Okay, so I’ve been trying this whole photography thing for a while now. Just starting to get my ‘foot in the door’ (as the saying goes). One of my recent posts was about how I wanted to make art with my photography, to really pursue being an artist. And so I’ve come to a conclusion…
When I first discovered my passion for photography, I felt the need to try out as many different aspects of it as possible. So I did. I attempted portraits, still life, landscapes, architecture, street, etc. As I continued to try more and more of a variety of subjects and styles, I learned my forte in each of them. But I’ve also been discovering what it is that really draws me to photography as a whole.
It was only recently, though, that I realized I need to specialize. We live in a world of ‘specialized’ media and ‘interest-specific’ groups. I understand that this idea and concept has been a large part of occupational pursuits and careers for many people. On one hand it is an excellent ability to become a ‘renaissance’ person, being skilled in a broad range of subjects. But on the other hand, it is those who are specialized in certain areas that we find ourselves going to when we look for excellence.
Photography is a specialized field as a whole. But at the same time, there are so many different ways to approach photography; different subjects, different skills. As a photographer, I believe it is important to understand the elements necessary for shooting each subject. Yet it is artists who come out of someone who has poured their entire skill into exploring one subject further than any other. You might know a photographer who takes good portraits of people, but is an artist when it comes to their landscape photography.
Unfortunately, I live in a world run by capital. As I have seen it so far, photography can almost be graphed by which subjects offer the most money (Disclaimer: This is from a ‘local’ perspective. It is somewhat different when one reaches a more professional level). The one I hear so often that makes a continuous flow of money is Wedding photography. Also up there is Advertising photography (which may be above wedding photography, but is much more dependent on your experience level.). After that tends to be formal Portraits (family, senior, children, etc.). Then comes Journalistic photography. Lastly, I would say is Still Life/Street/Candid/etc. (You know, the artistic stuff.)
Here’s my take on those:
Wedding Photography – People will continue to get married for quite some time. People like to have good images chronicling the entire experience and ceremony. People will always pay a good amount of money to make sure they have a good photographer to do an excellent job capturing their Happiest Day. Unfortunately, a lot of friend’s have told me this can be a nightmare for a photographer. It is a very different style of photography and should not be approached lightly; especially since your client has such high expectations, it being their wedding and all. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good specialization and does offer plenty of income for those who wish to pursue it.
Advertising – I believe this to be a very specialized type of photography. It certainly takes a unique approach and a unique set of skills. This is a very good field to get into because it will always offer work. Companies are always advertising, and let’s face it… we live in a very visual economy. But I also believe it takes a lot of effort to work your way up the ladder in this field. Plus, not a huge amount of recognition will be there for you after all is said and done.
Fashion – You may be asking why I didn’t include this in my original list. My answer is that it is not a field ‘amateur’ photographers easily have access to. Yes, there is a huge world of this type of photography, and yes, there are a lot of fashion photographers. But the door to it is very narrow and takes a major interest in the field to really pursue it to what it fully offers. I might say it could lead to offering more money than advertising photography or wedding photography, but certainly not until you are very far into it. Another very specialized style.
Portraits – So many people to photograph. From young families to old, from little babies to senior pics… Common people will always look to having these types of images taken. One for the desk, or the family scrapbook, or to hang over the fireplace. This is a fairly easy field for ‘amateur’ photographers to get into, since it is in such high demand. For a long time ahead of us there will be seniors graduating, family reunions, proud parents with new babies, and the list goes on. Yes, there is money to be had in this, and there will always be work. But since we are dealing with common people, the money is not as high as the other categories. As well, I believe there isn’t as much creative freedom within this category. There is a standard of what is needed (the common portrait), but only within that can you sprinkle a little of your own creativity into the mix. So, it’s just an ‘hteh’ style of photography. Not bad, but not too great either.
Journalistic – This photography has been known to bring us some of the most influential photos of all time. Unfortunately, those are the few and far between. You can guarantee a lot of people will see your work, but you can’t guarantee that they’ll care too much about it. This photography expresses information. There are many jobs available in this field, and it can offer a good salary. But unless you are working for some of the most famous journalistic companies, it isn’t super fantastic money or recognition.
The Artistic stuff – This field is the pinnacle of creativity. From the really formal to the really strange. It’s what hobbyists like to do. The photographer sees something in a way nobody else could see it and then they try to explain it to everybody else. It’s great, and a lot of fun. But let’s be honest, in the ‘local’ world and as an amateur photographer… you aren’t going to sell much of these. You have to be quite renown to make the amount of money one would make with some of the other styles of photography. And if you only do this type of photography, climbing the ladder will definitely take some time and a lot of risky investment.
So what’s the point of all of this… Obviously there are other fields of photography and even fields inside of these categories listed above. Again I want to say that this list is only from the perspective of an amateur. When one steps into the professional world, the amount of money and recognition goes way up and totally throws that list into a spiral of misrepresentation. But it is these categories that one in my position must consider when it comes to developing a career in photography (which is certainly what I would like to do. Nothing like getting to do what I love, but being able to support myself or a family because of it also.).
I discovered a passion for photography that I don’t want to give up. I found an explosive amount of creativity running through me when it comes to this ‘hobby’. So how can I apply it to help me support myself and my desire for it in this crazy monetary world?
So I made my decision… One that I didn’t make lightly…
I have decided to specialize in photography for artists/musicians/actors/etc. This is my chosen outlet.
Creativity – This is the main reason. Though all of the categories mentioned above do allow for some creativity, I felt like the majority of the money-making ones kept that amount of creativity very limited. I struggle with the idea of using my art to create only the necessary image. I long for creative works and capturing creative subjects. That happens occasionally in the other categories, but happens most, from what I understand, when you work with those who are creative. Something that can help me make money, and allow me to be creative!?! That’s fantastic!
Location – I know this is tied more into my career ‘goal’ or dream of how I ‘climb the ladder’… But I feel that because of my location, specializing in artists/musicians is a good choice. I live in the Kansas City area. Not the West Coast or East Coast (though I do miss living out on the West Coast). Those are the places with the majority of artists. Kansas City… quite a lot less in comparison. However, even though it is less… there are still quite a lot. In my dreamed ‘career path’, I can use this specialization to acquire a few photo shoots for a few artists in the Kansas City area. From there, this can lead me to other artists who mysteriously network with those artists. Little by little, my work with these different artists grows and my name becomes more popular amongst more and more artists in the Kansas City area. Then eventually those artists, themselves, become more popular and other artists see their work, in turn seeing my work for them. Word quickly spreads and more artists in the Midwest look to me for photography. And as the model is ever expanding… I eventually get to the point where some artists want me to come out to the coast to shoot photos for them. Before I know it, I’m the next Jeremy Cowart. Okay, perhaps that is stretching it a bit. But I think you get the point. There is a lot of opportunities for me to get a start in the field by working with the artists in this area. And as I said… This is Kansas City I’m starting in… there are less photographers (some yes, but less) that specialize in this type of photography here. It would be cool to become the ‘go-to guy’ for any artists in the Kansas City area needing photos. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
So this is my decision. Of course I will still take photos that fall under the other categories. I will still find myself doing wedding/portraits/journalistic/fashion/advertising/artistic works. But they will not be my focus. With this choice I feel like I can mix my enjoyment for the artistic stuff with the form and money of the portrait and advertising work. I see it as the best of both worlds.
And I agree this has been a long post, it is my statement of purpose in Photography. It’s my decision to pursue a career and, at the same time, not lose my love for photography. And so in closing…
I begin my journey.