Four Rules For Any Young Photographer Trying To Survive

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1. Have talent.

2. Understand how the world works.

3. Choose good friends.

4. Be modern.

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There Are 24 Comments On This Article.

  1. Disagree. These are pure commercial rules. In the end, photography is bit more than just a 9-5 job.

  2. Sure, it’s that easy. Pick up a gallon of talent at the hardware store; do some Google searches; be BFFs with Anna Wintour and don’t ever do anything that has been done before. SET CAREER=LAUNCH.

    You know it wouldn’t hurt to be independently wealthy either.

  3. Being in this business for more than 20 years I can tell you that talent has less to do with it than you would think. You often see untalented people at the top and then wonder why they are. It’s all about who you know! Plain and simple your connections, friends, colleagues, etc are the ones who get you jobs or get you connected to the right people. One job, one connection, one image could put you in the right place to take you to the top.

  4. Interesting, although they seem a bit vague.
    “1. Have talent.”
    Yes, it has been drilled into my head that being amazing is only a toe in the door. However I see plenty of people surviving with no talent.

    “4. Be modern.”
    As artists we all want to be new, different and ‘fresh’ unfortunately that can quickly put our work outside the bubble of art buyers/directors. Often I notice that my idea of ‘edgy’ (I hate that word) is not the same as the commercial world’s idea of ‘edgy.’

    As a young photographer trying to survive my slightly cynical list of 4 would be,
    1. Understand business.
    2. Have great PR, marketing and personality.
    3. It’s who you know.
    4. Be competent in your craft.

    While these wont make you famous or rich, this is about surviving.
    Of course knowing the rules and walking them are two completely different things, as I have discovered.

  5. Bad list. Just bad.

    1) Have talent. No. I have met a fair number of photographers over the years and there was not a single one who did not sweat. Read Gladwell’s last book. If that’s too much, the old saw “95% perspiration and 5% inspiration” will do.

    2) Understand how the world works. No. Absolutely not. Many, many great photographers had no clue about the world. They largely lived in their own worlds. Think Steve Jobs and his Reality Distortion Field. Or Guy Bourdin.

    3) Choose food friends. Sounds like a self help book. Yuck. If you are successful or a good hustler, you will have plenty of connected friends. These are not good friends. You do not choose good friends – if you are lucky, your life will be graced with them.

    4) Be modern. Sure. Go right ahead and buy yourself a Red and hire someone to twitter and blog and spend your day riding a hipster single gear bike up a hill and we’ll see how far you get. Just be yourself. Know about other work, but do not overly worry about it. If you are a young shooter, your work is going to be derivative. Again, do not worry about it. Keep working. You will grow out of it. Use the tools that disappear in your hands so that you can work and work and not think about your stuff. If it’s the new 3 gazillion pixel bazooka, fine. If it’s an iphone, great. And if it’s an FM2, that’s ok too.

    So, here’s a corrected list, with one addition:

    1) Have the discipline to work long and hard and the spiritual fortitude to enjoy it.

    2) Make your world a place you enjoy living in. (Others might enjoy it too! If they don’t, at least you are having fun!!!)

    3) There are very few super-successful loners in the photography business. Tend to your friends and family.

    4) Be yourself. Use the tools that feel right. Keep shooting.

    5) Your time is better spent shooting than reading about shooting.

  6. Grant Handgis

    Rules of “how to succeed” are always an interesting spate of ideas put forth, mostly I feel to have something to put to a print deadline. . . My photography memory dates to carrying around a Burke & James 5×7 and dark cloth, so my thinking tends to be ‘dated’ as well. The difference between the days of yore when photographers carried around large format cameras and worked in simple self-built darkrooms, think Edward Weston, was simply that back then ‘becoming famous’, or ‘making it big’ commercially was not the first four reasons for why they were doing what they were doing. Not to say that this included everyone within this description. Just those who’s names are still spoken in collectible circles, and who’s works demand prices most of us cannot afford. With the advent of the digital world of imagery it no longer takes many years to master one’s craft, learn much of anything from a mentor, nor work tirelessly to achieve a print that equals the photographer’s “Previsualization” of the subject, nor much more than clicking on a tutorial to show the clicks necessary to make a digital image “look” like something that a programmer created for users to buy. Nothing new here. . . A century ago Alfred Stieglitz addressed this very issue, which nurtured The Secessionist Movement, and the photographers to follow…. The best photography usually derives from those that seek it out and do it because of their love for the craft. . . never for commercial gain.

  7. Interesting list, vague, and really should have had details.

    It is having the talent or knowledge to run a business and use the necessary tools to be successful.

    Understand how the world works by asking questions and learning what it takes to earn a living as a professional.

    Have good friends that will support you when you feel less than is important, yet the won’t put food on the table for you all of the time. Having good business friends is important because they can get you in to see a decision maker, that could hire you for the break through job.

    Be modern? I really think that is a misnomer. What was modern fifty years ago is retro now. Know who you are and be your self and create work that represents who you are and how you see the world. Lord knows we don’t need any more of the Bravo TV persona’s.

    There is not a singular way of creating an image for advertising or even the telling of a story, what you do will fit. There is diversity because we see things differently at times, look at the differing opinions here.

    Part of any profession is paying your dues as the grunt, for some that is a tough one to get past but it is a truth. Try making a career change at fifty, most who do start at the bottom or near bottom and have to work their way up, not fun but it is in my opinion essential, it is how you learn, meet good business friends and create a reputation for being true to yourself.

  8. assuming this surviving kit works.. it strikes me like a very generic list of tips.

    i wonder how many working photographers understand how the world works..

  9. I like the augmented list.
    But you still can’t buy talent.
    And with no talent I guarantee the young shooter sells whatever gear on craigslist before they make 100K profit a year in business.

    Just my two cents. Only an opinion.