Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesVisual ArtsPhotography · 1 decade ago

Why is it so hard to make a living as a photographer?

I've got $2,000 in the bank. I have $3,000 in my 401k. I am in my late 20's single. I pay $550 rent on a studio apartment. After taxes my income is about $400 a week, $8 per hour plus commissions. I have 3 years experience in 1 hour photo lab work, 1 as management, have done a lot of portrait photography (mostly H. S. Seniors), very familiar with film and digital cameras, especially Fuji equipment, the Fuji DL410 digital "dry lab", Epson 9800 wide format printer and Photoshop CS3.

We have pretty high unemployment around here, about 10% so demand for things like photography comes way after putting food on the table and a roof over one's head these days. Hopefully things aren't so bad that nobody is spending money. For example local seniors would spend $100 on portraits in 2006, maybe even $110. Today I'm lucky to get more than the $30 sitting fee and another $20-30 worth of prints. In 2006, 200+ seniors would get portraits out of a class of 300. This year looks like maybe only 100 out of 300. Few jobs and less money leaves me broke. I don't know if I should stick it out here in poverty or move on. It's not a question of being good, I am good,at least technical proficiency and basic skills. I wouldn't say I am great, yet. Why am I so stuck in this income. Any ideas? I have 15 college credits, 12 of which are in photography classes. I just purchased this $500 camera at work last month...


What I own is not what I work with. I use a Nikon D90 in the studio when I shoot. I actually spend more time retouching, enhancing and printing. As for knocking my Fuji bridge camera, this is my 3rd Fuji bridge camera in 6 years. S9100 before my new camera and S5000 before that. I still use the S9100. I have used them all side by side with Nikon DSLR's for 3 years. The differences simply aren't that much.

5 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    In all seriousness, how competitive is it for you? How are you marketing yourself?

    Checking out your camera I see it's a bridge camera. A point and shoot really with just a few snazzier features than an ordinary point and shoot. If you expect to get more work and be taken seriously I recommend returning the camera you have an buying a DSLR. Using equipment that is not standard with more serious photographers will put you out of the running real quick. I learned this the hard way when I thought I was all bad as* with my bridge point and shoot. Now I am working on a DSLR.

    If making a successful living as a photographer were easy there be no real incentive for doing it because everyone would. Make yourself stand out more. Get a strong portfolio together and start advertising much more. Have to work at it my friend. If you sit on the sidelines just hoping clients will come flocking you're going to wait a long time.

    I wish you luck. I know how hard it is too and I'm the impatient type so try being in my shoes. Can be quite entertaining sometimes.


    If you're spending more time retouching and enchancing then clearly you're not doing something right. However, judging by your response you seem to be acting like you know everything and can't be told any different. If my impression is correct, why bother asking us why it's so hard to make a living? You seem to think you have all the answers so what good are we?

    Source(s): Photographer
  • 1 decade ago

    My friend was trying to make a living as a photographer in Ohio but it was tough there, so she've moved to Texas a few months ago to start out again here. She rents a booth at a local flea market and sets up a simple studio there with just her one camera, some lights, tents, props, etc.

    Well, like you said, in this economy, people would put money into food and other necessities first before getting some pictures done. For that reason, we've come up with a new way to attract people in; we offer free photoshoots, no sitting or session fee whatsoever. She snaps some pictures and edits 5 on the spot for them (usually one or 2 hours turnaround). If they like any of them, they can buy the pix (one for $10, 2 for $20, etc). If they don't like anything, then they don't have to pay a dime.

    She's a very good photographer and she always does amazing jobs on her retouching, so we know once they see their pictures, the final products, they will not just walk away without purchasing anything. It has actually worked out very well for her so far. People like the fact that it would not cost them anything should they decide to buy nothing in the end, so they're happy to come in for a photoshoot. And so far, many of them have ended up buying all 5 pictures.

    I would suggest you to stay in school and finish up your photography degree / certificate if you haven't got one already. Meanwhile, try to build up a portfolio and make a simple website to put yourself out there. When people see the images that my friend has on display, they want to go in for a photoshoot themselves. Getting rid off the traditional sitting fee really helps attracting people in. She does offers other packages on her website too, but that's for people who want to spend more.

    Anyway, if you're really good at what you do, people will notice it. But education is the key, also be committed and creative! If your current way is not bringing in enough money, try a different / new approach!

  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    I agree that it depends on your location. I am also just starting out as a wedding photographer and there are NO other wedding photographers in my county. NONE. So there is not really alot of competition. Plus , I offer a budget package that is practically free so I can get the experience and build a portfolio.

  • 1 decade ago

    Listen to KK. Return the bridge camera and get a DSLR. If you aren't aware of the differences you need more education.

    (Hubby has one of the Fuji bridge cameras you mentioned and it can not begin to compete with a DSLR)

    Over 30 years as a pro and still making a good living!

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  • 1 decade ago

    Its the same story in all professions. Specially if one is self employed.

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