How do you make money in your photography?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Ric Trexell, Nov 28, 2010.

  1. Ric Trexell

    Ric Trexell Member

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    This is probably not the best place to post this question, but I put it here because a lot of the Medium Format people talk about using their equipment for portraits and such. So I'm curious, in what area if any do you make most of your money in a photography related endevor? Is it, portraits, fine art, weddings, stock, business portraits and sales, or any others that I missed. You might narrow it down a little more if for example you answer portraits, are you refering to H.S. seniors, or families. If you use MF for one of these but for fine art for example you use a LF camera, please indicate that. Thanks. Ric.
     
  2. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    Let's see...how do I make money in my photography...umm, uhhhh. Well, uh... I don't.:redface::redface:

    Was I supposed to?:wink:
     
  3. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Get paid as much as possible and spend as little time as is necessary to get paid that much. :D

    I am not a professional (never wanted to be), though I did entirely support myself with photography for about two years recently. That was being the staff photographer for an estate sales company. I shot advertising pix of the estates and of the in-house showroom, pictures for E-Bay auctions (mostly on white backdrops), and whatever other pix the company needed. I shot small jpegs with a Canon 20D in studio and RAW on location, and I used a 50mm macro and a kit zoom lens for everything. I used Digital Photo Professional to "prepare" the pictures for the Internet. I set it up to be quick and painless, avoiding RAW for most things (shot it about once per week), and avoiding Photoshop altogether. I'd usually shoot and process an average of 100 to 200 pictures a day. It was a "living" briefly ($15 an hour 30 to 40 hours a week was not terrible for doing something super easy that I already knew how to do), but not what I would consider a "career."

    I also shot for two smallish newspapers for a few years, but they were both ridiculous companies, and I made very little. I did enjoy shooting, and I got to meet lots of nice people, including some of my favorite journalists. However, never again, unless it is for a proper news agency with a sane management, shooting real world events.

    Now I have a job that is not related to photography (I work at a hospital), but it is 40 hours and free benefits. Maybe once every month or so I will be a second shooter at a wedding. Depending on the client, this is digital or film. Again, not a living, but supplemental income for doing something easy that I already know how to do is better than a kick in the head! :D

    For the future, I actually would not mind doing more weddings. As I said, they are easy and pay well. However, I do not want to run a business alone. I have a few friends, and we may get together and work on the idea for a wedding shooting company in the next few years. Ideally, I'd be the staff photographer for some industrial or technical company. I would also be a globetrotting photojournalist in a second. I am not actually pursuing either of these paths, though. We'll see what happens. I ain't quitting my day job. :D
     
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  4. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    In the many years I've been a photographer I've spent much more on my photography than I have ever made from it, if you want to make money Ric choose something else.
     
  5. nyoung

    nyoung Member

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    I was a "PRO" shooter/writer for a daily newspaper for 7 years in my 20s - lots of fun, lots of experiences, meager living. Over the last 25 years, I've made much more money teaching what I learned in those 7 years.
    I think that's the case - the steadier money is in the teaching - in most activities where there are a large number of amateur practitioners.
     
  6. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Do you teach photojournalism specifically?
     
  7. nyoung

    nyoung Member

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    Did. Now retired.

    I found my niche early in the 80s because I was willing and could write and shoot in an era when the business was starting to change and most "photojournalists" were yelling and screaming at their editors that they were shooters not writers.

    And that's the way I prepped my PJ students, to be able to get pictures under almost any conditions AND bring home the story to go with them.

    I've also done general interest/continuing ed kinds of workshops and camera club critique sessions for adult amateurs from time to time.
     
  8. FormerAirline

    FormerAirline Member

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    I'm one of the lucky few who actually makes a decent living doing photography. The trick is finding a specific niche in which to prosper. In my case, I am the in house photographer for a high end collectibles company. We grade and authenticate a lot of stuff, and my job is mainly photographing coins for use in auctions, our research, customers, and for our online applications (reference sites, iphone apps etc).

    I get to travel a fair bit if you can believe that. I actually did some work with the Smithsonian's collection a couple of weeks ago.

    But bear in mind that it can test your sanity. Imagine, having to photograph several hundred little coins in an afternoon. And photographing them is one thing - post is another!

    But having said that, my digital work on the weekdays allows me to comfortably enjoy exploring analog on the weekends.
     
  9. Jesper

    Jesper Subscriber

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    Once I made a meager living as a photographer with IT as a hobby.
    Then I realized what a stupid idea this was (from an economic point of view).
    Now I work in IT with photography as a hobby.
     
  10. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I trade photographs informally for offroading parts.

    Steve
     

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  11. Ric Trexell

    Ric Trexell Member

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    Interesting answers.

    Thanks to all that responded. I got interested in stock photography a few years ago and read up on all the stuff Rohn Engh had at Photosource.com. First they said to take slides or black and white, so after doing that, now they say you really need digital. However the hard part is finding a market for your shots and really learning that subject. Ofcourse it helps to write a 1000 word article on what you shot if you want to make a sell. Fine art is great for meeting people at art shows but not for making money I have heard. Weddings are great money makers unless you wake up the day of the wedding with a 102 degree temperature and a desire to sit on the throne. In any of these attempts, if you go through the hassle of filling out income tax forms and buying extra insurance for your vehicle and damage insurance you end up with little to show for it. That is why I was wondering if any of you are making a living off of your photography. Thanks again.
     
