BECOMING A PHOTOGRAPHER
For the past 5 years, my wife and I have had the honor to work together doing something we both love. Our career has definitely presented many opportunities for continued learning in areas that were expected, but also in some that were not. One of the most interesting experience we have encountered as professional photographers is the consensus belief that we (Photographers) are overpriced and that our time invested in delivering great images is not worth what we (Photographers) charge. Now, I do understand that some would argue that if our time, talent and process are worth what we charge, why is it that others don’t charge as much. Well, it is for this very reason that I decided to write a diary of what one must go through in order to develop such skills; to demystify the myths and finally to give those who read this a better understanding of an industry that only few are successful in.
In order to begin even thinking about jumping into this profession, you must understand the techniques that have been developed through time to get to where we are now. According to Wikipedia, Thomas Wedgwood invented the first camera back in 1790; therefore, one can argue that as the birthdate of photography. Now I am not going to write a blog about history that has already been written, but I do want to expose you to some historical facts that would give you a better understanding of what modern photographers must go through.
Since the invention of the first camera, thus given birth to photography, many techniques and fundamentals have been developed. From the rule of thirds (which painters have been using prior to photography) to basic exposure techniques, one must first learn terminology. This includes, but not limited to: Focus, aperture, shutter speed, white balance, metering, ISO, auto focus, bracketing, focal length, filters, ghosting, over/under exposure, telephoto lens, prime lens, macro lens, and wide angle lens. After you know what the above mentioned are, then you need to learn what their correlation to each other is and how they are important in taking ONE image.
Where do I learn this? You may ask, well you do so by going to school or venture into the learning road on your own. Most credited schools’ tuition would range between 500 to thousands of dollars a quarter for a total of lets say at least two years. If you decide to save that money and chose to learn on your own then you must either read many books, use Youtube on an excessive basis or join an online learning program such as Linda.com. You can also learn by interning or volunteering your time to a trained and established photographer. In case you missed it, volunteering your time usually involves a monetary investment, as you could easily use that time to work and get paid for it. Either way, you are looking at a minimum of two years.
For the sake of numbers and figures let’s conclude that at 10 hours a week for 104 (52 weeks a year x two) weeks of learning (volunteering) at a rate of $8.00 an hour, then you we can concluded you have invested a total of $8320.
SPECIFIC PHOTOGRAPHING TECHNIQUES
Alright! We now know the fundamentals of photography, now we need to decide what type of photography we would like pursue. What are our options?: Fashion, Portrait, newborn, Car, Wedding, Landscape, Architecture, Product, Macro or promotional. Yeah, I think I can get that all in one breath. Well, I think that in order to be able to make a living you should learn techniques for multiple forms of photography, so we will focus on what we already do and choose Wedding, Newborn and Portrait photography. The following must be learned in order to proceed:
- Equipment needed
- Software of choice
- Trends in the industry
- Psychology (yes! Psychology)
Now, I am not going to write what learning the above takes, because I do not want to bore you, but lets just say it takes a lot of research, studying and practicing in order to learn and mastered the knowledge of the four topics mentioned above and how they all relate to each other. In addition to the above we need to research and learn the following techniques:
- Lighting Techniques
- Proper posing
- Frame composition
- Post production knowledge (Light temperature control, exposition correction, cropping techniques, definition range limitations, skin tone color correction, Sharpening/softening techniques)
So to mention a few, the above are some of the techniques one must learn. Again for the sake of numbers, let’s say we invest a total of 2 hours 3 times a week for a total of 6 months. Remaining in the $8 an hour range that would total $1248.
POST PRODUCTION (BASIC TO ADVANCED TECHNIQUES)
Everybody, for the most part, when exposed to Photoshop for the first time feel lost and confused, reasonably so, Photoshop is the most advanced software in the market. Nevertheless, if you want to learn to edit, add contrast and depth to your images, make corrections or use your creativity to it’s full potential, you must learn how to use it. Depending on your learning style you could buy a book, purchase video tutorials, take classes or learn by doing, you must purchase a license to use. In average, Photoshop costs $799.00 if you purchase it from a retail store. You then will need to invest countless hours, reading, watching and practicing techniques, which for the sake of quantitation let’s say a total of 10 hours a week for six months totaling 260 hours. This translates to $2080 (260 hours x $8 an hour) just to be able to do the basic editing/retouching. In fact, there is a career in professional retouching, which some choose to do.
Alright, some may not agree with me on this, but if you just allow me to explain, perhaps you may change your mind. There is a natural strained relationship between most of us and the camera. For example, take a moment to observe a child who is acting cute, doing funny things or well just being themselves, the moment you pull out a DSLR (not a point and shoot) their behavior changes automatically and they become stiff, nervous, insecure or at times even upset. Well, things do not change as we grow. A lot of us have to learn to be confortable with someone pointing and shooting at us with an object (camera), which usually manifest in not so naturally looking images. It is there where the Psychology is use. Now, I have to be careful not to give all of our secrets (: P) , but here is what we must do as professional photographers. Brides, for example, have never participated in a wedding in the same role, well most,; therefore, they do not know what to do. They want everything to be perfect, they want beautiful images, they are self-conscious, they are managing the entire process/event and well they want beautiful images (I know I just said that, but once is not enough). It is our job to let them feel everything is going according to plan. Now I understand that responsibility usually lands on the wedding coordinators, but not all couples can afford one. We also have to guide them in feeling, not looking, but feeling beautiful. Once that is accomplished the rest of the event will be smooth.
This is the segment that I loved most, but my pocket hates to this day. Photography equipment is not cheap at all and if not careful you can end up investing thousands and thousands of dollars. Instead of writing a long and boring paragraph I will just share an itemized list of most of our equipment and what we paid when new.
2- Nikon D700 = $5000.00
1- Nikon D3s = $5200.00
2- Nikon D300 = $3000.00
2- MBD10 Camera grips =$420.00
1- Nikkor 10-24mm Wide Angle Lens = $1600.00
1- Nikkor 24-70mm Mid Range Lens =$1700.00
1- Nikkor 70-200mm Telefoto lens =$2400.00
1- Nikkor 105mm Macro Lens =$900.00
1- Nikkor 60mm Macro Lens =$400.00
1- Nikkor 50mm 1.4 lens =$450.00
1- Nikkor 50mm 1.8 =$150.00
1- Tokina 10-17mm Fish Eye Lens =$597.00
2- Nikon SB-900 flashes =$1100.00
2- Nikon SB-600 Flashes =$660.00
1- Nikon SB-700 Flash =$340.00
1- Profoto portable flash unit =$2800.00
1- Profoto beauty dish =$150.00
3- Remote flash triggers =$450.00
1- Macro photography flash =$390.00
1- Autum portable battery pack =$420.00
2- Photography suit cases =$550.00
5- Studio lights =$799.00
4- Light reflectors =$200.00
4- Light stands/tripod =$375.00
1- Mac Pro computer =$3700.00
1- 19 inch mac monitor =$990.00
1- Macbook pro =$1300.00
1- Photoshop license =$799.00
1- Lightroom License =$199.00
0- 15 memory cards =$600.00
Total of ———————- =$37,639.00
I have discussed herein what rode we have taken to be where we are, but have omitted, for the sake of your sanity, the following:
- CONTINUED LEARNING & INOVATION
In conclusion, if you take the same steps we have taken, it would cost you a total of $49,287.00 and 24 months to be where we are. I hope after reading this you have a better understanding of what it takes to be a photographer and realize our prices are not inflated
Thank you for reading