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DPChallenge Forums >> Business of Photography >> I could use some advice...
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04/14/2009 07:21:00 PM · #1
Hello. I could really use some help, and I think this might be the best place to get some opinions. Here is my dilemma:
I'm 25 years old
I have an associates in Business Management
I've been an doing the photographer thing for about 3 years (always for the fun of it, though I have made a few dollars)
I have a wife and 3 month old son
I have an overly demanding job with no room to move up in for the next 10 years, and have already been there 7, and it isn't as much fun as it use to be

And I have the desire to do the photography thing someday as my career. I don't know how to get there however. There are so many choices, and just as many obstacles.
Do I get a degree in photography? If so, do I do an associates or bachelars? And do I use an online school, like the Academy of Art San Francisco or the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, a dedicated school like the Hallmark Institute of Photography, or a degree from a local college like the University of Hartford or Tunxis community college?
Do I finish my business degree? What should the concentration be, marketing, management, economics? Or should I go for something different, Like graphic design (it's a family trade actually, I just never caught on...)
Do I keep trying to get into the local scene, If so, how? The few photographers I know in the area do not have a ton of business right now, let alone enough to take on an assistant. There is also a lack of a phoographic community in this area as far as I can find. And I have found it difficult to get other people to work with to practice (if you notice, my portfolio here is made up of mostly still life's with a couple self portraits)

And all these questions are complicated in trying to work it into my current life as a husband and new father. So please, if anyone has any advice, I would truly appreciate it. And I do apologize for the length of this, but writing it all down has actually already helped me organize my thoughts. Thanks again.

04/14/2009 07:53:39 PM · #2
I sent you a PM of my thoughts.
04/14/2009 09:13:55 PM · #3
Aaron,

I thought about PM'ing you with my thoughts as well, but at the same time, if you are asking this question, so are so many others and maybe my advice can apply to them as well.

I am also 25 years old and married, though I do not have any children. I went to the Art Institute of Seattle, and graduated late 2007. Since graduating, I have worked as the director of marketing for a multi-million dollar company, and have now been at my current job as photo editor for some time now. I do credit the Art Institute TO A POINT. The thing they did that was best for me- made me shoot, and shoot alot. However, I am confident that should I have tried to work as a photographer with an amazing portfolio and no degree, I would have also been able to land a job as a photographer.

They did provide me with opportunities that were pretty unreal. I did a shoot with Colin Finlay (an AMAZING photographer), I learned all aspects of photography, and I was surrounded with other photographers and artists.

But again, I am confident that I could have been where I am now simply off my own hard work (and it would have saved me enough for a small house in student loans.)

Since I have gone through a situation similar, and am where I am now, here is what I would do if I were you:

First, you will probably always wonder and possibly always regret if you do not at least try to go for it. Your stuff is good, and I think you have what it takes if you push yourself. Don't go for an associates degree though, go for a bachelors- having a bachelors degree in ANYTHING is something that you can always fall back on. Don't go to the Art Institute or any other such thing. Go to a university, hopefully a public one, and save yourself the money. It sounds like you have at least a handle on business management. The thing that most of the photogs that I know are struggling with is marketing. MAKE SURE YOU TAKE COURSES IN MARKETING. If there isn't much of a market in your area for assistants, its possible that there just isnt enough photographers- something you can help to remedy :). Instead of working with a professional to practice, find non-profit organizations and volunteer for them for a while; it benefits you and it benefits people in need.

Seriously feel free to email me, pm me, whatever, if you need to chat more about it or have questions. Becoming a photographer is a heck of an adventure, but one that will blow you away.
04/15/2009 10:27:28 AM · #4
Thanks for the advice guys! I really appreciate it.
04/15/2009 10:33:35 AM · #5
There are some excellent books that would help you decide what you might want to do. Working as a photographer is different than owning a photography business. As a working photog you shoot and perhaps edit. As a business owner you'll spend 20% of your time, if that, photographing. The rest of the time is spent marketing, accounting, learning, planning, shopping, etc.

To make a livable wage ($30k ish) you'll need to have sales of $100k give or take a bit. The rest of that $70k is marketing (5-15%), overhead (computers, cameras, software, education, postage, etc, etc, etc 20%) and 20-25% is the stuff you sell (albums, prints, canvas, etc). With any luck there is some profit left over to invest in growing the business.

The best way IMO is to join the local PPA chapter and get involved. Go to their seminars, meet their members. Take a PPA school, or many of them if you can. (I posted links to 4 or 5 schools in this forum last week).

What does school cost? $40,000? If you take that $40,000 and spend the next 2 years learning - PPA, books, videos and buying gear (pro bodies, lenses, lights, etc) and practicing it's gonna be like college/art school but at the end of 2 years you'll have a lot more practical knowledge, $15k or more still in your pocket to begin marketing/pay bills while you grow the biz, and all the equipment and knowledge to succeed.

If you go to art school you'll learn a lot of good stuff, but also a lot of stuff that will not make you any money (processing your own B&W film for example) and still now know accounting and taxes, marketing(as in what works for photographers), etc.

Realize thought that starting a business from scratch will take 100 hours a week if you want it to be successful. Are you - or more importantly - is your family willing to make that commitment?

Books:
The business of studio photography by edward lilley (The reality of actually running a business)
how you can make $25,000 a year with your camera no matter where you live by larry cribb (full of ideas and basics on how to go about getting the business)
starting a business, a barnes and noble Basics book, by joanne cleaver (covers planning, budgeting, and a lot more)

Message edited by author 2009-04-15 10:34:11.
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