A reader sent me this:

“I’d like to thank you for the Simon Norfolk article that you brought to our attention recently, and your thoughts on him saying that all of us will soon become amateur photographers with other professions. This really hit home for me. In 2007, I graduated from a photography school with very high hopes. The following year, I moved to New York City, and I worked as a photo assistant sparingly, because the pros there weren’t getting enough new work to hire me as often or their current assistants (which they had for years), weren’t moving on to work on their own like they typically would. Towards, the end of ’08, after running out of money and feeling defeated, I moved back home. Earlier this year, I enrolled in school to get a Masters degree in Accountancy.”

“As disappointed as I am, I feel this is the only way to go to have any kind of success for myself in the future. I hope that I can go back to photography in the future once I get my finances together. I understand how the economy may not affect the industry’s best photographers, and they probably won’t have to take such drastic actions, but it’s just really unfortunate that a young photographer such as myself, and my 12 other classmates from photo school, never really had a chance to establish ourselves in the field that we truly love.”

The industry is shrinking right now so getting in on the ground floor has got to be nearly impossible. The pros fight over the scraps now. Is there a path anymore where you can grow and make mistakes and still make a living? I know there’s a strong future for photography but it’s not going to happen until the economy starts growing again. My advice isn’t necessarily to go find a different profession but to find a way to work on your craft and be poised for the comeback. Easy for me to say…

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  1. The term “Starving Artist” exists for a reason. If you’re passionate about your work, you’ll find a way to make it happen. The rest will get weeded out.

    • @Raymond Adams, Exactly. I stated by being based in a live/work space. I slept on a futon that I made into a couch when I started my work day. I kept few items like clothing and dishes that would let clients know that I worked and lived in the same place.

      I made sure to call EVERYONE I knew and let them know that I’m a professional photographer and I want to shoot with them.

      I didn’t give a damn that I was shooting weddings, food (which I found a lot of early success) corporate head shots and editorial.

      That was back in 2005 and I’ve keep my attitude that working together is the best way.

      Now that the market has changed (as it does every year so wake up) yet again I find myself with more expenses, a house, two cars and a studio.

      Business has dropped off so much this year that I’m calling everyone I know, shooting anything I can (other then porn) and reaching out to the creative community to work with eachother.

      I got 5 other photographers sharing my space. They don’t get keys, they don’t get a meeting spot. They do get unlimited shooting time for $150 and space on a rack for any gear they want to leave.

      It took me about a week to get these newbies in but its been working out great. We got some cool networking events and art shows coming up and I have already seen a business increase just by reaching out to the creative community to help one another.

      The work is there, its different and for a new shooter you can find the work and you can make a living but you have to keep your overhead as low as possible and shoot anything that comes your way.

      We as a nation got fat and lazy and now we’re all paying the price. Trim the fat, be cool with everyone and MARKET to everyone.

      It’s not easy. I’m living really tight now with money. My savings is spent and I can’t afford insurance but I LOVE my craft and I’m holding tight.

    • @Raymond Adams,

      The term “starving artist” exists because of the misguided notion that in order to follow one’s passion they must suffer, be depressed angry, bitter and hostile and never allow themselves to ever enjoy making money. It’s just silly. Photography is a business and the photographers who really get that live extremely well.

      Times have always been and will always be tough. While photographers today face more challenges than ever before, it is still possible to achieve success. And getting a degree in accounting is not a bad thing. If more photographers would take real business courses, the business would not be in the shape it is in.

      • @Debra Weiss,

        I agree. I am a young photographer… I haven’t rolled over and died. Jesus, where do you think new talent comes from? Not the people who pack up and go home but the people who sustain, evolve & adapt. Times are tough… sucks… have a beer, take a breath, and figure out your next move.

      • @Debra Weiss,

        Exactly. Print this great advice out everyone. We’re in business, we’re not in some kind of woolly fantasy art-land. Successful businesses make money even in a downturn – make sure you’re one of them.

      • @Debra Weiss,
        That is not what I meant at all. By “starving artist” I simply meant that if you are passionate about the work, you are willing to sacrifice for it.
        I didn’t get into this business simply to make money, but I am trying to become a better business man in order to keep making pictures for a living. I have nothing against making money, and would in fact like to make a lot of it.
        A starving artist does not HAVE to be angry, bitter, and hostile.

      • @Debra Weiss,
        Sometimes, sacrificing is a necessity.

  2. I’m studying a BA in photography right now, I’ll be here for a few more years so I might not see this when I come out of University. However I’m not particularly bothered, I’ve never felt that any job would come my way easily. I’ve now resigned myself to taking it slow and surviving on another profession whilst I work on my photography in my spare time, anything more will be a blessing. I’m definitely going to push for what work i can get but I’m not going to risk too much given today’s circumstances.

  3. @ Rob and the reader who sent you the letter:

    I think it’s all about creating a niche right now. I moved here to Bucharest at the end of November and have been getting regular assignments ever since. Not everyone can be based in NYC or Paris or London, especially right now with the way the economy is. Sometimes going out on a limb pays off.

    • @Davin Ellicson, Unfortunately, not all of us can get visas just like that or I’d imagine a lot of us would do the same!

      • @J. Wesley Brown,

        Try hard! You can try hard getting the visa – everything is possible.

  4. It is tough out there, no doubt. At times like these, it really pays to have a niche and work your contacts as the “out of the blue” jobs just arean’t there any more.

    • @Timothy Schenck, well, here in Eastern Europe I have been able to capitalize on this economic crisis and a bit ironically, I guess, profit off of it. The other thing I anted to add about living outside the world photo centers is that it’s a heck of a of cheaper to live and do photography in Bucharest than it is in Western Europe or New York or LA.

  5. I really hope this is not true, but it makes me nervous… I’m curious to hear the perspective from the other side of the table? Are the photobuyers/clients really just cutting out photography altogether? or just going with the free/amateur crowd?

    • @Ed Z,
      I just think there’s less jobs. Plain and simple. In 2000 we were printing 200+ page magazines every month and now most are lucky to have 75 pages. That’s a lot of assignments not happening.

  6. I totally sympathize with the writer. Like so many other amatuer photographers, I realize that there will likely never be a way for me to earn a living doing what I love. That does not stop me from doing it. It seems like the dynamic change in technology and access to knowledge have put so much of it in the hands of everyday consumers.

    I agree with Timothy, the real trick is to find your niche, find your little corner of the world and work hard at it. That is where the differece between amatuer and professional rests; in the ability to express and market your vision to others as unique and novel.

    I may never earn a dime doing this but, I believe it is better to make photographs than to just take them.

  7. I’m with Davin, going out on a limb often might seem daunting, but could prove useful.

    The best thing I ever did was move away from the meat fest that is London/NYC.

    There is a world out there that still requires photographers and sometimes it’s a helluvah lot prettier to see than TriBeCa or Leicester Square.

  8. I feel your pain. But I think that you aren’t looking at this through the right lens. The photography industry is changing. Old business models don’t work as well as they used to. People who are pursuing careers that rely on these old models are failing. But, why does this have to be a bad thing. Why can’t we look at this period as a time of opportunity.

    Now, I don’t have the answers, but they are out there. A new photography industry is slowly emerging, we just have to identify where it is and latch on.

    Don’t give up. If you really want to make it happen, you will.

    • @Greg, Amen. Very good points you make, its a new time, new business, and there are plenty of opportunities out there…if you’re willing to find them.

      I’m an emerging photographer on the West Coast, and it is hard out here, but if you want it enough…you can make it work!

  9. I don’t think we who are working as professional photographers choose this path for money or security. If anything, its a risk we (and our families!) are acutely aware of when we decide to go this direction. But when the economy goes to hell, and everyone’s retirement $$ is disappearing, I have to applaud myself and those around me for ultimately pursuing passion before anything else.

    I really do feel awful for the people that chose their career based soley on money (i’m not saying i don’t understand the pressures) because now, not only do they not have the job they cared nothing about, they also don’t have the money, the only perk of the job in the first place.

    If anything, people just coming out of school might have an upper hand, understanding how to diversify skills, keep a low overhead, and constantly stay fresh. The world is changing, the same tricks that worked for years don’t work anymore. But photography is not a career with a prescribed path to success. And that is what keeps us excited each time we come across an image that for some reason matters….

  10. Well boo hoo. I’ve been assising almost 6 years and had decided before the economic crash that 2009 was going to be the year I was going to really start pushing. I’m not going to let anything keep me from making work and not giving up. Yes, the road that most took over the last 10 years has been washed away but that just means you have to start blazing some kind of new trail. I agree that you need to find things like niches and I also don’t think it’s a bad thing that some people are giving up. The market is way too flooded. Now as for the Norfolk talk of getting part time jobs, if that’s the case, I don’t have issue with that either. In art school I met so many sculpters and painters that upon graduating had no choice but I wait tables or get jobs just to get by so they can make their art and to this day, 6 years later are still doing side jobs. Think of how actors live before they make it, that is if they ever do. Also, painters and illustrators in the early days of photography were probably freaking out as well because of how a new invention and new age would effect their industries and I’m sure many went under. But we still see painting and illustration in the commercial world today. No body knows exactly where this is all going. If everything goes to the web in 5 years we could all have plenty of work again, or maybe we won’t. Take a deep breath and keep making pictures.

    • @Adam Amengual,


    • @Adam Amengual,

      Now’s the time to take risks and go for it. Everything is in flux, people are moving and ideas are changing. New photographers with new points of view can get their foothold. Not much to lose.

      Next week I’m signing with a new rep after self-repping for several years. Its an expensive and risky proposition, but now’s the time while everything is fluid!

  11. It does not look good for those just out of photo school. A major over supply of new photographers in a market that neither needs nor wants them. These schools are doing a disservice to their students, creating unrealistic expectations and giving them a substandard general education, even a substandard art history education, which makes getting a day job more difficult. (I had a recent photo school grad ask me who or what the New Topographics is/was). In most cases their work fresh out of school is derivative. It takes time to shed influences.

    That being said, be persistent, produce great work, be honest in your work and with yourself, and in 5-10 years you might make it.

    • @Rosco,

      I agree. The ignorance that breeds in academia is laughable, damaging, and unethical. I suppose the lesson here is to never let anyone else direct your education.

    • @Rosco,

      (I had a recent photo school grad ask me who or what the New Topographics is/was). In most cases their work fresh out of school is derivative. It takes time to shed influences.

      First, knowing the term New Topographics is not an imperative to obtaining a photography job-yes it’s good to know your history but lets not be silly.
      Second, if you were awake during your art history, art theory, photo theory, and ways of seeing classes you would know that -most everything- is “derivative” of something. Photography is accumulative media.

      • @nonon, Fair enough. But derivative of Nadar is OK, while derivative of Ryan Pfluger is not OK by any means. I think you are using derivative in a larger, macro sense of the word, while what I am really saying that these kids come out of school as little clones of Opie, Tillmans, Newton, Dykstra blah blah blah. Its not their fault they just need time to live and work, but they are filled with ideas and expectations that are unrealistic. By the way I didn’t sleep through those classes becauses I didn’t go to art school. I went to Columbia and Berkely for English and art history.

        • @Rosco, It’s true, a large percentage photo students have built this imaginary world for themselves where they think they are undiscovered photography superstars. A lot come into the process just looking for personal recognition.
          The true sad story is that work will not find them, pluck them up from obscurity, and place them into an imaginary success world. The success will as always come to those who have put in the time and lived a little.

    • @Rosco,

      There is one thing as a student I have noticed, and while it might be a small thing it might reflect on the climate in the schools

      I reciently went to a showing of a professors, and in viewing the work he has created over 20 + years. I noticed a general theme to the work.

      I asked my own instructor about this, and while his work mirrors, or has similarities to the artist. his reply was also interesting.
      more so because he said it was infleunced by “the envirnment of the 60’s”

      so I had to ask myself? so in 40 years the artist only rehasing the past, and not trying to explore new thing?

      sorry if this is a bit vague. wanted to share the general thoughts, but not denigerate the artist, or his work. after all I’m a person who agree’s to disagree.

      GL to all of you.

  12. There is no point denying that every sector is hurting in the current economic climate. But we must believe that creativity will win out and I believe will bounce back with a vengeance once the economy starts to recover.

    As a stock photography agency and consultancy we have seen the violent swings in customer demand over the last six months. However, there is still an overriding demand for good creative imagery. There is no doubt that shoot budgets have been cut by clients and agencies alike, but this has generated increased need for high quality RM and ironically we have seen surge in the license type in recent months.

    In my opinion it’s all about where you want to operate. We also run a micro stock site http://www.notforzombies.com and can monitor the profile of the users who need / want and can only afford lower cost imagery. These are not always your traditional stock imagery buyers and it is my opinion that the vast majority of these users are additional or incremental stock users who would not have otherwise been in a position to buy traditional RM / RF stock.

    And no, I’m not foolish enough to say previous users of quality stock have not migrated in this direction, they have, but the overall user base has also increased.

