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Author Topic: right time to turn pro...?  (Read 6881 times)

LewisShermer

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right time to turn pro...?
« on: June 13, 2012, 10:28:38 AM »
I've watched these forums for a while now although I don't ever post...

I was just wondering how everyone felt about turning pro, how it went and how it's turning out? I'm very much aware of the cons with regard to quitting a stable day job and having a guaranteed income every month with which to pay the bills but I'm also sick to death of it and the mundanity of it all.

Here's my background

18 - never touched a camera above a point and shoot 35mm but get a job as a studio assistant. worked with 5x4 cambo's and sinars & medium format hasselblads and mamiyas shooting mainly commercial product

23 - went to uni, got a degree in graphics. photography as a minor hobby. very minor.

26 - graduate, got a job as a designer but started a photography department, built it up and shoot all our product for advertising, net and brochure. mainly watches and jewellery. with the company dime i bought bowens flash heads, a canon 1Ds 3 and all the kit I wanted. cost about £8000 to set up

a couple of years ago a friend asked me if i could shoot her wedding. I'd never done it before or in fact owned a decent camera of my own so I said yes. obviously. so I went and bought a 500D and a jessops flash which was all i could afford at the time for about £800. It was a little different than shooting with the 1Ds but I got over it.

I've been doing quite a few weddings since, bought a 60D, a 7D, loads of lenses (no L's) and invested in a set up so i can shoot studio standard product shots in my kitchen (i've never charged for any work I've done for people up until I shot a rather large job for a big company last week)

my wedding shot's are ok, obviously would be better if I owned a 5Dii
my product shots are above average, obviously would better if i owned a 1Ds iii (or upcoming X)
I have a little experience with models but not much past shooting of friends that are "alt. models"

here's a bit of my portfolio : www.lewismaxwell.carbonmade.com

I'd like to actually have a conversation with someone with the experience of jacking it all in to live the proverbial dream as I sit here with my notice written out but not the guts to give it in and go it alone

help?

x


5Diii, 60D, 500D, EX580, loads of crappy flash guns... 28mm 1.8, Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art, 50mm 1.4, 100mm macro 2.8, 24-105mm 4L, 70-200mm 2.8L, lensbaby composer...

www.lewismaxwell.co.uk

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right time to turn pro...?
« on: June 13, 2012, 10:28:38 AM »

Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2012, 11:53:02 AM »
Build a business plan and that will help you decide.  It will require a bit of work, but you will come out of it understanding what to expect out of a business.
 
you obviously have artistic talent and photography talent and knowledge, but running a business requires a entirely different set of skills.  Taking care of the books, billings, collections, advertising, studio rentals, depreciation of equipment and dealing with taxes.  Hiring a good accountant is highly beneficial, but you can do most of the work yourself.  I use Quickbooks for my small business, and just go to the accountant once a year.  Its a big learning experience though.
 
 

JerryKnight

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2012, 12:09:00 PM »
I suggest you find a local photographer or two whose work you admire, and second shoot for them as much as you can. There is so much you can learn from them, just seeing them work. If you can find mentors to teach you and critique your work, even better.

LewisShermer

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2012, 12:16:54 PM »
yeah, that's the scary part after worrying if I'm actually a good enough photographer, earning the money to actually pay the bills each month. invoicing, taxes, advertising... eeek.

I'll actually get in touch with some locals tonight, see if they reply. there's one I emailed about this kind of stuff previously and he just ignores me. i guess a lot of photographers don't want to give away their secrets.

I live in birmingham, It's pretty central and has a great creative sector, hopefully I can latch on to things like that. I'll need business cards for cocktail parties and a commercial website... it's all bloody money though, and I have none!
5Diii, 60D, 500D, EX580, loads of crappy flash guns... 28mm 1.8, Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art, 50mm 1.4, 100mm macro 2.8, 24-105mm 4L, 70-200mm 2.8L, lensbaby composer...

www.lewismaxwell.co.uk

awinphoto

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2012, 12:18:41 PM »
Living the dream isn't easy... You have to make sure you are making enough doing photography to supplement all your income...  In an era where the fine line of professional and amateur is getting thinner and thinner...  Lower end cameras are getting so good and frankly it is so easy to learn, Make sure you get your portfolio as good as you can, find out what passions you have with photography... is it portraits, weddings, both, commercial, cars, advertising, product, etc...  Find out what makes you unique from any other photographer and what you can bring to the table that someone would hire you over 10 other photographers placing Craigslist ads offering their services for a song and a dance.  Get the basics of your business affairs in order such as equipment, printing services, pricing, operations, finances/accounting, market plan...  Remember this is a business, not a hobby, and without getting that stuff figured out before hand, it will help you not become a non-profit.  Lastly market market market and dont give up.  It's easy to get discouraged but if you got a good market plan and keep at it, even if it feels like your getting nowhere, it will work out in the end.  There's a lot of expense when dealing with a business so save up while you can. 

