The Reality of Making a Living as a Photographer
Let's look at some realities now I don't want to discourage you this is meant to be an encouraging thing but when I was my furry for semester I was nineteen years old and lou burn all sat the class down he said and that's what he did he said this is the ten percent kind of reality let me explain it and I looked it up on the internet just before this last week I said uh what percentage I can remember what exactly where I found on their net but what percent of students graduating from today from with a degree in photography work in the field? Well guess what came up tio what do you think? Twelve percent twelve point nine percent of people graduate today with a degree in photography I work in the field now don't be alarmed by that because if if you look up a philosophy major or psychology major or they're all around about nine to ten ten percent that's just the way the world works most of us the degree we have we don't end up working in that field right that's just kind of how it works we...
end up working somewhere hopefully, but but around twelve percent but he told us in the class at that point it was ten, ten percent roughly ten percent of people graduating today back in nineteen ninety nineteen, seventy eight um would be working in the field? Well that's not it sounds like that's not very encouraging right especially you're putting a lot of money into a degree well let's look at this he also said this he said only ten percent of those that the ten percent of the ten percent which is one percent working commercial fields the commercial advertising field so I'm sitting there going not every good out for me but there's a part of me because I was a athlete and I used to go after something with discipline and I thought one day I want to be a commercial photographer realizing photographer somehow that just popped in my brain and then he said on ly ten percent of those will break into the national market whoa that's like point one percent and only ten percent of those we'll break into the international market so point zero one percent so that's the reality of the world we live in a small people just like if you're a football player you start out in a great school pop whether to call that'll pop warner football and you work your way up and it's every level there's a small percentage and go on to the next level just keep getting smaller smaller when you become a pro athlete it's a very small percent point zero one percent of people end up in the nfl but here's what here's what I would encourage you it's possible for anyone of you here or anyone out there to get to that point it's possible it's not beyond your capabilities so we're gonna look at um uh something's let's see what my next slide is who is most likely to succeed in today's marketplace okay so let's talk about what it takes who's most likely to succeed all right the brilliant well that counts me out I'm not really and you know I think I said no one's ever accused me of being brilliant okay creative genius like say this all the time I am not a creative genius but I have a passion for the creative process so I had this illustration so let's just say theoretically you before you were born you stand before god and he says you have a choice of pulling two levers uh to come out in the real world one is you pull the lever I'm a creative genius or the next lever is I have a passion for the creative process which lever would you pull we think it created genius will be delivered a pole right but really you can go a lot further by having a passion for the creative process that's what I have and so that's what I'll encourage you if you sit there you go I'm not brilliant and automatic creative genius don't worry about it you don't have to be to succeed in today's marketplace in fact that's probably a handicap because the creative genius people they're always like your head's been in a thousand directions and they never anything done you gotta stick with one thing long enough right that's being bullheaded that's why I have the ability to brand myself is I can spend three to five years going after one single look to bring it into the marketplace to establish my route so that's a good trait to have okay what else uh you're born with a silver spoon you got a rich daddy or someone that's pain everything you want in life well do we know those people we have ueno some of those people right? Are they the most successful in life? Not normally in fact a lot of very wealthy people have said in fact I read last night that staying the singer he said I'm not giving my money to my kids they gotta earn it they gotta earn their own warren buffett all these people say that they're not giving their kids everything just given a silver spoon and even even donald trump when you watch I watched a special on his kids he made him work from the ground up make your kids work don't give everything they'll give you a free ride free ride doesn't guarantee success in fact the handicaps you alright so what's another thing being good looking charismatic and now going well that counts me out I mean I can tell you this um when I was going to call ej I was so sure I couldn't come up to anyone and just talk I was very shy I wasn't great you know outgoing I've had learned how to be outgoing with time I played in a band saying that's hard I was so nervous but with every concert every time I perform I got you got easier easier right? So with practice you get better and better at it so I could stand in front of you here just completely natural not nervous because I've done it enough times but years ago I would been shaking in my boots right? Because that's the way we are as humans take practice and were not all born with a complete you know outgoing, charismatic personality um so um any rate there are some good looking photographers out there and it doesn't hurt to be good looking but that's not that's, not a guarantee. So let's talk about what really is the things that we need to be successful in whatever what what what's the makeup of the photographer what let's talk about some things we've covered a lot of these already