I am now well into my 30s, having started my photography career in my early twenties, here are a few gems that you have to look forward to.
Throughout my 20s I felt like no one was taking me seriously. In hindsight, my behavior was the key factor, not my age. Now that I am in my 30s, have children at home, and my fair share of gray hair and a constantly retreating hairline, I am given a new level of respect. Which is odd, as I still feel like I am 16 inside and I will totally steal everything out of the sweetie jar on a shoot. Here are some key points to being a photographer in your 30s. A lot of this wont apply if you have only started photography at 29, but say you have been going for a decade, you may be able to relate to some of this.
When I was in my 20s, I could go out and get blind drunk, start work 6 hours later and pull a 48 hour editing marathon to meet a deadline and carry on the following day with few consequences. I remember people regularly telling me that once you hit 30 you wont be able to work like that anymore. I laughed it off and carried on. Now that I am in my 30s, I can’t drink and I certainly can’t work for 48 hours with 6 hours sleep. A very stressful shoot will often mean taking a day off after just to physically recover. I now realize that I have a finite amount of time that I can work each week, I break it into units and I get 10 units of brain powered work a week. I then plan those into my diary with the hope that nothing too big lands on my desk last min, in between them I do menial tasks around the studio and generally keep on top of chores. I take weekends off like a normal person now and I often don’t work in the evenings (although I am writing this at 8:30pm). I assume things will only get worst from this point on and that my caffeine intake will increase proportionately.
You Find Your Stride
I guess this applies to all aspects of life, but I feel like I know where I am and where I am going. Granted, some of my bigger dreams have now been realized as impossible, but generally speaking my life and career are exactly where I want them to be with room to improve over the next 30 years whilst I am still hopefully working.
You Have Confidence in Your Profession
Throughout my 20s I was terrified about the career choice I had made, throwing my academic background in science to the side to follow a career in photography. Constantly having my prices knocked down and being conned into working for free. Now I am a bit older and wiser, these problems seem to have disappeared. I say no to more jobs than I say yes to and I feel completely confident in the quotes that I send out. After a decade of anxiety, I feel that I can more than hold my own in any meeting.
You Can Afford the Gear
If you have been going since your 20s, the stress of buying gear will have now been replaced with the annoyance of having to part with money for gear by 30. Although you can probably afford which ever pro camera you want by this point, you probably want to spend that money on golf clubs or a new bike, maybe even a holiday! Photography is a career that snowballs. After trying to find a few $$$ for a budget lens in year one, buying 3 pro cameras ten years later isn’t such a big step financially, but its not really something that I want to spend my money on anymore. Now I am in my 30s I have just about finished procuring the gear that I need in order to do most jobs without having to rent every time. But this was after 10 years of hard graft. I now want to enjoy my photography money in other areas of my life.
You Know What You Like
After a good decade of photography and 30 years of being about generally making an abundance of mistakes, by your 30s you probably have a clearer idea as to where you are going. I didn’t specialize into my current niche until I was 30. Before that I shot weddings, portraits, and pretty much anything that would pay the bills and required a camera. I even shot the odd music video. But having that bit of gray hair and a few more years in the industry means I have the confidence to say no to jobs that are not for me and have had enough time to get to the jobs I like.
You Still Feel Too Young
Photography is an odd game, the younger professionals have all of the creativity, none of the budget and few contacts, but once into your 30s you feel a bit out of touch with the kids, but you have some of the budget yet you are still far younger than most creative directors so you are met with a certain amount of un-trust, which is probably valid in our profession.
You Are in No Mans Land
The young kids think I am past it and those older than me call me a millennial and hipster, which I assume is meant as an insult. It seems that no matter how old you are, someone has a problem with your generation, I imagine when I hit my 40s I will be seen as over the hill, out of touch with trends and generally uncool, whilst those in their 50s think I am from a entitled generation who has no work ethic. But such is life.
Age does make a difference in a profession of freelancers. I am certainly guilty of judging people based on their age. When clients are trusting you with tens of thousands of dollars of shooting budget, being past your 20s is certainly a bonus as it instills a trust and level of security in their investments.
Now that I know that I can’t work as hard as I did in my 20s and that I have a lot more confidence and greater understanding of direction, I plan to really focus on what I want to be doing from the age of 40 - 50 and put in the time now to secure my place in the industry for later. Then hopefully carry on working as long as my body and eyes allow me to.
How are you finding being a photographer as you get older?