It’s been long since I’ve thought of photography as anything other than therapy for myself. Photography is something that almost none of my family (except for my sister who’s 9,000kms away)/friends appreciate (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) so it’s all mine. I don’t have people asking to join me for photo-walks; none of my friends asking me to critique their work; etc etc. I photograph for myself and that’s it.
Ever since I stopped doing “pro-work” (I used to be an event photographer with a decent amount of work coming in) a few years back, I actually started to enjoy photography. I had the freedom to sell all my digital gear and start from scratch building my all-film kit. I played around and experimented with a ton of cameras, shooting and developing techniques, shot whatever caught my interest, and best of all, I wasn’t under any pressure whatsoever even if I didn’t get time for a few weeks to shoot or develop or do any photography related activity.
When I stopped treating my photography as a business, I really felt it mature. I read/listened/watched more photography literature than gear reviews; I studied the works of photographers that I admired and; I consciously applied what I learnt.
I used to do neither of these things before. At that time, it was G.A.S all the way. Constantly reading reviews of the latest “must have” gear and looking at meaningless DXO Mark charts and whatnot. The most aggravating thing of all was the fact that 99% of the gear I was looking at, I had no intention of ever buying! What a total waste of time and bandwidth.
Anyway, back to the topic…
Why go “pro” again? Well, simply put, I’ve had my fun with photography. I had no self-imposed restrictions so I experimented — I learned…a lot. I studied what really matters in photography. I practiced — I applied — I even taught a little. But then, life got in the way of my passion. I wanted to get out of this rut and shake things up a little. I want to be different. I didn’t want to be stuck in the same mundane 9–5 mind-numbing routine. I want to leave a mark before I return to the dirt. I don’t want to be treated like horse-shit by people far less educated and younger than me. This had to change.
Now now, I must calm myself….
Powerful stuff, indeed.
Could I have simply walked out of my day job and started a photography business from scratch without even a decent portfolio? Possible, yes — practical, hell no! I’m not single — I’m not as young as I was when I first rode the photo-rollercoaster. I needed a steady income on the side for the usual day to day life stuff like car payments and insurance. Besides, I needed money to get the start-up gear, right?
All this was going through my head when I began planning the start-up. Slowly, I got the gear I needed; determined my (initial) niche and have started to steadily build my portfolio (examples of which, once curated, I will start showing on the website — the commercial work that I’m currently involved in is a complete departure from the type of work I normally practice).
One thing I’ve realised though. It’s not easy anymore. Well…it was never “easy” but it wasn’t as difficult 6 years ago as it is now to get that break in the photo industry as a working photographer. It’s just too damn saturated. And if you really want to get ahead, it’s all about the insane amount of hard work, relentless networking and giving more than you’re physically and mentally capable of in the work you produce. You do whatever it takes to be heard in the noise — while not sacrificing your business ethics.
I wanted to take a different approach this time (before I kind of just fell into it — a friend asked me to cover a concert he had organised and one led to quite a few others after that) so I did a whole heap of research when I made the decision a few months back. Most of the stuff I found was misleading garbage (even stuff some big name photographers preach). I did find two voices though — Zack Arias (also check out his site: Dedpxl — tons of free learning material) and David “The Strobist” Hobby (anything and everything you need to know about lighting). These two have kicked my teeth in with reality checks — but that’s exactly what’s needed. It may be something that I have a passion for — but at the end of the day, this is business. Ironically, you don’t actually do as much photography as you might think when you’re running “John Doe’s Mad Clikzz StudiOz”. What that means is, regardless of how passionate I am about photography, I still need to be super patient and play by the rules — albeit for a limited period of time — that’s where the fun in running a business begins.
Finally — why am I writing all this? Well, I figured I’m not the only one dreaming of jet-setting to big client photo assignments so maybe this might help someone who wants to do something similar. You can follow me along my journey; learn from the mistakes I made/will make; learn from some of the sensible stuff I might actually do; all-in-all — just learn…
Over the next few posts, I’ll go over the gear I bought and will be buying for my start up and try to logically explain why I actually got it. My aim is to write one of these posts once every week so keep checking back!