Photographer's FAQ: What is it you do? Pt. 1

More from your new blog segment.... Photographer's FAQ!  This discussion:  What I actually do with my time and how it all works.  Featuring the simple as well as the complicated answers.  First question:

What is it you do?

I am a photographer.  I take pictures for a living.

Photographer comes from "photo" meaning "light" and "graph" meaning "to draw", so you put it all together and I am one who draws with light.  My camera is my tool and light is my medium!  My service is photography and my products are photographs.  That's right people, it's a service and a product.  I do it to earn my living.  I am not a hobbyist.

That must be a great job!  (not a question, but a Frequently Occurring Statement)

Oh absolutely, it's one of those "Love what you do and never work a day in your life" sort of things... to a degree.  It's like any other small business in a creative field with you and ONLY YOU doing every little bit to keep the engine running.

One of the most difficult things is balancing the creativity + business.  I have to be an artist and a businesswoman.  I have to keep my inspiration and drive to create going while taking care of all the people and finances that are also necessary.  I have to constantly be "on", whether I'm at the grocery store at 11am or on the phone with a client at 8pm.  I make my own hours, yet I'm always working.

And here's just a few of the things I'm always doing:
  • Emailing
  • Phone calling
  • Blogging
  • Social media managing
  • Submitting to editorials
  • Submitting to stock agencies
  • Submitting to calls for entry
  • Printing
  • Framing
  • Fine art exhibiting
  • Greeting card packaging
  • Monitor calibrating
  • Camera & computer maintenance (either myself or dropping off to others)
  • Workshop attending
  • Private tutoring
  • Webinar listening
  • Industry seminars
  • Photography group meetings
  • Taxes
  • Invoices
  • Finances
  • Budgeting
  • Marketing
  • Networking
  • Snail mailing
  • Assisting & editing for others
  • Editing for myself
  • Culling photos
  • Archiving files
  • Cataloging what images have shown up where
  • Newsletter developing
  • Inventory keeping

Oh ya, and Photographing.

In reality, most photographers are taking pictures about 10% of the time.  The rest of the our days is spent editing & managing all those digital files, marketing ourselves, and of course just taking care of all the business, finances and taxes!

You can make a living doing that?

Absolutely, but just like anything else, you have to work hard at it.

We're an industry constantly fighting the digital age, where anyone and everyone with a camera thinks of themselves as a photographer.  Go online and you are instantly bombarded by great and not-so-great imagery taken on everything from a phone to a DSLR.  We have to stand out.  And it's getting harder and harder to do that everyday.

We are in the age of the mundane and quality professional photography seems to be suffering the most because of it.  Just have to keep fighting for our talents to be recognized!

Did you go to school for that?

Yes, I did.  I received a Bachelor of Science in Communications Media with a concentrations in both Photography and Professional Communications from Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts.

We started from the ground up working in the darkroom with black and white film, color film, and then to digital.  I had practice with both analog and digital from high school, but I wouldn't trade my college education one bit!  From the small classrooms and high camaraderie amongst students, to the great teachings of Prof. Peter Laytin and the rest of the Comm department, I was extremely happy with my formal education.  We covered everything from communication theory, to the foundations and history of traditional photography, modern mediums & technologies, multiple areas of photography from nature to studio to Spain, technical lab & printing skills, and communication applications.

But you absolutely do not have to get a degree.  There are plenty of natural talents out there who have the eye for it, continually practice their craft, and work hard to improve.  If you have those ingredients, formal schooling is not a requirement.

Satire graphics compliments of Shoppe Satire

(Stay tuned for "What is it yo do?" Pt. 2 coming soon)

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