Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fame Vs. Fortune

How many hobby photographers have wanted to turn their hobby into a paying proposition?
Lots? Most?, Many certainly.

There's valid reasons for doing so.

1) being paid for your work puts a value on it and says to you that your work is worth something.

2) People can say nice things but buying your work means they really did like it.

3) Many of us stretch the budget when it comes to buying equipment and making enough to pay for some if not all of our equipment (or the equipment we'd like to purchase but can't justify for a hobby) would certainly smooth things over on the home front.

4) some just like the idea of a second career - as a backup or possibly even something to move into. There are people who retire early yet want something meaningful to do after retirement.

5) it would at least help pay for supplies - those damn ink cartridges sure add up and how come inkjet paper is more expensive than silver photographic paper - and Kodak tried to tell us it was the price of silver...

I would argue though that while the money would be nice, many of us given the choice between money and recognition would choose the latter if we couldn't have both. I think that they are quite separate and that the efforts to help one don't necessarily translate to helping the other.

If that is the case, then it would pay to decide now which of the two is more important to us and to then put our efforts into working towards that goal which is important to us.

If it turns out that recognition if not downright fame is what we seek, then getting our work up on walls is vital - whether or not it sells prints. Thus we should be offering framed images to restaurants and movie theaters, to public buildings, hospitals and so on.

We should be seeking publication, whether via contests or readers pages. You might do as I did and try your hand at writing and see if you can get an article published. The web has been a wonderful resource for people getting their work "out there". Of course the vast majority of viewers are other photographers which can be a mixed blessing (a topic for another day).

You can even self publish with things like Blurb, though the books tend to be a bit expensive to purchase so I'm not sure you will get a lot of recognition that way. You can do as I did for two years and sell your images at the local crafts/farmers market or attend craft fairs.

None of the above suggestions is going to make you much money but that wasn't the point, was it?

If on the other hand you want money, then you are going to have to sell yourself. The analogy to prostitution is not entirely coincidental and it takes a certain kind of confidence to sell yourself and to persuade others to spend thousands on your work. I don't propose to tell you how to make money from your photography because I have never made much from it and don't feel I should be advising you on things I haven't done. there are books out there on selling your photography.

Do however keep in mind that selling your work means doing more work, more print making, more matting and framing, packaging and shipping, more time spent selling yourself than doing photography. Many professional photographers have indicated that the selling is 90% of their work, photography only 10%. Is that what you really want?

Many of us are extremely insecure about the value of our work and bounce from over confidence to fearing waking up and finding out we are complete frauds - this seems to be pretty normal in the arts in general. A bit of positive feedback, especially when we didn't go out of our way to "sell" ourselves, helps alleviate doubts about our work and encourages us to push on.


Anonymous said...

I've always wanted to turn my photography into a career, but I never wanted to lose that feeling I get when I do photography just for me. I shied away from selling photography because I didnt want it to become a job, something I wouldn't enjoy anymore. I would choose recognition over money anyday. Money can only do so much.

Anonymous said...

Both Fame and Fortune are very allusive to grasp.

The analogy is that some movie stars do achieve both and I also guess a few CEOs, but the probability to achieving both is remotely small.

Therefore as you articulated well it is important that if we want either we should decide early one which and then pursue that with gusto.

It is rare that either element is obtained easily and quickly but one will happen if you peruse you goals long enough.

There is a saying which I believe is true that

You can have anything you want.

You just can’t have everything you want.

So choose your desire and move on slowly and surly. Find any opportunity to get you work in front of audiences, whether, blogging, Flickr, coffee shops, your place of work, craft and arts fairs, photography competitions,

Niels Henriksen

Mike Mundy said...

I've been displaying at the Marin County Farmers Market recently. There's quite a bit involved! Canopy, "product line" (notecards, framed prints, unframed prints etc), business license . . . and on and on.

I did fairly well in a June festival, but since then not that much has sold. Understandable, I guess, in light of the economic situation.

So, a loss last year, and most likely a loss this year. And the IRS has rules on the number of years you can declare a loss . . .

Anonymous said...

I've had my 15 seconds of fame at least a couple of times so now I'm looking for some fortune. :)

Don Bryant

Publius II said...

One word: Composition.

Stacey Olson said...

great post.. those of us that love taking pictures however will continue to do so without money or recognition..(wink) trust me I know.. lol.. I would guess that recognition would help with the money issue.. so for now, I am going for recognition.. hopefully that will open doors..