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Op Ed: 7 Sad Truths About the Photography Industry And What You’re About to Get Into

by Chris Gampat on 09/03/2013

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer CAnon 1D X and 24-70mm f2.8 II Top Chep cookoff at Photo Plus 2012 (20 of 23)ISO 400

I’ve just come back from a much earned week long vacation with lots of time to relax and contemplate many things about the current state of the photo industry. But what I also realized is that on my time off and a return to my social life is when folks will always pick my brain for advice and questions. It’s inevitable.

But after thinking about things, I came to a bunch of very big conclusions and realities that many try to mislead folks just like you on.

And today, inspired by our post entitled, “This is Why Your Pictures Suck,” I’m here to set a bunch of falsities right in an unbiased and uncensored tone.

You Will Spend More Time Doing Business Errands Than Shooting

So let’s start with this one: photography doesn’t mean that all you do is shoot, get paid, and that’s it. Unless you’ve got a team and/or agent working for you, you should never expect that all you’ll be doing is shooting. Much of being a photographer requires:

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 15mm f2.8 event photography photos (5 of 13)

– Post production

– Marketing yourself to new clients

– Learning how to be a better marketer

– Getting referrals

– Meetings

– Important conference calls

– Idea development

– Figuring out ways to improve you and your work

– Budget balancing

– Paying bills for your business

– Updating your portfolio

– Travelling

– Client communication and customer service

And that’s just the cusp of what you’ll be doing. Shooting photos? That’s the easy part compared to everything else that is done.

This Industry Is More About Who You Know Than What You Know

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Leica X2s last day (12 of 18)

Let this reality sink in for you: you can be the greatest photographer in the world but if no one knows that you are, then you may always go undiscovered. Take for example the photos of Vivian Maier. If they weren’t discovered randomly, no one would ever know that one of the greatest street photographers existed and had a unique window to the world that others never knew about because she was so private.

Want fame? Want to become bigger? Well, it’s more about who you know then. It requires putting yourself out there, working with others, talking with others, putting yourself on their radar etc.

No need to be introverted or shy: that is if you want the fame and all.

There Is No Need To Go Get a Full Photography Degree–Just Take A Couple Classes if Anything

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer The Cameras of David Lo photography project (2 of 7)ISO 4001-80 sec at f - 8.0

Everyone who tells you to go to school for photography is kind of feeding you crap–kind of. You see, you don’t really need a photography degree at all, but specialized schools can help you with networking better than another school can.

In reality though, the sad truth is that almost no one will look at your photography degree when you go to apply for a job or try to sell yourself to a client. They’ll want to see a portfolio. Your thousands and thousands of dollars of student loans can go right down the drain if you don’t have that portfolio to show.

Your resume? You can cover it all in your cover letter instead.

That masters degree? Forget it. Nothing beats pure experience.

Networking and Marketing Yourself Are Big Priorities

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A99 at lomo party (3 of 3)ISO 400

We’re kind of harping on this in a big way, but it’s really true. When people ask what the best way of marketing yourself is, I always say, “Social media and talking with Editors at magazines and websites.” The way to get noticed is by interacting with and finding ways to infiltrate the radars of said gatekeepers. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. You’ll need to rethink your actions and try again in some way or another.

When it comes to social media, don’t just promote yourself. Try to provide value for someone coming to your feed. Think about it: Why should someone follow you?

Building a Highly Curated Portfolio Is Critical; And Making it Mobile is Even More Critical

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Apple iPad Mini Review photos (13 of 13)ISO 1600

Everyone emphasizes the importance of building a real portfolio. Now that doesn’t mean putting together snapshots from your vacation along with event photos and that one wedding you shot. Focus your portfolio down: if you have portraits comprising of most of your work, then emphasize those. But select only the ones that really jump out. A good rule of thumb is to choose only photos that elicit some sort of emotion and force you to stare at them. Work on creating images like those and throw everything else out.

Then when you create it online, make it mobile friendly. PhotoShelter does an awesome job with this using their new themes–it’s significantly better than anything 500px can offer.

You Will Try, Fail, Pick Yourself Up, And Either Succeed or Fail

If you want to get into this business, you need to have a plan. Don’t just up and quit your day job. Plan a way out and slowly get out; but make sure that you’ve got enough money saved up and a whole idea of how you’re going to make this work in the period of over a year.

And don’t be afraid of failure. Everyone tries, everyone fails, and the strongest people pick themselves back up and keep trying. It’s what you learn from your mistakes that matter coupled with how quickly you learn to adapt and see reality.

One of Your Biggest Challenges Will Be a Life/Work Balance

You know how all your friends are out partying on Friday or Saturday night? Well, you might not be. Instead, you might be shooting parties or editing or invoicing. There is always so much to do when it comes to running your own business and you’ll have to realize this one horrifying truth: At the end of the day, your friends are probably working a day job and trying to get by. You’re fighting for your survival every morning and evening. The only breadwinner is you. And sometimes you’ll need to work some extra long hours to ensure that you’ve got money in your savings account.

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