As far as when is a right time, a big photographer once said to keep your day job as long as it doesn't kill you.  Keep it until it gets to the point you have so much photography work and it feels like either job will start to suffer if you dont drop your day job.  Then is a good time to jump ship because it means you have lots of repeat work coming in, and that is what is needed to survive.   
Canon 5d III, Canon 24-105L, Canon 17-40L, Canon 70-200 F4L, Canon 100L 2.8, 430EX 2's and a lot of bumps along the road to get to where I am.

Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2012, 12:32:39 PM »
Living the dream isn't easy... You have to make sure you are making enough doing photography to supplement all your income...  In an era where the fine line of professional and amateur is getting thinner and thinner...  Lower end cameras are getting so good and frankly it is so easy to learn, Make sure you get your portfolio as good as you can, find out what passions you have with photography... is it portraits, weddings, both, commercial, cars, advertising, product, etc...  Find out what makes you unique from any other photographer and what you can bring to the table that someone would hire you over 10 other photographers placing Craigslist ads offering their services for a song and a dance.  Get the basics of your business affairs in order such as equipment, printing services, pricing, operations, finances/accounting, market plan...  Remember this is a business, not a hobby, and without getting that stuff figured out before hand, it will help you not become a non-profit.  Lastly market market market and dont give up.  It's easy to get discouraged but if you got a good market plan and keep at it, even if it feels like your getting nowhere, it will work out in the end.  There's a lot of expense when dealing with a business so save up while you can. 

As far as when is a right time, a big photographer once said to keep your day job as long as it doesn't kill you.  Keep it until it gets to the point you have so much photography work and it feels like either job will start to suffer if you dont drop your day job.  Then is a good time to jump ship because it means you have lots of repeat work coming in, and that is what is needed to survive.

Excellent advice +1

Jettatore

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2012, 02:16:40 PM »
LewisShermer or anyone else responding:

Nice post, would you mind posting (without lying) what your various net income levels were and currently are at all those various stages along with your approximate hours of work per week, with any special notes to potential absurd weeks/months that might have popped up (or just an exact average)/cost of your design schooling, etc..  I'd say as far as the title alone goes, the best time to turn pro was 20 years ago or likely way before that with diminishing returns forward, with the exception of the smallest few, which exist in almost any example and also in most any example can't mathematically be the average success rate and specifically have to be the minority of said example.  The basic carrot on a stick formula which plagues all modern life.  By the way, don't take me too seriously, I'm probably not that many steps removed from suicide and I certainly wouldn't want my jaded life perspective to disrupt you or anyone else's success.  Still you brought up the thread and seem to be pretty open so if you, or anyone else responding, could go the extra mile with full honestly it would be profoundly appreciated.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2012, 03:59:25 PM by Jettatore »

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2012, 02:16:40 PM »

JerryKnight

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2012, 03:16:04 PM »
yeah, that's the scary part after worrying if I'm actually a good enough photographer, earning the money to actually pay the bills each month. invoicing, taxes, advertising... eeek.

I'll actually get in touch with some locals tonight, see if they reply. there's one I emailed about this kind of stuff previously and he just ignores me. i guess a lot of photographers don't want to give away their secrets.

I live in birmingham, It's pretty central and has a great creative sector, hopefully I can latch on to things like that. I'll need business cards for cocktail parties and a commercial website... it's all bloody money though, and I have none!

It's unfortunate that many photographers consider their craft to be exclusive. The best way for it to work is for photographers to build a referral network. When one photographer is already booked or is not in a client's price range, they'll refer the client to other local photographers. If you can build relationships like that with photographers, they'll likely be happy to send you clients.

There are communities of photographers out there that believe that helping each other and trading knowledge raises the quality of the entire profession, making everyone's business and artistry better. If you can find these photographers in your area, I think it will help you a lot. Don't worry too much about the ones who seem afraid to teach you anything,  for fear that you'll steal some of their business.

