My switch from corporate world to full time photographer is just over 2 years old, and it has been quite a learning path. Some things I was prepared for while other things well, let’s just say I had to work on them as they were a little less obvious.
To keep my life path short, I worked for 15 years in the corporate world as a systems analyst. I had photography as a passion for many years and one day, with multiple factors coming into play, I decided that you have one life to live and quit my job and went into photography.
I figured I’d start a multiple part series (how many parts is left to be seen) hoping that my experience might be beneficial to some who are planning on making a drastic career switch (whether photography related or not) and potentially help some hobbyist photographers make the right decision for themselves.
*note, there is more than one way to go about most anything in life. This is my way and they are my experiences. They are far from perfect, but they are my own. And I truly believe it is from stumbling and failing that we learn and grow… and man have I stumbled and I still have way more growing to do 😉
There are a few topics I already have in mind: treating it as a business, diversify, finding work life balance, persistence, planning…. but I’m going to start with what I believe is the most important… passion
1- It needs to be a passion
A 2013 Career Cast list came out ranking 200 jobs from work environment, stress level and hiring outlook. My old job is ranked #10 (I know, smart move, right?), along with Actuary, Software Engineer and Occupational Therapist. So where does Photographer rank? #172, sandwiched between a Construction Worker and a Seamstress/Tailor. A Photojournalist is down at #188, between a Dishwasher and a Corrections Officer.
Now the list is based on statistics. If you want to be a Construction Worker and you are good at your job, you will be fulfilled, happy and get decent wages. Same goes for any job on the list. But I still find it important to mention that you don’t become a photographer for the low stress environment and the ultra high hiring potential. You do it out of passion. You will end up living and breathing photography. It’s great to have it as a hobby, but are you truly ready for it to be your main focus 12 hours a day, 7 days a week?
As with all jobs, there are the top tier income earners that we hear about, those who set trends and who are followed by tens of thousands. There is a middle layer of people who make a decent living with good work, and in the case of photography, a huge chunk of people at the start of their career trying to make it. Cameras are getting cheaper and more accessible. Software is capable of doing so much to images. Does technology replace a creative and unique vision? Never. Are you ready to fight tooth and nail for this and keep convincing people to hire you?
You shouldn’t become a photographer because your friends think it’s cool. You shouldn’t become a full time photographer because it’s something that gets you out of the house. You shouldn’t become a photographer because you love owning gadgets. You have to have a passion for the industry, for outputting top end products, for forging relationships, for creating art.
In the music photography business, it’s even harder. The field is dying (if not already dead). The availability of tech, the amount of people who give away work, online sharing and image life lasting just a few minutes. Most bands have their own photographers. Most record labels already deal with a small handful of photographers with hundreds already lined up to replace them. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be one of those knocking on the doors. If you have a real passion, then go for it. Just be ready for the hard road.
Next topic… Learn to run a business. Stayed tuned!
Have a suggestion or want to hear about something specific? Drop me a line!!