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  #1  
Old 14th May 2011
adam m lucas adam m lucas is offline
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Professional photography

Hello , you friendly people out there,

Didn't quite know where to post this question,

I'm 49 yrs of age having been made redundant. Has anybody on this forum made the successful move from amateur photographer to professional at such an age ? Be good to hear from you , And how did you do it ?

Kind regards,

Adam
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  #2  
Old 14th May 2011
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Re: Professional photography

That's a tough one. I'm sure it's possible, but it needs a good deal of thought and determination. It's relatively easier, but still not easy, to earn a modicum of income from one's photography from time to time, but the full pro is tough.

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Old 14th May 2011
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Re: Professional photography

A female friend of mine made the same move just short of her 50th birthday, and she has carved a nice niche locally becoming well-known for her portraiture. So it is feasible. However, be prepared to have requests for baby, children and wedding pictures mostly. Becoming a pro photographer shooting corporate gigs, fashion, etc. must be harder.
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Old 14th May 2011
adam m lucas adam m lucas is offline
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Re: Professional photography

thank you for your considered replies, adam
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Old 15th May 2011
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Re: Professional photography

Quite a lot of us make small sums of money from photography - a few hundred quid annually in my case - but it falls well short of earning a living. There's also a lot of competition because it's so much easier to take decent digital pix than it was with 35mm. On the other hand if you don't have a day job you've time to go round taking the sort of pix that Alamy and other agencies will market. As you've already got the kit the cost is negligible. If you look in magazines, newspapers etc you will see what sells via agencies. If you 've another hobby interest there may be magazines which will accept pix for their stock files or even articles you can illustrate yourself. In my case that's much more lucrative than pure photography although it still doesn't amount to a living.
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Old 15th May 2011
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Re: Professional photography

Hi Adam, Which Pro areas of photography WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO to earn a living ?

I have always had more than one source of income "Portfolio Working" as Charles Handy once described it at a Management Conference back in the ... 80's !

Joe Public generally "wants CHEAP, cheep, cheep" these days for most Photography work - so many Peeps say "I could take a photo like THAT, I've got a cam'ra ya know !" ... MOST want Venture type Portraits printed BIG on Linen/vinyl and box framed ... and their cam'ra cant make it big enuff ... these Peeps dont know IQ, so I leave them to their own devices ...

I make money from :

1. selling photo cards in packs of 5 and 10 or singles but most sales are packs! at various Events and locals who knock at my door

2. some peeps ask for and actually want to BUY an A4 or A3 photo to get framed ! or printed large/box framed - I help them put their money into my hands and order their WANT !

3. I practiced Portraiture and learning lighting with ... DOLLS ! I helped a friend with her Poduct photography ... The friend makes "Reborn Dolls" from photos on ebay all over the world ... (usually they sell for £2,300 but last one was £6,500) these are VERY REAL looking and photograph as "human skin does". This auction has ended but scroll down to see the photos ...

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.d...=STRK:MEWAX:IT

So, having access to a regular supply of the most lifelike dolls, as well as the few I bought ... I approached local Babywear Independent shops and offered very reasonable price for photos of outfits on ... for websites and other e marketing! So the dolls I bought earn some money too!

4. I am a local childminder 3 days a week - so well known locally and do get asked to take portraits, again for money! Sometimes I take a Stand at a Parish Event, and set it up as a studio with my lights/leisure batteries etc., NOW thats a good little earner !

I could do lots more Portrait work, BUT my studio is my once study at home, on the back/an extension, that means Joe and Mary Bloggs and their kids traisping through my home to use the loo ! and to be honest, I do not want to have to take photos of peeps for just the money!

5. school photos is an "interesting opportunity" ! I do one school of only 300 pupils, but each child is not just the usual dull School photo! To get the "job" I put together a Portfolio of the Benefits for the School and the Parents ... in that order ! to effectively "knock the existing tog, out of touch". It is an Independent School, so all the pupils have to be very smart in turnout ! Which makes the job a joy ... I offer a few "specials each year" to keep them sweet!

Oops. my 3 days a week with "6 Little Peeps" is the BASIC Income which facilitates 4 days off or for other things

The one thing I can almost GUARANTEE if you put an ad in the local paper/shops/parish mag your unlikely to make much, if anything !

