Category "Becoming a Photographer"

Best and Worst Jobs 2010

Ok, this survey by that I found on the Wall Street Journal (here) I’m sure is not very sound in its methodology but still it’s kind of fun to browse the different jobs. Since the photographer jobs listed are staff positions I wonder where freelance falls on the list?

The 200 best and worst jobs in the U.S. in 2009 based on five criteria — environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress — according to a newly released study from job site

#65 Publication Editor (just above forklift operator)
Starting salary: $28,000
Midlevel salary: $50,000
Top salary: $95,000

#126 Photographer (just below Waiter but still above undertaker)
Starting salary: $17,000
Midlevel salary: $29,000
Top salary: $62,000

#189 Photojournalist (sadly falls below Nuclear Plant Decontamination Technician but still above metermaid)
Starting salary: $16,000
Midlevel salary: $28,000
Top salary: $60,000

Getting Started

Good stuff regardless of what you think about John Grisham’s writing talent. Two of my favorite pieces of advice: You need to have a life first so you have something to draw from and you need to consistently produce work.

Take A Break

Turn off the computer and read a book over the holiday. Here’s the reading list my contributors compiled (big thanks to Dude). I think we can all take a little time to become better at talking about pictures next year (Thanks Robert). Who knows we may need to defend ourselves.

Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art by John Szarkowski

Ansel Adams at 100 by John Szarkowski

The Photographer’s Eye by Szarkowski

Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes

Perception and Imaging, 3rd edition by Dr. Richard Zakia

Photographers on Photography; Lyons, Nathan (ed.)

Photography until Now; Szarkowski, John

History of Photography, From 1839 to the Present; Newhall, Beaumont

The Decisive Moment; Cartier-Bresson, Henri (read the introduction essay)

On Photography; Sontag, Susan

Ways of Seeing; Berger, John

Bystander: A History of Street Photography; Meyerowitz, Joel and Westerbeck, Colin (specialty but a very good book)

What do Pictures Want?; Mitchell, W.J.T.

Richard Avedon: Evidence 1994; Avedon, Richard (read the essays)

Helmut Newton’s autobiography

The Camera”, “The Negative”, and “The Print” by Ansel Adams

Robert Adam’s “Why People Photograph

Beauty in Photography” Robert Adam’s

On Being A Photographer’ by David Hurn and Bill Jay

Creating a Sense of Place” by Joel Meyerowitz

W. Eugene Smith: Shadow and Substance the Life and Work of an American Photographer – by Jim Hughes

Stephen Shore’s recent re-release of “the Nature of Photographs

The daybooks of Edward Weston

Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity by Ted Orland

California and the West by Charis Wilson and Edward Weston


The Photograph as Contemporary Art” by Charlotte Cotton

L’Amour Fou: Surrealism and Photography; Rosalind Krauss, Jane Livingston and Dawn Ades.

Reflex: A Vik Muniz Primer; Vik Muniz and Lesley Martin

At The Edge of the Light: Thoughts on Photography and Photographers, on Talent and Genius; David Travis

Rebecca Solnit book about Edweard Muybridge’s strange life; it’s called River of Shadows

Talent in Photography

Every month I get hundreds of promos and emails from photographers who have this business nailed down tight. It used to be really easy to spot the bad photographers with their lame promos and weak portfolios filled with blah subjects horribly lit in god-awful locations. Now, I get slick vibrant promos, leather bound portfolios brimming with beautiful prints, websites loaded with perfectly lit photographs of interesting looking people (celebrities even) in fascinating locations. On top of that; the pleasant and personal follow-up phone calls, thank-you cards, Christmas cards, prompt returning of emails and phone calls and a smart peppy studio manager on call 24/7 to handle any request.

Problem is, I can’t recall a single one of them, they all look the same to me. Perfectly executed photographs that make me want to take a nap.

In the digital age where taking a picture requires very little effort and all the professional secrets are laid bare any advantage photographers had from marketing and execution is now evaporating before us.

Professionalism will get you far in this business and even quite profitable but talent always trumps everything. You’re either born with it or you work very hard for many years to develop it. There will never be a shortcut.

I still call the photographer who dropped a memory card off a cliff (only half the shoot) and the one who sent me receipts from Russia stuffed in an envelope with no explanation (it’s very difficult to tell a dinner receipt from a midnight massage) and the one who doesn’t have a website (to busy shooting conflict) and the one who doesn’t return my calls for weeks on end (don’t think he likes me or my magazine much) because when I send them out on assignment they bring back images I could never have imagined.

Sometimes photographers take an “I could have done that” attitude when it comes to talent in this industry, but honestly, you can’t.