but this is good to kind of just look at it someone who has a passion for the creative process number one I think that's the single most important thing to start with uh someone who's willing to take risks now risks are hard and because we all have a sense of fear when we do things you ever had a little sense of fear, I have I mean, you think, oh, my gosh, and then when you're married or you have a partner that you're sharing life experience with, you gotta think about them, too, and when you have kids, you start uproot those kids and take them, you know, follow your dream, and I luckily, I married a wonderful person that is willing to share in my passion and willing to say, ok, I'll make sacrifices and take risks, too, and so that's an important thing. Um, so someone who's willing to take risks, I want another one, okay, we talked about this and marketing when when I covered that, but you've got to be ableto learn to pick up the phone and make a cold call. This is all that about the fear of rejection and overcoming the fear rejection, but you've got to be able to say, I have a product service and I need to get you to buy into it. You got to exert yourself to somebody that's, hard, brutal and for somebody it's harder than others but there's, really about ninety who knows eight percent of us. Are not born with the ability to dis naturally go up and sell some people are there's a few percentage of people just come out the womb bone theirself salesman so self people but but we all most of us have to learn it and here's what I can tell you right now you can learn it you can learn how to overcome that fear of rejection of picking up the phone making cold call exert yourself talk to someone that you're afraid to say no we don't want what you have and that just takes practice like everything else and I go through all that on my marketing stuff and talk about how when I first started out literally I was shaking I couldn't even get my name out my tongue felt like fifty pounds I have learned overcome that so if you feel like you can't make a goal goal don't worry I was there so again that's practice and but it's something you have to learn and if you don't learn it is what I say my title slides when I do this thing it's a one hundred percent guarantee if you don't learn to overcome rejection you'll never survive in this industry one hundred percent guarantee that's how critical it is so but we have waited all cost we avoid rejection at all costs okay we talked about this you have to be someone a successful photographer is someone is constantly cranking out new work I've said this already on even I think was yesterday whatever it was is that when when I was in school I had all my assignments right I had assignments I had to do for my professors in my class and everything and there's a pretty good workload right but I tell when I go to speak it colleges now I tell him I said I almost guarantee you that my workload for myself assignments is probably mohr I'm putting more time in hours and what you're doing for your professors I no understand how important that is there's no rest for the weary it's a constant boom boom boom boom boom going after it and so um my hobby is my passion for the creative process doesn't mean you can't go fly fishing or surfing or whatever but you might tie that into your passion for the creative process in fact that's the best scenario out there go take pictures of things you love to do build the bodywork and then do you know that there's do you know what? Okay I'm gonna ask you a question really this is all totally off what's the number one pastime sport what what more money is spent on what sport than any other sport in the united states or maybe the world I don't know about united states what it what like you say golf lot of golfers spend lot of money what's the number one money generating industry scheme now more money is spent on fishing gear and whatever than any other industry now, this may not be this was a case ten years ago whenever someone told me this but you know who knows that this changed but that's a huge industry, a lot of people out spin in the cast, you know, every and they may include boats and that I don't know how they they factor all that in but that's a huge industry there's a lot ah lot of companies looking for photographers, you don't think about it right? And you know, something we don't think about you go to the magazine rack just go toe like a big magazine rack or, like, you know, barnes and noble what's that what's I don't there these are closing down all the time, I don't know who's around, but a big rack and there could be a hundred magazines on iraq every single one of them have photography needs, you don't think about that right? There's a outlet to create images, so but you got to be cranking at work. Someone understands the art of branding. We already talked about that gotta brand your look at all costs don't go just blow with the wind every time you get a new idea, you go try something different that's not going to get you brandy someone who are every events themselves every seventy here seven to ten years we talked about that that's how you become successful as photographer I've seen so many photographers that were successful that came to an end their career came to an end because they couldn't re brand they couldn't re invent you're gonna have to do it one percent guarantee all right someone who is willing to pick up and move to a new market how many times have I moved a lot? How many different cities have I moved teo probably five so we were I was in denver for eighteen years but my wife and I when we got married went in washington d c I cranked I buy time moved to washington see, I was a marquis machine I understood exactly what I need to dio and within three months I was working more than then it was crazy to walk into the lab and the girls behind the counter they say you know you're busier than any of the guitar has been around for ten, fifteen years here in town what's your secret and I said guys, I knock on doors in fact I have a saint I had this photographer coming to me and he said give me your one liner