    As we move out of recession in the future the need for images will expand dramatically along with the economy and I believe that it will expand in both the high end and low end according to user requirements. In the end there’s little point in getting down about something we cannot change today. Best to focus on what we do best, in some cases, just getting by will be enough.

    We wish all creative, young and experienced, all the best because without your creative efforts greasing the wheels the creative industry – who don’t often give credit, where credit is due – will be much worse off. Keep the faith, keep shooting and believe in a future where the paying field will be more level and true talent can shine through.

  13. I agree that this is a hard time for young photographers to find a foothold in the industry, but I think that the art school graduate that wrote in was taking a short-sighted view. Was there ever a time when someone fresh out of school could expect to have things rolling less than a year after graduating and moving to NYC?

    On the flip side, stories like that make me a real optimist for the young photographers that hang on through this dip. Media will work out a way to make money in new forms of media. Companies will start spending money on advertising again. And when new opportunities start to open up, the pool of young talent will be thinned by those who threw in the towel when they weren’t a huge hit the first year out of art school.

    There will be plenty of photographers for whom “plan B” takes over, and when the dust has settled and new opportunities start to pop up they won’t be in a position to take advantage of them. On the other hand, there will be young photographers who hang on and find a way to produce great work no matter what. I’ve got a lot of optimism for the emerging photographers who fall into the later category.

    • @Jacob Pritchard,
      I totally agree with everything you said. I’ve remained optimistic throughout this economic downturn (though it’s getting harder), and as a junior at the Savannah College of Art and Design (obviously pursuing Photography), I’ve been thinking a lot about how it will affect my chances of landing a job upon graduation. Hell, I’m worried if I’ll be able to get a fulfilling internship in NYC this summer.

      But I know that creating art is who I am, it’s who I’ve always been, and I’m willing and able to tough it out. I feel that my work is very strong and that I’ve got a lot of potential; however, I have delusions of success in my first, or even second or third year out. I know it’ll take a while to get going– but I’m not going to give up.

      And like you said, the longer I can hold on, the more people will drop out, and it’ll make it all the more easier once the economy turns around.

      This whole page seems a little ridiculous, as if Photography is somehow some kind of weird anomaly in this economic depression, like it’s getting hit harder and we should be more scared than any other industry. I don’t think I’m wasting my time or money on an education in the arts, and I take offense at the posters above who suggested such nonsense. Blanket statements only show ignorance, and I know that I and my talented classmates will graduate with fresh ideas and creativity that could very well restart the industry and push it in a new direction. I’ve already seen the next generation of young photographers who have apologetically embraced the digital medium and are working wonders beyond purists most terrifying nightmares.

      Look out, we’re coming.

      • @Chris New, What color is the Kool-Aid at SCAD? Is it the red stuff? You know they make a Klear Kool Aid now? What’s all the nonsense about purists and digital, and their nightmares? That kind of talk is for dentists and weekend warriors.

        • @Donnar Party, say what you will, but time will tell. I don’t really see where pessimism will get you, but feel free to wallow in the doom and gloom.

          I’m not looking for an argument, so I’m not taking your bait. I will say that for all its faults, SCAD prepares well those who are willing to work hard, and I can assure you there’s no Kool Aid drinking. As I said, we have no delusions of easy money and high-profile jobs. This very blog entry was posted on the SCAD Photo Blog with the title “Planning on heading to LA or NYC after graduation?” and the following text:

          “If you are planning to move to NYC or LA or Chicago to assist or be a shooter after
          graduation, you should read the thread below. There is a lot of good information
          and many different opinions on this thread. There is also a really good dose of reality in many of the posts.”

          So yeah, there is nothing wrong with confidence and optimism, and it certainly helps more than it hurts. Don’t pretend you know me or anyone else in my department before you actually take the time to talk to us and see our work.

          I appreciate the reply, thanks.

          • @Chris New, I’m not trying to bait you. You sound like most art students still in school, or a Neocon intelligence memo. I may sound jaded but I’ve heard it over and over again since the early 90’s when I started in a crappy market. Its harder here than you think, unless you have other sources of funding. On a serious note, in response to your post, please note that the Recession isn’t the problem, its the destruction of the industry that’s been ongoing since 2002 or so, brought to us by digital and cheap credit. The Recession will hasten the reordering of the industry, hopefully shaking out the dead weight magazines, the crappy stock, the “good-enough” photography. I hope Simon Norfolk is wrong, but you know, I think he is correct.

    • @Jacob Pritchard,

      Uh, bad, bad, bad typo there on my part:
      (second paragraph)

      I have NO delusions of immediate success.

    • @Jacob Pritchard,

      typo, again, towards the end:

      …”UNapologetically embraced the digital medium…”

  14. I do think this game has always been a tough one…there has always been a technological advance that inspired fear in those trying to enter the field. In 1989 I thought it was a good idea to move from upstate NY to Tuscon, Arizona to “launch” my career. A local established photographer was explaining that Canon had come out with a camera called the “Sureshot” that set the exposure and focused for you. This camera was taking away all of the entry level photo gigs- things such as ribbon cuttings, headshots, etc. He felt the camera would allow people to do these shots themselves and avoid hiring photographers.
    Obviously it didn’t really affect things…great photography has always been about more than operating the camera, and it always will be.
    Ok, all that said, I think its fair to blame the economy for the current challenges but I don’t think its fair to blame the technology.

  15. I’m amazed that nobody has yet picked up on the fact that Rob’s reader has quit pro photography for… Banking!
    Years ago, a good friend of mine shot fashion editorial for a few London broadsheets and weekend mags. Tiny budgets, he’d blow them to pieces with ambitious ideas. Commercial work eluded him. Racked up big debt, and was then squeezed by the Bank.
    He became really desperate, “I’m gonna quit this, and go sell Cars. Or Houses.”
    Gladly, he didn’t quit…

    Times are tough right now, but my god if any of you think being a nine-to-fiver is somehow more secure, you’re mad.

    • @Neil,

      accountancy != banking

      • @tde, accountancy = many things, not just banking. trust me. accountancy = great paying freelance that could allow a 50/50 energy/time split for an entrepreneurial photographer.

  16. I think for Editorial, it’s even more than the economy. Even before this mess began, there has been a beating down of editorial budgets. So I think any young person who thinks they want to head into Editorial, as an actual way to make a living, really ought to have a Come To Jesus Meeting with himself. It’s just a large One-Two Punch happening right now, and even when the economy turns around, I don’t think you’re going to see that same bounceback in magazine editorial. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I will be.

    There is this TV commercial that comes on my local cable news channel, and it shows some young girl (wrongly) holding a 35mm camera, and the voiceover says excitedly, “Do you want to make a living doing digital photography?!”, and then girls smiles and clicks off a frame, and then it switches to a still shot of India or some faraway romantic place. I just shake my head in disgust every time I see the spot. I am trying to imagine me being the parents of that girl, and she comes home one day with that gleam in her eye and says she’s found her calling, and that calling is Magazine Photography. And then she whips out the brochure for the school she wants to attend, and it’s a hundred grand for tuition and board, (but Student Loans are available!). I just hope that I’m not that Clueless Parent, or even worse, that Clueless Student, about to get saddled with years and years of debt, with no income in sight. Don’t you just wish sometimes, that there could be “Response Ads”, similar to how the Republican Jindal responded to Obama the other night? I’d just love to buy a Response Ad to follow (and counter) that ad for “learn how to be a digital photographer”.

    I swear I’m not being a Fuddy Duddy here, but I *do* think that a bit of realism is necessary and vital. We *are* talking a hundred grand here in debt. I remember in my photojournalism college in the 1970’s, there was no business class whatsoever. No discussion at all in how to take that training and actually apply for a job. It was just expected that you’d get a job at a newspaper, and be set for life. (“So how did that work out for you there…?”)

    I don’t have any answers. I don’t know how I’d advise a young person who wanted to get into this field. I’d probably say, “Go to School, then move to NY and assist for the best photographer you can find, and set your bar high. But don’t expect to be an Overnight Sensation”. Of course you don’t want to squelch someone’s enthusiasm and zest, but at the same time, some realistic advice seems to be in order. I guess it could be worse — the daughter could come home one day and say, “Dad, I joined a band. We’re going on the road..!”

    • @Mark Tucker, Bang-on, sir.
      If any other Photo Editors (or hopefully Publishers) are reading this;
      The ‘All-Inclusive’ Editorial Shoot Budget = The absolute death of Quality.
      A guaranteed (if tiny) Fee is still a Fee (that you could perhaps pay your monthly cellphone bill with), whereas a driven-down All-in Budget and half-baked production (“So I guess you’ll drive the subject and your assistant there. You don’t have a car? Book Taxis for them then.”) is a royal pain, and leads to shooters losing money to fill mags with last-minute features.
      Patience is wearing thin in that department, believe me.


    Get off your a$$ and do something about your situation. I am a young photographer and I hear this all the time. In fact, I left a great gig at Procter & Gamble, a fortune 500 company. People ask me all the time if I was nuts. NO – I’m happy. People ask me well what about your security….I respond, you don’t have it at a fortune 500 company either. How many times have you heard about cutbacks there. What makes you think that you wouldn’t have had a chance to be cut in the rat race that IS “The Office”. (Love that show by the way, more truisms there than I care to comment on)

    I read a book, I found my passion, I read A LOT more, I mad a business plan, & I created my destiny. Is there as much work as there once was in this industry…maybe not. Is there as much money as there was in the 80’s & 90’s – NOPE, but let me tell you – no career is ALWAYS gonna be a rosegarden. If you want steady, start flippin burgers or something. If you want a career in photography, you better realize this is YOUR business and YOU are in charge of making it happen.

    I hear it at least once a month from an art school student or intern – “…well I wish my guidance counselor would have told me ‘this’ the photo industry…” or “…if I knew I wasn’t going to be shooting every day, I would have taken a degree in business”. BS – Suck it up.

    You are not likely to succeed at photography (or anything else) if you think you just go out, shoot stuff and reel in the big bucks!

    You have to market yourself, hone your trade, work on relationships, build a business plan, figure out your CODB (if you don’t know what that is, you better figure it out NOW). Because in order to make it as a photographer you have to do be able to do something more than just “take cool snaps” and that something is be a businessperson with a level head and realistic expectations.

    ANY business, self driven or small company takes time to get moving. You’re not going to step out of art school and become Annie Leibovitz. You’re not going to get paid 2-3-4K a day until you show people why you are worth that.

    And oh while I’m on a roll, you’re not going to be shooting for Nike or GAP on every gig. There’s gonna be stuff that you have to shoot because it’s good money but the creative side is crap. So what, you’re behind the lens and you are doing what you love…right? If this isn’t all your bag, then again, go flip some burgers, cause I’m sick of hearing others in the photography industry whine! Go whine with the peeps asking “would you like fries with that” we don’t need any more negativity here.

    Lets get POSITIVE and be happy for what we are able to do!

    • @Rick Lohre, Seriously – he spent one year and that was enough time to decide that he was ready for a career change?

      I feel mean saying it – but it doesn’t seem like they had the right expectations about their career in the first place. Maybe calling it a carer is part of the problem. There’s no path to glory, just the never ending uphill battle – if you don’t love it, it’s not going to make sense for you.

      • @Ian Aleksander Adams,
        Certainly more than ever it’s about filling a need and not learning a skill and hoping there’s a need for it.

        • @A Photo Editor, That makes a great deal of sense. It seems like a general difference in attitude.

          Looking at the world and saying “What can I do here, for the world, that will be appreciated and used” vs. “what can the world do for me/ what does it owe me?”

    • @Rick Lohre,

      I once read that if you want to make it as a professional photographer you have to spend 1/2 of your waking day doing it. It takes at LEAST 5 years of doing it everyday just to get your head around light ratios/equipment/craft. Then there is business (ie. permits, liability insurance, props, marketing, cash flow etc. etc.

      The first 10 seconds a photo editor opens your site and/or portfolio they know exactly what your capable of (ie. skill level).

      Everyone I know who is a creative professional (ie. architect, chef, designer, painter, musician) works every single day. A student asked the famous Christo how he became a “successful” artist. His reply was, “I work everyday for at least 16 hours”.

  18. make great images and market yourself – there is plenty of work right now- especially if you are new and don’t have the overhead that alot of the established pros carry around…

    • @Old & In The Way,

      Just make sure the overhead you lose isn’t your copyright or a decent fee. I see a lot of freshers shooting for peanuts, undercutting pros to get gigs. That doesn’t make you a photographer – it makes you used.

  19. I can say that in the last three months I’ve had an overwhelming number of assistants hit me up for work. All of them talented and experienced.

    And all I can say to them is yeah I’m looking for work too….

    Editorial photography is on the verge of a major paradigm shift. Print media is going away, and how it will be resurrected, nobody really knows. Although it will probably involve a lot of “screens.”

    The world will always need the photograph, just like it will always need the written word.

    Hopefully, when EP 2.0 arrives, those of us that are still creating images will be the ones that control the distribution of those photographs.

