“One of the UK’s finest portrait photographers recently said in an email to a prospective fellow professional, “If I’m brutally honest…
… “I know of very few photographers who earn as much money as they should. It’s a tough business right now, and it won’t have escaped your notice that the “names” have turned to training. That said, there will be winners and losers and the industry desperately needs a purge of the many who are keeping the quality and prices down.”
She went on to say “The middle market for portraiture and weddings is the hardest place to be at the moment – it’s saturated and cut throat. The top end of the market has proved the most rewarding for a few of the best photographers, but it’s a difficult sector to crack as it’s all about contacts, referrals and reputation. Good communication skills are mandatory at the top end plus the levels of service and presentation need to be second to none. The feel good factor is what high end clients demand and that means a great customer experience delivered with energy, passion and excitement. It’s also a transfer of enthusiasm that often secures the best bookings. Fine quality photography showing a distinctive style is a given at this level.” – I think she is absolutely right.
I believe at this moment we have more people studying photography than there are jobs in the industry. A high number of up and coming photographers graduating from media art collages intend to run their own business yet they often leave full time education woefully equipped to succeed. There are other newcomers of course, among those are photographers in their 30s and 40s joining the industry from other careers. These people are more likely to experience success due to their ability to set out goals, fund training, and plan for the future, plus they often find it easier to earn the respect of clients and are already accustomed to the relentless hard work associated with running a business.
I had a meeting today with Pippa Walkley the national coordinator of Skillset, a public and privately funded body licensed to promote growth in the media arts industry. Pippa and I discussed the training needs of new photographers and how the massive industry changes over the past five years have impacted on the established traders, including labs. We went on to discuss future training strategies and how we can start to fill the skills gaps evident across the board. It is worth being aware of the resources Skillset has to offer photographers. They are one of the easy to miss grant providers waiting to help us succeed in business. They don’t just give out money though, they provide funding only to those individuals who are investing in training, who have a definite strategy for success and a well thought out plan of action. If you want help establishing a set of achievable goals and identifying a plan of action to make them happen, then drop me an email.
Photography has seen massive growth among the amateur sector and turning pro remains an attractive escape for back to work mothers and desk job career junkies who want out of the rat race. There is always room in any industry for exceptional talent and I for one am always on the look out for it.
I believe we all have a responsibility to ensure the long term health of the professional photography industry.
Here is your chance to have your say. I’d love to hear about your experiences of starting out as a professional photographer, plus your visions of the future. Please post comments below…