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A dream may have been crushed today. I get a lot of emails from photography students (or aspiring amateurs) about what it’s like being a professional photographer. My response is always the same…It’s a hard career path with a ton of competition. You have to love it with everything you have.

Behind the scenes at David Bickley's workshop in February of 2012

Today was pretty much identical…to a point. I’m not singling out or directing this at anyone in particular, but I say this so often I figure I might as well put it on the blog. See, the myth is that if a person’s work is seen in the media (magazines, billboards, TV, etc…) that they must be living large and completely loaded. Most of the time when I tell someone that this isn’t really the case, they accept it. Not today. Of course there are the 1% that have gotten to that point, but it’s not the norm. The reality is that from a wealth building stand point photographers are at the bottom rung of career choices.

Think about it…

Anyone can go buy a camera and put up a website for under $500 if they shop savvy. So there are no real barriers to enter this field. Competition at the start-up level is steep as a result

With the advent of microstock a photographer’s ability to leverage him/herself is depleted unless you open a franchise or invent and patent some amazing new camera product.

You have to pay for your own insurance at higher premiums that just go up and you get none of the perks of working for a big company like discounts, life insurance, dental, etc.

Oh, and you don’t really get to build equity in your business because unlike a restaurant or laundromat or whatever…once you quit, the business is generally worthless because the photographer was the brand.

So…why do it? That goes back to my original point. Out of love. There’s no other way around it. If you don’t have an unflinching passion for the work, eventually the weight of it all is going to be too much.

Bringing me to my next point, and the second question I get asked the most. Do I think a formal education in photography is important?

No.

However, I do think that a solid education in business and finance (or a great financial planner) is invaluable. Most photographers that I know live way beyond their means and aren’t intelligent with how they manage the money they make. I learned the hard way a long time ago that you have to have a safety net, it’s inexcusable not to. I don’t think anyone could ever say that money is my big motivator, but like anyone else I would like to have a comfortable and financially free life. It can still be done as a photographer, even a bad one, but you have to have a plan and stick to it.

Anyway, I think my reality check hit home and I feel kinda bad about it. It isn’t my intention to discourage anyone. My point is more that as a photographer you have to realize that there is a lot more to consider than “price – cost = profit.”

See you tomorrow,

D