    Groups like the APA and ASMP have an opportunity to make a play here — they are the closest thing that photogs have to a union. Imagine if every photographer belonged to the same agency, and the new buyers of EP or AP 2.0 had no choice but to go through that agency. The image makers would be the ones in control. It sounds crazy, but it’s entirely possible.

    Yes, the old building is falling down. But we have an opportunity to help draw the plans for the new one.

    If you’re just out of school, and really want to be a photographer, try thinking about what that new building should look like and get in on the ground floor.

    • @jamie kripke,

      APA and ASMP are nothing like unions and they can’t be. Photographers cannot form a union, as one must be an employee and therefore all of your work would be work for hire.

      FYI – The image makers have always been the one in control. They have just refused to believe that.

      • @Debra Weiss, Perhaps a guild, like the WGA or DGA?

        • @Rosco,

          Nope – guild members are employees of the production companies.

          • @Debra Weiss, intersting. My father is a WGA member. He only worked for studios for a few years. Otherwise he writes a script and his agent shops it around. It is bought/licensed by production companies, then he is paid, usually along the lines of the WGA agreements. I believe that he still holds the copyright. I’ll ask him for details.

      • @Debra Weiss, THANK YOU Debra! Believe that you are in control, stick to your bid and create. It is amazing how some people run for the garage sale mentality when the market dries up. It is not the time to raise your prices but the time to stand the line.

        Under cutting another studio to get a job is going to come back to haunt you later. Offer more for the same price if needed, and by this I mean service not rights. Art Buyers know that the market stinks and they are not happy that they have to bully photographers.

        I have seen it all over the 20 years I have been in this industry and this too will pass.

      • @Debra Weiss, An image maker is only in control when the the other image makers around him/her are also in control — when business decisions are made on principle instead of fear, and when everyone is smart enough to say no.

        Unfortunately this is easier said than done, which explains why bargain stock and microstock are devaluing photography as a whole, and hungry photographers give away unlimited usage for pennies on the dollar. Tell me how I can control those and I’ll do it.

        As long as photographers continue to exist and compete independently, these things will continue to happen.

        Something like a photographers’ union (or a “free association of people” if you are worried about the legal/work for hire issues) would help everyone to say no when a proposed deal is clearly unfair.

        • @jamie kripke,

          Tell that to Annie Leibovitz, Bruce Weber, Gregory Crewdson and a host of others. Photographers are responsible for their own sense of control.

          “Something like a photographers’ union (or a “free association of people” if you are worried about the legal/work for hire issues) would help everyone to say no when a proposed deal is clearly unfair.”

          Sorry – but this is a pipe dream.

        • @jamie kripke,

          It is my understanding that freelance contractors (like photographers) cannot have a union. It is very thin ice you’re treading on here — the government calls this “restraint of trade”, and also “price fixing”. It would be like the CEOs of Home Depot and Lowes getting together and saying “Wow, we’d sure like to make more on shingles and lumber — let’s both agree to mark them up by 50% more than what we’re selling them for now. Let’s just set a minimum that we won’t sell below, and if you honor it, then so will we”.

          The government would freak, and so would their customers. It’s just not legally possible.

          That’s why when you see these price guides published by ASMP and similar organizations, they’re always referred to as “surveys”. Again, very thin ice we’re walking on here, legally.

          You can dream about this all you want, but it just ain’t gonna happen. It’s every man for himself. Employee rules are much different from Independent Contractor rules.

          • @Reader, The Sherman Act can be amended, if we are talking about forming a guild with minimums. Which is where the ASMP and APA etc should be lobbying but whatever, they are busy fighting supporting or not supporting Orphan Works legislation. Unlikely, I know.

            @Debra, The SUPERSTARS you referenced are in a somewhat different situation than most.

            • @Donnar Party,

              If you are really a photographer you’d better hope there are those of us who are fighting Orphan Works legislation.

              The problem with setting minimums is that the floor will quickly become the ceiling. I don’t want anyone telling me what I can charge for services. If I’m a better negotiator than you, why should I pay a price?

              And about those superstars…they weren’t always in that position. Moves were made early in their careers that allowed them to become who they are today.

              • @Debra Weiss, Being members of SAG doesn’t keep Martin Sheen, George Clooney and Mel Gibson from pulling down tens of millions each year. And it doesn’t keep them from taking positions against the studios in the interest of their less powerful, fellow members. They can influence and shape the future of their profession more than any superstar photographer can.

                Can you imagine William Eggleston going to bat against the Orphan Works Bill? Why should he? There’s not enough incentive for him to do so, and it’s just not going to happen. Even if he did, he’d probably be drunk and incoherent anyway.

                Futhermore, Weber, Leibowitz, and Crewdson are not successful because of their skills as shrewd negotiators, or even because of their “vision” or their “passion” for photography. They are successful because they were (on several early occasions) in the right places at the right times, and they were ready and able to capitalize on some amazing opportunities that came their way.

                When they were starting out, they had about as much control over their success as our friend the photo assistant turned accountant.

                Anyone with a camera could have become a Leibowitz or Weber or Crewdson or whomever. It’s a combination of timing, luck, and being prepared.

                Photographers don’t have as much control over the market as they could or should, and as photographers it’s in our best interest to enable and encourage as much success as possible.

                Who knows, maybe with a bit more infrastructure, guidance, and support, our friend the Accountant could have become the next Avedon….

                • @jamie kripke, exactly. I am a photographer and a DP on commercials and music videos. I am IATSE. We have minimums for union shoots, but no one has ever offered the minimum to me or anyone I know. My day rate is 500% that of the minimum, and I’m not a star. They are just price floors that really serve people just starting out.

                  I don’t know about Bruce W or Crewdson, but I know about Annie’s early career in SF. My mother shot for Rolling Stone and the Bay Guardian in those days. Things were so open. If you had some talent and were groovy, you could show your portfolio of 5×7 prints that you carry around in a grocery bag and get hired at RS, Bay Guardian, AP, UPI etc. Annie was a groovy, wild young thing with talent. As RS grew, she grew with them until she became something larger. At every juncture she chose wisely and thrived. It could have been my mom if she hadn’t of had a baby (me!).

                  This just doesn’t seem possible today, does it? AL’s story is from a different age, an age where risk was minimal because there wasn’t much money on the line in 1970. Maybe the current economic situation will set back the clock. I hope so. Maybe Mr. Accountant could have rented an apartment here for a few more years if it were not so stupidly expensive.

                  Debra, I am of course against the orphan works legislation as written. My comment about the ASMP and APA was how they took cross positions on the bill at some point. Very confusing.

                • @jamie kripke,

                  Comparisons between photographers and SAG members, or WGA members are non-analogous.

                  “Anyone with a camera could have become a Leibowitz or Weber or Crewdson or whomever.”

                  If you really want to believe what you wrote, that’s your prerogative. I beg to differ. By the way it’s Leibovitz.

                  “Photographers don’t have as much control over the market as they could or should, and as photographers it’s in our best interest to enable and encourage as much success as possible.”

                  They don’t have as much control because it has been consistently relinquished by a community that has repeatedly laid down and rolled over. Everything that has happened to photographers has happened with their permission – even when there were those who warned them what would happen every step of the way.

                  “Who knows, maybe with a bit more infrastructure, guidance, and support, our friend the Accountant could have become the next Avedon….”

                  According to your statement above, all he would need is a camera.

                  Guidance and support are always important, but I’m not sure those terms are synonymous with pricing minimums.

                  • @Debra Weiss,

                    “Comparisons between photographers and SAG members, or WGA members are non-analogous.”

                    How so? Both actors and photographers are creative professionals that are paid to bring their visions to a project in order to sell something. They have agents that negotiate jobs for them, and the prices they command vary widely based on perceived value. The only significant difference is in how they are organized.

                    “If you really want to believe what you wrote, that’s your prerogative. I beg to differ. By the way it’s Leibovitz.”

                    I do. OK. Thanks.

                    “They don’t have as much control because it has been consistently relinquished by a community that has repeatedly laid down and rolled over.”

                    Not everyone is rolling over. But if one person caves, it makes things more difficult for everyone, which results in usage giveaways, microstock, and editorial rates that stagnate for 10 years. More and more photographers are coming to dinner and we keep trying to divide up the same small pie.

                    I don’t think that pricing minimums are the answer either. I do think that it’s time to figure out how to bake a bigger pie, which is going to require a different approach than the one we’ve got.

                    “According to your statement above, all he would need is a camera.”

                    Yes. And good timing and lots of luck. Unfortunately they don’t sell those at B&H.

                    Maybe you have some positive ideas on if/how/when photographers will stop laying down and rolling over? I’d love to hear them.

                    • @jamie kripke,

                      “Both actors and photographers are creative professionals…

                      Any similarity if there is any stops right there. The creative process, mentality, personalities and end results are very different.

                      Let’s go over this again. In order for photographer’s to have a union they must be employees. When you are an employee, all that you create is work for hire and therefore, you do not own the copyright. Actors, writers and directors are employees of the production company that is making the film.

                      “Maybe you have some positive ideas on if/how/when photographers will stop laying down and rolling over?”

                      HA! Sorry – it’s obvious you haven’t been around very long. Unfortunately, the majority of photographers will never stop. It is due to a combination of lack of self respect, flimsy spines and a refusal to not only accept that this is a business, but also an unwillingness to really understand what business is about. Of course not all are like this and the ones that aren’t live very well for the most part. But there will always be someone who will do the job cheaper thinking that the next time around it will be different. It won’t. There will always be those who will give away their rights thinking that’s the only way they can get the job. Well it’s not.

                      “Yes. And good timing and lots of luck.”

                      Again, you can believe whatever you’d like but I can’t treat this and your original statement with any degree of seriousness. In my opinion, this notion is everything that is wrong with this industry.

                    • @Debra Weiss, I think Jamie understands the business, s/he is expressing a desire for a change for the better. Even if photographers were employees such that we could have a union, in our collective bargaining agreement we could state clearly that our photographs are not works for hire. The work for hire doctrine is a legal presumption when no agreement is in place between an employer and an employee. This presumption can be rebutted by contract terms.

                      This seems to be a sore spot with you and I want you to know that I’m not trying to pick a fight, just spark some conversation. I know the written word can come across as rude or confrontatiol when it is not meant to be.

                    • @Donnar Party,

                      I’d double check your information re: unions. This is not a sore sport with me – I did not write the laws.

                      In response to your previous post:

                      “My comment about the ASMP and APA was how they took cross positions on the bill at some point. Very confusing.”

                      The reason for the cross positions stems from ASMP’s and PPA’s promise to publicly endorse the House version of the Orphan Works bill in exchange for some meaningless concessions that would benefit only the portrait retail photographers. Their rationale and justification for supporting this lousy bill was that if they didn’t support it now, the next version would be worse. (Wish I knew where they had bought their crystal ball.) APA and others could not and would not support either the House or the Senate bills.

                    • @Debra Weiss,

                      Although unionization could be a sport to some, I meant to write “spot”.

        • Debra Weiss Reply:
          February 27th, 2009 at 2:40 pm
          @jamie kripke,
          Tell that to Annie Leibovitz, Bruce Weber, Gregory Crewdson and a host of others. Photographers are responsible for their own sense of control.

          Ummmmm….Debra Weiss, have you read the New York Times article about Annie pawning her homes and life’s work to borrow money?

          “The Old Master…Pawnshop”


          • @1 more for the Rodeo,

            Yes, I have read the NY Times article. The reason she can go the route she is taking because she has been in control of her career since the beginning. Also, just because she has taken a loan does not mean she doesn’t have money. She is in a position because of her tremendous earning potential to repay that loan in a relatively short period of time. Depending upon how it is managed, debt in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing.

            • @Debra Weiss, she doesn’t have money. The loans she is getting are at 18% – 24%. This kind of debt is a bad thing. She is gambling on getting a few big jobs which haven’t been awarded and which might not happen. Her client LV canceled a new campaign with AL and instead reused last year’s photos. This was a major blow. A bigger blow is the snowball effect, as vendors refuse to extend her credit. She can pull it out, but she is going to have to work harder than she has in 10 years, and she’s no spring chicken.

              • @anon, I would like to add that I am pulling for her. I like her and her work.

                • @anon,

                  I would hope that all are pulling for her.

  20. It has only been a year! It is such a gradual process. Nothing happens overnight.

    I think the writer just didn’t stick it out long enough or is not trying hard enough….Not to say times aren’t getting difficult but, speaking as someone who just went through the same thing in 2005 and is now making it work you have to be patient. NYC is a tough place and I really think it takes more than a year to really get into the game fulltime w/ freelance assisting for most people unless you are a serious ballbuster. Honestly, I was kind of surprised how easy it was to get in the door there w/ certain big ppl but, getting the work is a little more elusive. Work at a rental studio if you want to meet people quick….It is going to be other assistants and producers who get you work not photographers. It is the 1st asst usually calling up ppl anyway.

