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Masters of Photography

Lesson 33 of 34

Life As A Photgrapher

Joel Meyerowitz

Masters of Photography

Joel Meyerowitz

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Lesson Info

33. Life As A Photgrapher

Lesson Info

Life As A Photgrapher

(orchestral music) It's not unreasonable to think that at some point, your passion for photography will offer you a possibility to make a living from it. I think everybody's gonna want or hope for something like that and it is possible. I make a living from photography. You know, there are many ways to go about it but I think before you put the cart before the horse, you learn to ride the horse. You learn to express yourself. To make photographs that are true to you, consistently, so that you actually have something to sell. Your point of view can be developed so that when you show those pictures that you have collected, the ones that form the subjects that you're interested in, when you show them to somebody, they might see the application, oh. Maybe you could do a bunch of portraits for me of twins or of, you know, brothers and sisters, or mothers and daughters, I mean, it might just be that your subject has this external application beyond you and is worth being, you know, shown a...

s a little story, let's say, in an art photography magazine. And maybe you, then, can build on that and begin to try to get your work to a gallery because, you know, every one of you is capable of making a work of art. That's part of this game. You keep doing it, and you're disciplined, and you serve the medium so that it teaches you, then you have something that elevates you, or makes you singular in your way, and then you've got subjects to kind of show around. I can't tell you about getting an agent or putting your portfolio together, or maybe I could tell you about the portfolio, but for the moment, we're talking about the possibility of making a living from the work that you do. And we're in a difficult time, now. Let's be honest. The internet has diminished the capacity of magazines and stock agencies to allow you to sell your work separately from everybody else. There was a time when magazines and advertising agencies were giving out assignments all over the place and they were willing to take young stringers, you were a stringer if you lived in Cincinnati or Manchester, or anywhere in the world, and something happened there. Life Magazine would call up the stringers and say, go cover this, this group of kids called the Beatles, go cover them. (laughing) And then, suddenly, 50 years later you become famous because you were there, that moment. Anyway. It's possible for you to develop your own bodies of work and find some way of making people interested in them. But there's no guarantee. So, really, you make your photographs for the love of the game and the pleasure you get from it, and then, when there are established bodies of work that you feel good about, you can take them to a gallery. You can take them to a museum in your town and leave them with a curator in the museum. Generally, the photo departments of museums are open to seeing work by unknown people. Really, you can do that. Or you can take them to an agent, someplace. Ask around, there will be an agent. You can go visit an agent because they're always looking to make money off of somebody and maybe you're the next one. You show them your work and you say, what do you think of this work? Can I make a living with it? And they'll say, yes. I'm gonna make a millionaire out of you. Or no, go jump in the river because this stuff is terrible. I don't know what they'll say but you gotta try and you have to be strong enough to put up with people saying, you know what, you need a little bit more time doing this. You got a good idea here. You can develop that. So, making a living from it is possible, without doubt. If a guy like me could make a living from it, then you can too, I'm sure, but it takes persistence, and discipline, and courage, and really, you have all of these. They're part of your personality, so just do this, go forward, and see what happens. (orchestral music) Everybody wants to be in a gallery. I wanna show my photographs and sell them for thousands of dollars, so how do you get to a gallery? How do you know which gallery to go to? I think it's important to actually visit galleries, in person, if you're there, or online, and look at the kinds of work that the galleries show. You'll see. One gallery's mostly portraits and industrial things. Another gallery only loves landscapes and street photography. Some other one is very conceptual. They want people who are thinking, you know, about abstract ideas that they can then make photographs out of. Some galleries are only the old timers and the, you know, the ones whose reputations are big. So, it's up to you to do a little research and see where you fit in, or where you would like to aspire to having your work shown. It's like finding a little target, you know? You keep on making it tighter and tighter, until you say, this is the kind of way I wanna be represented at some point. And it wouldn't be a bad idea, once you have some pictures that you feel are representative of your way of looking at the world, to call up the gallery, and make an appointment, and say, can I come down and leave a portfolio? It's likely that they do portfolio reviews, let's say once a month. The staff of the gallery gets together in the evening, they see six, eight, 10 portfolios that have been left off, they look at the portfolios, and then, maybe they select a picture from some portfolio to be in a coming show. The summertime, galleries all over the world do the same thing. They have a summer show in which they either reveal unknown talent or they make a general subject in which they can fit all kinds of pictures in, and you may come at the right time, and be in the right place, and get chosen. I mean, it's no guarantee. But how do you know unless you try? So, you have research on your end. Both to determine the subjects that you are interested in and how you want to disseminate your work. Magazines, galleries, museums, and the internet. Of course, the internet is like throwing a stone in the ocean. It'll disappear right away. Even if you have some people who like your work but going to the museum, the gallery, the magazine, the advertising agency, and appearing there as a person, who they can look at and say, oh. This person gives me confidence. I could hire them to do this job. You don't wanna be faceless when you're looking for work. You wanna come across as the person who has some dignity, some charm, some humor, some appetite for living and seeing. Some way of communicating. Remember, communication, what I'm doing to you, right now, is communicating all of the things that I've learned. You, in your turn, when you go into the world trying to present your photographs, you, too, have to communicate your ideas, your images, your persona. You wanna be someone who other people will welcome into their space to do a job for them or to show your photographs in their space. So, that's part of your practice. You can't always hide behind being timid. Let's face it, all of us start off shy and timid but we overcompensate, in time. Just like I'm doing right now. Overcompensate so that you can present yourself as someone capable of handling the pressures, and the problems, and the needs of those people, out there, who are gonna pay you to do this work. So, if there's anything that I could tell you, right now, is get your act together. And speak up, and let them know that you've got a sense of humor, and a good mind, and that you're willing to say what's on your mind. You'll have more fun that way, I promise.

Class Description

Internationally renowned and award winning photographer Joel Meyerowitz is known for his iconic images that encompass decades of capturing all genres of photographs. Masters of Photography is bringing Joel’s class to CreativeLive to share the learnings from his vast career.

You’ll learn:

  • How to find a subject to photograph
  • How to improve your compositional skills
  • How to determine correct lighting
  • How to print your images and also create a photo book

Walk with Joel through picturesque Tuscany, bustling Siena and the vibrant streets of New York as he shows you how he creates his photographs. He will shares ideas, experiences, and his secrets on how to make great images. Joel will also suggest ideas for projects to try yourself. You can use any device from camera phone to DSLR, but in the end it’s all about you and your photography.



I have an all access pass and thought oh no, I have to pay for this one? I bit the bullet and I am so glad I did. Joel has a great deal of wisdom and experience because of his age. BUT, despite his age, he exudes a fountain of enthusiasm, playfulness, curiousity and constant wonder surrounding his subjects. He opened within me the possibilities of exploring different photographic subjects and allowing myself to experience the fun in pursuit of those subjects. I love the way he shows how someone can take the same ho hum scene, but then look around for a different point of view. He is indeed a Master and I thank Joel for the class.


This is a absulutely fantastic class. Joel Meyerowitz takes you on an journey of little but important advices. In each short video you got some jewels to improve your approach, your view and your art. I own a lot of classes here on CL, but this one is one of my favourits! Gentle and human. Thank you Joel Meyerowitz, you helped me a lot on my journey to develop my photography.

Cosmin Dolha

What do you do after you learn all the mechanics, the technical stuff, exposure triangle, lights, where do you start? Because I am starting, now! You will find encouragement and guidance, and real applicable wisdom. If you are new to photography as I am, this course will point you in the right direction. What a treasure! Thank you CreativeLive for this and thank you Joel Meyerowitz for taking such a gentle approach to such a complicated subject, that is photography.