brilliant genius you know something that's going to change my life I said act like you just moved to a new town if you haven't moved to newtown, act like you just moved to town to town. He's like, what does that mean? I said, well, when you moved to a new town, what do you do? You start all over you, don't you don't go rest on the client's already have you say I have to start from ground zero all the way and just start from scratch and all of a sudden you create all this new client list because you go out and you knock on doors, so if you're in the town and you're sitting there going, you're spinning your wheels start over. You may not have the moves, but I would say it doesn't hurt just move to another town. Wait when we were in tucson, things were going great. I was I was two hundred plus days a year is on a plane going out, taking pictures and then that old seven eight time when the ad agency started just completely losing all their budgets and things got really bad, the phone stopped ringing. What did I do? I reinvented myself and I moved to l a the first two years I was going back and forth from tucson to l, a two weeks in tucson, two weeks in l a that's hard being, gone from my family for two weeks I mean because I was always on the road but I picked up and moved and we reinvented myself and that's what you're looking at right now that moved to l a started it all I had to take the risk and moved to new market you have to do that that's hard you see I can't do that well maybe maybe that's true but you know but I was willing and my wife was willing to let me do it she understood it and so when you moved to newtown boyd the energy starts to flow so cliff you moving sixty I'm staying ok he's gonna make it work but no as I'm saying that but you have to be able to take that risk you were talking about beginning take the risk of things take a risk um so we talked about this someone who's uh has the ability to put the creative process above the dollar the almighty dollar don't just do it for the money folks someone who's successful is one who goes out there and does it for the passion so we beat that in the ground already this last couple days but I wanted to do it we got one more here ah big one someone who's willing to make change now um we all have certain things that we just do that it's like we're locked into right you know there's a music that I love that you know it's like my wife's like, oh, my gosh, can we just change? Change the channel on your same old thing? Right? Um, way don't like change. And so but you got to be willing to change. You have to have that ability to say I am willing to make a change and a lot of times for us older photographers that have been around a long time that changes brutal. And I tell you what, going from film to digital for some photographers was brutal, and at first I kind of kicked the screen, but I realized, you know what? I got to get on the bandwagon. I gotta get on the train train's movement if I don't get on me left behind. So you got to get on the train to move, move with what's happening and move the changes that are happening and it could be very painful, but that's a successful photographer, someone who is willing to make a change. All right, the road let's go from here. Any questions? We have the next session here and any questions there coming up. Any questions here, you guys. There are questions from the chat room there's a question from big guy who asked, would you suggest having a reasonable amount of savings before becoming self employed to begin with, or how what do you think that you need? I know you said you have to take risks there's a lot involved do you think people need to be safe and risk at the same time? Well here's the thing um it's kind of like juggling you know you have this you juggle two balls well one ball click that's pretty easy to balls little harder you know, third in there a fourth you see these jugglers that do like eight things and one's a chainsaw you know, on watermelon and and so um yeah when you when you start out the less you're juggling, the easier it is so I would say make the transition as simple as possible but it's hard to save because specially if you're barely hanging on you know but you can't what's the dollar amount, right? Well, how do we put that dollar amount you if you say I want to have this this amount of money before I do it, you may never get there my my theory is dive in, but yes, there is a sense of wisdom and that you need to say, okay, um I need to be looking serving here and have a fallback of some sort, but I can tell you this when you look at going from let's say I'm self employed I'm shooting photography on the weekends or I'm assistant insisting a photographer and I want to go over doing my own thing and you look at the gap between being a I guess assistant or part time to full time we look at that gap is being the grand canyon it looks huge is a mile across or five miles across it's not that far that gap is not that far and I will tell you when I used to have assistance I'd hire him and I'd say, oh, tell me about what you're doing and you know how long you've been assistant and what your goals and, um a lot of systems that I had we've been assisting for a long time, right? And so I always say, well, how long do you plan on being assistant? I'm not trying to be I mean or two personal prodding but I would say what's your goal I want to find out a little bit about you and and someone had, you know, went to a very expensive photography school and so I made to make this statement now we'll never want do you want to be assistant throughout your life? No. Okay, do you know what the difference between me and you today is we're driving down the road and you're making two hundred dollars today and I'm making two thousand or whatever what's the difference we mean you well, you're really smart no you're really good. No, you're what? Whatever you get. You think this person I said the difference is I sold some of some. I made someone believe that I could pull off shooting for them. I sold somebody on the idea that I could they could hire me, and I would fulfill their needs in