    I spent a year in nyc assisting and then came back to New Orleans(2005-2006) and spent that next year working in a coffee shop but, still pursuing the photo stuff. website, photoserve listing, individual emails to PE’s, etc…… 3 months after I had been back Travis Ruse @ Inc. called me up and gave me my first assignment. I ended up getting a couple other assignments that year along w/ assisting gigs for a few big names that passed through town for shoots. All the while still slinging coffee in between and I did that for a solid year until finally the photo stuff took off. 3 years later and biz is just starting to really come around.

    Also, as an example of a recent RIT grad who is doing something check out http://www.gavinthomasphoto.com/

    He is a recent grad who is making things happen for himself. And I believe he graduated in 2007 if I’m not mistaken.

    I know a couple others that started a production company/rental studio in LA and are doing well w/ that and also building their portfolio and one recently signed w/ a good rep.

    For every I CAN’T there’s at least one I CAN…maybe even 2 or 3. There’s always a way if you want it bad enough. People have been screaming death of photography biz for as long as I remember… I used to read the EP board a lot and everyday there was some cynical bastard bitching about not being able to make a living, yet there are so many kids making it right now…

    a few who have been plugging away for the past few years…


    The opportunity is there you just have to stick around long enough for it to reveal itself.

    Oh, and a shout out to Mr. Amengual up there…..not sure if you remember me but, we assisted on a job together for Franco Vogt a couple years ago….Salem Ad up in Westchester. you came on for the last day or two.

  21. This is nothing new. This kid sounds just like 90% of all interns and assistants I’ve had over the years – good times and bad.

    The vast majority of graduating photography students will not become photographers. Main reason is:

    They lack the passion.

    So many made the choice when they were 18 to get a photography degree because it seemed like a cool thing to do. Most photo programs are not exactly demanding on their students, so they graduate with lackluster ambition and boring portfolios.

    Now for the other 10% of assistants I’ve had that lived and breathed the life, had endless amounts of passion and optimism, and treated every little job like it was the biggest thing in the world and it showed – that 10% went on to become successful artists of their own.

    I should also note that of them, I think only a few even went to photo school. Many were business majors who hated working in an office.

    Passion doesn’t require a degree. And its the passionate – and who have the stamina to fight their way up the ladder for years – who are successful.

  22. This is contrary to what I read another photo editor write earlier this year, on this site… (Can’t find the post now). At any rate, she made the point that a down economy can be a really good opportunity for newcomers with less overhead in a climate where buyers are looking for a deal.

    I find it hard to believe that really good scrappy upstarts can’t find a foothold today. I think I’d rather be in that position right now than entrenched in a high-overhead studio, afraid to take risks or de-value my brand.

    • @Phill,


      Collect your prize

  23. I really think it’s simply a matter of cutting costs and going to where some of the action is. The Czech master Josef Koudelka didn’t have an apartment for 15 years after fleeing to the West in 1970. Why?! Because he realized that the money he would have spent each month on rent he could use instead to finance his wanderings around Europe. Now, this might be a bit of an extreme example, but I thin you really need to have your priorities straight right now. As Craig says above, many just lack the passion to follow through. If you want to do photography–even right now–it is possible, you just can’t probably live in Brooklyn, let alone Manhattan–it’s all to expensive. On top of this, when fewer and fewer magazines/newspapers are giving out assignments, you better be in a place where interesting, offbeat things are going on all the time.

  24. Big debt, no jobs. Anyone not screaming bloody murder right now is deluded or is already accustomed to being an artist (ie. not getting paid…regularly…to do your work) or an amateur (ie not getting paid to take quite excellent pictures, and doing so in spare time). “Professional” does not have a role in this discussion, and there are far to many photographers for us all to be professionals (the book keeping, the overhead, etc…it’s never a one-time fee for entry!). If you shoot and are getting paid, Bravo. If you’ve done so for many many years and have seen many industry ups and downs, bravo again. If you’re still on a wing and a prayer, good luck my friend.

  25. “it’s just really unfortunate that a young photographer such as myself, and my 12 other classmates from photo school, never really had a chance to establish ourselves in the field that we truly love.”

    Apparently he didn’t want it bad enough. I doubt that he returns to photography full time after he gets his Masters in Accountancy. As hard as it is right now, it’s even harder to leave behind a job making a regular paycheck for the uncertainty of a new freelance photo career.

  26. I bet as many of you say, folks graduating from an Art or Photography program put most of the emphasis on their “craft” and not enough on the “business” end.
    David Bean ( http://www.visualreserve.com ) is one photographer who seems to have a head for that. He’s put an emphasis on the Commerce portion of this field in his seminars. I’ve seen a lot of seminars and workshops, where everything is about getting “great snaps” but very little do much to focus on your business end of things.
    Not that I love paperwork, workflow, e-mail, invoices…etc, they are necessary evils to keep you behind the camera.

  27. Just forget about the economy. People need photographs in various forms, whether it is editorial, corporate, or personal portraiture. How do you think we have all those portraits of Kings and dukes and queens, and the other rich people that smile or glare down at us from the walls of every museum in the world?

    Because you do what you need to survive.

    I came to New York and sold knock off shoes on the Upper East Side first. Then sold coffee to hipsters, and then worked on the LES as a lackey.

    If you want to do art, you do it.

    You don’t complain that you can’t repay that overpriced education.

  28. It’s a shame that his fears outweighed his passion.
    I’m a young photographer myself, I actually graduated with a commercial photography degree the same year he did. (so yes, VERY young)
    I understand where he’s coming from, and have felt like throwing my hands up in the air a good handful of times too. But every time I turn away and look at my ‘other options’ nothing makes sense. The only thing that makes complete sense is photography. So, maybe I’ll have a part time job here or there to make sure my bills are paid on time, but I never let it interfere with my real work. I know my niche, I’ve found my style, and I’m working on my business plan…I deal with fears everyday, but I push through them, market like crazy and meet with photographers every chance I get.
    And frankly, I’m a little confused why he feels like him and his classmates “never really had a chance to establish [themselves] in the field”?? I know it’s rough, but who is this teacher giving them the idea that they are going to make it big in the first 6 months to a year? Makes me appreciate my instructors more than I ever had before!

  29. Toughen up, Kid….. this is not a prof. for the meek…its always been hard and it always will be hard…if it was easy everyone would be doing it.

  30. Thats really sad. the economy will weed out weak photographers. just gotta keep doing it, and stay positive.

  31. I don’t think there really is a safe place to work with this recession, so maybe being a poor out-of-work photographer is better than being a poor out-of-work accountant? I’ve been laid off (was an architectural renderer in NYC) my brother’s firm is laying some people off (civil engineer) and governments are facing crises that cause them to lay people off. Working for the government used to be a sure path to the middle class, right?
    I’m not saying that the photo business isn’t worse off (I don’t know from personal experience) but I’d reconsider abandoning something you really love for another job where the grass may be just as brown as in photography. I personally plan to use my out-of-workness to get myself into something I actually want to do.

    • @Eric, totally! I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again.

      I’d rather be an unemployed artist, and be fulfilling my expectations (hah) than be an unemployed steel worker who thought he had a job until retirement.

  32. Ignoring reality will not serve well.

    Visit Los Angeles. Witness all the very talented actors – serving food to make a living. Or barely making a living paycheck to paycheck. Often that actress working 5 nights a week at a nice cafe will make a better living than many “pro” photographers. She’ll have negligible overhead, free days. She could even be a really fine photographer (without having her identity wrapped up in being a professional photographer).

    How long will the actor continue with the obsession?
    How many actors will *make it*? Make a healthy ROI.
    Meanwhile, how does the starving artist create a family, care for aging parents, even care for their own health? Do they finally realize this at 39, 46, or 53 years of age? Then what?

    The writer of that letter has made a wise choice to explore other opportunities.
    While he achieves that degree he can still enjoy photography. He’ll be open to fresh perspectives, and most likely will be VERY gainfully employed soon after graduation.

  33. i´ve been trying to grow my own lemon grass, basil and coriander for longer than a year and still no success…
    not about to give up though.

    • @db, The best line in this mess, I love it!

  34. I’ve been a professional photographer for about a year. Before that I was an event manager. I have a degree in economics. I’m 25.

    I have more work than really care for, but don’t want to say no to work either. So I’ve hired another full time photographer, and use several local assistents when needed.

    Everyone gets paid.

    If I only took the jobs that paid the most, I’d have more money than I’d ever need. Now, I do the jobs that pay the bills, and then I do jobs that I really care about. But it’s all photography, and I make shots I’m happy with every day.

    I live in Norway, a country that might not have been hit as hard as the US, but there’s plenty of photographers complaining about the lack of work. Plenty more are part-timers.

    The reason they can’t find work is because they only want to do the jobs that are really fun, and pay great. If those guys disappears, fine by me. They were never really professionals to begin with.

  35. There’s one major lesson young photographers, especially those fresh out of college, need to keep in mind: nothing comes overnight. It takes time to build up contacts, a portfolio, your aesthetic, your niche in the market. Having gone to photo school at Tisch (and ditching that scene my freshman year to study economics, photo and marketing), I can say with recent firsthand experience that there is a dangerous mix of entitlement and a lack of passion in MOST students. Like others have said, there is a 10% margin of young photographers (who have and have not gone to art school) who are totally passionate, smart and devoted to making a career as a photographer- no matter what. Despite this economy, editorial jobs shrinking, and whatever other hurdles are in the way, this 10% will be working our asses off to make things happen. 4 eva.

  36. get over it. plumbers have competition too.

  37. hey banker kid. FUCK you. I’ve been shooting for a community paper for 8 years (since my late 20s). I’ve shot for i-D, Discovery, XLR8R and Rolling Stone. and you what? I’m still shooting for the community paper. Why? Because it’s what we love. Even in the down time. YOU don’t love it.
    And it’s people like you that give me hope. eventually the amateurs will tire out like kids at a birthday party and leave the rest open for the real shooters.

    I’m surprised Rob posted you. I would have treated you like Don Corleone and Johnny Fontain. “Be a MAN!” slap.

  38. I wish there was a place online discussing true innovation in the creative process. So many conclude here and everywhere, “follow your heart” and “be creative”, but what does this really mean? Who are the trailblazers? What are the ambitious experiments? Where are the innovations in communication happening? How is visual expression being pushed? I refuse to believe that deep investigation only happens in MFA programs among individuals with no business knowledge.. So where is it at? How do we engage in it? Where is the conversation happening? Anyway, Follow your heart, be passionate, have fun, eat chocolate, give the world yet another pic of a pretty girl and say its creative.

    • @Lehman, That ‘conversation’ was pretty much the reason behind SHOWstudio, but tbh the forums there are a depressing place. The same ten posters, having an opinion on everything, all the f’ing time. And clearly not working much.
      Most ‘creatives’ I know spend as much time away from computers as possible, and rarely discuss ‘creativity’ with somebody they wouldn’t invite to dinner.

      • @Neil,
        You’re right. Fuck it. I’m just wasting my time here. I am either creating or I’m not. Period. Goodbye.

      • @Neil,
        I just try to take good pictures of naked women. gets me noticed!
        Srsly though. I think it comes down to
        1) creativity
        2) luck.
        It always has. In every creative medium. In music for every one Sex Pistols there’s a dozen Dead Boys. Who knows why things happen.
        As to the MFA unfortunately, that’s some kind of litmus test with the entire system esp. galleries.
        we live in a time where every style, pose, fashion and lighting situation has been done. I suppose just looking at MFA’ers is a way to weed out the “amateurs”

    • @Lehman, Yeah, SHOWstudio was it, sort of. At Mouso and Franks in LA, every Thursday, some older and very witty artists, writers, shooters, musicians meet up. Nutopia is good, but is really invite only. The problem with teh web is that no gatekeep = mob rule and/or the lowest common denominator,

  39. I graduated in June of 08 and was adequately supporting myself through assisting until December. The jobs just aren’t there any more.

    I sympathize, but I just can’t see your reasoning in defeat. You have to live within your means, you have to go out there and get what you want. If that means a constructive internship in between a pt job, then do it. Its all easier said than done, I know, but you have to hustle.

    And frankly, if you are concerned with finances I’m not sure how you can fathom another term of financial aid.

  40. The point that I think is most important here, for young photographers anyway, is Rob’s advice to ” find a way to work on your craft and be poised for a comeback.”

    Like a lot of young photographers I had an idyllic plan all mapped out for my photo career.

    1. Attend school and shoot amazing, artsy pics for group critiques. Watch instructors and classmates swoon. Triumphantly grab diploma on the way out the door to major metropolitan area (NY/LA/Chicago)

    2. Walk in front door of agencies/magazines, with book in hand and heart on sleeve. Meet with understanding editors/art directors, “Boy, I remember when I was starting out… I guess we could find something for you.” Do great work, get rehired. Rinse and repeat across town.

    3. Live happily ever after.

    Sadly, as ridiculous as this plan was/is some students think that’s the way it is. The reality is that I knew it would be extremely difficult to move into a field that was already saturated with talent and deprived of jobs. I decided I would get a degree in graphic design instead and continue to shoot through college and after graduation.

