer. He wanted to warn me that photography is a very very hard career to get into. I took what he said the wrong way, I thought he was telling me I would not make it or I should give up right there. What he was really doing was being honest, telling it like it is which so many people are afraid to do today.
My short answer to the question is YES, you can make it as a photographer today. But like with any other profession, many will try and not all will succeed. Let’s look at the things I think you can do to set yourself up to make it as a photographer today. I want to just do a brain dump on ideas and things you can do as a photographer of all ages. I want to make this point very clear, YOUR AGE DOES NOT MATTER!!!! I don’ care if you are 12 or 72, you can make it as a photographer.
Let’s take a look first at the question about schooling, do you need a degree to become a photographer. There are a few trains of though on this and the answer is both yes and no. Some people will benefit form the structure of a school while others may learn better and be driven enough to teach themselves. I personally went to a two year photography school which focused mainly on photography with a few business classes. An option that is there for people going into college is to look into a four year school.
If I were to go to a four year school today this is what I would be looking for. First I would be looking for a school that not only covers photography but allows me to take business, internet marketing, web and graphic design as well as visual and audio classes. The more well rounded you can be in college the more you can offer when you graduate.
Regardless of what type of photography you are into you may find that a larger or smaller school may suit your needs. Larger schools will offer more people and events to photograph from sports to students to events. Smaller schools may offer the same just not on the same scale as a larger one. If I were to go back to school I would find myself the largest most activity driven school to go to. I would get on the news paper as a photographer, I would shoot all sports event and show that come to campus. But what it really comes down to is this is real world experience in a place where it is ok to sometime make a few mistakes. This is the place to learn as much as you can to prepare you for making it as a photographer. One other thing you gain from schools is access to the alumni association. These are people that may need photography or may higher you right out of school.
If you are past the point where school is an option because you have a family, full time job or other restrictions you can still make it. There are so many resources out there for you to soak up. You have to put yourself out there, you have to make the time even if it is one day a week to focus on bettering yourself as a photographer. You have to take the skills you have learned in your career and start to shape them into how they can help you in the photography world. You will find your way, it may be hard but you have to stick with it and make it happen because very rarely will it just happen.
Here is an option that I wish I took and did not overlook when I was starting out. Working and assisting for professionals is an amazing way to learn the topes. The sports illustrated photographer I was talking about above offered to take me to a professional sports teams training camp to assits him. I passed it up because I was scared of something at that time. That is not something I would pass up today but you live and learn. If you can find someone to let you tag along, chew their brain, take them for coffee than go for it. Many established photographers today worked for pros and in turn learned a ton, made contacts and became successful themselves.
I know this has been long winded and a little vague at times but I think the video above will give you some ideas and motivation to show you that you can make it as a photographer today. There are a few things I want to mention to you in closing, you do not need to spend your life savings on the best gear thinking it will make you a success. You need to be smart, get what you can and use that to its fullest extent. Most people will not care what gear you have as long as you get the shot and they are happy.
Just remember this, work hard, keep learning and put yourself into situations and surroundings to be successful. People will not just show up out of the blue because you have a web site with your photos on it. You have to get out there and make things happen. My dad once said to me there are three types of people, those that make things happen, let things happen and wonder what the hell happens, which one are you?