Posts Tagged ‘areas of work’

Making Money

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

I’ve just had a quick read of a post on the LightRocket Photography Blog entitled ‘9 Most Profitable Photography Genres‘, which aims to give guidelines based on broad international standards about “the value of your work, what sectors you want to work in and how much you should charge.”

Value of course is a rather wider concept than simply what someone will pay you for photography, and certainly some of the most valuable photography so far as I’m concerned both by myself and by others has been produced without any real commercial intent or support. Relatively few of the great photographers whose work I admire and which fills the histories of photography were actually making much of a living from those pictures at the time they made them. Some had other sources of income outside of photography, others produced routine and largely uninspired photography to fund their personal projects.

Many photographers whose work now commands high prices in the art market sold pictures for peanuts during their lifetimes or even gave them away. Few became rich from their photography and largely it was driven by motives other than financial. Even now for many – as one photographer jokes to me occasionally – the best career move would be to die.

But of course we do need money to pay our bills, to eat, to keep a roof over our heads, and to buy cameras and computers etc. So getting paid for our work is important, and some may find this guide useful, though it has few surprises, though by UK standards I think some of the prices mentioned are extremely optimistic.

The artilce is entitled ‘9 Most Profitable Photography Genres’ and it’s perhaps not surprising that it begins at number 10 with the area I sell work in, Editorial News. As they say, it “is one of the most popular areas of work for photographers but it is, sadly, one of the least profitable“, thanks to intense competition, particularly from the large agencies. They have driven fees down and negotiate licencing deals with major image users that make it very difficult for freelancers to sell work at prices that make any real profits.

In the UK the market for editorial pictures has shrunk considerably, with many newspapers and magazines largely relying on images, often of poor quality supplied free by readers and with press releases.

It remains possible and almost certainly easier to make a living at the other 9 types of work mentioned, though in many sectors things are getting tougher, with jobs once done by a photographer now being handled by anyone who can hold a smartphone and produce a picture – if not a very good one.

Smartphones have also made it very much easier to produce videos, and in the right hands (or on the right monopod or tripod) the results can be surprisingly good. Certainly the much wider use of smartphones for making pictures and videos has led to the skills of photographers becoming much less valued – and for most people expecting to pay less for them.

It comes as no surprise to find Wedding Photography still fairly high on the list at No 4. It has long been a useful way to make some money, and when I taught I used to suggest it particularly to some of the more reliable students as a way of earning at least a part of a living. While most wedding work is routine and uninspired and not particularly well-paid, it is an area where it is still possible to develop individual approaches and find clients willing to pay high prices for something a little different.

And equally predictable at the top of the list is Fashion Photography, though as the article says it is an area which isn’t easy to get into “small, highly selective and sensitive to trends” and where success depends very much on networking skills.

I am however rather unsympathetic to the underlying idea behind this post, that that people will chose an area of work on the basis of the financial rewards that are possible. Chose to try and work in fashion if you have a passion for it and are not worried by the ethical considerations (the fashion industry is one of the major drivers of climate change, second only to fossil fuels) not because it may make you rich; chose to be a wedding photographer if you love working with people (and if you want to make a lot of money, with wealthy people) and so on. We each only have one life and it would be a shame to waste it in the pursuit of riches.