EDIT: The other part of the referral network is with other vendors. Make extra effort to help out florists, caterers, decorators, etc. with photos from your shoots, and it's possible they will send clients your way.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2012, 03:19:50 PM by JerryKnight »

awinphoto

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2012, 04:33:32 PM »
LewisShermer or anyone else responding:

Nice post, would you mind posting (without lying) what your various net income levels were and currently are at all those various stages along with your approximate hours of work per week, with any special notes to potential absurd weeks/months that might have popped up (or just an exact average)/cost of your design schooling, etc..  I'd say as far as the title alone goes, the best time to turn pro was 20 years ago or likely way before that with diminishing returns forward, with the exception of the smallest few, which exist in almost any example and also in most any example can't mathematically be the average success rate and specifically have to be the minority of said example.  The basic carrot on a stick formula which plagues all modern life.  By the way, don't take me too seriously, I'm probably not that many steps removed from suicide and I certainly wouldn't want my jaded life perspective to disrupt you or anyone else's success.  Still you brought up the thread and seem to be pretty open so if you, or anyone else responding, could go the extra mile with full honestly it would be profoundly appreciated.

Jettatore, first let me say that I do sincerely hope you weren't serious with the suicide comment and if you weren't, that isn't the way to go about things. Income will vary depending on factors such as location, market demand and cost of living.  When I first started going pro, I was maybe making around around 25k mark yearly... But for my location it allowed for relationships, house rental, car, modest equipment, etc...  Landed a contract to shoot product photography on a regular and recurring situation...  Got some other contracts here and there in which I could literally make as much as i'm willing to work, pay for any one job isn't spectacular, but basically is easy (for me) and easy to slam through and make money.  Portraits aren't really my thing, i'm more into the commercial, architecture, advertising route...  I think last year photography alone I made around 60k, give or take... that's working 5-6 days a week... This year, so far, i'm on pace to do even better assuming work level remains high.  My product photography is stable, however with the bad economy, I really haven't been able to raise rates worth anything for the last 2-3 years.  My other side contracts haven't had raises in rates in a really long time, but with the rise in gas, i tend to pass that onto my clients more.  For where I live, we aren't rich by any means and struggle at times, but we are homeowners, reinvesting within our means for new gear when we can reasonably afford to do so and based on need, so very few splurges.  I know photogs in New York and San Fran working 9-10 hour days and have little to no life but are making double i'm making if not more.  With the economy and technology getting better, we have gone through the perfect storm as professional photographers...  People and in my case, companies not spending in marketing or advertising, no splurge assignments, when we get hired, we are getting base prices with little frills.  On top of that, just about anyone getting a costco special rebel camera can go out and get jobs at a fraction of our rates and do it because they think it's cool.  It's just a big change in culture for photography and something we have to weather and get better to survive. 
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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2012, 05:08:56 PM »
Thanks for the forthcoming input.  Greatly appreciated.  And no, not serious, just a disclaimer not to swallow any dripping cynicism without having salt handy.  If you are already well, well on your way to being a pro, like the original poster seems to be, and you are still willing ready and able and want to become a pro, then don't let anyone's attitude, especially not my jaded attitude, alter your coarse.  Realistically though, the info you just posted is exactly the kind of info than 90% or better of all wannabee pro's should swallow whole while weighing their options between photography, plumbing and underwater welding.  It's also the kind of info that for profit colleges and self-serving websites tend to avoid or simply lie about in this and or similar industries, so it's value should be high, in particular to those who haven't gone as far already as the original poster has.  Personally, I have zero interest in turning photography on it's own into any sort of profession.  I gave the idea of wedding photography a whirl around my head a few times, went along as 2nd shooter to several weddings with a popular local (but mediocre) wedding photographer, but overall I hate the idea (I don't even like the idea of marriage itself) and that's without knowing any and all the various subtle annoyances of that business that one who hasn't done it first hand for years must surely be overlooking.

I think, much like you described about collaborating, if active Pro's and up and comers want to help desaturate their industry, they should be extremely forthcoming and open about how not so rosey it can quite more often than not be.  If someone who wants to do photography as a profession rather than as a hobby, still wants to go forward after wading through honest insights, then more power to them.  What I find however, in most industry, is a bunch of liars right at the gate, usually trying to sell private tuition, some tool, or some training system, or are themselves some sort of flop just making themselves feel better and completely dodging the reality of said industries or if they aren't total flops they just as often ignore their own stories factors of wild luck that helped them along the way while throwing out utter bs motivational slogans about perseverance and hard work and payoffs and what you have to look forward to after x milestone...  Anyways, that was my long way of saying thank you, for being honest.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2012, 06:05:19 PM by Jettatore »

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2012, 07:13:22 PM »
As far as when is a right time, a big photographer once said to keep your day job as long as it doesn't kill you.  Keep it until it gets to the point you have so much photography work and it feels like either job will start to suffer if you dont drop your day job.  Then is a good time to jump ship because it means you have lots of repeat work coming in, and that is what is needed to survive.

