Why Being a Photographer Is (Probably) the Best Job in the World

portrait-photographer-girl

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.

It's Accessible

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.

It's Current

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.

Photography was the main reason behind deciding to visit Sydney, Australia last year.

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.

The Balance

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.

Gregory Porter, Grammy-winning jazz musician. One of my favourite things about working as a photographer is the different characters I meet.

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.

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25 Comments

I'm not a professional photographer, however I've never had any other hobby that's lasted 30 years (and counting).

As someone who has less than a year trying to work as a full-time photographer, it's not as easy as your article says lol. I feel rejected all the way.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Depends on if you are good or not.

Has more to do with being business saavy and having the right opportunities. There are many mediocre photographers at the top. Photography is easy in that it is accessible, but being a successful full time pro photographer isn't.

Jeff McCollough's picture

"There are many mediocre photographers at the top."

The top of where? Craigslist?

Dear Jeff.... go boxing..... go to the gym.... or even a playground to watch happy kids play.... anywhere where you can release your "energy", because you're clearly not here to have mature conversation or give useful advice or criticism. Just to mock people. Therefore I cannot further engage with you but to tell you this. Have a good evening. Regards.

Jeff McCollough's picture

If anyone is not mature it must be you as your last comment is way out of line. I can see that you got offended at the Craigslist. I guess you are on there and that is why you get offended. Sad.

Just seeing this. Oh yes Jeff. I got oh so offended by the mention of Craiglist. I'm on craiglist for sure. You're not?.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Still getting upset over internet comments? lol

I agree with Melissa! There are some incredible photographers out there not making a full time career in photography. It's more about understanding the business of photography and being in the right place at the right time because there's fierce competition out there! Also, with the current economy the way it, budgets have dropped considerably.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't forge ahead in photography, you just have to approach the market differently.

Anyway, well said Melissa!

Paulo Macedo's picture

It depends in where you work and how the governament taxes you. Here in Portugal it is not quite easy. The burocracy to get your business going might make you quit even before you start. Being double or triple taxed isn't funny, leaving you with a profit margin so scarse you might end up thinking about what you're doing with your life.
As an example, the average cost of a wedding around here stands somewhere in the 1000€ price tag, over those 1000€ you'll be taxed 25% IRC (VAT + 2 more taxes), 159€ a month for social security, even if you make no money that month, you'll have to pay it, AND if you make the mistake of making more than 10.000€ annually that value goes up to 419€. That being said, almost 60% of the wedding is taxed and leaves you 400€ to pay rent, bills for the studio if you have one, camera repairs and all the other stuff.
Same will happen with editorial, fashion, etc. As long as you have a business, you will pay a lot. If you're caught making money without declaring it to the gvt, the fines are so high you'll be scared to do so.

Jeff McCollough's picture

It's time for you to move.

Paulo Macedo's picture

I wish I could, really. First oportunity and I would flee this country without looking back. Even knowing I don't agree with US foreign policy, I would love to live in the US. I could make my business grow and shine without a governament poking it's nose into every penny I make.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Well in the US there are high income taxes and on top of that you have to pay SS. But that's still not 60%. That's crazy that you have to be taxed like that. Can't you move to another country other than the US?

Paulo Macedo's picture

European Union taxation is somehow the same across all countries, except UK. This new thing about austerity made it a lot harder for people to begin their own companies, or at least made it scarier. I could move to France since i've got a few relatives living there, and it's an open minded country when it comes to photography. But since somehow i make to the end of the month with less than 10€ in the bank account, it becomes hard to move, it's like you're stuck here. I know it sounds like a lot of excuses, but i don't have enough money to adventure and try elsewhere. Only way was to sell my gear and try to buy it all again out there (gear i've bought while still living with my parents).

Jeff McCollough's picture

Wow that's awful. I am assuming though that you have free health care and free education and that's why you pay so much in taxes.

Paulo Macedo's picture

Education is "free", and health has seen better days. Southern european countries have deep corruption problems, and most taxes go somewhere we don't know. For example, Portugal has a huge motorway infrastructure that serves very few, most of those taxes went on tarmac. So, for the taxes we pay, things should work, or at least you could go to a hospital and somehow survive. Me, i have health insurance and go to private hospitals, otherwise i would wait 2 years for a surgery.
Yes, we pay a lot and things don't work.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Yup that seems to be the case with many socialist countries.

Paulo Macedo's picture

As i was saying, for a 1000€ job, you pay the two last line values sum worth of taxes. Made with an oficial calculator... =/ that's 543€ out of the 1000, leaving you 467€, not even enough to pay rent.

Julia Kuzmenko McKim's picture

It maybe not taxed at 60% rate, but there are so many other bills that you will absolutely have to pay to run your business.. ObamaCare alone is a good enough example.

Paulo Macedo's picture

I believe so, but in the US you have freedom to choose from obama care to something else. And you can make a profit out of your work. Here, i pay those taxes and i will pay more taxes over proffit. Double taxation, just found out about it yesterday. I believe that in this corrupt system, this is structured to somehow prevent you from gaining power via money, because money talks and one can become more of a whistleblower towards corruption, with that power.

Paolo Veglio's picture

I think that anyone who loves his/her job could say the same. I work as a researcher in a university and I fit in almost all the points in the article.

Also, you describe the job as if you can always afford to drop the occasional "not-so-funny" job and accept only what you really love to do. In the real world, unless you are a super famous photographer, I feel you have to also accept those "not-so-funny" jobs, if you want to pay the bills at the end of the month.

Jack Alexander's picture

Oh you do, but for me, doing corporate jobs (which I only ever do for the money!) always pleasantly surprises me. That's where I meet most of the people I would never ordinarily get to meet - often people twice my age, who work in an entirely different field to I.

John Skinner's picture

"Best Job in the World"?

Job would entail that your eating from your endeavors.. As the months progress and times are changing very fast, it's harder and harder to feed oneself at this gig. The very very few that get picked up or offered a gig.. It's more or less a lottery win at this point.

Hello.
The work of the photographer is a good and interesting work, but it's hard not to work for yourself. In order to find a good company - you need to have a good resume.
The site - https://craftresumes.com/cvwriting/ - will help with the creation of a good resume, which will help to get a job in a company that deals with photography.
Thanks a lot for your attention.