Monday, February 15, 2016

Warning Signs for Becoming a Professional Photographer

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1600, ƒ/18, 1/500
While taking my drive around the Big Island of Hawaii last week, I turn onto the 4 mile scenic route
of Old Mamalahoa Highway just outside of Hilo, Hawaii. About halfway on the road we came across this beautiful view of a bay area.

This was next to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. What a wonderful exotic part of the Big Island. Through the years the views have been changing. More and more fences are going up alongside these views with signs of warning.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 12800, ƒ/18, 1/500
You see the entire Island is a volcano. The rocks are quite porous and can easily break off. One of the years when I visited a large section of the Volcanoes National Park broke off and fell into the sea. It was about the size of a football field. Some people died when that happened.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 800, ƒ/4, 1/500
Scenes like this of Rainbow Falls in Hilo, Hawaii are one of the things drawing people into thinking that if this is what a photographer does then sign me up.

The lure of what photographers get to take photos of is what draws way too many people into this industry and then without warning many people have the ground fall away underneath them and they often do not survive the industry.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/640
There are signs when you go to the Black Sands beach telling you to not touch the turtles and to stay 15 feet away and that includes when taking pictures.

Photographers it seems need a lot of signs to tell them what not to do, because they seem to just take unnecessary risks.

Signs are now going up

I think slowly people are getting the message that being a photographer isn't as easy as it seems. There are now warning signs all over the industry.

My friend called me while I was in Hawaii. I had asked if he could help me with a project and be a shooter for me. He was sick when I asked and was going in the next day to work and would check with his boss.

He was calling to let me know half of the staff was laid off. My friend was now very available to help me.

Just in the past few months other icons also were slicing their staffs.

More and more of my friends no longer had staff jobs.

Shortly after Sports Illustrated laid off the staff of photographers even my friend Brad Smith the director of photography lost his job with a few others.

What this means

If you want to be a teacher, lawyer, fireman and most any other profession you just go and study and become that professional. You graduate from a degree program and apply to be a staff employee somewhere.

Well that has majorly changed in photography. When I graduated from college I was hired by a newspaper. While there are some staff jobs, the number of them is drastically less than just a few years ago. Not only are there fewer staff jobs there are fewer newspapers.

You’ve probably heard that by 2020, 40% of the U.S. workforce will be independent workers. Today, there are already 53 million Americans (34% of the workforce) that fall into this category. That number is growing based on a number of factors. Some from employers who see this as a better choice and many employees who want more control over their lives as well.

Chauncy Lennon, who runs JPMorgan’s workforce initiatives said:
“The workforce of the past was organized around company. The workforce of the future is organized around the worker. If we can’t find the right people, it’s going to hurt our bottom line.”

Freelancing vs Staff

You need to know a lot more about the business side of your profession than if you were a staff employee. You need to understand the Cost of Doing Business and your business needs to solve a problem for someone or you are just not going to be in business very long at all. Here is a great blog for you to follow about the business side of photography

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/1000
Just like these cowboys trying to rope a cow, it takes a lot of practice before you can turn pro.

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