“I want to be a pro.”
Don’t pretend like that thought hasn’t come across your mind at all. Many of us as photographers have always wanted to go pro. It’s in gear marketing, it’s part of the aspirations of many in the photo community, and it’s ingrained in so many tutorials that are all across the web. So what does being a pro mean? Being a professional photographer means that the large majority of your income is from photography. This means that you shoot for a living and if you’re not shooting then you probably can’t pay rent, put food on the table, etc. Is this you? Probably not.
But then let’s start to break that down a bit more: you could aspire to be a semi-professional photographer. This means that anywhere from around 40-50% of your income is from photography. The rest of the money may come from your full time job. Being the semi-professional photographer is a much more attainable ideal to strive for than relying entirely on photography for all of your income. No matter how good you are, you need to consider a couple of very big factors at play here.
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Making a living as a photographer has never been more challenging. We’re being asked to deliver more work for less money. Expectations for transfer of copyright are being demanded in the form of a buyout or work for hire agreement. Newspapers are letting go of their photo departments and transferring the picture responsibility to a writer, toting nothing more than a smartphone. And new photographers are entering the competitive arena who are willing to work for far less than a seasoned professional would ever consider fair.
Yet, despite all these external challenges, the greatest obstacles lay not with others but with ourselves. It is often the choices that we make not just as photographers, but as business people the reduce the viability of making a living as a photographer. Here are some common ways that many photographers self-sabotage their work and their careers and some remedies to combat them.
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If we can believe the statistics, then the professional photographer is a dying species. With “professional” gear being available even to the amateur, less and less professionals are being hired. And with the ever growing inventory of stock photography, fewer and fewer companies are willing to pay the price for individual photographic jobs. The guys from ImageBrief, a website that uses crowdsourcing as a means to deliver imagery to paying customers, have created above infographic exploring the various forces that are driving the professional photographer towards extinction. If you look at the trends, it becomes clear that it’s increasingly difficult to make a living from photography.
We all know that the Japanese can be highly effective at what they do. But watching Kodai Matsumoto from Nikon Professional Services diagnose and repair a Nikon D4 in just over twenty minutes is simply mind-blowing. Granted, the video is a time-lapse, so everything seems super-quick, but still. Twenty minutes to disassemble, diagnose, repair and reassamble a beast of a camera that the D4 is, that’s pretty awesome. Probably the reason why Kodai has this job. NPS provides support services like check and clean, running repairs and equipment loans to accredited Nikon photographers at major events–this video (which you can find after the break) was taken at the FINA World Swimming Championships, BCN2013, in Barcelona, Spain.
Via Nikon Rumors
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According to an article over at TechCrunch, the Associated Press–one of the world’s leading press agencies and news distributors–has acquired a stake of the video crowdsourcing platform Bambuser. Bambuser allows ‘citizen journalists’ to upload live video footage of current events, which can then be licensed to news agencies worldwide. AP has been using Bambuser as a platform for their internal reporters for a while already, but now aims to more aggressively make use of crowdsourced news footage, to remain “the foremost global provider of live video news“. It seems outsourcing and crowdsourcing news footage seem to be the latest trend. CNN were the first to lay off a significant number of photographers, and just recently the Chicago Sun-Times laid off their entire staff–and both times the argument was that iPhone footage is just as good but much cheaper to obtain. So does AP’s deal with Bambuser mean the same will happen to their staff as well? Let us know what you think about this in your comments below!