Hello there, and welcome to this exploration of a burning question in 2023: Can you actually make a living from photography? Today Adam shares his views on the current state of running a photography business and offers tips and strategies to become a professional photographer.
As a full-time photographer and filmmaker, I constantly get asked how I earn my living. People are naturally curious about this seemingly unusual career path. I usually tell them it’s about casting the net as wide as possible, seeing what sticks, and then doubling down on that.
The Beginning: A Journey through Various Revenue Streams
In my early days, the first time I ever made significant money from photography was through wedding shoots. Even in 2023, wedding photography remains a viable option. It offers decent remuneration, with my standard fee being about £2,000.
However, I eventually stepped back from it. While I loved the actual shoot, everything else was pretty thankless, and from an artistic point of view, the only people genuinely interested in your work are those in the photos.
Then came landscape photography commissions – they happen occasionally and are nice when they do, but they are becoming less frequent. Corporate assignments were a gold mine but are increasingly rare, especially in landscape photography. There are too many talented photographers and shrinking marketing budgets.
Stock photography, once a behemoth in the photography world, is now virtually extinct. I wouldn’t recommend investing time in it. Workshop, tours, and tuition could be a profitable avenue but require substantial investments and can be a fragile revenue stream, especially in a struggling economy.
YouTube: The Resilient Revenue Stream
Amid all these trials and tribulations, the revenue stream that has proven most resilient over the years is YouTube. It allows me to share my landscape photography adventures and generate revenue through advertising. It’s not perfect, but it works and isn’t going anywhere soon.
Video creation has to be on your radar if you’re starting in photography today. The ability to connect directly with your audience is a precious thing, even if it takes practice and resilience against potential criticism.
A Studio Dream: A Lesson in Adaptability
One of the most exciting chapters in my photography career was when I secured a studio. I envisioned it as a fun, social space for studio photography, podcasting, and print workshops. But for various reasons, that vision didn’t materialize. Instead, the studio felt more like an office and started to drain my creativity. Thus, I decided to leave, redirecting the studio’s expenses into creating better content. The lesson here is to adapt and move on when something isn’t working, even if you had high hopes for it.
AI: A New Threat to the Photography Business
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already changing the landscape of photography, reducing the cost of obtaining amazing images down to zero. It’s an intimidating reality, but one we need to face. The key is to find ways to provide value to people in this AI-dominated world.
The Strategy: Creating Value and Telling Stories
The strategy is straightforward: provide value to people, tell good stories, and work hard. You are your biggest asset, and AI can never replace you. Authenticity and storytelling, especially around your images, will be increasingly important for adding value to your work.
Understanding and exploring various content models for monetizing digital content is essential. You have ad-driven revenue models (YouTube), subscription-based models (Netflix), and value-for-value models (content provided upfront with encouraged donations). Each has its pros and cons, and you’ll need to find what works best for you.
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Back to the Physical World: Printing and Books
Artists can also bring their work from the digital space back into the physical world by printing their work or creating photo books. These forms allow you to tell a story with a single image or a collection of images, adding another dimension to your work.
The Reality of Full-Time Photography in 2023
To conclude, being a full-time photographer in 2023 isn’t easy. It requires hard work, perseverance, and an adaptable strategy. But when you pour your heart into it, tell compelling stories, and provide a tremendous amount of value to your audience, it can lead to deep meaning and fulfillment. So, let’s continue to cast our nets wide and see what sticks. Here’s to our shared photography adventures!
Next up on my agenda? Packing. A lot of packing. Until next time, keep your lenses focused and your imaginations wild!
Richard Fox Photo – click here