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Old 07-12-2005, 12:44   #1 (permalink)
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Becoming pro

I'd like to ask the professional photographers among you how you got into it.

I'm basically at a point in my life where I feel like I'm at a crossroads. My job/CV is all to do with New Media type stuff and a little bit of journalism (which I have a degree in) thrown in. But I'm not really enjoying it anymore and I'm wondering if I should attempt to find a career in photography, which I enjoy immensely.

I'm not sure what type of photography I'd be able to do to a professional level. Press photography appeals to me most, I think, with the only real downside being the freelance, contact-based nature of the work (but I realise that applies to most pro photography). The stuff I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be suited to is probably weddings and products, though I realise the money's good for both. I actually think weddings is something I could do if I had the confidence, but I'd need to follow someone around a good three or four times before I felt like I knew the score. And where am I going to find someone who'd show me around without thinking I was gonna steal his business in future? Probably nowhere.

A few of the pics I took when I went to visit my friend who works on the Henley Standard got published last week but apart from that I can't really say I've had anything used properly.

I know any career change usually means a drop in pay but I could sustain that for a while at the moment. Maybe a year or two if I knew that I'd definitely get back up to the money I'm on at the moment. But I guess you never know.

One of the main things putting me off is that my friend Jeff, who I regard as a very talented photographer and who was/is one of my main inspirations, is having a pretty hard time getting jobs since he left the website he was working for full-time.

So, to get back to my original question, can any of you pros give me advice/tips/life stories on how you got into it etc?

Thank you.
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Old 07-12-2005, 13:44   #2 (permalink)
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There's an old post from me somewhere about how I got into wedding photography on a casual basis and then got chucked in the deep end.

Jamey, everybody and his brother seems to want to be a pro these days, especially with the explosion in interest which digital has caused, and there are plenty of people out there ready to exploit people trying to get going. I'm not trying to dissuade you in the least, but be aware it's a tough game out there, so don't go burning any bridges you don't have to if you want to eat on a regular basis. Photographers are like guitar players - there's always another half dozen round the corner.

I'm sure you'll get plenty of good advice here, but IMHO the really lucky ones are the true amateurs and hobbyists who do it for the sheer love of it.
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Old 07-12-2005, 15:16   #3 (permalink)
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That's a good point CT, isn't half the fun the fact that we are doing this on our terms?
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Old 07-12-2005, 15:40   #4 (permalink)
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Well I started off as a kid wandering around snapping frost, dew on spiders webs and stuff, then early on got drawn to the dark side at the expense of all that. There's no denying the money was useful with a couple of rug rats crawling around, but having had a foot in both camps, I know which is more enjoyable.
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Old 07-12-2005, 15:46   #5 (permalink)
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It's the same with anything, CT. I've been a pro guitar player. I'd do it again tomorrow if I could and the money was there, but you do have to be very careful in case it becomes like another job.
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Old 07-12-2005, 15:56   #6 (permalink)
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Pity you're not closer - you could give me some lessons!
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Old 07-12-2005, 16:17   #7 (permalink)
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Likewise with you and your camera, mate
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Old 07-12-2005, 16:31   #8 (permalink)
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Yeah I know about the downward enjoyment curve that goes hand-in-hand with turning a hobby into a profession and that's one of the reasons why I've never put as much effort into DJing (like guitar players these days, four more round every corner) as I might have done.

But nevertheless I still have a deep desire to try to get some paid photography work. At first I'd want to do it on the side, fitting it around my day job, and see how it goes. The problem is that I don't know how to go about getting that elusive first job. Or where I should be looking.
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Old 07-12-2005, 19:00   #9 (permalink)
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Can you have a career break at all? Or maybe take some extended (and some unpaid) leave? That might give you the space in which to decide if you could break into the market, so to speak.
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Old 07-12-2005, 21:58   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fingerz
But nevertheless I still have a deep desire to try to get some paid photography work. At first I'd want to do it on the side, fitting it around my day job, and see how it goes. The problem is that I don't know how to go about getting that elusive first job. Or where I should be looking.
I'm no pro but I do make a few bob out of taking pics.

It's mainly through my wife's interest in horses, she's on the Scottish team and they have events all over the place. It turned out they were crying out for shots and it just sort of developed from there. The most lucrative bit is horse portraits where I'll go to them and take the shots at their location. I've only done three so far but have got some really positive feedback.

Any sort of hobby thing like that could be a nice little niche to get started.

I just got another opportunity the other day as well, how it turns out I've no idea.

I needed a string for that guitar shot I took. I went in to the shop and specified "a string, any string" The guy asked what it was for, I explained and eventually he said he does get guys asking where they can get pictures taken. He said to put in a card and he'll put it into the noticeboard. Probably amount to nothing but you never know.
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Old 07-12-2005, 22:08   #11 (permalink)
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Didn't you also do a calender too dod? How did that turn out?
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Old 07-12-2005, 22:24   #12 (permalink)
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Didn't you also do a calender too dod? How did that turn out?
Forgot about that It was okay, I just gave them the shots and they printed it up. I did that in return for an advert in it for the portrait stuff. The club isn't rich and I just feel that because the wife's so involved it's a thin line between taking advantage and helping out.

In any case they only put out about 50 or 60 at 3 each. If I'd charged they'd have made nothing.