    It was only when I started working at a design firm that I began to understand how the business of photography and marketing work, to learn how to bid a job and how to build business relationships. All the things they don’t teach you to do in art school, but are so important as a professional photographer.

    With the economy the way it is now clients are looking for one-stop shops and people they trust to do their work. As a design firm we’ve gotten requests for photography in addition to the graphic design and web design work we usually do. Now all of a sudden I’m back to being a photographer again.

    Does the fact that I spend a greater majority of my days designing instead of taking photographs make me a fraud as a photographer? What is a photographer anyway?

    Before I get a hundred responses on here telling me it’s someone who shoots as their sole profession let me ask you, is it someone who shoots everyday? Every week? In today’s climate you might be lucky to shoot once a month as a young photographer, which has been about how much I’ve gotten to shoot lately.

    The fact that I can design and shoot only makes me more valuable in my current work situation and will only help in the future, should I decide to take up my original dream of photography full-time once again. Would I love to be shooting? Yes I would. Would I like to be assisting? Sure, you got health insurance and enough steady work for me to make my student loan payments on time? Didn’t think so.

    Until things improve for us young photographers out there I’ll continue to find ways to “work on my craft and be poised and ready.”

  41. My opinion has been expressed in previous replies to this post except one minor detail – that is, for those of us who want a career in photography benefit greatly from people with this mindset. Less competition. I know, I know, that’s a mean thing to say, but it’s true.
    The ones who will “survive” this are the ones who want to. Simple. It can go across the board, giving up obviously gets you nowhere. This reader, in my opinion, didn’t have what it takes. Young and emerging photographers are in the best position to grab this by the balls – we aren’t missing the $50k ad campaigns and have virtually no overhead to take care of. The only way for us to go is up.

  42. Smokin’ thread.

    I think the title of this post should be: “Young Photographers Just Don’t Have a Chance Right Now With This Type of Attitude”.

    As for the “comeback”, if you can’t see yourself making it now while you are young and relatively free of commitments, then let me tell you, it is going to become a whole lot harder to switch back into photography a few years down the track, when you have been working another profession (I know, I did it).

    I am not sure what bugs me the most – that this attitude exists (what, you expected photography to be easy?), or that Rob slapped this on the front page of his blog (sorry Rob).

    I just feel that it is easy to keep the churn going on the gloom and doom of photography. Sure, the economy has changed, blah, blah, blah, but there are plenty of photographers still thriving.

    To me, it is like a tide. Either you will change what you do (type of photographic jobs) and how you do it, or you will be one of those photographers left standing on the beach after the tide has gone out, wondering ‘how did this happen to me?’.

    • @Thomas Pickard,
      I get so many emails like this and I have no good answers to give plus I was very surprised at how many people responded to the Norfolk quote I published.

      I’m really glad I put it up. So, much good advice and of course plenty of tough love too.

  43. I always tell my assistants, students, etc., that it takes at least 3 years to get a photo business off the ground, and that’s after you stop assisting. It takes about 3 years to build up a steady clientele, to the point where you’re making the majority of your income from shooting. Until then, whatever else it takes, is what it takes (part time job, etc.). One year is not nearly enough of a commitment.

  44. Why does everyone go to New York and L.A. when they finish P-school? That’s the last place you want to be as an up-and-comer. There are tonnes of quality publications to freelance for outside of the big cities. Everyone wants to be the next Annie, I suppose.

    • @PK,

      True that! My rep told me something similar. It doesn’t matter where you are, it’s what you shoot. You can be in BFE Montana, but if you are putting some shoots together and producing images that are marketable, you’re making money. And you’re not paying $1650 for a one bedroom, either.

  45. I’m stopping myself from going off on a rant here, and I could, but us young photographers need to stop complaining (and yes, I agree, there is plenty to complain about) and start releasing the benefits this has for us.

    I think this is going to be like a brush fire. All those photographers who were not so great are going to have their clients think about finding new photographers and may be willing to try someone younger who might not charge as much since they don’t have as much experience or a huge studio as overhead. Let me make this clear though, NO LOW BALLING! I’m not advocating making your rates so low that you ruin it for all of us, but a younger less seasoned photographer usually charges less than a well known one who’s been shooting for years, but most importantly, we don’t have crushing overheads like huge studios in SoHo we need to pay the rent on.

    There’s going to be a lot of companies looking to try newer and more edgy things to be a cut above the rest to get new customers in a shrinking market and they may turn to younger talent for this. A lot of photographers who were reaching retirement age are going to bow out a little early rather than lose more money. There will also be a lot less people getting a degree in photography in the next few years, and there will be a lot of people who just don’t want to deal with this type of hard work and pain and will stop being photographers.

    So, no, this is not going to be like the 80’s (from all the stories I’ve heard). But this could be our big chance! If you love what you do, and you’re willing to really work hard for the next few years with deferred gratification, keep at it. If you just love photography but can’t stand the photo business, get out now, there’s going to be a lot of emphasis on business tactics for a while. If you can make it though this, when the upswing comes (and it will) life is going to be cake (well… comparatively anyway).

  46. Back sometime in the 80’s even Irving Penn closed his studio for a time due to lack of commercial assignments. And that was the fabulous 80’s. A fine art show spiked interest in him again, and he re-opened. Food for thought. If you continue to take interest in your work, other will be drawn in as well.

  47. I think it’s sad how these kids are taken advantage of. All a degree from Hallmark or any other of these photo schools gets you is 35 grand of debt and a camera that no one uses. I’ve worked with several kids coming out of photo school and they don’t even know how to turn on a pack. What are they teaching these kids if they can’t even come out of photo school and start assisting? My advice would be to stay home and see if there are any local shooters you can begin to assist. Save your money, learn as much as you can and move to the city with at least 5 grand and a free place to stay if you can find it. I will also say, that getting an assisting job or shooting job rarely happens from cold calling, emailing, etc. So many of these students come out of school thinking that they can email a few people and in no time they will be getting travel jobs and hanging out at Milk all day drinking beers at the bar. You’re probably going to be assisting some guys shooting corporate head shots or doing work that you might not find that exciting for a while. I had to work at several studios in the city part time to supplement the 2 or 3 assisting jobs I was getting a month. It’s not easy, you will be broke for a while, I’m still pretty much broke and I work pretty often. Most people I’ve talked to, and also in my own experience say it takes 6 to 8 months to get a steady base of 3 or 4 photographers that steadily use you as an assistant. I guess my sentiments are similar to the other people responding to this post, it’s not easy to make a living at photography, especially when you first start out. It takes a certain personality and a willingness to hustle to really pull it off. If you have these things and you’re talented, then you’ll probably be okay.

    • @Assistant.,

      I second all of that.

    • @Assistant.,
      i’d just like to say that I went to RIT and we received a VERY technical background. Learning how and why things worked (including the physics, optics, and chemistry of photography) I found invaluable. I was able to work almost any power pack and run any digital capture right out of school. They prepared up for assisting too, and due to their encouragement I was assisting after my 2nd year in school. This helped put a lot of what I learned in the next 2 years into perspective. I was also able to get assisting jobs with at least 1 out of every 5 people I called in New York, granted I wasn’t going for the absolute biggest photographers, but I worked on ad jobs 4 days a week right after graduating.

      Those schools who emphasize your ‘style’ and ‘what this image really means’ while your still learning what there is to shoot out there and what profesional photography means are crap, you can do that without the high cost of college. But going to a very technical photo school helped me be the photographer I am today, as did all the people I assisted.

      • @Christine Blackburne, RIT is a real school, with rigor. Most of the others, especially those not affiliated with a traditional university, without naming names, are art camps that blow smoke. I was at a party where the head of the MFA photo program at one of these art camps told me that the only competition for his program was Yale. I laughed a little.

    • @Assistant.,

      I did the photo school for almost 2 years. Although I quit knowing how to operate a pack…the only way I’ve gotten to a sustainable level now is by busting my ass and hustling everyday. My best advice: Assist. Test. Shoot. Drink. Repeat Excessively.

    • @Assistant, actually I went to Hallmark before going to get my BFA (I want to teach eventually, so I’m on that track now) and when I started assisting I found that I knew almost all the tech. Interning at Shoot Digital helped too, but really paying attention at school did the job. I was more prepared than I thought I would be.

      I think the real problem, as usual, lies with the individuals – So many of my peers don’t seem to pay attention at all, coast through their assignments, barely graduate, and expect the paper their degree or certificate is printed on to mean something. It doesn’t, of course. You’re paying for the EXPERIENCE not the degree.

  48. I have to say, that if you’re going to use the “economic crisis” as a reason for not making it, you won’t make it – ever, at any level.
    The reality is, that it takes a LOT of HARD work in any field these days, sure fees are going down, sure some are not getting work, but if you have DRIVE, AMBITION, and TALENT…you will get work – period.

    The difference between all of the amateurs with 20k of camera gear and you, the “pro” is that you get paid. SO, keep getting paid, keep up the relationships because that is in fact what this biz is all about, not so much the snaps that you make. Keep up that and you will always make a living.
    As a wedding professional, I’ve seen the amount of people getting into weddings skyrocket lately, yet, the studios that I compete on daily ..well, I can count them on one hand – so there is work for everyone out there..no matter what the economy is like.

  49. thanks for the good conversation and food for thought. i became a professional photography through a fluke: joining and posting my photos on flickr.com since 2005. many ad agencies (including VISA) and publishing houses find me through tagging and flickr blog, and i’ve sold photos consistently since 2005, with obviously no overhead. pearl izumi bought one photo for $4,000 (found through tagging “silouette+runner”), and blackwater publishing recently bought a photo as a book cover, found through tagging “boy+dog”. i’ve worked hard at getting exposure with many gallery shows, and was accepted into the bay area photographers collective, where i met seasoned photographers who were generous with their time and knowledge. my photos have been published in many books and magazines, all stemming from my flickr experience.

    i agree wholeheartedly about finding a niche. i recently found an unexpected one through lousy circumstances – being diagnosed with breast cancer and having a double mastectomy last november. i want to spread the word about the importance of mammograms, so i posted my mastectomy photos and a visual “diary” of my experience, on flickr and a blog. since then, several online magazines have picked up my story, and in april 2009 San Francisco Magazine will run an interview about me and will include several of my photos. i’m now planning to do articles for health and cancer magazines.

    there are so many avenues for exposure and success in photography, even in this economy, if you have the talent and drive–and, as in my case, a ton of luck. for me, flickr was a great way to start.

  50. I have written here in the past that new photogs need to use their imagination, work with a freelance writer and hit the pubs up with some concrete story ideas. It’s worked for me on all my major assignments.
    they should start with their city monthlies.
    Rob, being a PE, what are your thoughts on that approach.
    I think the days of e-mail bombing and mass mailings are over.
    Think, people!

  51. another thought – i submitted photos to my local newspaper for free (mostly surfing photography and about-town stuff), and they were all published. eventually the newspaper came to me with assignments, and i ended up on their masthead as a paid photographer.

  52. Photography is for Fun!!!!!!!

  53. I think that article is total BS. If photography is something that you really love then don’t give up on it. If it’s something that you really love then there is no way to fail, because you will find a way to make it work. Right now I don’t have a pot to piss in, but I am slowly and surely making my career work. I think most young photographers think that if they are good at photography then it will automatically work, but it is a business and that is more then half the battle. I try and shoot everyday even if it is for free or for my book, but i try and spend at least triple that time on new business and self promotion. thats the only way to make it when you are starting out unless you get lucky.

  54. I too was caught by the poignancy of the article. This was really nothing new to hear…just good to hear.

    I try never to be too occupied with making a living with a camera. In fact, I cannot really understand why anyone would want to poison the craft with money. Certainly, this is only my opinion.

    For those hurting from the current situation, here is what I try to keep in mind as I go out into the day.

    1) Personal craft is more important than a monetary opportunity.

    2) Never ever give up the day job…if you are fortunate enough to make a living with photography, it will not last…make it count. The days of “photography careers” went out the window with Flickr and digital. Stay well rounded and informed about the world and how it works.

    3) Never measure your accomplishments or success by the size of your pocket book.

    4) Taking yourself too seriously is a sign of a fragile self esteem.

    5) Never occupy yourself with limitations…why build a fence around opportunity.

    6) Ignore everyone!

    7) In the end of your life, will anyone really give a damn if you were published or an empty room had your pics on the wall? Just you….

    Thanks for having the blog Rob.


    • @M. W-S,

      This reminds me of this:


      I also think its pretty funny to associate flickr with the end of “photography career”. I tried to figure out what would lead to that line of thought, but apparently I am not “smart” enough to see it. I seem to be doing pretty well.. as are many others, despite the continuing existence of flickr…
      lol. Maybe in the random pictures of cats career.

      • @craig, “smart” comic! Reminds me of this:


        Flick is quantity over quality in most cases. No doubt some strong work there…and I hear there have been a few success stories of “making it” from flickr, LOL!