LETS are good (Local Exchange Trade Schemes) I like to trade rather than pay for, eg the Church Fete Stands - I give them some nice Christmas cards of their Chruch in snow and a few prints ... for them to sell for far more than the price of the Stand. PLUS if you need Garden; Building; Housework Services you can trade instead of parting with the £readys ! PS Lets are Tax EXEMPT

THINK about YOUR WANTS and WHO you can target to sell your services too!
Post on here for INSPIRATION - best wishes for success
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Old 15th May 2011
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Re: Professional photography

Adam if I had a pound for very time I have been asked this question I could retirenn tomorrow.
I will try and give you a full and comprehensive answer. Despite what you might think I am not trying to be rude, just honest.
Firstly have you fully considered this move.
Do you have enough talent and technical knowledge to be able to succeed in your chosen arena. There are a lot of people out there who think they are good and quite honestly they are not. Full stop.
Let me give you some of my own experiences.
When I moved to Skye there were three of us considered as 'professional' photographers. In the last seven years that has grown to 42 so called 'professionals' without any exaggeration they are all underfunded, under qualified and lacking in technical competence. Few if any have any of the necessary insurances, Third Party, Professional Negligence, Equipment etc etc.
I know several of them turn up to 'do' a wedding with only one camera. Dick heads all of them. They are running the risk of ruining someone's big day. By having a camera malfunction. It happens believe me I once had a Nikon F5 and a Nikon F80 pack up on me within 15 minutes at the very start of a wedding coverage. You need two of everything, don't kid yourself you don't, you are fooling yourself big time.
Out of the 42 other photographers most of them have given up because they cannot compete, nearly all of them have come to me for technical, artistic advice and asking to borrow equipment. The answer they get is No! Why should I help them compete against me? The other two 'pro's' and myself work together. We have mutual respect for each other and we are all familiar with terms like 'Depth of Field' 'Spot Metering' and other such terms that the other so called professionals don't have a clue about. The quality of their product is also dubious.
Yes you can earn big money. But you have to balance your books so that you have enough to live on when work is scarce. Unless you are at the same level as Rankin or Don McCullin you will have quiet spells, and you will worry about it.
Hard work certainly, let me tell you about my last week.
Sunday working at a local visitor centre talking to people about where to go
for the best photographic opportunities and giving advice. Monday evening 6 people out for a landscape workshop from 6-10pm.
Tuesday, a large wedding, I was given a totally different brief by the bride and groom to what they eventually required. then had to argue the point that therefore the costs had changed.
Wednesday, location research for a major ad agency, they use me quite a lot for this service, locations and extras. Excellent money but not at all demanding. In the evening another workshop.
Thursday paperwork and faffing about making calls and chasing payments, answering request for images and printing off print orders from our website.
Thursday at 11pm phone call from an agency in NY USA enquiring about images of a Skye location.
Friday answering client enquiries, backing up images, preparing wedding books for clients, charging batteries and checking kit for a wedding Friday pm. turn up at venue to discover wedding postponed for two hours. Sit around doing sweet nothing. Client charged for extra time.
Saturday, Up at 6am getting kit ready for wedding coverage starting at 10am after 90 minute drive. Finished and back home indoors at 1am this morning.
Sunday, planning week ahead, uploading yesterday's images, working at visitor centre, this evening meeting about a possibel Skye Photography Festival a year in October.
Next week even busier.
Now the good side.
Last year we sold just over 4k greeting cards, sold 43 images to postcard companies and various calendar publishers. Sold sixty odd images for single use publication. Three hundred 20 x 16 mounted 'fine art prints' and seventy one of the same but mounted and framed. We also had thirty plus weddings six events and more commercial jobs than enough. Oh and we also had our first book published and signed a contract for two more with the publishers.
This year after a very poor and worrying start we now have forty four weddings booked, print sales have picked up and we have a commission to do another publicity shoot for Seat Car Company on North Uist.
We also have four assignments from various departments of the Scottish Executive. One of which involves four days at sea on a trawler in rough weather. Yeah thanks for that one.
It is bl!!dy hard work with long days and late nights. Would I change my life?
No never!
I apologise unreservedly if my thoughts and observations have upset anyone but I have seen enough people try and turn professional in the last seven years crash and burn. Often with disastrous consequences.
But if you really really want to do it then do it.
Just don't ponce around at it.
My since best wishes and the very best of luck.
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  #8  
Old 15th May 2011
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Re: Professional photography

Seonnaidh - How eloquently you detail your week ! So many want to set up doing Weddings as its "BIG MONEY" ! you paint such a real picture.

You have detailed all the EVENINGS work I would not do ! Its hard work and lots of long days ! ... I am happy trimming by guillotine, a batch of photos from printers, for cards, and making up cards in the evening at home !

Weddings are not an easy £1,200 fee either! ... There are meetings with B&G to book; THEN a go see of the Wedding and Reception venues initially, then again nearer the day for the Seasonal LIGHT checks in specific places at each.

YES you must have at LEAST 2 cameras and at least 4 lenses and lighting+leisure batteries for these events PLUS an assistant with confidence and a strong voice to sort out Peeps/Groups quickly (maybe light or Aunt Maud will be going soon!).

NOW the work really begins ... its back to base and download all the chips. Sort the Best and work to produce a "Portfolio" for B&G to choose from online. Order Prints and mount in Album for B&G. Order prints for Guests - maybe make up another 2 or 3 albums for in-laws. Chase for rest of your money (if you did not get 50% RETAINER ON BOOKING and remaining 50% two weeks before wedding) or whistle for it

Many weddings start with photos of the Brides nails; hair and makeup at Sparrows ... and your lucky to be home by 10pm - so thats a 12 hour day to start here!

