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Thinking of a career change to photography

(34 Posts)
JammySplodger Thu 17-Jan-13 21:16:03

... and would like a bit of advice please. It's something I enjoy as an amateur but I know I still have alot to learn about taking shots in different conditions, equipment etc.

I enjoy taking photos of our two boys (6 and 2) and friends especially out and about - we have fab parks, woods and city centre plus we're on the edge of the Peak District, so I thought maybe family portraits at peoples own homes and on location. I also quite enjoy food photography, and close up photography including flora.

I have my little point & shoot that usually lives in my coat pocket plus a bridge camera with a good zoom. I have an old film SLR too so understand a bit about lenses etc, but feel I need to have a better idea of it all if I'm going to invest in training and equipment.

There are courses around the city, from beginners How to Use Your Camera type to degrees at the university. There are also plenty of other photographers, including studios and photos in your own home ones, and weddings etc.

I'm not really sure where to start with this so would appreciate any advice.

Oh, my background is as an environmental scientist, including working on construction sites, pollution assessments, and also doing community environmental projects. Am currently a SAHM. Thanks.

EthelredOnAGoodDay Sat 06-Jul-13 20:15:30

My brother is a photographer and has been now for about 5years. He started off as a keen amateur and read upon the Internet and in photography magazines about how to improve his technique and take different styles of pics etc. He didn't ever have any formal training, but went to a local photography club in the evenings. his main passion is landscape/seascape and wildlife photography. However, his bread and butter work is weddings. He does however also do quite a bit of portraiture similar to what you've described (families in their favourite places etc) and has made good money through commissions for Graham and brown and the Art group (i think) for pictures put onto canvas for high street chains. I think if you can keep up to date and be good at what you do, there is space in the market, but it is hard work! He also did bits of work for friends and family early on and got promotion through that, as well as really using the Internet, Facebook, twitter etc to promote his business. Good luck, it can be done!

edam Sat 06-Jul-13 22:05:08

I think wedding photography is hard - it's a real skill. Marshalling crowds, dealing with very highly strung people - wedding photographers really do earn their money.

Wuldric Sat 06-Jul-13 22:06:58

When you say career, were you thinking of something that would pay the bills?

Amibambini Sun 07-Jul-13 01:26:58

I'm a photographer. I went to university and have spent many years assisting some incredibly talented advertising and editorial photographers. I've worked hard, and now make a living taking pictures.

If I met myself 15 years ago I would tell myself to study something else and keep photography as a hobby. I can't see myself being a photographer in 10 years time. Most photographers I know won't be photographers in 10 years time.

Everyone has a camera, most people think they they can take a good picture and they understand what a good photograph is. Every year the pool of 'professional' photographers grows and grows. Every year the pool of paid, decent work shrinks. Jobs I did for agencies three years ago, I'm being asked to do today for less money, oh and can you include some video too please? Budgets are shrinking. There are a thousand hungry photography graduates desperate for their first break, willing to work for free. And those graduates are fucking talented.

The handful of people who succeed in the industry today are those that live, sleep, eat and breath and piss photography. They work 18 hours days, 7 days a week, network network network, self fund interesting projects, network some more, continuously test shoot, enter contests and push push push themselves to be half an inch better than the rest of those equally insanely dedicated obsessives.

So there's that. The obsession.

Then there is the actual skill. Everyone can take a good picture. But how many pictures did you have to take to get that one good picture? The photographer that gets hired and hired again is the one that can turn up to an ugly location, with an incoherent brief, a uncooperative subject and a window of less than 3 minutes, and they will get the picture and that picture will look great. And do it consistently again and again. That's really quite hard to do and takes most people a LOT of practice. Being consistently, reliably good takes hard, long, shittily paid work. Years of it.

I could go on and on but I'm starting to sound like the old grizzled guys who bitch about the good old days and how bad everything is now and I always sigh and roll my eyes at them..

Seriously, have fun with your camera, do some short courses, maybe you'll score a few gigs. But unless you are 5000% dedicated and have an overabundance of innate god given talent, don't bank on turning it into a long term career that will pay for your kids education, allow you to get a mortgage or retire in any comfort.

And if for some insane, masochistic reason you do decide to break into photography, don't work up a portfolio that is a bit of food photography, some kids in the woods and some interiors. You need to pick a niche and kick total ass at it. People who buy photography will look at a mish mash portfolio, laugh and throw it onto the amateur pile. It could work if you are out in the sticks and the only photographer for miles, but chances are you're not.

So, in a nutshell, this is what I have learnt from being a photographer. Basically... Don't.

Punkatheart Sun 07-Jul-13 09:16:16

I do agree with the previous poster - photography is very very hard. My ex other half worked on a lot of food adverts - varying from the Honey Monster to stuff with the late Terence Donovan. It is a real art and there is magic and artifice to food photography too. Chocolate is not chocolate - but a gloopy silicony mixture that shines better under lights.

But there is nothing to stop you doing a course, or taking some photos and entering some comps.

Kez100 Mon 08-Jul-13 17:16:01

One thing I have noticed is that a reasonably talented 17 year old can take a pretty normal picture in RAW and within 5 minutes on the computer has something very good. They are experts at post-production too.

One of my daughter's assignments was, I thought, fantastic - to the extent she put her print into a glossy magazine and I didn't know which page was hers (and I am a harsh critic). Not good enough, she said, and she was right. About five of the rest of the group had even better work than that. Stunning work and they have, probably still another 4 years of education to go.

There is a lot of not very good photographers out there because everyone has a camera nowadays and I am sure you are much better than them but there is also a huge talent pool that you don't necessarily notice or know about - but they will be there, I am sure, when it comes to fighting for work.

PurpleWolfe Sun 20-Oct-13 09:49:21

Amibambini Thank you for that incredibly honest, candid and full viewpoint. I came on here with similar thoughts to Jammy and you have made my mind up to keep my hobby as just that, a hobby - to document my children's lives, give lovely gifts of good photos to friends as present and generally just continue to enjoy photography.

I have two friends that are professional photographers. One has done lots of commission work and, in the past, has made a reasonable living from it - had his own studio etc. The work has declined. He has now decided to give up 'paid' work and just concentrate on what he want to photograph. He's selling his house, his car to fund it and going travelling at the age of 54. My other friend is a world renouned photographer who made his money back in the punk rock days. He's photographed lots of famous people and has had many books published - one very recently. He, however, made the grade back in the '70's and people just clamour for whatever he comes up with now.

I've done/been paid for a couple of weddings (hated doing them!), a 50th wedding celebration and numerous candid portraits for friends/friends of friends but due (to what my photographer friend calls) the 'spray and pray' nature of digital photography, lots of people are able to come up with photos they are very happy with.

Sorry to say Jammy but everyone has an uncle/Dad/brother/sister/aunt/Mum etc with a digital camera these days and people are happy with the results they give.

One more note: I took the Extended Diploma in Photography (as recomended above). If you are thinking of going down this route - please, please check the course content thoroughly. I spent a lot of time doing 'arty farty' stuff and also spent a lot of time asking when we were going to do practical (basic) stuff like, camera functions, white balance, RAW, studio lighting, DoF ect. It never came. sad

Best of luck if you do decide to go for it though. x

Punkatheart Mon 21-Oct-13 00:07:38

Find your niche and work hard. You have to be very very good.

I met one of these guys today - they specialise in wildlife and they are seriously talented:

Punkatheart Mon 21-Oct-13 00:07:59

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