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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.

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

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:

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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 19:10:20

I think it is hard to make a living as a photographer now. I'm a magazine editor so I know a few snappers - we use a rota of half a dozen who are all really good but I hear times are very tough.

BikeRunSki Sat 06-Jul-13 19:04:23

"Good" not "hoof".

BikeRunSki Sat 06-Jul-13 19:02:49

OP,you sound very similar to me. I did a City and Guilds in Photography a few years ago, before DC. We also live near the Peaks.

I seriously considered going into business as A photographer rather than going back to work after DC2, but didn't as two local businesses packed in around the same time. I knew one girl a bit, and had a chat about why; she said that she just wasn't getting the work. Her work hoof, her prices not bad, and whilst lots of people like it, professional photos tend not to be people's top priority when money is a bit tight.

Kez100 Sat 06-Jul-13 18:38:39

Would you be able to access (as a mature student) a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Photography? They are often difficult to get into (the good ones) but use interview and portfolio as much as qualifications to allocate offers. My daughter was only 16 when she joined but hadn't chosen Art at GCSE.

This course is the equivalent of 3 A levels and is full time (usually about 15 - 20 hrs a week actually in college but quite a bit of self study outside of that)

My daughter is currently studying this course and it's immersing her in photography for two years. Many of her fellow students are mature students. Her college has a lot of equipment she can loan and receives tuition on and she has learned so much about the industry already.

At least doing this, you can start to see if you can really stand out from the crowd.

After this, she is very likely to need to do a degree as well.

I have to warn you - there are some amazing 17 year old photographers out there - it's really quite scary how good many of them are.

Tallyra Mon 20-May-13 19:58:53

it's called little angels and head office is in Cheltenham. I believe they've expanded in the sales and marketing areas since I left.

manda21 Mon 20-May-13 12:04:58

Hi Tallyra,

Can i ask which franchise you bought into because i'm looking into doing the same. I am really up in the air about going down that route because of the amount of money it cost to buy into the franchise but worried no one will take one look at me because i have no background.

Thanks Manda

Tallyra Thu 16-May-13 23:02:12

I tried this once, ish. I signed up to be part of a franchise for nursery school photography. I loved it. I bought the equipment and made a very good go at it. 2 years in, I was starting to have problems - I'd canvassed my entire area so many times that there was no-one left to talk to apart from the ones that kept turning me away. It became very downheartening and I just couldn't make a good wage. I became ill at that point (pregnancy/miscarriage related) and decided that it was best if I gave up.

You really need to be focussed. I thought I was, but I couldn't stand the door-to-door sales type of marketing, and although I loved the photography and was good at that part, the sales killed it for me.

Good luck if it's something you like doing, but be aware it will change your love for it to a different kind of emotion. I'm hoping to change my direction again now and sew bags for craft fairs but I'm completely prepared to get sick of sewing and not make any money. Anything's worth a try though!

YoniShapedLoveBox Wed 24-Apr-13 13:10:42

I came here to open a similar thread and found this one. although I'm more inexperienced than the OP, I think I have a good eye and I like spontaneous, daily life kind of photography. TLBTOG, I would love to send some of my photos to you, if you didn't mind giving me your opinion of course.
OP, if I were you, I would do a course anyway, you can start with small projects for your friends and see if it's definitely what you want....also it will be one more thing that you can share/teach your children....

Bunbaker Tue 23-Apr-13 20:52:04

An acquaintance of mine is a photographer and has had hardly any work in the last 12 months.

BushCricket Tue 23-Apr-13 20:45:17

I wouldn't recommend it. The market is very crowded, at least for weddings and portraits.

TLBTOG Wed 10-Apr-13 13:29:56

Hi JammySplodger I started out 10 years ago as someone who could take good pictures and wanted to to set up a business (I was one of about 4 photographers who started the trend for bump photography before it became massively popular) I run a successful business - without a degree! My business has had to change over the years and yes, it can be a tough industry. I now train 'convert-to-pro workshops and have trained a lot of women, who began just like you, to run a photography business. As long as you are outside of a 25 mile radius of Petersfield in Hampshire you can come along to the workshops. I don't hold anything back, you learn everything I have learnt that has worked over the last 10 years. If you would like to me to offer some constructive, impartial advice on some of your pics - please PM me and I will happily chat to you about your potential and to offer help - no strings!

SWRhiRhi Tue 12-Feb-13 12:40:27

Hello Ladies,

I'm not sure if these are in your area, but there's a cool site I cam across recently that offers course of all sorts of things, and they've got a comp to win a photo weekend at Champneys on their site at the moment!

Worth a look, but like I say, may not be in your local area:

Hope you find something (or win it!) smile


bacon Tue 05-Feb-13 14:29:31

I have yet to meet a photographer who is making a good living these days and that includes experienced ex-glossy papers. There is a hell of a lot of people doing photography out there and many mediocre.

The guy who does our construction shots also does stock yet he's far from inundated and he's comfortable yet he did work for a major newspaper magazine. I dont think there is a niche there is commercial and portriat. And commercial covers all those you have listed and many good professional photographers in our area do both.

Many of us take nice and very good photos but unsure whether we have what it takes to do it professionally. All the professional photographers I know have a degree in Art. I would try it as a hobby, try selling some stock and go from there but I still would do a course.

buildingmycorestrength Thu 31-Jan-13 21:24:03

One friend of mine makes a good living out of stock photography.

He took a course, invested in equipment, decided not to go for client sessions, and has uploaded thousands of photos to istock or a similar stock photo site. He is incredibly focused and determined, and maintains huge momentum year round. He rents a cheap studio and sets up photos he thinks will sell.

After about six years, he now makes enough from the stock that he can spend about half the working week on his own creative projects and his wife doesn't have to work.

lingle Thu 31-Jan-13 21:06:20

I think you'd be best off making money by doing more technical photos (for commercial surveyors, planners, people in construction, that kind of thing). that's if you want to make a proper living.

JammySplodger Fri 18-Jan-13 13:16:23

That's what I'm thinking at the moment, do I just stick with it as a hobby, or do I find an area that I could make a business out of (and so justify the expense of courses, equipment etc)?

I have a friend who has a cookware business, I could have a chat with her and see if I could do some freebies for her website and see how that goes (those Howard Shooter photos are great by the way). And another friend setting up an interior decorating buisiness so could test the water with her too.

What do you think about the idea of outdoor portraits? There are alot of portrait studios locally plus some that take their equipment to clients' homes but not many locally that I can find that do the great outdoors side of things. Plenty of great landscape photographers, but generally without any people in the photos.

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