How to make money from photography (or loose change with snaps)

I just read a magazine about how to make money from photography. For a relatively large magazine I wasn’t expecting to get on with every page, I tend to skim through to find the articles that stand out to me, a prospecting photographer trying to scope some path to take.

Now when you reach the end of a magazine before you’ve really read a thing it tends to twig that you aren’t interested in its contents, normally that could be down to the buyer picking up the wrong magazine, but as a photographer trying to make money from photography it seemed like a pretty good deal.

I was looking for some new ideas and a look into the realms of professional photography, the sort that inspires and amazes, the real big wigs of fashion, portrait and roaming travellers engaging in adventures, challenges and beauty.

But alas, I was mistaken. I either have too high a visual of what a photographer can really create and earn or the magazine wasn’t aimed at me: a photographer trying to make money from the craft. I wasn’t expecting to be shown a golden path to the Testino’s, leibovitz’s or even to the adventurous lifestyles to the likes of Aaron Huey or Steve Bloom, but what was catered for was an insight into the apparent pinnacle of money making photography, the wedding snapper, a known start up for many but, in danger of sounding arrogant, I’m aiming to become more than a pro looking wedding photographer and that was where the mag and I got off on the wrong foot; My professional photographer versus the magazines idea of a professional snapper.

The insight that the magazine gave me into a world I’m desperate to break into was of a bleak, wedding fueled ship, guiding me how to sell my photos to family customers. An article on how to be more professional based it’s guidance around the professionalism that a wedding photographer would bring to clients, it wasn’t without good insights into taking yourself seriously and general how to guide to being business headed, but to flip a few drab pages onto a huge segment of the magazine, “Social photography, learn all you need to know about running a portrait or wedding photography business”, more weddings I see, and after a brief nose through the pages beyond the title that explained how to be a professional wedding photographer, I was getting de ja vu by now, even when looking at the dog ends of the article that covered portraiture, not the large format portraiture that a quick look through any fashion mag would reveal, but family photographs, dealing with someone’s pain in the arse children, products to put your snaps on for a quirky little something something for the children to smash or the dog to chew, a customized piece of tat that would rival the best football shirt filled buy a hat with the name of the city you’re in shops that litter the streets of tourist crammed destinations around the globe. Not exactly the maximized profits I was imagining of raking in as a pro photo merchant.

So I was left to the next exciting title, this one with promise, “Jobs in photography” I like the sound of that, despite having a pretty sure idea of what kind of jobs are in photography, I was hoping for a good walkthrough of how to make it in whatever field I might find myself in, turns out there are four; landscape, travel, wildlife and sports. Again I’m mystified at the lack of recognition large-scale professional photography that this magazine, actually MagBook, gives to the biggest photography market. What do the Professionals at Digital SLR photography have against big business?

The sky’s the limit folks, why limit yourself and now your clients to being a jolly good wedding photographer or, now reading into the other jobs in photography, a sporty traveller taking pictures of cows in the field next to a local cricket match, hitting all the boxes that you had to offer. And to have a read of each little segment based on these other jobs I could so excitedly be doing if I spent a bit of time buying more and more kit that’s so necessary to become a pro, I was delighted to find that I could be selling my photographs to magazines, or as postcards, calendars and stock agencies, more high hopes for an aspiring pro and to boot I was shown how to really kick it up a gear; have I thought about opening up a market stall, no? How about making Ebay work for you? Yes, you too could make money by taking pics of the shit you’re selling back to the Ebay market, I’ve never thought nor dreamed of selling my prints to an online auction specializing in selling things on the cheap from china. I love Ebay, it’s a great place to pick up kit but come on! I want to make a living off my photographic talents, not learning “how to keep the taxman on the side”.

Was I wrong in thinking this magazine, sorry – MagBook, was I wrong in thinking that I might actually get a grasp of what I’m supposed to do in order to start making steps in the right direction to becoming a pro? Was I wrong in thinking that by purchasing the Mag that it’d be more of an investment than a regret, I could’ve spent the money on some colouring books instead and probably auctioned off my efforts when I’d got tired of keeping it in the lines.

And despite throwing the mag out my window for the chickens in my garden to make a nest out of, I thought to the people that will be heading towards this mags idea of a pro, camera excitedly snapping away at fields, relatives weddings and robins for the glossy pages of their favourite magazines, hoping to get a mention, a free tit bit and maybe even the hope of a call back.

And then my thoughts head towards the disillusioned writers, editors, creators and whoever else they got to write up the damp text that slops about between the pages, where had they hoped to be? Where had they landed instead?

In a magazine based on helping photographers become something more of themselves with handy tutorials on the cheap, how to think up shoots the like of an A level photographer would have kittens about creating. What happened to making something that someone would really aspire to, powerful images that make someone like me wake up from the daily drivel found in almost everything these days and feel the power of another’s eye, another’s vision, a language for the visual, for the one’s looking to escape the day to day, the sort of photographs that stay with you, inspire the best work, choose the destination for adventure, bring forward the primal instinct to just be better, to become great, to be noticed.

And as I write this I eye up the other magazines that I bought when I got the MagBook that has been the pinnacle to my frustrations today, another magazine that is also made by Digital Photographers lies like a schrodinger experiment on the table, by not looking into the pages it is both another uninspiring page to page and also an awakening to the next level of photography I’m jumping to, all it takes is for me to open the thing and see if the cat comes flying out claws flailing, or if the poor thing’s been subject to spilled poison.

But the magazine I think I will most likely revel from and inspire in me the want to shoot better images, to become the professional I believe I can be, is the one I have open already and it’s in the shape of a monthly mens magazine, sorry- quarterly, one filled with the sort of photography I can admire.

So I have learnt from mistake, not to judge a magazine by its cover, no matter how enticing or promising. Maybe my professional making magazine lies on the shelves of the overly fine art, steam powered trains that strike a pose in the opposite direction of the photographer. Yet for some reason I just don’t think I’ll find any path through the pages of any magazine, the truth is out there and the only way I will get to understand how the photographers I love carved their steps is to go direct to the source, learn what you want to know not what you think you ought to, to not focus on the kit but the quality of what you’re shooting, because that’s what you have to love in order to spend a lifetime looking through a lens at it and what you shoot will most likely last longer than the shooter, as rapper Kendrick Lamar states: “Everybody gon’ respect the shooter, but the one in front of the gun lives forever.” Obviously coming from different perspectives of what we call a shooter, but it’s a good way to think more about what you’re pointing the lens at as we could all make something timeless at the click from the finger.


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