Two groups of questions.
First, to all of the professional photographers that are currently making the most of their income through photography: What steps did you take to make this a reality? Did you go to school for photography? Self-trained? When you were starting out, how did you market yourself? Are you a consumer photographer working in portraiture and weddings? How did you find your market? Are you a fashion or commercial photographer? How did you break into the industry? Are there any photo journalists out there? How are you adapting to a world where nearly every photo I see is from a smart phone? Stock photography has been in decline for a long time now, is stock photography even a realistic option anymore?
Second to all of the people that want to be and are trying to become full time professional photographers: Are you going to school or do you plan on any formal photography training? What specialization are you shooting for? What steps are you taking to make your goal into reality? What sorts of successes have you had? Have you had any formal business classes?
My own answer:
I can answer my own question for number 2 to get the ball rolling ;). I am currently working on making the transition to working within the photography industry full time. I have been working on the outskirts for a decade now. I have managed two portrait studios, worked for two camera stores, helped to run an art gallery, and worked as a large format printer for a major consumer level print company. One of my current long term goals is to transition into assisting commercial and fashion photographers, as well as working directly with the studios (even longer term goal would be transitioning into shooting). I want to have the freedom to photograph my personal documentary projects while earning a living and satisfying my technical side within the studios working directly with commercial and fashion photographers. Being a door knocker, that has been my main strategy in the last couple of months. I made a list of every major studio in Manhattan and have been showing up at their front doors. I am now on the roster for several studios, and once a week I try to go out and make a couple more contacts. I am also directly emailing commercial and fashion photographers every day. I try to go through ten or so a day. I am not as consistent as I would like to be, but I try. On the consumer level I am not quite as active, but I definitely have a contingency plan for it if the studios and direct emailing does not work out. I am building a client list from the photography shoots that I do through the camera store that I work at. I also have several hundred coupons printed that I can hand directly out to potential clients. My hope is to simply stalk the play grounds in some of the nicer neighborhoods and hope something eventually works out. As far as school goes; I earned two certificates in photography. The first is as a still photographer, and the second is for a digital lab tech. The goal of the program I went through is to set you up with the education required to enter into commercial or fashion photography as a photographer’s assistant. This is exactly what I am trying to do with it. I went through a very good jr college program in Southern California. It definitely covered all of the bases for basics, but I still feel that it was lacking. Many of the students that graduate from the program will move onto an art school of some type, Art Center in Pasadena is a popular choice. I can definitely understand this move! If I had the cash, I may have done the same thing! Unfortunately, I was not born rich, not even close to it, so I what I currently have is all I can currently afford. I would love more education, but I feel that what I got was adequate if I can get proper on the job training. One of the things that I loved about my school was that it gave me a very solid background in black and white film in all formats. I feel that I may be the last generation of photography students to receive this type of education. Emphasis on getting the shot right in the camera and minimizing your time spent in post. One of the classes that I took was business photography. It has been the only business class I have taken, and it was actually incredibly valuable! Business is a side of photography that is almost always lost! Again, I felt like it just covered the basics, and in the future I may want to take some more business classes.
Wow! I really didn’t think that would turn into an essay! Any advice is appreciated. Also, a great magazine I discovered is http://resourcemagonline.com/.