Ask An Agent / Can A Photographer Have Another Job?
Ask an Agent is a regular monthly column that answers all your dilemmas about the business of photography - a sort of photography agony aunt. Whatever area of the industry you are in, if you have any questions you’d like to ask please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Ask an Agent,
I wanted to ask you what you thought about a photographer having another job as well as being a photographer? I left University just over four years ago and since then have been assisting, retouching and doing the odd commission myself. I must admit I didn’t quite realise how difficult it would be to earn a decent living as a photographer and expected just to be doing my own photography by now. Will it always be like this? Should I keep striving to be a full time professional photographer or do you think in fact there is no shame in doing other jobs and should I accept that this is the way it will always be?
Many thanks for your question. If it makes you feel any better there are many, many other aspiring and more established photographers in the same boat as you. Coming out of University and breaking into the industry is difficult enough and the on going, challenging economic climate doesn’t help.
But don’t feel despondent, it’s a brilliant industry to be in and there is no shame in having another ‘job’ whilst you build your career as a photographer or in fact decide that you quite like the security of having other paid work and want to continue to do this.
Ideally of course it’s preferable to combine a photography related vocation at least with being a photographer, enabling you to make contacts and get more valuable experience in the industry. Having said that, it probably needs to be a job with some flexibility, either freelance or part time would enable you to continue to build you own business.
Like any business I guess the only downside is that while you are taking on other work, you might end up spreading yourself too thinly and lack focus on building up your own photography business. At some point you probably will need to come to a decision. The way I see it is that you basically have three choices:
1) Find funding from elsewhere and throw your all into your own photography business, shooting personal work, marketing and networking. The more time, effort (and money is cleverly spent) you put into it, the quicker you’ll reach your goal. But then of course you need to be 100% confident that you have what it takes to succeed and most importantly can build a strong brand that the market will buy into.
2) Continue bringing in other revenue streams whilst you build up your career as a photographer. Just as you are with assisting and retouching.
3) Resign yourself to the fact that you won’t be able to make as much money as you want or need with just your own photography and put just as much importance on building up a compatible side-line. Again your retouching could work. It may be that this other ‘job’ might take over and you might end up taking a different career path than you first set out to do. But then again you may find a fabulous new revenue stream that will compliment and drive forward your photography career perfectly. It doesn’t have to be retouching, although it’s easier to play to your strengths and experience. I’ve met photographers who, aside from shooting their own commissions, shoot moving image and behind the scenes videos for other photographers; those that run workshops and teach; those that are location scouts and producers; some that also picture edit or write; and I was just reading the other day about a pet photographer who has also set up a dog modelling agency - the possibilities are multiple and varied!
Only you can decide. Please Note: We reserve the right to shorten questions due to space constraints. We reserve the right not to enter into ongoing correspondence. We reserve the right not to answer all questions. Please state whether you would like to remain anonymous. This advice should be taken as a guide only. Lisa Pritchard and LPA take no responsibility for any omissions or errors. Please seek professional legal advice should you require it.