        Flickr is more or less a stock agency for mediocre pictures.

        Operations like Getty and such view flickr as an opportunity to circumvent the profession in the name of a lower buy in price…and most if not all flickr users, cat shooters included, would be more than happy to make 50 bucks with out ever realizing that they are lowering the precedent of the craft.

        • @M. W-S,

          Maybe if you shoot stock.

          Not everyone does.

  55. Rob:

    my reply, sent to David, at Burn:

    Through out the ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE WORLD, the sky has been falling…for time immemorial, the Photography World (business) has been dying…about to extinquish….TV was going to kill the Newspaper…then the web would kill TV, etc….to some degree, it’s all total bollucks…the closing of the Rocky Mountain News is said (and yes, they were a brilliant outfit) and i feel for the staff there, considerably. But i find increasingly the dire writing that often seems to plaque the photographic world just idiotic. TRANSFORMATION….the world is about transformation and any creative thoughtful photographer who works hard and sees and senses and is not blind or befuddled or deaf to change will do ok…yes, Print Mags are disappearing…yes, getting a decent gig as a journalist for a paper and making a life-long living is increasingly dinosaurously impossible….but the world has remarkable potential and this is the time, not to hang heads, but to delved into what remarkable possibilities are out there…visually, materially and, yes, financially….

    Lassal’s link (i read it) just depressed me increasingly, not for the factual information but for the suggestion that we all just give up, go home…fuck…look what people are doing in China, in India, in Brazil….

    Wake up people…sure, it aint the midas-touch life of photography, but this is a remarkable time…..hard as shit, yea, of course…belt tightening, fuck yea (talk to me about that shit, my wife and i are raising a 14 year old on 2 artist income in an incredibly expensive N.American city, and you dont see me hanging up the bloody towell or complaining at Lightstalkers or burn), reimagining how to make a life as a photographer…hell yea….but, it is possible…pespective people….

    gotta live ahead not behind…maybe it’s ambition, my own ambition is small: make the work i want to make and figure out from there how to survive and feed my family…maybe a turning toward the work rather than toward the ‘career’ will elevate more…

    not to sound cliched, but for god’s sake, carpe diem for god’s sake already….

    Transformation….that’s what the damn profession is about to begin with, embrace it and makes it yours….

    im with david, reading the post on aphotoeditor and than this one from lassal just seems, well…like the same old song….

    im not a pollyanna rose-colored dub, but good god…maybe the difficulties we all now face will hone ideas more sharply….



    • @bobblack, Right on running man!

      “maybe the difficulties we all now face will hone ideas more sharply” – or cull the herd.

      Split LS my man…hope to catch up in TX or TO soon…about time we cross.

    • @bobblack, Absolutely.

  56. ps. my note wasnt to sound any antipathy toward APhotoEditor blog (i love this blog too, though prefer to read rather than write, since most of my ‘non-writing’ writing gets done at Burn and LS) but was just a stab at being a reminder that the nomenclature of destruction and apocalypse that seems to be sounded continually of late (but is this any different from 20, 40, 60 years ago?) is most often just sounded by those who dont have the mettle or foresight to see that all of life, the breath, is transformation (remember Rilke anyone ;) )…we just have to ride the wave as it curls beneath our toes…..

    I think Simon is RIGHT …but i think people have missed his metaphor…to think like an amateur (dedication toward honing vision rather than calculated and expected comfort) rather than a for-given pro….anyway…

    hang 10 ya’ll and ride it goofey! :))))


  57. It seems that now most “photographers” must learn the hard way that photography might be the easiest business to enter but the hardest to succeed in.

    I don’t see any problems, just problems being solved.

  58. Photography has become more and more competitive, and the key to survive is having the ability to network and market yourself and your work the best you can. Unfortunately this is more than 50% of the business right now.
    If you do not understand that aspect of the business, it will be very hard.

  59. Well, this kid got their ear chewed off by some.

    T.S.Elliot worked as a clerk in the Patent Office because poetry didn’t pay. George Orwell died prematurely because of the deprivations he sustained as a writer who couldn’t make a living.

    And so on.

    After careful consideration I think I too have to say, “tough shit”. Some of the greatest art of any kind has been produced by people who couldn’t make a living from it, but they were compelled to do it anyway and suffer the consequences.

    Seperates the men from the boys. (Sorry ladies).

  60. The poor guy has been reading too many of the “intern” postings on Craigslist.

  61. Well, looks like I wont be getting too many more emails from young photographers just starting out and having a hard time of it. There’s plenty of great advice right here for them.

    • @A Photo Editor,

      I am always amazed at the amount of “Social Darwinist”, Horatio-Alger, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” rhetoric that is dragged up when we talk about any kind of struggles in the industry. Boy, you just ain’t trying hard enough – go market! ;>)

      It reminds me so much of “The Right Stuff.” Any time a pilot tanked it, they *always* blamed the pilot, not the equipment or a plain old unavoidable accident. The pilot *had* to have screwed up – because to think otherwise meant that you, too, could crash, and they were all afraid to admit that. Same when I was bicycle racing – just too much raw machismo.

      I’m retired, so I really don’t care. But I have an MBA (in addition to an undergrad degree in photography), and I know how to do cost/benefit analysis. The question is – are 1 out of 100 photogs strugling, or 99 out of 100, with that 1 left over making about $10K a year? We don’t know unless we are willing to talk openly – and listen – about how gpood or bad the industry is.

      Yeah, there are new “business models.” But personally, I am not going out to work when I can make more just by renting my equipment than showing up in person and putting in 10 hours. I see a lot of jobs lately that are at that point.

      Otherwise, hey, we are no more professional than the microstock guys – you do a shoot just to get their your name posted on some bulletin board in a hip restraunt in Kuala Lampur. It will all pay off – someday.

  62. There is always a way. I had no idea what I was getting into when I decided I was going to be a photographer. Thank goodness because I would have given up and taken a 9 to 5 job and missed out on so many amazing things . . . good and bad. Personally, I love the challenge. Maybe we would all be a lot better off if we stopped reading so many negative descriptions of the business.

  63. It’s tough when you got bills and such, but I’m a true believer in doing what you love and the money is just the icing. I quit my design job that paid well, to pursue my love of photography and never once regretted it. Don’t get discourage and switch careers thinking that it’s just temporary, because coming back to it may be more difficult than you had anticipated.

  64. on the flip side, this kid be a genius that makes a fortune with his expertise in banking and stocks (yes they will go up with a whole new slew of millionaires), and then could self finance his international “fine art” treks while his old comrades are fighting for scraps in the city.

  65. Well, I’m 33 about to turn 34 with a $150,000+ student loan from a lousy art school with a lousy photography program. Still living at home with a nagging mom because I can’t afford to move out. Working part time at a restaurant so I could buy film, ink, paper, dog food, and (on occasion) beer and sushi. Just broke up with my girlfriend because she says I spend too much time on photos and not enough with her. Just got hit by a car riding my bicycle home from work cause I can’t afford gas. Haven’t made crap in photography since I left school. It’s been 4 years! It can’t get any worst for me! As long as I could keep shooting, nothing else matters. Heck, I might just have to live at home forever.

    To all the guys that are stuggling, there’s nothing wrong with getting a second job. Just don’t stop shooting.

    When times are tough, shoot fine art.


  66. Yes, things are tough out there but look on the bright side – it’s never been cheaper to go out and produce great work. You can buy medium format film cameras for about 20% of what they were worth second hand ten years ago. Digital SLR’s give you editorial quality a fraction of what it cost 10 years ago. When I started out shooting 6×7 ten or twelve years ago I paid £1.50 every time I pushed the shutter. There was no websites where you could network with models, make up artists and wardrobe stylists to test together for free. Ten years ago a day’s shooting would cost £200 in film devolping and contact sheets even if you just shot 10 or 12 rolls of 120, add studio hire into the mix and you could pay £500 to do a days shoot out of your own pocket and I haven’t even included making prints. Now if you have a decent DSLR you can put together an editorial test together for peanuts, and then show it to hundreds or thousands of people for next to nothing on the net.

    Times maybe hard but if you have talent there’s never been a time when it has been easier to realise that talent and show it to the world.

    • Bravo, Toby. Hit the nail right on the head. I for one am giddy at how economically I can shot compared to just a few years ago (and much “greener” as well.) Same goes for the dissemination of the work– blogs, websites, Flickr, etc.– it’s astounding how many avenues photographers have to show their work.

      Yes, things are tough, but what a wonderful time to experiment, test, rework the book, go to the museum and basically recharge the “creative vision” because after all– that’s what we’re selling. Hopefully.

  67. If I were a rep, I’d look no further than hit blog. I mean, the quality of photography and the professionalism of the posters alone should have Deborah Weiss looking no further.
    Think of it, no more e-mail bombs, flyers or crappy portfolios. Just check in here and take your pick! :)

    • @J.M. Giordano,
      Yeah, it’s probably time for another reader promo too.

    • @J.M. Giordano,

      Please take note: I am not an agent or rep or whatever you want to call it and have not been for many years.

  68. This is another great link from Rob. But it certainly needs to be dovetailed into this thread as well. This is Tough Love and Realism. Required reading for any young person starting out. Good art was never made being fueled by Ramen Noodles. Starving Artist might look romantic in the movies, but it just blows when it’s your own life.


  69. I like what David Alan Harvey had to say over on Burn:


    interesting piece…but, again, the same rhetoric i have heard since i graduated from college as well…most of my classmates who were in photo school never got a job in photography either…but, you are working….Mike Brown is working.. Aislinn Leggett is working….James Chance is working…many are working…just not NOT EVERYBODY who thinks they should be working is working…it has always been thus…for sure times are hard….but, for those who can move with stealth and think clearly and have a real talent, the doors will always be open…

    there seems to be a feeling out there that if you WANT to be a working photographer and you STUDY to become a working photographer, that you somehow have a right and SHOULD BE a working photographer….there is thinking among many that if those dreams do not come true, it is because the business has gone to hell…believe me, everyone has ALWAYS said this business had gone to hell…if you are trying to become a working and/or published documentary photographer , you just cannot look at our business the same way you might view other professions…first, it is not even a profession….

    besides, now it is probably not even desirable to become a professional photographer per se in order to make a significant mark…..the gallery scene is wide open…the book publishing world is expanding in many exciting ways that did not exist a few years ago…yes, yes there ARE more photographers than in the past …but there are also more opportunities than in the past…

    i am quite sure the young photographers i mentioned above will never be out of work…

    cheers, david


  70. Tucker is on the money here folks….learn it by understanding the problems with the industry…now…or go in to massive debt and have it sink in later.

    I don’t think Chase Jarvis videos are an ideal overview of the industry. If you hold those videos to be the truth, than you have a lot more to learn about life. They are more about the photographer than the industry.

    This is the time to reflect on what is critically important in your life. Dig deep and try to understand what it is that makes you more than special as a photographer. You will need to rely on every once of courage and fortitude that you can bring to the surface. These are trying times. Be prepared to work long and harder than you ever thought possible for less money.

    I agree that the one fee covers everything mindset in editorial is killing quality. I shoot a fair amount of location portraits and I’m dropping assistants to shoot available light or minimal lighting. I’m tired of propping up the magazines with the hope that the exposure will bring more than the money made from an editorial shoot.

  71. When you don’t have a mortgage, kids, or parents in a nursing home, when you go to more weddings than funerals, live your life like there is no tomorrow. “Run off the cliff with all you have”, Dan Winters, “Exhaust all opportunities”, Greg Heisler and as David A. Harvey, says “When you have 10 great images , don’t rest on your laurels go make 10 more”. It’s been said a million times passion, passion, passion. When you get the invoice for it all and finally decide to look at it, then you’ll know just what exactly the definition of ” A living” really means. Eat drink and be Mary, and take pictures of her too.

  72. the perfect chance to work on personal work without having to dedicate 80% of time to promotion and publicity…good art has always come out of hard times…

    • @Jordana Zeldin,


  73. I love what i do and if i have to go back and wait tables or scrub floors or paint houses i have no problem with it. I devoted my life to my job and i spent every penny i ever made on shoots and prints and portfolios and i’ve been in far worse situation than this.
    Maybe i am just a stupid dreamer that lost touch with the reality of the situation but seeing my idea comes to life(published or not) still makes all the pain worthwhile.
    I feel bad for the guy that had to change his profession because of this economic situation but if you really want something you have to fight for it and have the passion to constantly change and improve and be you, no matter what just be yourself, it will show in your work.
    I say just shoot and be original and try to get your art out there anyway you can.
    Sorry for my english, i’ve been in USA for a while but i am still very italian :)

    • @Max,

      Judging by your work, if you have to go back to painting houses or scrubbing floors, there’s going to be a lot more unemployed, underutilized freelance photographers out there before you. Nice work. Hang in there.

      • @Stimulus Plan, Thank You.

