My story is similar to many - I chose to be a photographer because I wanted to pursue a creative career I was passionate about that gave me a sense of fulfillment. I was driven by the desire to be self employed and live on my own terms while freelancing. It’s been the right choice so far but it hasn’t come without sacrifice and tough times. If one thing is for sure, it’s definitely not for everyone and I will explain what lead me to this career and whether I recommend it to others.
I started my career later than most, in my mid 20s, but photography and filming have been a part of my life since I was in high school shooting skateboarding videos. I had the passion early on but I put it on hold and went to college to find a more traditional career under pressure from my parents. I never found a career path after I graduated. I realized most jobs were a waste of time if I didn’t enjoy what I was doing.
I bought a new camera at 23, got back into photography and realized that it could be my career path. I saw photography as something I didn’t need to be forced to do, I was always willing to go out on my own and shoot regardless of the situation or the pay. I took that as a sign I should pursue it as a career and dove in headfirst.
I didn’t go to film school, I didn’t intern and I never worked full time. I just jumped into freelance and tried to find my own way of doing things.
Fast forward to 2020 and I’m now in Los Angeles freelancing full time for work. My career is constantly evolving - from taking any job that came my way, working for free, being an assistant, shooting events, to creating content for big brands with a mix of both photo and video. I’m currently focused on lifestyle photography and short creative video content for social media, working with a lot of cannabis and fashion brands in LA.
- Doing what I love, turning a passion into a viable career
- Being able to create for a living. All jobs I do, including corporate ones, have a sense of my own personal creativity on them which is rewarding
- Freelance - freedom to create my own schedule and live how I want
- Always going new places and meeting new people. No two jobs are ever the same and there are lots of great experiences.
- Easily can use social media and the internet to promote my work, create opportunities and foster relationships
- Satisfaction of knowing that i’ve built a career completely on my own
- Oversaturated and very competitive industry which leads to lower rates for jobs
- Every client knows a ton of other photographers to use at every moment
- Brands taking advantage of abundance of hungry creatives - often leading to a race to the bottom scenario
- Free work is commonly abused
- Constant evolution of mobile phone camera technology leads some clients to opt to shoot smaller jobs themselves with their phone
- Gear is expensive
- Cost of self employed - higher taxes, expenses, health insurance, etc.
- Uncertainty of freelance lifestyle, constantly hunting for next meal
- Shooting photos is a very small part of day to day work, it’s more running a business
Being a photographer is not for everybody and I think the choice to pursue a creative career should be a calculated risk. Be a realist and understand your skill set, your personality type, the market, living expenses, the lifestyle you want to live, etc. Assess your financial needs, the pay rate for the niche of industry you’re interested in and weigh all the life factors to see what makes the most sense. It takes tough skin and for some, being creative after work as a hobby is a better choice and that’s completely okay.
It’s a career path with a lot of ups and downs, uncertainty and heavy competition. There will always be a risk in order to get a reward but if your passion is strong enough, I believe there will always be a way and the pros will outweigh the cons. Succeed or fail, I’ll be at peace knowing that I put in the work to try and make my dream work.