Man walking in the cobblestone streets of San Javier carrying some agricultural devise
Should I become a professional photographer is a question that many ask them self now. Both young and old have this dream and wonder if they should do some thing about it. The short answer is NO. The long answer is: Don't be utterly stupid, do some thing else. But there is also a little bit longer answer to this question.
You are still reading! Then you have a chance. But a vague slim chance of success.
How do you become the worlds best athlete. The answer to that question is rather simple in fact and is answered in the book "Talent is overrated" by Geoff Colvin. With will power, determination and practice you have a good chance of becoming one of the best athletes of the world. It does cost a lot of sacrifice and is tremendously hard work, but if you are willing enough you can do it. Unfortunately this is not enough for photography.
How about going for a doctors degree. In my opinion you will become so confused about photography, the medium and its status in the world that after a lengthy philosophical study of photography you would probably take up bookkeeping as a hobby because it sounded more simple.
In resent years there has been an unbelievable increase in the amount of private schools pumping out photographers of all kinds. These schools do not care about how good you are or how good of a chance there is for you to get a job after graduation. As long as you pay your fee they are happy. This on the other hand has meant that the competition is fierce.
Then you have the youtube generation that knows every thing they have learnt about photography from watching youtube videos and reading online articles. On top of that you have the designers that have decided that there is nothing to doing photography now that the digital camera is in their hands and to top it you got those that think pressing the button and hear the click sound is enough to make you a photographer, so they add that title to their resume.
School is lovely. I loved my tim in school being able to do nothing but think about photography, but today I would not at all go to school. Not to learn photography. I would go for a mix of things. Mostly sales, marketing and accounting. Being a been counter is probably one of the better experience to have before getting into the photography business.
The most successful photographers I have seen are not necessarily the best photographers. Most of them are in fact just mediocre. But they run a successful business just like a friend of mine in the portrait business that has said to me many times: "Look Kristjan I don't see my self as a photographer. Im a business man and running my business with profit is what I care about. Photography comes third after my family."
If you have read the latest NYtimes lens blog about Ansel adams you should get a bit better understanding about how tough it is to be in the market today, Even though it never has been easy it is even worse now than in his times. Recessions and technology have made so that there is more to learnt than ever before, at the same time it is easier to get your hands on information and the learning curve is steep but fast also. The learning is the easy bit. Practice is the hard bit and business is the hardest. The business of photography is stone cold and hard now a days and it seems to evolve more around doing all kinds of other things than taking pictures and being a photographer. That is in fact nothing new.
If you think you can solve the business part through social media. Forget it. You cant. It mostly bogus. All those blogs and books about successful marketing through social media is just full of it, well maybe not totally but a lot of it. You just have to find the right one. What you need, and that you can gain from attending school, is social network no doubt, but not solemnly based online but in the physical world. The bigger your social network in the real world is the better chance you have on succeeding. People skill can be the hardest skills of all but those are the one you have to practice on and work on. People skills and networking skills are the two skills that will se to it that you can get to the top. If and only if you can deliver every thing else with in photography and service like constant quality, creative thinking and fresh angle. But dont throw away social media. It is helpful and needed as one of the tools but far from being the best and the only tool.
If you are going to make it and become the next big star in photography. You will have to take bits and pices of all the things said so far in this blog and put it into one backpack to take on the road to success. You should also read my blogpost what do you want from your Photography. You will have to realize that sacrifice is the key and family is the first thing you should stop thinking about. You will have to.
The next thing to find out is what you want. Then you have to find out what is stopping you. Is there a voice discoursing you from reaching your goal. The negative voice. You will have to eliminate that voice and that can become very painful because that could come from someone very close to you that thinks he knows the best for you and wants all the best for you. But in photography better safe than sorry is not an option. You either jump of the cliff hand hope to land on a soft spot or you don't jump at all. Its all or nothing. IF you want the top. If not you can float there in between.
The only thing you have to do along the road is to shut down the voice with in "you cant" and the same voice from the outside. You can do what ever you like. You just have to be ready for it. Talent is overrated. Practice and hard work not. If you are not ready for full sacrifice don't bother. Go do some thing else.
If you are ready to go for it and give it any thing and every thing , jump. You will find both parachute and soft landing spot along the way if you work hard enough, you might even survive if you crash land, just remember if you go for the top you are in business. It can be business of art, but business is your key word not art nor photography.
Now go and ride into the sunset.