I recommend
http://www.photo4.me.uk/
and
http://www.studiorouge.co.uk/

Some goto our Local, very reasonably priced (recently given up employ to be a) professional photographer, lady
http://www.julesmatthewsphotography.co.uk/index.html
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  #9  
Old 26th September 2012
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Re: Professional photography

It's a tough transition, I would recommend you head over to the forums at Digital Photography School for tips, and do a business plan first, decide which type of photography you're best at, and how you can market yourself in that field.

Age however, is no barrier.
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Old 26th September 2012
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Re: Professional photography

If I was to go pro, I would have to be looking for a new hobby!
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  #11  
Old 26th September 2012
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Re: Professional photography

Funnily enough, I have gone pro. Taking photographs is what I'm now paid to do. But I still feel weird describing myself as a photographer.
I started in about 1970 as a very rough amateur with an Instamatic. Graduated a few years later to a Rollei B35, then an OM-1, then lenses and stuff.
Ticked over for many years,started shooting digitally about 9 years ago and have ended up with a decent E-5 based system. That's the enthusiastic amateur bit.
My working life (it was never a career) has been to survey and measure old buildings. Then to do stuff with the drawings for publication, record, refurbishment and restoration. After about 18 years I discovered that there was encouragement, in the office, to take photographs of what I was involved in for my own benefit as 'aide memoires'. Very ocasionally a photo I took was used elsewhere. Gradually this built up until my 'survey' side was disappearing. By this time, after 38 years I was taking about 5000 photos a year for the work. Many being used in displays, in house and customer magazines, etc.
Under the current recruiting restrictions my work was having difficulty replacing photographers (the usual 'there is no budget'). I asked and was given an 'unofficial secondment' for several months. Basically a try out. Six months later (38 and a half years down the line) I joined the photo unit.
Now I've really started to learn. The hours are interesting, I got home last night at 11m and tonight it'll be about the same. This evening I will be mainly up scaffolding and using 4 studio lights to shoot several Tapestries. To be done when there are no visitors around. Sadly I am not using my Oly gear for work. (N***n)
However I am now thoroughly enjoying my work for the first time in about 15 years and am building up skills to put use for me when I eventually retire. (Probably at age 66). I am a civil servant so some might not think its the full whack but I am busy. Now to get back to processing a couple of thousand images.
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Old 26th September 2012
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Re: Professional photography

Seonnaidh puts the points quite succinctly in his reply.

I cannot speak for other areas of the UK but I can tell you that in my area alone three professional photographer's businesses have gone to the wall in as many years - with the coming of the digital age,everyone sees themselves as a photographer,which means that the professional ( earning a full living ) has to work doubly hard just to stand still.

Good luck if you go ahead.
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Old 26th September 2012
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Re: Professional photography

Fantastic info everyone, thanks for sharing.

It might be worth dipping your toe into the stock/microstock arena, if nothing else you will find out if your images are technically good enough.
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Old 26th September 2012
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Re: Professional photography

There is lots of more qualified advice here than I can give, however, let me share my experiences. Back in the days of film only I had amassed a kit load of 35mm Canon kit and 6x6 Bronica kit and was part time photographing portraits, group shots at events and weddings that were funding the equipment (£20k plus including the darkroom kit). I was good at it and getting commisions locally and wider (weekends and evenings) but as has been said not earning enough to support mortgage/family etc. I gave it up because I found that for several years I never took a camera out unless there was money involved, I lost my hobby and my mojo in a oner. Truthfully, good photos, were few and far between, standard setups guaranteed to work took over, I was no longer good at my craft just a good exponent of some tried and tested workflows and never enjoyed the challenge. I could possibly have developed the part time business into full time but decided that the whole reason I enjoyed my hobby was exactly that it was a hobby which challenged me artistically and gave me somewhere to escape to. I now never take pictures for any other reason than I want to, this forum and ephotozine give me the chance to share and have comments made on my photos and I now have a hobby back and mojo. I do understand that since I have a job I am fortunate enough to be able to take this stance but take care that your escape from redundancy may not be as rosy as you may be seeing it. Without being disrespectful, if you are asking this advice anyway you are probably not ready to take the plunge and as has been said before everyone in the world now can take "as good a photo as that" so the opportunities are far less today than they were in the film days. I hope you find a way back into work that you are happy with even if it is in photography but please look before you leap. Finally pleas edo not take this as negative, my experience may not be typical. Best of luck for your future, regards, Topsyrm.
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Old 26th September 2012
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Re: Professional photography

I'm glad this thread has been resurrected; I missed it first time around. Some great examples of what it's like to be a professional - it's not easy! And, as has been said, if your hobby becomes your profession what do you then do for relaxation? I keep dabbling in trying to make a bit of money, but only in areas that really interest me. At the fete I did with my landscape prints last weekend someone asked if I did portraits. I said no and instead gave them the details of a local pro who does.
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