  12. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    I am an amateur photographer who since a couple of years undertook the stock photography route. That rewarded me with a small sum which is not something one could live upon, or something that would repay all the photographic expense. I see it in another way: I take photograph for passion, and would have spent that time and that money anyway. Stock photography allowed me to stay more "focused" and somehow to enjoy photography even more. Besides, selling one's work is a satisfaction even if one does not get "even" with costs. I recently begun trying to sell some images as fine art through internet. Again I don't expect from this an income, but a form of more general "reward".

    Fabrizio
     
  13. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    As an enthusiast I've made money doing portraits and head shots for actors/models/friends and the odd occasion. I actually made more money in video, but it was professionally. My buddy shoots weddings/portraits/occasions etc and barely gets by. They usually want him for altar returns and only the occasional reception. The middle class is cheap in Florida and customers don't want to pay much, especially nowadays. Your doing good to sell a $800 wedding, but there are months that no work come in.
    As has been discussed over the last ten years here in threads and elsewhere, many with a digital camera came to considers themselves a photographer and sought to become wedding photographers, whether by choice or by a request from a friend getting married. Eight years ago or so the market income was practically cut in half down home due to advances in digital cameras and the plethora of art students looking to make money after school. That was approximately when labs started going out of business. So it's a tough biz. You need a good book, lots of contacts or work for a bigger shop booking dates. As a individual, if you can hook up with a DJ and grease their palm you'll do better, which my friend does, but it's still hard. I believe tho that it depends on the region your in. I've seen some very prolific companies/ individuals doing quite well in the past but from areas of the nation where money still flows.
     
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  15. dande

    dande Member

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    income from photography

    I did a few weddings and made some ok money. I even did all my own printing. I had my own colour darkroom at the time. What I found out, was it seemed to take away my love for photography for awhile. I lost interest because it became too much like work. I'm not saying that others wouldn't thrive and totally enjoy doing the same, but in my case my creative process did't seem to involve making money.
     
  16. Pumalite

    Pumalite Subscriber

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    Not a cent...
     
  17. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    I do my best to sell my work through galleries, Juried art festivals, lectures, and I teach both at an art center in Park City, Utah as well as out of my own darkroom.

    In the 90's I was a photography guide around southern Utah. That's kind of dried up with the Internet, but still do that on occasion.

    I should add that I get paid from time to time from the state to photograph endangered sites as well.
     
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  18. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i photograph buildings, sites and structures for archives ( state and federal )
    and document places for local libraries ( sell them hand stitched books )
    do family and individual portraits
    and from time to time sell work hanging on a well somewhere ...

    all that said, i am glad my better half has a real job with benefits
     
  19. Pavel+

    Pavel+ Member

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    I'm a full time salaried photographer for a state agency (education) I shoot a lot of very bad "grip and grin" shots - but that is what they want and like and a little bit of video as well. Love my job but it is in the serious Amateur ranks that the "wow" of photography is found.

    I actually developed an appreciation of film again due to having to work as a pro - which means digital. I'm of the opinion that the fastest way to ruin a hobby is the do it for a living. Thank god there is film to keep my passion flowing!
     
  20. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    I do head shots for community theatre productions 4-5 times a year. I shoot most of them using MF. The key here is turn around. I shoot them on Sunday and have prints ready to display the following Wednesday night when they do dress rehersal. There are typically 15-30 head shots to do, printed two sets 5x7 or 8x10.

    On dress rehersal night I take the company photo on the set, and then stills of the performance for their archive. The company photo gets printed about 25 times as a colour 8x10, and the stills get scanned and a CD provided for their archive.

    I charge about $300. It basically covers my expenses and pays me a bit per hour.

    I actually am a consulting profeesional electrical engineer, so this is a hobby that pales to my full time job. The hobby keeps me sane and pulls me away from the day job, that could otherwise easily become a day and night job and along the way drive me batty.
     
  21. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    You can make money doing this? HUH
     
  22. NJS

    NJS Member

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    make money with digital and then spend those $$$ enjoying film. that's how I mostly do.
     
  23. TSSPro

    TSSPro Member

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    Bridal portraits, weddings, and some commercial. A little architectural and editorial work. The last thing I shot on MF for work was a calendar for a sports team in Illinois. They just told me to make it look good and bill them later, so they got everything on chrome. Not much used on a reg basis anymore unless its a fun project with a cool client or a special request. People dont want to pay for the extra cost of film, processing and polaroid anymore. :-(
     
  24. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    For me it was quite simple, as I marketed myself to the same clients that have kept me in business for 20+ years (I am a fine and rare wine merchant) and it has been good. These are people who love life, collect, spend, decorate, Wall Street guys, professionals, so it seemed the logical solution for me. At least it pays for the gear, film and it even leaves a couple of extra bucks...and I don't have to shoot digital, unless I am doing the very occasional gig that requires it. Would still love to ditch the day job though, as photography beats the heck out of sitting at my desk in front of this damn thing :smile:
     
  25. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    I've never made money from my personal work. I've been employed as a photographer by newspapers, public relations departments and commercial studios, and those were the only times I've made a living with a camera. I'm a poor self-promoter and have no idea about marketing strategies and gallery games.

    These days I help pay for my photography by making an occasional portrait and teaching film scanning for a local photography non-profit. I may be leading some other workshops or field trips in the not-so-distant future.

    I look at my personal work the same way I look at owning a boat: I'll invest time and money in it and derive what pleasure I can from it. I don't expect a return on my investment beyond that.

    Peter Gomena
     
  26. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I cant believe noone here is shooting sports teams or school functions, especially proms. I used to do that as well as family portraits, real estate photos for catalogues, and promo shots for local bands. Of course, that was in the 70's and early 80's, way before digicrud.