A year ago today, I decided to start a photography YouTube channel offering advice from a commercial photographer's perspective who makes the vast majority of his income from ad campaigns. Here is what I learned.
I, like many, have had a YouTube account for many years. I watch YouTube daily and get great joy from it, but until 12 months ago, I had never really uploaded anything. Then, with very little thought, I started a channel and managed to consistently (bar being hacked for two months) upload to it for the entire year.
Why Did I Start a Channel?
I use to run workshops from my studio for years, and eventually, the time they took for the money I charged was no longer justifiable, especially when it meant teaching after a full day shooting or teaching the day before a big campaign. A combination of this and wanting to offer out advice that I found nearly impossible to find when building my career were the key catalysts.
The first video I shot took me an entire day to shoot and edit, which is obviously not sustainable unless this is your main job. More recently, I have got into a rhythm in which two Sundays a month, I pop into my studio for about three hours and record a total of eight videos, which I drip-feed to the channel at twice a week. Then, maybe once a month, I put out a long-form or vlog video, which takes a day to shoot and edit. So, it isn’t too bad time-wise and pretty manageable.
Growth was slow. Really slow. It took me the full year to hit 11,000 subscribers. But then, I am not surprised by this; rather than hitting photography or professional photography as a niche, I went far tighter and looked at high-end commercial photography with a slight bias toward food. I am just below half a million views in total, which I don’t even think is counted as a drop in the ocean. Nevertheless, I am still gobsmacked that people will listen to me drone on at all. So, I am pretty pleased with this.
Let's talk nitty-gritty numbers. Financially, this was not worth the work. For the time I put in, I made about £3,500 from ads and £200 from Amazon affiliate links. I was then gifted a further £2,000 of products with no strings attached (I turned down anyone with terms). So, if my math is correct, that is £5,700 coming in, which is less than a single day shooting with usage, so I certainly won’t be giving up the day job anytime soon.
What I Did Wrong
At a few months in, I was frustrated by the lack of growth on my channel, so I started to produce lens review videos. Although they got views, it is not really something that I am interested in, nor something that I know a great deal about. I tend to seek advice for the equipment I need on productions rather than have it all stored in my head. Once I got back to doing what I know and focusing on food photography and ad campaigns, things finally started to grow.
For those who are thinking about doing this, but are worried about all of the trolling, my advice would just be to crack on. I have yet to find anyone negative or anyone who is a troll actually put anything out there into the world with their name on it. These folk obviously have problems and frustrations, and this is the way they like to deal with them, so it is best to just scroll on past the comment.
Will I Continue?
The plan originally was to do this for a year and see how it went. I have really enjoyed learning about video, sounds, and editing, which are things that I just don’t use in my day-to-day work. It has felt a lot like when I very first picked up a stills camera. At this stage, I plan to commit to another 12 months of two videos a week and see how I feel at the end of it.
I also managed to set up the entire channel without buying any equipment. I borrowed a mic, used a camera that I already had, and a few old battered LED panels that I had in storage for years. Most of my videos are shot with a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 HSM Art lens on an old beat-up Canon 5D Mark II with a Rode Videmic Pro microphone.