Photography as a career in 2020

Why do I need to study photography when most people just point and shoot and get great pictures?

This is the question for you to decide. There are many great photographers out there that are self-taught and have an amazing eye and composition for the genres that they shoot. This normally is a result of much practise as well as time and error in the field. That simple saying “practice makes perfect” is often the case for those gifted with the talent and the passion to persevere. Today, the selection and options of cameras is endless and also developing with new technology and easy ways to take photos with ease and little thought in theory involved. The same applies to the various editing software packages and applications that one can subscribe to, or just download from Google on open source platforms for free. So there you have it, but it’s not that simple I can promise you.

There are also 2 types of photographers, those who are passionate, who do photography as a hobby, and those that take it further to pursue as a career. For those who are career driven, it is common as a startup to work professionally as a freelance photographer and treat this as your own business. Take as many jobs as you can to gain experience and develop your style.

Starting out normally involves gaining on the job training as an assistant, where you learn the ropes. Most important is to use this time constructively to build knowledge, confidence and a network. This will help establish “your signature” and style and ensure that your path that your follow and specialise in is clear sighted.

The pay and salary will vary according to each job, but as an assistant, it is not about the money, more about the hunger and the opportunity to shadow and learn from the best. This will add determination and will to drive your success and make your mark in the industry.
According to the average salaries earned on a monthly basis by established photographers in the South African landscape, the average salary is around R 30 000 per month, again, this is dependent on your experience, skill level and your ability to market yourself in a professional manner. The average earning potential that I have mentioned is from speaking to people in this industry, so regard I it as fairly accurate.


Do you need qualifications to study photography?

My opinion in no.

It is not about the piece of paper, or the number of certificates on the wall, it is about being a good photographer. Qualifications do not justify a good photographer, it is what you can do, what your portfolio says to the client and your outgoing personality and passion to deliver.

Having a good understanding of composition and light, understanding client briefs and being professional, along with passion and drive to be the best is what makes a good photographer.

I am not saying ditch the studies, the college or the qualifications, but for those that either do not have the means or the time to study, jump in and work at it. Rather consider short courses or workshops and specialize in specific areas of expertise or complete a marketing diploma which will place you in good stead for setting up your business properly from the start.

On the flip side, a photography course will provide:

Understanding the way your camera works in detail

Lecturers and experienced photographers will provide you with the tools to operate your camera settings in Manual, as well as show you all the tricks regards to achieving successful results. Lenses will be suggested that meet your genre and style, which is one of the most important parts of photography… having the right lens for the job.

Understanding the different techniques .

It is not just about clicking the button. There are such things as understanding light, depth of field (DOP), lighting settings, exposures and metering, to name just a few. Remember that each client brief is different and will require this knowledge and understanding on setup to deliver a great shoot. This will all require practice, but consider this, once you have the knowledge and have had some practice, you can perfect it.

Ability to edit images

Most images will require some retouching or just a colour correction. It is vital that you are competent in the standard industry software to provide finished edits that meet the standard of your client within a realistic time frame for delivery. Poor editing can be the end of you, it is the final stage before handover that will make or break further work flow from the client. Attending a course or workshop will not only provide the best industry choices of software, but will teach you all the shortcuts to achieve the desired results.


Advantages of photography as a career

Your sell by date does not expire like in many other industries.

Most of the time you are your own boss.

Once you have your kit and all the camera gear you require, you no longer need to continue spending, it is not retail, just your time, the rest is rented or outsourced.

If you enjoy people, travel and adventure, then it all points to photography. The great part is that there are so many genres of photography the work is endless, if you looking to shoot something… go find it.

Some examples are in areas like:

  • fashion, entertainment and advertising
  • reportage and photojournalism
  • food, travel and leisure
  • family, portraiture and corporate
  • wildlife, culture and landscape
  • sports, weddings, functions and events
  • and more…

I hope this article has opened your mind to what you want to do with your future. Just remember, that the older you get and the long you wait, the more responsibilities you will have, which makes it that much more difficult to decide to do what you actually love.