As you might already be aware, this is my final semester at Nashville State Community College. I have worked hard over the years to hone my skills in photography and to grow as a creator. Finding my niche has been difficult, and I'm still not certain I have it quite right...
We live in a world where making money is a key factor in being successful. In the photography industry, it is often said that in order to make money you should be shooting three things: weddings, babies, and seniors. As a photographer in a small town, I can confirm that this is the most popular style of photography. There is a demand for it, so those who want to make money will supply it. This isn't a bad thing — unless your passion is photographing conceptual portraits.
I respect the photographers who love working with families and parents, but whenever I try to shoot like this there is a huge disconnect. I don't communicate well with this type of work because it has become shallow and meaningless to me. These photographers work for the public, which is something I will never be able to do happily. I am an artist at heart, and because of this I approach photography differently than that. In the end, it doesn't matter if a single person sees or appreciates my images as long as I have them and I can feel accomplished with them.
When I started school, it was to strengthen my abilities and to learn more about the world of imagery. I never intended to make a living doing this, but I have been falling down a rabbit hole recently. Photography has become something I am very passionate about. I can get lost for hours during a shoot or behind the computer and not even realize it. The amount of time I spend researching and gaining knowledge outside of the classroom has become immense. I want to do this all the time, and the only way to accomplish that is to make it my income. This is where problems begin to arise.
How do I make income as a photographer without shooting your run-of-the-mill portraits? It almost seems impossible to find people who want to purchase prints from you. Or maybe that's just my mentality as someone who was brought up in a low-income household. To me, money is something that should be spent on bills and on food. This is probably because I only make enough money to spend on bills and food. Working in the fast-food industry makes me less than $15k a year, which is the lowest tax bracket there is. Each month, it is a miracle to have enough money to cover my expenses and also eat. I haven't been able to buy new clothes in years, and all of my furniture was given to me by relatives.
I'm not upset about the fact that I have very little material possessions. In fact, I kind of enjoy it. I have never seen the importance in owning anything and everything. As long as my living space is clean and organized, I am happy. The only thing I really would like to make more money for is equipment. I saved for a year to buy the gear I have now, and that was when I was living at home still. Now that I have to take care of myself (ugh) and be responsible, I never have any money to spare. I get that anyone with a camera can make good photographs if they know the basic rules of composition and how to work manual mode, but I want a little more than that.
I want lenses with clarity, a computer that runs properly, a color calibrated display, lighting equipment, and a place to use it all. Right now I have a few kit lenses, a laptop that is five years old and hardly functioning, and a shoe box one bedroom apartment. As long as I continue to work at Dunkin' Donuts, I will never reach my goals.
The most difficult aspect of becoming a full time photographer is the amount of investment it requires — in all of the things aforementioned, and in other things such as business licenses and various types of insurance.
To wrap things up, I'm still a confused mess as to how to handle myself financially. I know what type of work I want to do, I just need to figure out how to make money doing it. Life is a complicated journey, but I am thankful that at such a young age I am able to contemplate these things and work toward figuring them out.