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Hard Truths About Photography in 2023

Photography is a very popular business to get into, but a very difficult one in which to make a stable, successful living. Why is that? What does it take to be a successful professional? This insightful video essay features a seasoned pro discussing what it takes to find success in 2023. 

Coming to you from Scott Choucino of Tin House Studio, this important video essay discusses the difficulties that come with trying to be a modern professional photographer. Of all the great points, I think one of the most important and easily overlooked is that finding success in the field often takes personal sacrifices, some of which might be significant. The beauty of many traditional jobs is that you have a set and predictable structure, and outside the temporal boundaries of the job, you are free to do what you want. That is not the case with running your own business, though. You will find the hours often far less predictable and far more demanding. This means that you have to really ask yourself if you have enough passion to maintain the drive needed to find success. The truth is that if you can see yourself doing anything else, you should probably do that other thing instead. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Choucino. 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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All points made, so true. Amateurs with FT jobs not in the sector and many with a cell phone camera think they can do this. Even worse if they happen to sell a image, or pick up a freelance gig

Been doing this for just about 40 years. Over the years, friends and outsiders would say or think this is such an easy profession. All I did was push a button on a camera and get paid really well. Great to be self employed, no boss etc. My response or thoughts, Try it for 6 months, a year, 10 years. Lets see if they would still be in it etc.

Bit over 6 years ago I had a 20+ year client I freelanced for make me a full time offer. Took it in a heartbeat. Stress levels are down, and I still love what I do!

Great video!

I saw this quote once, and I can't remember who said it, but it was something like: "The best way to make you hate something you love is to try to make a living at it".

That's been my experience with photography. It's always been a hobby, since I first shot a roll of verichrome pan in 620 when I was 5 years old on a cheap TLR I bought at a yard sale for 5$ and my father developed the roll and prints in the lab where he taught high school chemistry. By the time I went to university some people saw my work and offered commercial gigs, but for the most part I hated it; not the photography but the clients. I'm just not comfortable doing any sort of artistic project with anyone I don't personally know and want to work with. Probably the nicest client I worked with completely stiffed me on the agreed payment. Now I don't even do portraits of people I don't personally know. I photograph who they are, not just how they appear. I'm still learning and growing, even doing large format now, and I just love it. Always a very enjoyable, zen-like experience, especially when out in nature.

So no, one needn't have to be making a living at it to just enjoy something for what it is in essence.