Thursday, March 5, 2009


Ok, I know I promised the writing thing, we'll get to that soon.

Right now, I'd like to talk about a bluntly honest assessment of your current life, as it applies to your goals.  Debt, assets, experience, all that fun stuff.

What I'd like to do, is get some income from my photography and personal video work.

Assets: I own a digital point n' shoot, Photoshop Elements, and an HV20(small digital video camera).  Cool, I own all of those free n' clear.

Debt: Need more practice, as I've been in a different position for a while - most of my early attempts are most likely not going to earn me enough money for the time spent learning(this applies to all new/rusty skills).

Experience: As my gear is pretty entry level, this is really where the shine is going to come in.  I'm not starting from square one.  I worked as a photographer's assistant for a brilliant man who worked for British Vogue - just being around him is like swimming in the pool of knowledge.
(For some of his mind blowing portrait work, go here -

I've been working as a Gaffer(basically lighting design for film) for a couple of years now, studying light and shadow and all that fun.  I also have some experience as an artist, so line, color theory, and composition are not alien concepts.

Conclusion:  I need to put the work and time in, but this is not an unachievable goal.  However, 'make some money' is completely vague.  Let's fix this.

How am I going to 'make some money' doing this?

Weddings are out.  I did this for a while.  Hated it with a passion - and had to compete with people who LOVED shooting weddings.  No matter what you want to do, you have to find the angle that works for you, rather than the obvious one.

I love video, editing, and photography.  But while I was freelancing for a series of wedding companies, it wasn't fun anymore.  It was the equivalent of my 'make a living' job, and sucked all the fun out of what I was doing.  At that point, find something that pays better.

When I was doing things like this, stock photography was something that studios did with a small stable of regular photographers.  Not anymore!

There are several sites, with millions of available photographs, by hundreds of thousands of photographers. Chances are, that my first photos won't do that well - but that's what practice is for.

What else can I do?

Well, I have some friends who are moving forward into entertaining.  I've been going out on free evenings to take pictures of them in action.  And later, posting these pictures on social networking sites.
The good: practice, exposure for myself and my friends.
The bad: realizing my current camera is not up to the task of shooting at a rather high speed in a low light situation.

So, I need a better camera for this, which is not in the cards right now.  Soon, though.

Meanwhile, I'll be snapping pictures of whatever's available, and offering my portrait services. The plan is (currently) to dump whatever I make in stock photos into a separate savings account, to be used to buy the better camera.

One other aspect of doing the stock thing - I have to find more interesting locations, which is travel time and gas.  This money has to come out of my regular job.  I see it as an investment.

Which comes to that old 'spend money to make money' trope.  How true is it, and how much?

It is true - with parameters.  There's absolutely no point in me spending 14 thousand dollars on a Hassleblad.  Not only do my current gigs not require it, I don't have any justification in charging the kind of money that would make this investment reasonable.

However, a digital SLR body that can accept the lenses I already have?  Absolutely.

But not right now, I just can't afford it.  An 'investment' at the cost of debt at this level is just foolish.  It may not be for you, but look realistically at your 'person' assets.

A 'person' asset would be a business/individual/community that will use your services.  For instance, an established assistant wedding photographer, who's friendly with a bunch of wedding planners, has gone to years of trade shows, and is active in the local business bureau, has a good arguement for investing a decent chunk of change into equipment, and striking out a new business.  There is a reputation and connections already in place.

Not so much for a college kid hoping to make a few bucks and sinking to the bottom of credit debt to buy a lot of fancy toys.  

It appears that half of building a business is building a reputation.  Granted, a bit of that comes with presentation.  I would imagine that someone hiring me for a commercial shoot would be a bit put off if I showed up with just a point n' shoot camera.

So I'm not going after that sort of job right now.  Landscapes don't care what your camera looks like.  And if the picture is quality, the designer buying a stock photo doesn't care what it was shot on.  The final product is all important, and that's what I'm looking at.

Next blog: So you wanna be a writer?

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