Photography supply and demand: what it takes to become a professional photographer
To be successful as a modern professional photographer, you need more than just a basic knowledge of using a camera. Aspiring professionals should be familiar with historical trends within the industry and be aware of changes in supply and demand. Have a basic understanding of effective advertising methods and sound financial principles to help start your photography business doesn’t hurt either.
“It’s important to have quality material, but education is even more important,” says Savannah Conley, professional photographer and owner of Savannah H. Photography. Learn about how to use this equipment, how to edit properly, and how to run a business. Learn how to work with clients, ask people, and sell yourself. It’s worth investing the same amount if not more. in education you do your equipment.
The ups and downs of the photography market
Photography began in the 11th century with the invention of the camera obscura. This early technology projected images onto other surfaces so that they could be traced.
In the late 1830s, photography took its next important step when Joseph Nicéphore Niépce exposed a tin plate to light using a mobile camera obscura, creating the first recorded image. Niépce’s experiment inspired others to later develop daguerreotypes, emulsion plates and dry plates.
Using these early cameras required specific training that few could afford. It wasn’t until Kodak developed film rolls in the 1880s that cameras became both affordable for the middle class and simple enough for hobbyists to use. These two advancements have opened wide the doors to the industry, allowing anyone to start a career in photography.
Over the following decades, photographic technology continued to focus on lowering the barrier to entry. The Polaroid camera allows photographers to develop photos at home rather than sending them to a lab. Digital cameras appeared in the 1990s. Then came the smart camera, with its incredible ability to automatically detect and adapt to lighting conditions. Suddenly all the user had to do was aim and shoot.
Playing with saturation
Today, high quality digital cameras are standard not only in phones, but also in tablets and other portable devices. Even still, consumer demand for professional photography continues to grow. Nearly 20,000 new openings for photographers are expected over the next few years. It may sound like a lot, but beware, the competition is tough.
As the accessibility of photography has increased, so has interest in it. Many markets are threatened with oversaturation as more hobbyists look to go pro with the help of a basic website, eye-catching Instagram account, and a few Pinterest-inspired accessories. At the same time, today’s photographers are faced with the challenge of working in a fluctuating market where photographic styles and trends are steadily growing in popularity.
“I’ve been through all kinds of changes in this industry,” says Drake Busath, photographer and owner of Photograph of Busath. “I have witnessed the trend away from traditional studios and towards working from home. I have seen the demand for different specialties fluctuate. The portrait market for high school students, for example, has fallen recently because children love to take pictures of themselves. At the same time, the demand for professional portraits is increasing as a good public profile is essential for networking and remote working.
Can you stand out in the crowd?
Today’s photography industry is a consumer market. To be successful, you need to capture attention and set yourself apart from other professionals. Work to distinguish yourself and your style from others in the industry by doing the following:
Constant travel. Difficult customers. Sporadic schedules. These are just a few of the less glamorous realities that await those who decide to become a professional photographer. To break into a creative industry, you need to be 100 percent committed to your craft. “You have to be passionate about it,” says Conley. “It can’t be something you dread doing. If you’re passionate and committed, you’ve won half the battle.”
Learn the tools of the trade
The more skills you have, the better your job will be. It may seem obvious, but in practice it can be difficult to make room to develop your trade and a new business. Start by getting to know your gear and how every setting and part of your camera changes your photos.
Once you know how to take a great photo, you are ready to learn how to edit one. There are all kinds of photo editing software available, all with different strengths. Adobe Photoshop Express makes editing photos on your phone a breeze, while Adobe lightroomPresets, easy-to-use sliders, and batch edit function are perfect for quickly editing entire shots. Ultimately, Adobe photoshop is the program you’ll need to polish individual photos, whether it’s taming flyaways or opening someone’s eyes.
Familiarize yourself with a variety of programs. Then specialize and hone your knowledge in the ones that best suit your job.
Understanding the basics of photography is absolutely essential before you turn professional, but your education doesn’t have to end there. The photography industry is constantly changing and you need to maintain your skills to stay relevant. Make an effort to continue to learn throughout your career.
“By far the best way to learn is to teach,” says Busath. “I have always used to volunteer to give lectures and workshops to peer groups. I have spoken at every opportunity and have hardly gained anything by doing so. Why ? Because it forces me to look closely at the mirror. Facing your peers brings you back to reality and shows you where to improve. ”
While understanding the basics of many types of photography and editing styles can be useful, it is easier to grow a business when you specialize.
“Because we do one thing well every day, we are much more efficient and can deliver better value to our customers,” Busath says. “The equipment we use, the Photoshop techniques we have to master, even our staff becomes more specialized and efficient if we stay in our way.”
The old adage “People buy from the people they love” is as true in photography as it is in any other industry. Clever branding and marketing are important, but should never replace building good old-fashioned relationships.
“Even in the age of social media, photography is still really word of mouth,” says Conley. “If someone connects with you and likes you, they’ll recommend you to their friends and family. It’s easy to look at someone’s photos on Instagram and be like, ‘Oh, these are really pretty’, so never book. But if someone has met you in person or knows about the work you do in your community, they are much more likely to book with you. ”
Set up a business
“I don’t know of any business more prone to undervaluation and inefficient accounting than photography,” says Busath. “One job you do to make a profit, the next job you think you’re doing to market yourself, another job you do just to buy new equipment. A few good small business accounting courses will have a dramatic effect on your eventual success. ”
Get off the beaten track
Nothing sets you apart from other photographers more than a unique style. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your photography rather than jump on the Instagram trendy band.
“Avoid trying to look like everyone else,” says Conley. “If you can just make your style true to who you are and unique to yourself and what looks best to you, you are going to stand out.”