Monday, April 16, 2007


Part 5 - More Areas of Photography


Editorial photographers provide the pictures for magazines and newspapers other than those in the adverts. The work ranges from portraits, fashion, food and illustrations for feature articles to news photography. Some photographers are employed by the publishers as 'staff' photographers, but increasingly these pictures come from freelance (self-employed) photographers, either direct or through agencies and picture libraries. Some freelances specialise in areas such as portraiture or food. Photography from editorial photographers (and photojournalists) may also be used for some advertisements.
Editorial photography usually involves less organisation than advertising - budgets are generally much lower, and photographers often work on their own or simply with an assistant. Deadlines may often mean working very long hours to finish a job.


The public image of the photographer is most often that of a 'newspaper photographer' and is still based on the old Hollywood movies featuring 'Weegee' - or characters based on him = rushing onto the scene with 4x5" Speed Graphic and bulb flash. Things have of course changed, and most dramatic news pictures don't come from press photographers but from photojournalists working for the major agencies and similar bodies.
Newspaper photographers do still exist, though they now tote Nikons (possibly digital), use electronic flash and mainly get to photograph set up pictures at local events. Sometimes they also have to write the stories to go with pictures (often little more than extended captions in any case.) It is often a job involving long hours for relatively low pay, but provides a steady salary.
Increasingly papers call on freelance photographers as a lower cost option than employing staff. For the successful, freelance photojournalism can be an exciting and rewarding career, and if you do really well you could even become a member of Magnum, or one of the other leading agencies. Unfortunately for many other photographers it can be risky and financially disastrous. Photographers do get killed and injured in war zones, and others risk their life, bring back good pictures and find that there is no editor interested in publishing them.
Much freelance photojournalism is safer if less exciting, and the major danger facing most freelances is bankruptcy. In a city such as London there are probably at any time around ten times as many people seeking jobs as the market will support, and the day rates paid by some of the larger newspapers are little above the minimum wage. Elsewhere the situation is generally a little better, but photographers generally have to spend some time building up contacts and developing specialisms to make a living.


Freelance photographers will often put pictures into picture libraries and stock agencies. If you have sufficient work in them these tend to give a regular income which helps keep going. Some photographers specialise in stock and are able to make a living from it alone. Libraries generally take 50% of any fees for sales that they make of pictures from the library, though usually a smaller percentage on commissioned work they pass on to photographers. Libraries on the web may also work to a smaller percentage of fees, but any that charge more than nominal costs 'up-front' should be avoided.
Selling your work directly is time-consuming but worthwhile if you can build up a number of regular clients. Having work on the web can be one way to make sales, as increasingly picture researchers are looking there.


Fashion photography is another high-profile occupation. Names like David Bailey and Helmut Newton became known around the world. Fashion is again a difficult area to break into, and getting in as an assistant to a fashion photographer even more difficult. At least until you get famous, an interest in fashion and a knowledge of the clothing industry can be needed (although some of the best fashion photographers have never taken clothes seriously).


The largest area of actual employment for photographers is almost certainly in the scientific areas, where most photographers have staff positions with regular hours and regular salaries. It is also the area where there tend to be specifically stated entrance requirements (though not always involving a photo course.). As well as general courses in the photographic sciences and photography as a science, there are also specialist qualifications in some areas.
Examples of areas involving a scientific approach include medical photography, aerial photography, general scientific photography (including high speed photography), police and forensic photography, military photography and museum work. Legal photography is one area where many photographers are freelance, providing evidence mainly for the defence in suitable cases.

Opportunities in these areas - particularly for government work, vary widely from country to country. Much of the work may be relatively routine, for example the copying of documents and recording of artefacts by museum photographers.


Traditionally the term fine art photographer meant a photographer who made photographic records of paintings and drawings etc, one of the scientific specialities/ It is now more commonly used to mean a photographer who produces photographic prints as a fine art activity, for exhibition in museums and sales in galleries.

Although sales of photographs have improved over the last thirty years, relatively few photographers make a living entirely in this way. Typical prices of fine art photographs are still below those of other fine art prints, and photographs are much harder to sell. Apart from a few of the 'big names' in photography, most other photographers whose work you see in galleries still rely on other sources of income - particularly teaching - to make a comfortable living.
Becoming a well-known photographer does bring offers of teaching from some photo courses, and some photographers also offer workshop classes, so there is a link between the two activities. Some photographers whose work is more decorative also manage to make a good living by print sales for ordinary people to hang on their walls at home.


Teaching others to become photographers can be a worthwhile occupation and provide a regular job. For most teaching jobs a degree or higher degree in an appropriate subject is essential. Many photographers in teaching also continue with photography, either as a freelance or as a fine art photographer.


There are many jobs essential to photography that do not involve taking pictures. Photo laboratory work is essential, though most is not particularly creative, but there are a number of top quality hand-printers who can make a reasonable living printing for some of the best photographers around. Retouching is also a creative skill, whether carried out with brush or computer system.
Picture libraries need people who understand photographs, and many photographers have ended up running libraries and agencies as well as working as picture editors. Others have moved to running hire studios, and providing specialist services such as finding locations or props.
An interest in photography and knowledge of cameras is a great asset in photography retail, and if cameras are really your interest you could consider becoming a camera repairer.


There are plenty of interesting careers in photography, some glamorous and well paid, but most photographers are self-employed and many find it difficult to make a living. Even if you end up working in a different job, you can still carry on getting enjoyment out of taking pictures, either as a part-time photographer or simply for its own sake.

1 comment:

BRAD said...

just visit ur page... from frustrated photographer... (sigh.....)

PayPal Its Free Sign-up Now!!!

Sign up for PayPal and start accepting credit card payments instantly.