Say it ain’t so…
List ranks ‘Photographer’ among 25 worst jobs in America. Can it be true?
Click here to read the story (though, the title says it all).
What do you think, is it accurate?
While you ponder, allow us to provide our own thoughts.
They Musn’t Have Researched Print Professional Photographers
If you divulge yourself into the contents of the article and the sources of it’s information you’ll find a big factor in the evaluation was earnings. Also considered was projected job sector growth and work-related stress levels, but, for now, let’s focus on earnings.
Clearly, this list lumped together professional photographers who print and offer tangible products with those who only offer digital – and even those ‘professionals’ by self-proclamation only; who simply tote around with a high-end smart-phone, or entry-level discount purchase to liven up their social media. No offense; we all have to start somewhere, but those types will certainly skew the results.
Just ask prominent professional print photographer Angelina Devine who can consistently earn up to $10,000 from one sale alone. Or, Megan DiPiero who can also boast an equally impressive sales record – frequently eclipsing $10,000 sales. Yet, on top of that, she leads a Facebook group Rise to the Top! with Megan DiPiero that features over 10,000 members and is designed, specifically, to help pros increase their sales figures. Pop into the group’s discussion board on any given day and see the number of members posting proudly, boasting (as they should) about their latest high-figure sale.
High earning sales, and high income figures is definitely a thing as a professional photographer – just maybe not for those mass-production, high-quantity, shoot-and-burn types.
The evidence continues with professional print photographers Dorie Howell and Rachael Boer who, like Megan, not only support a healthy photography business of their own, but also a Facebook group – IPS Mastermind – with 60,000+ members; dedicated to helping professional photographers better themselves (read; their pocketbook) by meeting people in-person and stressing the importance of tangible, print products.
Even across the pond in the UK, wedding photographer Ron Lima doesn’t stress about money or his future as a photographer as he implies print is essential and sells itself. Show good products to clients, he asserts, “and people get it because they want it.”
We see a common thread here between these examples: professional, and print products. So, maybe in all; in its loose culmination and totality – the general, all encompassing term ‘photographers’ have some of the lowest income in the US, but when you filter the term a little more selectively to mean true professionals and those who offer print products the conclusion that photographers are destined for a long relationship with the breadlines couldn't be further from the truth.
Growth is Irrelevant
Another factor the list used to determine ‘photographer’ as one of the worst jobs in America, was projected growth.
Now, disclaimer, we are not professional photographers ourselves, but at nPhoto we work and deal with enough professional photographers – from all over the world – constantly, to confidently have a feel and direction for the industry. That said, the ‘expected’, ‘projected’, growth of photography is completely irrelevant to the individual professional photographer.
Unfortunately, this too can be misleading and misunderstood. ‘Expected’ and ‘projected’ growth are forecasts based off of ‘usual’ trends and a culmination of commonality across the industry. However, in a field as creative and diverse as photography these large-group, industry-wide generalizations really don’t mean anything. It sure may for camera companies and memory card sellers, or even a business like ours ;), and things of that nature, but for the individual professional photographer it means nothing.
In fact, from our experience servicing professional photographers – for decades at that – we can say that the most successful photographers – like those listed above, among others, cracking $10,000 consistently – do their own thing; go their own way, forge their own path and their clients love them and seek them out for that. Clients yearn for their style, and vision, and direction.
So to say the future is doom and gloom because of some industry-wide trend is missing the point entirely. Success as a photographer comes from rising above the trends, standing out, being yourself and confidently projecting that; not following some cookie-cutter-industry-template.
How to Stand Out as Professional Photographer
And let’s just back up with this notion that the iPhone, or smartphone, is the death of the professional photographer. This is a gross misconception that needs to be put to rest. Yes, a professional with a smartphone can still make stunning, professional work, but a novice with a smartphone does not make a professional.
It does not go both ways.
We’ve all heard this by now, in one way or another, but it’s true and deserves being repeated. Of course, this means the person and skill behind the lens is what really captures the extraordinary; the glass and machine simply accentuate it – and, even further, the way that image is ultimately produced enhances it as well. There’s no replacement for skill, talent, and an artistic eye. Period.
Soon the world will catch up. Once everyone has a ‘good’ smartphone we’ll soon grow accustomed to the raw, image quality and it will no longer stand out on its own. Then the difference, and the exceptions, and what people will crave will come full-circle and rest back with the true pros and artists.
In the way the movies did not kill the theater, public transport did not diminish the car, and YouTube stars did not force Leo DiCaprio or Jennifer Lawrence out of a job, the smartphone will not be the death of photography or the professional photographer. Heck, even vinyl has come back and you still see desktop computers and stand-alone TVs being produced.
It’s something about the experience; the quality of the latter in those examples that allows them to endure. So how to replicate this experience and quality as a photographer to really ensure that job security and decent earnings figures?
Most importantly, be yourself. Create a brand, but around you, not the other way around. People want to work with genuine people; not fakes. Additionally, putting on a face every time you go to work will only make the already-exhausting life as a professional photographer that much more tiring. So be yourself – and that includes your photography style. Speaking of which...
Print it out. But seriously.
OK, maybe deep down print products just isn’t you, just isn’t your brand – to that we say, touche and carry on. But for any others, the evidence is staggering. Along with the examples already provided above – and the countless others those can produce in-and-of-themselves – consider pet photographer Ewan Cheyne for just one other real life example.
Ewan bluntly stated in an interview with us that while he offered online galleries he, “got [almost] no sales, maybe one or two sales the whole time doing galleries.” But once he switched and started offering printed products: “everybody comes back to see the products and see the images, every session leads to sales. So [switching] made a world of difference.”
And, while on the topic of shrinking growth and pet photography, it’s common for the state of the photography industry to mistakenly be analogous to the state of the wedding industry. That’s to say if wedding numbers are expected to be good, so, too, are photography numbers – as if wedding photography is the only professional photography genre.
Well, as you might expect, with the wedding industry in America dwindling and projected to continue doing so, the idea that the photography industry is crumbling in lock-step is only amplified. However, such analysis is, clearly, ignorant to other, more robust industries and photography genres that could pick up the slack the sagging wedding industry may create.
Case and point: the pet industry.
The Other Benefits of Being a Professional Photographer
All this is without mentioning the other, less-statistically-sexy benefits of working as a photographer. For one, many professional photographers are their own boss. This means the obvious: as a photographer you can do as you wish. The benefits of this can’t be stated enough. This also brings about tremendous creative freedom as, again, there is no one above saying it can’t be done, or shouldn’t be done.
Yet, even for that group of professionals who DO have a boss and some pre-implemented creative direction there is still the ample opportunity to work with people. Whether it is people as the subjects themselves, or people as the representatives of the project – or both; photographers spend a lot of time dealing with people.
While some may be more on the introverted-end of the spectrum and find this slightly off-putting, the realization that you are directly moving and affecting people, often profoundly, in a positive way often overwhelms any shyness or uneasiness that may have been originally felt.
So, a ‘photographer’ may have been listed as one of the worst jobs in America by some mis-representative, general statistics. But, for those who do it right and see it through a photographer – a professional photographer, is easily one of the best jobs possible in America, or beyond.
When done right, you create your own business plan, brand, and growth strategy. You service those who are looking to capture and preserve the most profound moments in their lives, or help to stir genuine emotion within them, or even help them feel better about themselves. Of course, all this can be amplified with the proper use of professional printed products.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: a professional photographer is the best job and at nPhoto we are happy to work with you and make it even better.
So, how do you feel? Do you agree that being a photographer is one of the worst jobs in America? Maybe you agreed with some points in the post? Let us know in the comments below.