photography. It all comes down to the ability that I convince someone that they could hire me. That's the skill if you want to know where the gap of most photographers that want to be and they're doing it is they have the ability to sell someone on the idea that hire me. I'm I can meet your needs all about a marketing or the salesmanship of winning that person over that's. Why I get paid ten times what assistant gets paid. It has nothing to do with how good the harvey I would say this there's probably times I've hired an assistant that if you really put it down, is a better photographer than me. But I would have I learned the ability to win over someone to hire me that's where it all comes down to. So get to that point. So you're going along and you see someone that's opening up a new pizza, little place, right, and you walk in, who owns this? And this guy comes on the owner what are you doing for you know your photography needs I don't know what you mean we're going to put pictures of your pizza up on displays yeah, we need some pictures who you're hiring I don't know what to do oh, well I'm here I can help you out just walk in and talk to people find out what their needs are speaking of that question from them now how do you find which doors we have to knock on? Well, I cover this I believe in the last session but here's the thing in your and your previous work trumpets previous workshop okay, but here's here's it's really simple. Okay, if you take and drive down I five were in seattle hears I five right? And you just take a couple rocks and just throw him out your window you're going to hit a corporation that needs photography? They're not that far they're not hiding they're all there who does the qatari for him the person who exert themselves and gets himself in the door and says I am available that's it so for example let's say you have little interest in you say I could I could do medical photography hospital's patients assisted living I love that industry internet who are all the hospitals in seattle area good final just like that so you get that number it's, the switchboard, the main right. You calling to say, hey, I am a photographer, commercial photographer. And I would like to talk to someone in the company in the hospital that that would when there's needs for photography, that they who's that person that hires photographers and they say, that's, our communications are marketing person. And what I do is I say, I just want the name. I don't want to talk to him right now with the name of the person handles photography looking photographers. Once I get betty smith's name, then I send betty smith, eh, packet a promo packet and that hits her desk and within two days, no more. Two days, I try to time it. I am on making a phone call to betty. Hi. This joel grimes used I get voicemail. Hi. This jewel grimes. I just sent you a packet. I hope you got that. If you haven't, I'd love to send you another one, but I'd love to talk to you about your needs. A photography again is joel grimes here's my phone number and I'll call three or four times before I send another packet and then I'll call a couple times in another packet and that's, when we talk about eight, you need eight attempts. Before they remember your name and I'll guarantee you if I send four packets, make about three or four phone calls with these packet, that person knows who joel grimes is because they have a listen to the voice mail of the camp. You know, maybe you want another one from joel, but they remember who joel grimes is, and eventually they need it or not. They have a need for photography, and they go, yeah. Joel, he doesn't pretty good stuff. Phone call. We like talk to you, that's how it works. That's how simple it is. Is that genius know it's very common sense. Get good photography in front of someone repeated. And so so you got just think about this. How long would you think it would take before you could get a skill level to do a good ceo executive type portrait? How long do you think that takes? I could teach you in fifteen minutes, right? Soft cross light, boom. You go out and grab a couple people with suits, practice. I did this. Build a couple ceo pictures type executives in your portfolio and bam like that. You could be photographing attorneys. Um, every corporation has press kits, press releases of the new vp, the new ceo, the new this promotions, they need pictures. And within a stone's throw from right here I'll bet you there's at least forty companies right here within a mile radius or two mile radius that need pictures of executives that's kind of boring. Well, I can tell you right now I made a really good living in my early days of just shooting executives my bread and butter the skill level is not very high. All it is is boom, boom, boom boom just hitting those companies I was probably the worst marketing person on the plant and had to go from that to where I'm at today I learned it and the hurdles I had to go over our all something that air within everyone's reach that makes sense. Now be honest, if I could do what you can do it so it's fun I love to talk about marketing because that's sort of the key it is the hub of success or not comes a lot on hinging on marketing. So any more questions I think we're going to go on. I just wanted to say to be happy smile that you talked about the packet and everything that's in there in the other yeah packets if it's a health care I try to put together some images that have at least a little bit of a theme of health care but you don't have to go in to have a picture of a doctor to send to hospital, think about all the needs that go here's, a good idea, go to their websites, look what kind of measures they're using. Smiley people, someone interacting with the patient, you know, it's it's, kind of, in a way, almost looks like stock photography that we used to do years ago. But it's, just happy, smiling people, a lot of natural light, you're not to use big strobes, but I'm just saying, it's, just nice, good, clean pictures and here's the thing. If you get that in front of someone that needs photography, they're going, they're going to call you.