Also had a couple of shots in Scottish Equestrian magazine now I think about it
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Old 07-12-2005, 22:52   #13 (permalink)
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Cheers - just interested if the calender was actually produced - I guessed payment wasn't a consideration in this situation. Nice to have your work printed and produced.
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Old 08-12-2005, 18:18   #14 (permalink)
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Im very fortunate, I started as an assisstant and within 2 weeks had my first photographs published in Practical Photography, from there on I went to Portugal for 2 weeks shooting a page 3 style calendar and since then I havnt really looked back, ive had my work published in every single newspaper in this country and many worlwide. I am probably one of the luckiest guys around as I love photography and still get a buzz out of ambulance chasing, Had one of mine published today in the local rag.
With the photo journo side i would find as many local events and news stories as you can and photograph them, then send them in to your local paper. Occasionally the story will go national and if your the only one there you can make anywhere from 3 months income upwards. My only advice would be to keep banging away at it and good luck.
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Old 08-12-2005, 21:48   #15 (permalink)
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It's finding out about the local newsworthy stuff in advance that's tricky. I guess papers aren't likely to want to share their news diary with me.
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Old 09-12-2005, 10:27   #16 (permalink)
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Local papers will publish a list of whats on and where if you look, also tune in to your local radio station when driving around, traffic updates will tell you which roads have been closed due to accidents etc
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Old 09-12-2005, 10:50   #17 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary Bagshawe
Local papers will publish a list of whats on and where if you look, also tune in to your local radio station when driving around, traffic updates will tell you which roads have been closed due to accidents etc
Was it you who got the Prince Naseem car crash pics Gary? Someone on here did.
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Old 09-12-2005, 13:24   #18 (permalink)
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Fingerz, do some pics of local events, make sure they are creative enough to stand out, but remember that people pictures are usually waht local papers want. You will largely need to do posed pcitures. Don't ever offer any local papers anything for nothing. Tell them you are a professional, ask them what their going rate is, but you'll probably find it somewhere between 25 and zero!

However, if you can get a lot of work from them, you can resell them nationally or to mags for much more, the trick is finding a national or magazine angle.

Don't send 20 pics of the same event, send the best one or two, if they appear, invoice them straight away. If they don't, forget about it and send something new.

Mags and nationals will pay much better rates, but you have to have the right subject matter. Have a good scour through and see the kind of things they are printing. tis will give you a good idea.
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Old 09-12-2005, 13:41   #19 (permalink)
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Thanks neos.

Have you got any further tips (following on from Gary's) about how to find out what newsworthy stuff is happening in the area?

Edit - also, won't the local papers already have photographers (or at least journos with cameras) at all the relevant stuff they plan to cover? Or do you mean I should find newsworthy stuff that the papers don't know about. I'd imagine that'd be much harder.

Last edited by fingerz; 09-12-2005 at 13:49.
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Old 09-12-2005, 14:25   #20 (permalink)
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Edit - also, won't the local papers already have photographers (or at least journos with cameras) at all the relevant stuff they plan to cover?
Yes but many of them will be underpaid, poorly motivated and lacking any enthusiasm, willingness or ability to go that extra bit to get a great shot.

Your images would certainly be of a far higher quality.

I should add that I have almost no knowledge of journo work as I'm far too mercinary to pick up a camera unless I know someone is paying the bill.

I have covered quite a few events one way or another over the years though and seen local press snappers who always fail to impress me. Although our local paper must have hired someone new recently as the image quality has risen sharply.
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Old 09-12-2005, 14:26   #21 (permalink)
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Dod, yes it was me who got the naseem pics,
Fingerz, local papers only have so many photographers and sometimes they are very busy and can't be everywhere, if you keep your name in front of them they may well commision you to do stuff for them eventually.
It is hard though, bloody hard and if you are not that certain type of animal who is willing to shove a camera in the face of a dying person (ok extreme example but still true) then maybe stick to more commercial stuff.
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Old 09-12-2005, 15:11   #22 (permalink)
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I'm sorry to say that I probably am that type of animal, which is why I think press work would suit me. Thanks for all the advice. I presume when it comes to national papers it's just a case of having done a stint with locals first and getting contacts etc, is it?

Also, when you say 'commercial stuff,' what do you mean? The way you dropped it in at the end there makes it look like it's a nice easy fallback with plenty of work available. If that's the case, great. I'll take some. Just wondering what you meant.
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Old 09-12-2005, 15:25   #23 (permalink)
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I'm sorry to say that I probably am that type of animal
I think it's actually hard to know untill the situation presents itself. I was taking some shots recently at the Spa rae track when I saw a biker come round a corner and lose control. As he came off the bike I instantly got the camera on him and followed him through to the armco, which he hit really very hard.

I still don't know if I am proud or ashamed that my instinctive reaction was to get the camera to my eye and capture what could have easily been the last seconds of his life.

As it turned out he was Ok and I was probably still shaking long after he was dusted off and joking about the fall with the marshalls. I suspect I could shot like on an ongoing basis but I doubt I'd ever really enjoy it.

As for the commercial stuff, I suspect Gary was talking about the stuff I normally do. Pictures for advertising and promotion that are nice, safe and cosy by comparison. Is there loads of it out there to be had.... 'fraid not but you'd be very welcome to pop out to the sticks sometime and see what a day in the studio is like for yourself.
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Old 09-12-2005, 15:32   #24 (permalink)
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Pick up a copy of the "freelance photographers market handbook" it lists all the numbers of newspaper picture desks and names etc along with other magazines etc. the book lists exactly what is wanted and in what format. It will also tell you what to expect in terms of payment.
As for commercial stuff, weddings, family portraits, model portfolios, Page Ranking photographs and product shots, Local football/rugby teams etc. Bread and Butter work that keeps the cash flow going (hopefully) Some months are very quiet and during these times I go out taking landscape shots of the surrounding countryside then frame them and sell them in local galleries, libraries and coffee shops.
Hope this helps. G
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Old 09-12-2005, 15:46   #25 (permalink)
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Fantastic stuff. Thanks Gary. You've been really helpful. I'll pick up a copy of that book. Looks like just the ticket.
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