The following is a response to an email I recently recieved from a photo-friend. She has, like most of us, expertienced little financial growth in the last year as lamenting her position. She is a very good photographer who has a well-developed sense of composition and is able to create stunning images. Not well-known she struggles with a common challenge, which many of us face: “Where do I go from here?” Below, is my response:
As far as success in photography goes, I think at this point in time, the best you can do is be out there as much as possible. Donate your work for auctions and enter calls for entry as much as you can. If you can write, which is a plus, offer to write for publications. If you truly want to be successful as a photographer, I think you need to be fully involved. It is just like any other job. To make it, you have work it. I wouldn’t say that I am successful as a photographer, but I do have success in the field of photography. But that only came about in the last several years, mostly because of my publishing CameraArts and losing $100,000. So, I guess that’s the “material” price of my success.
Another avenue to explore, which you have pursued, is to have your work reviewed in a variety of portfolio review sessions that are held around the country. Several of the top are: Photo Lucida, Reviews Santa Fe and LA, and Fotofest (Houston). They are just a few of the better ones. One of the really good things about these is that you can get quite a few opinions by proffessionals in the field. At many of them you can even select who you want to see.
There are many options for portfolio reviews, but what do they really tell you? Not much, when you come right down to it, other than the opinions of a few disparate people. Of course, they can tell you about the quality of your work. They can, also, tell you about composition. But do they tell what to do with your prints? Do they tell you where to go next? Not usually. Should you seek out someone like Mary Virginia Swanson to “tutor” you on how market your work?
There are only a few photographers who make a living strictly from the sale of prints. Many are commercial photographers publish books, lead seminars, speak to organizations, and teach workshops, etc.
So, to sum up, do I have any suggestions? You bet! Take a look at what it is you want from your photography, and if it is to become better known as a photographer, then you need to let people know that. And the only way they will know that is if you tell them. In today’s art world, there are several things you need to do/have: enter calls-for-entry, develop a website, explore Facebook, and then there’s he ubiquitous blog. Facebook is for connections, and a blog is for interaction among your peers.
I know this doesn’t sound very positive, but that’s the way it is. There is no tree from which you can pick the right fruit. You cannot simply buy a 5D and become a professional photographer and make tons of money. It’s the same principle for photography as it is in most occupations: 20% of the people in your field make 80% of the money. Will you be one of those 20%? It is up to you.
Photography is a wonderful occupation, no matter what degree of participation you choose. Even in these cyber-silly times, a single image can still cause a tear to fall, widen a smile, or change the course of history.
So… how have you succeeded as a photographer? How many irons do you have in the fire? Are you positive or negative, or maybe even realistic about the future of photography, and your place in it?