Everyone takes an entirely different path to where they are. There is no right way, and there is no magic recipe for success in this industry. Finding established folks to help give you direction is key, but it is also important to remember that while mentorship is critical, you ultimately can’t rely on anyone except yourself to become a photographer. You have to pick up the camera and start shooting on your own!
When you do then create something you feel satisfied with, try to get it in front of someone working within the industry—an editor, a producer, or another photographer—and get a critique. Developing and progressing as an artist of any kind is dependent on this process—create, review, and improve. It took me a long time to accept that, and a long time to accept that this process is also never over. This is the process of developing your vision. Your vision is your point of view and it’s what will be getting you hired over someone else.
My process began in a high school photography class. From there I continued to shoot on my own through college, where I eventually got a job the college newspaper. I worked a few internships after that before going full time freelance. It doesn’t really occur to you while you’re doing it but those early years are so critical. You are learning so much and really laying the groundwork for your future career.
Every day is entirely different! If you are the type of person that thrives in a changing environment and likes to work largely independently, and have a bit of a creative side to you, then you could probably do well in the photography industry.
I love what this jobs enables me to do. I make my schedule; I get to travel. It affords so much flexibility. And I love that my camera allows me a ticket into other's lives. I have always been a curious, if not nosey, person, and this enables me to explore places, things, etc. I would never have otherwise come to see.
Travel, time off, exciting
I’ve been doing this almost ten years now, and every year I have to come to terms with the fact that it could be my last. The industry is ever-changing and sadly shrinking in some areas. You have to be open to the possibility that it might not work for you forever. But if you’re creative, hard-working, and can embrace that, you’ll most likely be fine!
Unlimited, really. I know many people who make well over 500,000 a year. The vast majority are somewhere in the 60,000-150,000 a year range. It all depends. Advertising jobs commissioned through an agency can pay quite a lot. Small editorial jobs can be as low as $100. You have to decide what your work is worth. It’s good to remember that when a businesses use your images, they are profiting in large numbers of off them.
People skills! You have to be genuinely interested in others and able to interact with all kinds of personalities day in and day out. Artistic sensibilities can be learned, but photography is at its core about people.
The commercial photography industry is continuously evolving. I think if you can keep up with the ways it is always reforming and keep yourself in the mix you will be just fine.
I would say, get going early! There is a lot of young talent out there, and it helps to be out in front. I wish I would have discovered this as my passion a little earlier. Beyond that just be patient. Someone told me once the last person standing is the one that gets the work. You have to be willing to sacrifice early on to help build the foundation of a successful career later.