  74. This bird is a day late to the discussion as always, but as always, I will chirp.

    Convincing yourself that it isn’t possible is the first step to packing your bags. I bust my ass everyday. I work to gain new clients, I look to the local, more accessible clientele when I really need money. Sure, they don’t pay as much as the big boys, but I can pay my rent. I got out of school 2 yrs ago and never assisted. Why? Because everyone told us that is what you need to do. Two words: Fuck that. If you believe you can do it, you can. You don’t need to be some amazing photographer. You need to have your act together and know a little about the biz, have some guts to make some phone calls, and just go for it. Being a good photog only helps.

    Sure, I was scared getting out of photo school. We all are. It’s confronting the world, and it’s overwhelming. Last year I billed 6 figures (not big time 6 figures, but hey, I counted those zeros). I was blown away! “Really? Wow… time to up the “goal” bar to something a little bit higher.” When I left school I printed a book and started calling as many mags as possible. Scared? You bet. Scarier was the thought of not being able to make rent.

    I have a long ways to go. My goals are far from being met. But never will I throw in the towel. Never will I let myself really be scared. If you want it, it’s out there for the taking.

    I write all of this not because I really think anyone is going to read it. It’s for the one kid out there, like me, that is just starting out. I’m just another bird saying, “Hey, it’s possible.” I didn’t read all the other posts. If you made it this far, you’ve surely been touched more by what others have said. But hey, YOU can do it. Just believe…

    now go shoot.


  75. How do you define success? The young kid defined it as making a living in New York as a assistant/shooter in a year. As Rob has pointed to in his interviews here, there are so many paths to success and none can be copied because the business changes so much. If I remember correctly from the Chris Buck interview, he said not to assist, but then again, he lived at home for 4 or 5 years after graduation with his parents. This would have driven me insane.

    Is a young person with a trust fund (who does not need to make money) and shoots once a month for a national magazine a success or a failure?

    Is a freelance photographer who shoots for several mega churches and freelances for many many national Christian publications making 40k a year a success or a failure?

    Or all the wedding photographers out there who make a darn good living?

    Or the person who shoots, stock, weddings, half dozen editorial jobs a year, a few national advertising jobs, teaches and makes low six figures…. and who shoots their own personal work too, when they feel like it?

    In case anyone doesn’t know, Annie Leibovitz just pawned her personal art collection AND her all the rights to her current and future images to raise capital to pay her bills. She closed her studio a few years ago as well. What if she doesn’t come out of this and has to start selling her properties at a loss? Then we could certainly say that she ultimately failed in her business and personal affairs. Is she happy? Who knows.

    Always remember that there have been many drunk and bitter photographers at the end of their careers and lives who achieved great success in their glory years but were never satisfied. Also remember that most famous photographers are only famous (famous to us I mean) for one body of work. See, Robert Frank, The Americans.

    Also remember how much hell some photographers have put their children, former wives, current wives and extended family through to achieve, “Success.” Edward Weston just got up and left his wife and CA home to move to Mexico when he had three young boys. Nice! Nobody thinks about that when they look at, “The Pepper.” (The boys did come to visit.)

    Our dear young future accountant my ultimately be happier and more comfortable if he is able to achieve somewhat stable employment. He also may go on to make beautiful and amazing pictures and a lovely monograph that will sit on our coffee tables.

    Sometimes the ultimate freedom is to be able to make pictures that you want to make, not so images will sell better as stock, or in your gallery, or for your fans or the magazine editors that love you. If you have a studio and 5 full time people working for you (or even one) you will be constantly managing people and your career. Sure, it’s great to have people do things for you, but you will never be left alone to “Do you own thing” unless you tell everyone not to call you for the day. If a big job comes in, don’t call and don’t screw up the estimate!

    Success = Making pictures, and being ultimately happy about it.

    • @Greg Ceo,
      Adding onto your comment about success and what it means: I’m gradually learning to not equate “success” with happiness. The desire for success is like any other form of greed — you’ll never be satisfied with what you have.

      Since I started shooting, I constantly maintained a list of goals that I wanted to achieve. I always felt like if I could only achieve those goals, then I would feel successful and happy. Every time I would achieve what I set out to do, it never really felt like success. By the time I actually reached that goal, it didn’t seam like much at all (Remember when all you wanted was to “be published”??). All I could focus on was the next bigger achievement. Winning major awards, shooting global ad campaigns, solo exhibitions…. actually turning a profit…. None of this stuff left me feeling content.

      In the end, I think I’ve found that happiness comes from all the little things, and that success isn’t something you find along the road—it is the road.

      I know all this probably sounds sentimental and cheesy, but I think the discovery of true happiness is an important issue, and too many of us are searching in all the wrong places.

  76. Quite simply there are too many people with art degrees. Just before I graduated in 1998, we had a few creative professionals come in to talk to everyone about to graduate. Each of them told us that less than 10% of us would still be in a creative career five to ten years after graduating. At the time, nearly all us us thought “no way”. Now just over ten years after I graduated (BFA cum laude), there are barely 5% of my fellow graduates still in any creative profession.

    I have heard from many creative directors at prominent agencies and large corporations that short time-lines on projects are often pushing graphic or illustrative solutions over photographed solutions. While many admit that this may be an anomaly of recent times, it is something I find interesting and worth sharing. Agencies and corporates are becoming more in-house with solutions, often due to time constraints. Obviously trends and times do change, so this might be just the state of things now.

  77. “you’ll find a way to make it happen” – but finding a way to make it happen for a living is entirely a different story. – especially when even when you DO good work for a photo editor they never hire you again for a shoot. its easier for them to hire friends and much easier to follow the “trendy” photographers that other photo editors tell them are good.

  78. As another photographer who graduated this August, most likely from the same school as the OP, I can say that for everyone I know that has graduated in the last year times have been more then tough.

    I try and shoot a test every week, or more if I can. I shoot just to keep myself from the feeling that I am about to go under, about to not be able to make it.

    I do every type of marketing that comes my way, but as of now am out of money to the tune of i owe my landlord more than a month’s back rent.

    Since graduation I have done many small jobs multiple gallery shows, even background acting in the movies, I even have been retouching images fr as low as $5 an image; and still i am not making enough to pay rent and eat. That is a problem.

    The photographers aren’t hiring new assistants, that is just plain true. Art directors are not calling in our books, and they aren’t answering their phones. Magazines are closing, or streamlining. Agencies want to have free tests for their new faces divisions. Clothing designers want free or $500 lookbooks with all usage rights. Brides expect to have the entire wedding shot for $500 or LESS.

    From what I can see there are two places in the photography market right now, scrapping the barrel bottom and already established top. What this economy has done is it has eliminated the middle ground of photographers, and those are the ones most likely to try out new assistants, and their jobs are the ones most likely to go to new shooters.

    As those jobs dry up the photographers who did the steady middle clients are dropping their prices, making it even harder for the “newbies” to find a niche.

    I have had two editors look at my book since August. Both hired me. But with cold calling, email promos and physical mailing i am just not getting through. It is easy to blame the new photographers for not busting their asses enough to get the jobs, but the fact is the jobs aren’t there to get.

    I have one final example, a friend of mine was the adobe design achievement award winner two years ago. He has teched for Vincent Dixon, he is an incredible portrait, still life and architectural photographer. He works his ass off doing scouting and assisting, and right now he is living with his parents because the jobs aren’t there.

    • @star foreman, get a day job, get some roommates. Go to a temp agency. Get a bike, be a messenger. Shoot new faces at Ford for free. You’ll meet people and models and MUAs and stylaists etc. Hand out flyers. Be a bar back. Work construction. You can get by. I did it. My brother did it. My brother lived in Spanish Harlem for three years, literally stepping over pools of blood in his building’s lobby and slipping on crack viles on the sidewalk. He did anything and everything he could do for cash while writing scripts and auditioning for commercials and plays. I fed him once a week. He stuck it out. He does well now. 7 years later. He may end up feeding me once a week.

      My advice would be to stop worrying about being a working pro photographer and concentrate on survival and living. Shoot your own stuff, be honest. Remember, all these magazines folding has a major positive: there is no one to sell out to, anymore. So your work can be honest. Good luck man. It really is a hard, hard thing to do, but so is a 9-5 for the next 40 years.

      • @Terraplane,

        unfortunately a day job will never pay my student loans off.

        • @star foreman, Economic Hardship Deferment. Forbearance. Not to sound cliche or to discount your (valid) trepidation about student loans, but where there is a will, there is a way. Get out in front of it and be aggressive in dealing with creditors. Take big risks. Now. Because when you are older, have a kid, a wife, private school bills, mortgage, maintenance fees, etc., taking a risk is much more difficult.

          • @Terraplane,

            I am older. Since I wrote my initial reply I have done two covers for the weeklies, one the LA Weekly one The Village Voice. But i am still having trouble getting my book out. I can’t work a 9 to 5 since, as an example, the Village Voice called on Friday, I shot on Sunday and it was printed Monday night. What job would let me suddenly take three days off work?

  79. You should have taken that accounting class before moving to New York, because if you had, you would have learned that without a good financial and business background, you can only succeed so much in photography by yourself, especially in an economy like this.

    Since you are young, take those business courses now. There is so much value in the knowledge they’ll give you. Also, legal courses are helfpul as well, especially when it comes to commercial and ad work.

    You can’t just jump into the NYC pool and expect things to just move it on up, and in just a year? Hell to the no, and it doesn’t matter if you’re talented as hell or you flaunt that degree, no one these days has the money to afford to pay you to assist to learn.

    Use this time wisely, since you have more time than they do, and go and study business, economics, and legal stuff. Not so you can get a job in those areas, but to better prepare you for a real job as a professional working photographer.

    And I’m 20 by the way, and doing just that.

  80. Oh, and one more thing…

    Wake the hell up and be a man! *SLAP!*

    No one with a passion for this would give up so easily and whine so damn much! I mean really, what, you expected it to be easy?

    Hell to the no!

    Only those who do their best to gain as much knowledge of the business and shoot because they love it, not just because it makes money, will succeed here.

    If you can’t handle a year of starving artistry, something’s wrong with your mojo.

    • @Emily Fine, Ha ha ha!

  81. Wow. I had no idea an email I sent to Rob last week would a) even be posted and b) get so many responses. I wanted to thank you all for your tough love and your advice. I just wanted to write to you all, not to defend myself necessarily, but just to let you all know what I’ve been thinking while I’ve been reading your posts.

    As for being called a quitter, I’m not going to take that personally, because hey, you guys really don’t know me, and I certainly don’t know you. Trust me, just because I’m back in school doesn’t mean that I’m quitting on photography. I’m always shooting for myself to keep my book fresh, I still shoot for stock and for photo contests, and I’m going to be shooting for a Minor League Baseball team this summer if everything goes well. So I haven’t given up on photography guys, I’m just not pursuing it full time like I was last year.

    I certainly understand the criticism of me having unrealistic expectations about what 1 year in New York could do for me. Sure, I admit that I was naive about what was possible there as an assistant. I thought that all I had to do was put myself out there, follow up, be persistent, and everything would fall in place. It took 3 months before I got my first paying assisting job. I got hired 8 more times while I was there. Now, I know you guys say being a starving artist is part of it all. But that’s not even starving right there, that’s homelessness. Even though I was working part time at a bakery, I still couldn’t make ends meet. If I had the money, I’d still be in New York, because I know it takes more than a year for things to happen there.

    As for school and becoming an accountant, I figured that accountancy/business could only be beneficial to me since I want to have my own photography business eventually. Is it the most exciting thing I’ve ever done? No. But I’m going to make it work for now.

    I really appreciate Greg Ceo’s comments about defining success. I don’t measure success in monetary units. My idea of success is getting back up to NYC and being a part of the best photo community in the world, and getting my work seen. If the only way I can get back up there and actually afford it is by being a staff accountant at Ernst & Young, then that’s okay with me. I’m sure I’ll still find a way to shoot, I always do.

    For those of you who have found your own version of success in photography, you should be really proud of yourselves. It’s quite an accomplishment. And when I say that I appreciate your tough words in your comments, I really mean it. I wish I heard all of this when I was in school. I couldn’t have been more unprepared when I left Boston in ’07, technically, emotionally and otherwise.

    Anyways, I hope that things will start to turn around for all us soon. I wish you all the best. Take care.

    Oh, by the way, I’m a woman. I just wanted to tell you all so you could change your pronouns. I don’t want you to let up on your criticism though. I can handle that.

    • @sam.,

      “As for school and becoming an accountant, I figured that accountancy/business could only be beneficial to me since I want to have my own photography business eventually.”

      And you are absolutely correct in this. The schools have always been horribly remiss in their lack of business education. And aspiring photographers have been equal in their remiss by refusing to understand that this is a business. As I said in an earlier post on this thread, if more photographers went to business school the business would not be in the shape it is in. It generally takes ten years to become an overnight sensation – regardless of the industry.

      “I really appreciate Greg Ceo’s comments about defining success. I don’t measure success in monetary units.”

