I meet a lot of people who want to be professional photographers, though I’m not always certain what they see when looking at the profession from the outside. Maybe they’re looking at the price they’re paying for a portrait sitting and thinking if they could do 10 a day, how much money they would be making! Wooo! Without insurance, overhead, taxes, and license fees any business looks easy.
Among the people who make it, there are some common characteristics.
Driven To Perfection
The people I know who made it as professional photographers are people who would have been out working on the technical aspects of photography, even if they weren’t getting paid for it. They just can’t leave it alone.
The photographers who make it aren’t satisfied shooting portraits, they want to shoot the greatest portraits ever taken. They care about getting the shot, but they want to get THE shot that captures the moment.
They’re Not In It For The Money
Many photographers are constantly on the verge of divorce trying to sneak new equipment past their spouses. It’s an obsession they occasionally get paid for. Most are making a fraction of what they could pull down at a regular day job.
A select few eventually get to the point they’re making a lot of money and among the top earners is a strata of photographers who have gotten rich off their craft.
According to Salary.com the average income for a photographer in the U.S. is $53,705, which is right around the average income in the country. That figure can vary widely, depending on the city you reside. Photographers in L.A. and New York have significantly higher average salaries than other cities.
For a long time after digital sensors were rivaling and even surpassing film quality, there was still a certain subset of photographers who insisted that film was the only pure form of the art. Some schools still insist students learn film processing, even though it’s getting harder to even find the chemicals for processing.
Show me someone teaching film and I’ll show you someone who made their money in the 70’s and 80’s.
I don’t want to say film is dead, but it’s definitely sitting by itself in the corner of a nursing home. If you want to make money in the business, you have to adapt to the current reality, whatever that may be.