I'm a photographer because my life is filled with hot models all day, every day, right? No, but really, photography, as a career, should not be taken for granted. Let’s be honest, we’re hardly saving lives here, and we should be very grateful that we can make a career of essentially taking pictures. That’s not to say it isn’t hard work or a lot of responsibility, because it is. I just know I’m feel very lucky to be making a living from what I love doing most. And there’s so many reasons why it has to be the best job in the world.
Photography, I’m sure we can agree, is a relatively accessible craft. Recent years have made professional equipment widely available to the masses. Now more than ever, the market is saturated with aspiring photographers, beauticians, stylists, and models. After the initial investment of purchasing a camera, it’s usually quite easy to get the ball rolling. If you’re feeling inspired (or equally uninspired), bored, or just experimental, you can always pick your camera up and start playing. I’m sure many will agree that this is exactly how one tends to further oneself in terms of knowledge and skills. It’s a craft that we can indulge in virtually whenever we like; there’s always something to take photos of or somebody willing to be photographed. It’s an outlet that can be enjoyed alone or as a social event with a team of others. We photographers are lucky in that photography is always there for us when we need it.
I have many friends who are actors, and while they love what they do, it’s not all that often that even the most successful ones get to do what they love. Sometimes, they can go months at a time without so much as a small job — just the occasional audition to fill the time, their own thoughts the only thing keeping them company. Their careers and how often they work are in the hands of a total stranger, as they await a call from their agent or the selection of a casting director. It reminds me how grateful I am that my passion and my job lie in photography. I find myself wondering how different life would be if I were an actor, or someone whose passion lay in an extreme sport, such as skiing. Being from a country where it rarely snows means that it’d not only cost a fortune, but would be something I wouldn't often be able to do. In contrast, I use my camera to some degree almost every day.
Photography and videography are at the forefront of modern times. Never before has there been such a demand for it. The internet has blown up with the need for constant content. New magazines are set up every day, and more events are needing coverage than ever. With the rise of social media, a photographer gets to utilize the latest technology in order to further his or her brand. Websites have become our CVs, our latest work becoming our qualifications. It's constantly changing, and that's exciting.
Be Your Own Boss
There are various paths one can take within the field. For many, carving a place in the profession requires being your own boss, and with it, your own motivator. A nightmare for some, but for me, being free from the constraint of a corporate hierarchy is more than motivation enough. There's always the option of creative agencies if you’re not great at the business side or prefer to have someone else look after your diary. For me personally, being a self-confessed control freak, I very much enjoy being in control of my day-to-day schedule. Sure, I’d love the security of a salaried job, but I seek great enjoyment in seeing progression in my career and take pride in knowing that my achievements stemmed entirely from my own efforts.
Working as a freelance photographer allows you the freedom to dictate everything about your business: your public image, your brand, your calendar, your marketability, your clients — the list is endless. There aren’t many fields that allow you such free rein and so generously. There are also so many tools widely and readily available to help you get there — not least of all, social media.
Free From Constraints
I'm not made for a 9 to 5. I know everyone says it. But I’m really not. I’ve never kept conventional hours; I can’t remember the last time I went to bed before 3 a.m. I’m a complete night owl and most productive in the evenings. And the good news is that being a freelance photographer allows me to play to my strengths, and more often than not, sleep to my desired hours. Between 7pm and 3am is when I get all my work done – it might sound strange to some (many of my friends look at me in horror) – but it just works for me.
Whilst there are many photography jobs that conform to a more conventional routine (such as e-commerce roles), many also stray from what is the norm. It could be a wedding, where you’re officially working for 10 hours, and then you have a week off. Or you could be freelance and work Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. For me, my schedule changes every week, and it’s a formula that I very much welcome. Every week (hell, every day) is different, and I find it to be a complete blessing. It keeps me on my toes. More and more studies are emerging claiming that we're not programmed to work eight hours a day, five days a week. But you probably already knew that, and most photography jobs involve a working schedule that deviates from just that.
In a similar sense, there is a great deal of variety that comes with being a photographer. As someone that shoots any and all kind of portrait, my job takes me everywhere. I really enjoy the balance that my job brings. Some days, I’m working from home all day, editing images and sending emails, which brings with it the perks of having my own space, sleeping in, and saving money on travel costs. Other days I have shoots or meetings in potentially any corner of the city, meaning I get to visit and explore areas of London that I’d never normally have reason to check out. There’s a great balance as on the days that I'm shooting, I’ll likely be working with a team of creatives, and there’ll be anywhere between 5 to 15 of us on a given set. It’s a great chance to converse with other like-minded people. Quite often, when I’m being hired for a shoot, the client is in charge of enlisting the rest of the team, so I quite frequently end up meeting new people.
One of the things I like best about what I do is the versatility of the people I get to meet. Unlike other positions in the creative industry, such as modeling, there seems to be no stigma in regards to age, meaning that I'm regularly working alongside people I wouldn’t usually get the chance to speak with — people from all ages and backgrounds, who each have their own input to bring to the table.
You Can Do Anything
Photography is a great creative outlet. It works wonders for stress relief, and many aspects of it can be rather therapeutic. And the best part is, generally speaking, there’s no right or wrong answer. It's all subjective and, within reason, nobody can really tell you to stop doing what you're doing. For many shoots, the creative control is left entirely to the photographer, meaning that we get to call the shots (pun intended). We're free to follow our creative vision and bring it to life. Certain jobs come with a brief from the client, which can often be a welcome change. Sometimes, having no specific end goal can be a bit too vague or overwhelming, and it’s great to have some kind of restriction so as to have something to aim for and hone in on.
Branch Out Into Other Fields
It’s well known that in the music industry in 2016, much of an artist's income stems from endorsements and revenue from avenues other than the music itself. Many successful artists earn a large chunk of their wage from taking part in fashion ventures, adverts, sponsorships, etc. In many ways, being a photographer is no different. It can be a very fluid career choice, meaning that whilst most of your income can come from a signature type of photographic work, there’s plenty more you can branch out into. Aside from all the differing categories of photography that you can engage in, there’re plenty of other ways to make your wage. Take Fstoppers, for example. Writing about photography ties in nicely with everything else that I do; I write about my experiences or share advice. Similarly, you can host workshops to teach others, provide online tutoring, move into videography — the possibilities are endless. Sometimes, you meet people in the creative field who are working on something that you realize you'd like to get involved in. I know some associates that have moved further into the graphic design field as a direct result of editing images in Photoshop and becoming infatuated with post-processing and digital manipulation.
Working as a photographer is nothing short of a privilege. In my own experience, it brings me a lot of satisfaction. The opportunities it provides keep life fresh and exciting. It may have its moments (see: free work, quiet weeks), but the good always outweighs the bad, and often, it feels like the greatest job in the world.