Common Mistakes Emerging Photographers Make

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“They put the cart before the horse. Forget about shows, forget about books, forget about being famous, forget about people knowing who you are. Take the first 10 or 15 years to figure out how to be a fucking photographer.”

via Practical Advice for the Emerging Photographer | Stella Kramer.

There Are 15 Comments On This Article.

  1. this goes into what Callahan and Leiter advocate: make photography personal. obviously, that takes time — 10 to 15 years can be reasonable for some, but anecdotal timeframes is all that is available.

    in reference to words after the quote above with regards to distractions (social media):
    of course, practical advice gets in the way of how things work practically. and by practically, I mean the intoxication brought on by (other anecdotal ephemera of) success. photography seem to have this default in people’s mind of having facile means to success, which are then echoed in the chamber of social media. this detracts from the time to pursue the suggestion… also, it is not proper to confuse people with facts.

    of course, some people can subvert the vapidity of social media to get to their goals. it is a new path, and some people will figure it out to their advantage, and already have. the definitions of a successful photographer are changing.

  2. I appreciate the candor — but I disagree.

    I also find that some at the successful level will say – “it’s never about the money – because I’m an artist – and I’m passionate” – No you received an emotional response from whatever you were doing, someone took note – and hired you to keep doing it. So — either you really know what you were doing
    and got a break – or you just got a break – and that’s cool – and how do you get those breaks, by developing relationships. Even the big names have to pound the pavement to get work. And — with the digital world, relationships, the face to face, is even more important.

    It’s always about the money — always — and if it’s not, then keep eating the Ramen and the PBJ’s and calling yourself an artist.

    Crack open the 500px app once in a while — and take a look at the cray, cray good talent – there are a lot of amateurs who can shoot and I wonder if they are getting paid.

    Carol got his break years ago when there wasn’t any super saturation there is now – it’s an apples and oranges argument he brings to the table.

    Even Ben Lowry is conflicted when he says – be passionate, but be “mindful” its a business.

    I understand I’m all over the place with this post — there are many talking points I took from the article.

    JSturr

    • John, if you knew me you would know my work has never been about the money. I also might add that its not about being an “artist”. Its about taking the pictures I want to take. I also know for a fact that Im not the only one… Some people still do things for the sake of the thing. :-)

      • David – I appreciate the response – and I’m flattered you took the time. Your quote is what motivated me to think about my position and respond.

        I’m grateful to be able to participate in the conversation. It was in no way a cheap shot – it was more of an expression of a frustration that this business has become democratized. And so there needs to be a re-invention in the means and methods to get on “Map”.

        JSturr

  3. For me it is not about the money. I make money other ways (granted in the photo industry) and always have. My plan has always been to shoot for myself and I have stuck with that. So, you may think its always about the money. But for me it is not. The end.

  4. I remember seeing the Michaelangelo Antonioni film “Blow-UP” of a London mod photographer and his life-style. I’m firmly convinced it launched 1,000 (maybe more) people that became photographers. I’m sure Richard Avedon, working in New York, got dozens of calls by “volunteers” to be his assistant for no money. And this was still the film days when, I believe, photography required more work and to some degree more talent, particularly in a darkroom. After 40 years, and mostly back in the 1970′s, publication sales were my only source of income. So today, my stuff is old enough, particularly with famous actors, musicians and historic poker players from the “World Series
    of Poker” that it’s print sales and some posters (Tom Waits,1978, Charles Bukowski 1976, to collectors that is my primary income. Almost a total turnaround. (And a couple of art books:”Camera As Passport”(1966-2008) and “Poker Face 2″ (1977-2006) helped in fame and income.

    So what does it take? I don’t know? Nobody does. A decade or two in photography is a good start in the digital era. And you have to get lucky and be creative in some way – a style, images -that haven’t been seen before. It helps that you like what you do. I think the word “amateur” means “to love” in some other language.

  5. I agree with the heart of the article, however I don’t completely agree with the quote used here. I think the truth was touched on in a small degree. There are so many places to become successful in photography these days. Fame and fortune only come with hard work and time for a few, unless some fairy waves a magic wand over you while you are asleep.

    Truth is unless you know what drives you visually, you will wander around lost until someone thumps you on the head an says I really like this, why are you not shooting more? It didn’t take me 10-20 years to find what drives me visually, it is not popular, it doesn’t pay well, and few want to look at it because it is ugly side of life.

    My mistake was not taking risks when I was young, everything was calculated exposures, when what I truly wanted to do with my life didn’t come until I was fifty. Not that I was unhappy doing what I did during that time but there was always an emptiness as time passed. Now the emptiness comes from not shooting what is important to me.

  6. To Ben Lowery, if you are reading this, why would a photographer want to form an LLC? Why did you reference that form of company? If it was to look at this as a business, emerging photographers have no clue how to run a business and I think in part that is where wisdom imparted by yourself, David and James is crucial. I am talking about the bones of the business not the periphery such as social media.

  7. Just wanted to say it’s great to read through a strong discussion like this and sure makes a good change from looking at images all the time.

    I suppose it boils down to ‘Do you want to earn a living from photography?’

    If you do then it’s never too early to set things up right, social media, networking etc. I am quite happy that things like the internet and social media are around to aid exposure of ones work and I believe that if your work is good enough and you work hard enough in building a business, you will make it to some degree.

    Either way the statement stands. How many people get into photography purely as a commercial venture? We do it for the love and maybe, the money or fame (if you’re that way inclined) will come after.