IMO this is the best advice

The stress that worrying too much about money can have will cripple creativity and add alot of pressure so phase it in

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2012, 10:12:42 PM »
As far as when is a right time, a big photographer once said to keep your day job as long as it doesn't kill you.

There's actually more truth to this than you can even imagine. Let me challenge your thinking a little bit just for the sake of having a complete picture:

Just like yourself, a few years ago, I too was hating my day job and was eagerly awaiting the moment when I could go full time. However as I started getting more and more booked, I slowly realized that I didn't really want to do photography full time at all. Instead I found a better day job.

To make the same income that I make now, I would literally have to break my back shooting weddings. And even then I probably wouldn't get there. And I don't want to break my back. I want to casually shoot 10-15 weddings per season and nicely supplement my income so that I can really enjoy life. At the same time I have the benefit of 2 independent revenue streams so should I lose my job, I will at least have something to fall back on.

But it's not just about income. I made a disturbing realization that the more I was shooting for money, the more my hobby was dying. It has now been YEARS since I went out to take some pictures just for fun. It's not that I don't have time to do it - I just don't feel like it if you can believe that. And that thought saddens me, because I loved my hobby.

I'm actually in the process of writing a book about my experience and how to do things right on the first try (I don't know whether I'll try to publish it or make it available in pieces online via blog posts). It will contain all sorts of knowledge about marketing, pricing, style etc etc, but the main point will be this:

Don't just quit your job and chase some elusive dream, because you may find just as I did, that "the dream" is not necessarily a constant. Things change, and your feelings will too. Do it gradually, in a risk-free way, and at least buying gear will never be an issue because you'll have 2 salaries to pay for it, not to mention that you won't worry about paying bills.

And lastly ask yourself this - are you really at a point where your full time job is handicapping your business? If your answer is "no", you really can't justify quitting. Weddings are weekend work and there are a LOT of weekends in a year.

Cheers

unfocused

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2012, 11:04:30 PM »
All good advice.

Here is something I would add: learn something about business before jumping in. In the U.S. there are extensive support networks for small business. I imagine it is the same in the UK. I'm talking about community colleges that offer free seminars in how to start a business, government agencies that also offer advice and training and what are often called Small Business Development Centers here in the U.S. Make an appointment to talk to a banker that specializes in small business.

In other words, before starting anything, research all the business aspects. Develop a formal business plan. Most small businesses fail. Yes. That is just a fact. They fail not because the owners are not talented in their profession, but because they didn't have a solid business plan to begin with.

Oh, and one more thing: be flexible. I don't know how many small business people I have met over the years who start a business thinking they are going to focus on one area and then find, six months or so into it, that customers want something else entirely. Darwinism is alive and well in the business world. All businesses either evolve or die. Be prepared for that.
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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2012, 11:04:30 PM »

unfocused

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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2012, 11:08:47 PM »
As far as when is a right time, a big photographer once said to keep your day job as long as it doesn't kill you.

There's actually more truth to this than you can even imagine. Let me challenge your thinking a little bit just for the sake of having a complete picture:

Just like yourself, a few years ago, I too was hating my day job and was eagerly awaiting the moment when I could go full time. However as I started getting more and more booked, I slowly realized that I didn't really want to do photography full time at all. Instead I found a better day job...At the same time I have the benefit of 2 independent revenue streams so should I lose my job, I will at least have something to fall back on... I made a disturbing realization that the more I was shooting for money, the more my hobby was dying. It has now been YEARS since I went out to take some pictures just for fun. It's not that I don't have time to do it - I just don't feel like it if you can believe that. And that thought saddens me, because I loved my hobby...

Sorry for posting again immediately, but this was so insightful I couldn't help myself. Incredibly candid and honest. I salute you SB.
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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2012, 12:54:51 AM »
This is my take.  I kept my "day job" and do photography for extra $$ when I can.  This way I can be a "pro" but also have superb health care insurance and a much larger salary with a 9-5.  Some people can make it big time with photography, but it's not the highest paid position, ON AVERAGE, in the world.  The income you make is limited by YOU.  How much business can you handle and attract and how efficient is your business?  It can be done, but most of the pros I know kept their 9-5 jobs for at least 2 years until they had their business all planned out and ready to go, before "releasing" into it full time.  Would I love to make the same salary in photography as I do in my full-time job?  Heck yes!  But for me it made a lot more sense to do it this way.  If you shoot weddings for awhile, those are on weekends for the most part, and you can make around $3k in central Ohio.  Do one every weekend from April-October :)
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Re: right time to turn pro...?
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2012, 12:54:51 AM »