      That’s a really nice thought to keep in your personal life, but I suggest you get over that concerning your business. Business is about generating profit. If you’re not doing that then you have a very expensive hobby and the IRS will treat it as such. Contrary to what some believe, making money does not signal the death of creativity.

      “Anyways, I hope that things will start to turn around for all us soon.”

      Action, not hope is how things turn around.

  82. Okay, then wake up and be a woman, because so am I.

    Take some legal courses and business management courses. Stay away from photo contests though, they’re never good.

    There are more opportunities, especially for young people, than you could ever imagine. As a friend Bob Randall wrote – “you just have to know where, and how, to look for it […] I feel the answer is simple… quit whining and try harder.”

    If there’s any advice a photographer could learn from, it’s that.

    • @Emily Fine,

      “Stay away from photo contests though, they’re never good.

      Not entirely accurate. In this country, the competitions that make sense to enter are CA and PDN Photo Annual. These publications are looked at by photo editors, art buyers and art directors. In England, the AOP runs a very credible and tough competition.

  83. Debra and Emily, thanks for reading my comments (I know it was a lot), and thanks for your advice.

    @ Emily, why do you think contests are a bad idea?

    • @sam., because a lot of contests have quite a bit of fine print at the bottom regarding ownership of photos submitted. Often times people enter the contests and afterwards find out the fine print says they practically give up the rights to the images, whether they win or not.

      Just be careful with them, is all. Not all are bad, as that one person above said, but always read the fine print. Always.

  84. My rant is directed at young photographers that want to shoot fashion. There are opportunities out there in NY/LA its just that your not ready for them.
    Your work has to be better than the person you see getting the jobs and you have to think about what you are doing. Looking through the links of some that have submitted comments I just have to tell you a couple things.

    1. shoot better models, I know that the agencies aren’t willing to give them up for tests but if you are doing free tests for new faces and your work is kick ass gorgeous they will be giving you better models and if you test enough new faces odds are you will get a future star that you will have had a hand in creating.

    2. Shoot like your shooting an editorial, almost all of the links I looked at over the past half hour have had duplicate images (same outfit/situation, different pose) pick the best shot of each outfit, shoot 6 to 8 page stories with good styling, great hair and make up. Every shot should be a different outfit!
    and the work should not appear on different places of your website.

    3. model agents are your friends, remember they might not be your agent but they are in contact with the whole industry all it takes is one ” so and so has been taking great photos for us you should check him out” to a creative to get a job. I wound up in the Czech Republic that way.

    4. stay current in you hair and makeup choices. Style.com should be your bible. Look at backstage photos of the current fashion shows, that is what you will be seeing hair and make up wise in the magazines in six months.
    Also try and hook up with a good stylist assistant that can get current clothing from shoots they are assisting on.

    Getting a book together is so much cheaper than it was when I stopped assisting when there was no digital anything! $50 for a good cibachrome
    and film and processing and polaroid. No one had websites or email blasts only messenger fees.

    We are also in an era where tear sheets don’t mean as much, you used to only show tearsheets now it seems that most only show print books, this levels the field a little bit.

    So yes there are chances out there and if you are really talented and understand your market you will shoot, you just really have to be better than they guy that already has the job, by a long shot.

    • @ludlowphotographer, I second all of that. What matters is what you can get in front of your lens, not which lens/camera you are shooting with. MUA, Hair, Stylists, locations, and clothes. One more this, although Ludlow implied it, ALWAYS BE SHOOTING. Make new work, even if it fails, and edit mercilessly.

  85. it was no different than when i got out of school in the winter of 1991. infact, since i didn’t go to a photo school, i definitely couldn’t get assisting work. so i ended up working as a temp in warehouses, driving a mail van, decorating xmas trees (for 2 wks) for nordstoms, etc. when i did get photo work, it was often for free sweeping floors, cleaning closets, etc. i got the occasional paid assisting job, but not as much. in time, i began to figure it out and got more work. i found photogs that liked me, and worked with them exclusively. i later crossed into film working as a PA and location scout. that provided more regular work and new learning opportunities.

    early on i was discouraged. but i kept going. i loved photography, had the passion, nothing was going to prevent me from doing it.

    u don’t make it in this biz overnight, and or even in several years. some do. most don’t. u got to stick it out, what else is there? accountancy school? i’d rather be making less money doing what i love.

  86. This is all very interesting and I agree with a lot of what is being said. I studied photography in college and went onto get my Master’s at Cranbrook. Looking back now after years of being on the other side of it as a photo editor…I realize that one of the biggest holes in education then and now is no one teaches young photographers how to be good businessmen and women. You can have all the passion and talent in the world but if you don’t know how to market yourself you will have a hard time getting work in this industry. As for photographers shooting editorially it is well known that budgets at magazines are not wonderful esp. now. However, it still remains a great way to get your name out there. It is easy to be negative and loose a bit of hope in this economy but I encourage young photographers, any photographers really, to push on. If you have to get another job, or juggle jobs in order to make a living do so. Or, if you need to take a full time accounting job b’c that is the reality why not? If we work hard enough we can have at least a piece of the dream. You can always shoot and hold a camera in your hand. I remind myself sometimes looking at great photographers like Edward Weston..there were huge gaps of time when he didn’t produce as many amazing shots but we are looking at a lifetime of work. We all have a long lifetime to do what we want. Who knows maybe one day I will change my mind and cross over to other side and try shooting. You just never know…..just remember we need, and always want young, great talent otherwise us photo editors get so bored. So bring it on!

    • @Amy Berkley/Photo Ed:

      well said.

  87. […] Haggart of A Photo Editor, recently posted an email from his reader. The email substantiates Simon Norfolk’s comment about getting re-skilled. While Rob thinks that Simon […]

  88. @Ray
    I agree with you! I, and I believe others have had to starve, i.e. sacrifice, or give up luxuries to pursue our dreams, but it’s to an end goal of living that dream. With that dream comes rewards for us emotionally and usually financially. This is a tuff profession where you have smart, creative, flexible, and still work really hard. The rewards are fantastic, the little ones and the big ones. If you love your job keep with it, no matter what it takes. Be smart about your off time, and creative with your talents. There is a reason not everyone is a photographer, and I like it that way!

  89. I am going to be graduating from school myself in a few months, but I remain optimistic. In our exponentially growing world, new and exciting careers are opening up that haven’t existed 10 years ago. When starting my career I probably won’t be able to support myself solely as a photographer. I will have to continue to pick up multiple skills and disciplines to keep my overhead. In 10 years I hope to still be a photographer. But I may end up being a photographer/carpenter/makeup artist/line cook/big brother/production designer/birthday party clown. The notion of not being a purist photographer for the rest of your life might scare the older folks, but in this new age when everyone gets there information, images, music, and movies from the web and don’t have to pay for anything except for their high speed internet bill, regulating and enforcing the rights to your digital property is unmanageable. This is because our laws and our abilities to enforce them can’t keep up with the exponentially changing technologies available to us. This will change how we create our work since we are not shooting for the purposes of making money. So I agree, I don’t stand much of a chance in in today’s market as a photographer. But when the economy bounces back there will be a brand new generation of photographers that will be very resilient to the market and having to shoot for money and will change the pulse of the industry. Just give it some time.

    • @Aziz Oz Lalani,

      Good luck with the rest of school Aziz. I wish you all the best!

  90. This post-response thread hits close to my heart, as it does with so many of us who work in this field. For many years I’ve worked in editorial/commercial/stock photography, and now have refocused to spend most of my time teaching. On that note, I have two observations:

    First, responding to everyone who thinks there should be more information about the business of photography at school, please (please!) talk to your faculty. I teach at NYU and ICP and hear students (and non-education professionals) gripe about this all the time, but it rarely comes up at school. Personally, I agree completely, and bring “outside” topics into the classroom as much as I can…but until students who are matriculated and paying the bills start to clamor for a change, it’s very (very) difficult to get the attention of those who set the curriculum agendas.

    On the other hand, and this might not be obvious if you’re not directly involved in the work of teaching about photography and art, we are stretched thin. Think about the thousand different things that your photo/art program had to cover in some depth (not to mention the stuff that had to be covered in extreme detail). Frankly, there aren’t enough hours in your degree program to get to the level of professional practice in all of them. Something always gets less emphasis. Traditionally, as you know, business is one of the topics that gets less coverage. That’s not the only reason it isn’t emphasized, but it does factor into the equation.

    Second, in many years of practicing photography and teaching (and now teaching full time), I have to say that part of the problem with starting out is a misunderstanding. Namely, a lot of us have a tendency to think about the “business” as something static, stable, pre-existing, and in the past. It’s not. The picture world (art-world, magazine world, commercial photo world, whatever) doesn’t exist outside of you. It is you. It’s us. It’s happening now. We’re making it up as we go along.

    This isn’t obvious to most of the students I meet, or to most of the photographers and artists I know. If you hear the word “photography” and think “camera” then you’re on the wrong foot. If you’re in school right now, you most likely already know that. But something similar is true with the word “photo business” (or whatever you’re saying to yourself when you say “I have to move to – fill-in-the-blank – City and start my career in photography”). That’s the past talking. No one needs a reminder about the way the world is changing…except that maybe we do. There is no photo business. (Heresy!) But it’s true. If you want to “make a living” by making pictures, you’re going to have to invent that world for yourself.

    Photography is a conversation. To live as an artist, a photographer, a writer, (a filmmaker, etc., you know what I mean), is to participate in an extended, multi-threaded conversation, with many voices whispering and shouting simultaneously. If you join that conversation you’ll find yourself saying stuff you didn’t know you knew, learning in ways you didn’t know you could, and growing into a person that doesn’t exist right now. In my experience, the primary ingredient that full participation (success?) requires is a certain kind of courage, as well as, at times, a willingness to be naive enough to really, truly, believe in yourself. And teaching that in art school is probably even more difficult than finding time in the curriculum for the nitty-gritty of business practices.

    • @Sean Justice,

      Well said.

      Just recently I was in a high street camera shop, replacing some kit I needed to go out and shoot some pictures that afternoon…folio stuff with a designer friend and a model we had borrowed from an agent. The guy behind the desk was moaning that he wished he wasnt stuck selling cameras, and that the industry in Glasgow (where I live and work mainly) should be better, and it was just his bad luck to live somewhere with a traditionally poor commercial photo industry.

      I’m juggling the commercial/interesting stuff along with press photography and PR. I enjoy press work, and mostly get bored by the PR stuff, but I am making a living from photography. And I’ve surprised myself as to how much I enjoy the business side too…there’s nothing that makes the imagination work quite like the threat of your overheads not being met.

      The reality of this means that I’m up tomorrow morning at 6am to do a presentation to a networking group of businessmen in the hope of picking up more work, and getting my name known more. Not what I thought I’d be doing when I started studying photography, but we only get what we want by allowing ourselves to evolve.

  91. man it takes along time to get going. i moved to montreal when i was 25, after a few years in toronto shooting. i spent 2 years living in 1 room with 5 other friends, going art, playing music, taking photos. we were so poor we had to go to the markets after they closed and ate food out of the garbage. we lived on hotdogs between toast. sometimes we had processed cheese in them. my parents would come visit me but my mother wouldnt come in to see where and how i was living, ahah.

    kept working towards my photo career.

    over 9 years of going for it, i seem to be ok right now. lost about 30 pounds over the journey, but it was well worth it.

    gordon ball

  92. @ Sean Justice

    Good words!

  93. I agree with mostly all of you. Everything you have to say is true. But, you have to realize that the economy will sooner or later be on the uprise and if photography is something you truly love to do, then unless your on your deathbed, (no offense to those that are, my thoughts are with you) then you should not give up on your dream. Keep pursuing it. Get involved in it. Even if you have to get a side job to support yourself through these troubling times, or temporarily make photography your side job. Just please don’t give up. Us ourselves as photographers can help this economy out of its slump. Go with the flow and realize that things will get better.

  94. hey all,

    in truth, i’m not a photographer. i’m a fiction writer, so i feel as though the parameters of life are very similar to yours. hello my brethren!

    in all honesty, i agree wholeheartedly with those who say that passion has no bounds and knows no fatigue. remember though that our bodies and minds DO know fatigue, and as our souls must be fed with passion our bodies need something a little more substantial that PB&J sandwiches. I mean, come on, really? I’ll love writing until the day I die, but damn if I’m going to be married to the foolish idea of being a starving artist. If you don’t take care of your basic needs (shelter, food, and soap), then you’ll be singing your photo passions from the grave. and there is nothing romantic about that at all.

    i feel as though in order to truly succeed, balance between business and art must be achieved. with too much business you may lose your creativity and thus yourself. with too much art and no business, you could very well see yourself stagnated. sure you’ll enjoy your beautiful artwork, but you’ll prob. be enjoying it by yourself and if you’re really unlucky, enjoying it while living under the main street bridge!

    good luck all, and persevere… intelligently.

  95. […] Haggart of A Photo Editor, recently posted an email from his reader. The email substantiates Simon Norfolk’s comment about getting re-skilled. While Rob thinks that Simon […]

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