Tell people that you’re a photographer, and they’ll imagine that you spend eight hours a day bent over a tripod, filling up a memory card with beautiful images.
In practice, only a small part of a photographer’s day is actually filled on a shoot. The rest of the time, photographers are doing all sorts of other jobs. These are just some of them…
Whether you’re shooting wedding couples before the vows, postcards for a tourist board or wildlife for a photography contest, you need to know where to go to get the shots you want. Flickr has made location scouting from home a little easier by showing what other photographers have found in certain spots, and even Google Earth can help photographers understand topography. But there’s no real replacement for driving around and creating your own list of unique locations.
On some jobs, you might have an art director telling you what the picture should do and exactly how to set up the shot. Usually though, you won’t. You’ll have to design the image yourself and that’s no bad thing. It’s where photographers get to be creative and enjoy their work. But there can be a difference between creative and effective. If you’re hoping to sell an image, it has to do more than satisfy you; it has to meet a buyer’s need. For microstock photographers in particular, that means looking at which images are selling and asking themselves how they can shoot similar scenes that are even better. Then creating them.
No, you won’t be sipping Champagne at fancy garden parties, but you will have to explain to clients why their idea to take their portrait in a dark alley isn’t going to work or why resting their hand on their chin looks cheesier than a mouse’s breakfast. You’ll have to persuade clients to let you take the picture the way you think is best while still making them feel that they’re going to get the image they want — and that it was all their idea in the first place.
Fortunate are the photographers who have pros to do their marketing for them. And rare too. For most photographers, selling their services is both one of their most important tasks and one of the hardest. Writing press releases, bringing traffic to websites and creating ads just aren’t the sorts of things that are taught at photography schools. But they’re all vital for any growing business — and that includes a photography business too.
In the past, what you saw through the viewfinder was what you delivered to the client. These days, what you see on the screen is only the foundation for the final picture. It might have taken you while to master your new digital SLR but you’ll still have to get to grips with Photoshop. Buyers expect the images they order to arrive clean, sharp and ready for the page. That means working with the computer as much as the camera.
One of the most satisfying parts of any business is counting your cash at the end of the month. One of the least satisfying parts of any business is counting how much cash you’re going to give to the IRS at the end of the year. But it’s got to be done, and you’re going to have to do it. Yes, you’ll probably hire an accountant to do the paperwork for you, but you’ll still have to gather the papers, collect the receipts and make sure that you have everything you need to fight an audit.
And at some point in the week, if you can squeeze it in, you’ll have to take some pictures too. But who said being a photographer was all fun and games?