Working As A Photographer
Working As A Photographer
() gives expert video advice on: Do you work long hours?; Is the money good?; How do you get clients? and more...
Do you work long hours?
It depends; I mean it's very varied. I'm freelance and so I take shoots as they come. If I'm on a shoot which has got long hours then I will have long hours, but quite often my shoots are two or three hours and I spend a certain amount of time travelling to them. And if I'm doing events sometimes I can shoot for eight or nine hours at a time. But on the whole it's pretty manageable. A large amount of a photographer's time, especially when they're starting out is spent getting the work and not actually being behind the camera and you can spend many, many hours sitting behind a computer answering emails and managing your accounts.
Is the money good?
It's hard to make good money from photography. Like in any profession, once you reach a certain level, you can make a huge amount of money, and there are people who shoot for 20,000 pounds a day. But there are also lots of people that will shoot for 200 pounds a day, and not shoot every day. I think, on the whole, there's more photographers than there are jobs for photographers, so a lot of photographers will find it hard to make good money. Different types of photography make different amounts of money. If you go into fashion and you go into commercial photography, the pay is much better, although it's much harder to make your way. If you do social photography, like weddings and private portraits, the money is actually easier to come by, although it probably doesn't pay quite as well. The hardest thing to do is to do what everyone else wants to do, which is portrait shows, which is what I do, and shoot for newspapers as well.
As a freelancer, do you ever worry that the work might dry up?
You worry about it all the time. And you're constantly having to spend time getting the work. And it's constantly nerve-wracking getting work. A lot of photographers find that they're not being able to increase their day rate for a number of years because the work simply hasn't increased. So there's a constant anxiety.
Which type of camera do you prefer to use?
I used to shoot film, as most people did. Although when I started, the industry was changing over to digital. I now shoot almost exclusively digital. And I do so because people demand pictures very quickly. Often they want to go to press the next day and it simply isn't viable to shoot film anymore. It's also in some ways cheaper to shoot digital because you can shoot as many pictures as you want, although that is often a fallacy because the cameras themselves have to be replaced so often and cost so much money that you're not spending as much on digital as film. But I shoot exclusively digital, and I shoot Canon cameras although I don't think they're necessarily any better than their rivals.
What's the most frustrating thing that's ever happened on a shoot?
One of the most frustrating things, I had to photograph a baby and I had to get a shot of the baby smiling which is hard enough in itself. And we waited and waited for the baby to perk up and finally it did, it smiled and I got the shot. But just as he smiled it also puked up over it's front. So we changed the clothes, we had one other change of clothes and we got to the same point again, and again the baby vomited all over itself. So we decided we could change, turn the top around so that the back would be on the front, this was our last chance. And just as I was about to take a shot he did it again so we didn't get the shot.
What's the strangest thing that's ever happened on a shoot?
Well the strangest thing that happened was on quite a strange shoot. I was photographing a stuffed fox in various places around London for an exhibition I had and I was taking this fox, which looked incredibly life-like, around London under my arm, and I went to a night club to photograph the fox on the floor of the night club and a couple of very drunk girls got incredibly insulted by this fox and they thought it was being cruel to animals. I'm not sure how the logic worked, but they decided to pick up the fox and wouldn't give it back to me. So I ended up having a very difficult time trying to wrestle a dead fox back from two drunken night clubbers, whilst holding my camera, whilst making sure the fox, which was worth three thousand pounds, was not damaged in any way, and I just about got out alive, the fox stayed dead of course.
What's the most satisfying thing about your job?
The most satisfying thing about working as a photographer is when you see your work, either on the walls of an exhibition or when you see it printed in a magazine. I recently had a photo of Howard Marx, the Welsh drug smuggler, printed on the front of a magazine and it's very satisfying to see that finished process. Equally, when you have people looking at your work on a wall and it's neatly framed and they buy it, it's a great feeling of satisfaction.
What's the worst thing about your job?
I would say the worst thing about the job is two things actually. One is that it's quite lonely at times. You spend a lot of time at home trying to call people up, doing contact and even when you do go on a shoot then often it's just you, or maybe just you and the assistant. So I miss the camaraderie that goes with being in an office, working in a team. Also it's often as we mentioned before a bit nerve wracking not knowing where the next commission is coming from and I also miss having a steady income because of that.