My personality is a better fit for commercial photography than it is consumer photography. I like working with businesses (small, medium and large) as well as business professionals who will use the images that I create for commercial use often times in both print and on the web.
It's true that as a commercial photographer that people skills are important, but unlike consumer photography of weddings, families, babies, high school seniors, etc, I find that commercial photography doesn't have the emotional ties that consumer photography typically includes. Commercial photography is often very business focused: "This is what I need, when I need it, how soon can I have it, etc." That is much different than all the personal emotions flowing on a beautiful wedding day.
With the above mentioned, have you ever thought about what your personality is a better fit for? Commercial Photography or Consumer Photography or Both? Don't just randomly say, "I'm going to be a wedding photographer because there is good money to be made and people will always be getting married." There is more to photography than randomly picking a genre especially if money is the motivator.
I've heard that there is a lot of money to be made in Fashion Photography. I have zero (almost zero) desire to do fashion photography. Again, don't just randomly choose an area of photography without thinking through whether you like it and whether you can actually make a living doing it if you plan to be full time.
Images like the one below could be created for consumer photography use; however, consumers are not typically looking for an image like this one. This image was shot for a University to be used in print. It's images like this one that motivate me as a commercial photographer. However, all commercial photography does not include creative style images. For example, a headshot of the company President to be published in a magazine article or on the company website can be considered commercial photography.
There are numerous areas of commercial photography that a photographer can focus on like product photography, architectural photography, advertising photography, portrait photography for commercial use and much more. Commercial photography is not always lots of bells and whistles. Sometimes commercial use images are very similar to consumer images. The key difference in commercial and consumer photography is the way the images will be used.
There are a lot of photographers who still argue PRINT, PRINT, PRINT. Well, in the commercial photography world, clients are usually looking for a digital image to be used in print and/or on the web. Commercial clients are typically not looking for an 8 x 10 print to frame and put on the mantle. Although some commercial photographers may argue that PRINTS are still the way to go, I think there is a much stronger argument for this on the consumer side of photography which is one key reason that I am glad that I don't cater to the consumer world. I had enough of 8 x 10's, 5 x 7's and Wallets in the 1980's to last me a lifetime.
I love the variety of things that commercial photography offers like getting suited up to do photography in a lab which is not the first time our team has suited up like this. Just like consumer photographers, commercial photographers get to meet new people, do new things and don't always have to be in a studio environment.
For the commercial photoshoot pictured to the left, we were wireless with my two assistants serving as human light stands. I did use a tripod, but other than that, nothing touched the lab floor except our covered shoes.
Finding inspiration through the work of others is a key part of being a commercial photographer. One of my favorite photographers is Gregory Heisler shown in the YouTube video below. My guess is that you may have never heard of him. However, you have likely seen more of his work (especially if you are 40+) than you realize.
Photography is not simply about picking up a nice camera over the weekend, getting business cards printed and calling yourself a photographer. Some may get by with that for the $99 burn it to a CD consumer market, but try doing that in the Fortune 500 world and see what happens. That's not to say that the Fortune 500 market is impossible, it's just that commercial photography is typically not as easy to get into as consumer photography.
I like that fact that when I'm quoting a project that I'm likely quoting against another established commercial photographer.
The point to my last 3 paragraphs is that this can all keep you on your game and help you get to the next level. Don't be complacent with your photography. Always keep striving to be the best photographer you can be.
Before I move on, I want to mention Gregory Heisler's book: "50 Portraits." The book cover is pictured to the right and if you click on it, you'll end up on Amazon where you can order it. It's a good read for anyone seriously interested in photography, but it's not a sexy read by any means. Yes, I did read it and plan to reference it from time to time as well as let the image style inspire me. One of my key takeaways is TECHNIQUE, TECHNIQUE, TECHNIQUE.
It's important that any photographer who wants to get to the next level take time to shoot personal projects, read books, watch videos, spend time with others in the field and the many other things that can help.
Commercial photography is an area of photography that I am truly passionate about. It's a blessing to be able to work full time not only in photography but in the market segment of photography that I really enjoy working in.
Taking a turn to direct some additional thoughts to you (the reader):
If you are new to photography, working part-time in photography, struggling as a photographer or even working full time in photography, you should do yourself and your clients and/or the photographer you work for a favor by not only being passionate about your work but striving to be the best you can be. If you truly want something bad enough, you'll have to work hard to make it happen.
My definition of working hard is 6 days a week 10 to 12 hours a day ( 60 to 70+ hours per week ) until you achieve what you want to achieve. Even if you work for someone else and you are happy doing that, you should spend time outside of your regular employment to get to the next level.
You may be thinking that you just don't have the time in the day. You have a spouse, you have children, you have other personal priorities and I'm not saying you should sacrifice any of that to get where you want to be, but I will say that I got up a 3:18 a.m. yesterday morning and I woke up at 2:24 a.m. this morning (got up before 3 a.m.). In both instances my wife was in bed for several more hours sleeping. Yes, it's nice to wake up beside my wife, but if she is sleeping and I can get 3, 4, 5+ hours of work in, then what's the harm? Actually, I have written this blog post while she went shopping. It's over 1,300 words. Again, what's the harm?
Do you want to be a commercial photographer? Go For It!
Do you want to be a consumer photographer? Go For It!
You don't have to work for yourself to be happy as a photographer. Self-employment is NOT the right fit for everyone. So make up your mind what you want to do in photography and just GO FOR IT!
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