As a professional fashion photographer in New York, I would love to share my thoughts on the worst parts of being a photographer. I have been pretty successful and love my career, but their are a few things that stand out negatively.
- Photography is really competitive. It doesn’t matter if you are a serious amateur or a serious pro, you are always trying to get another step ahead and there are hundreds of other people to compete with at every step. Maybe you are trying to win a photo competition or get a published for the first time. But it never changes! I have been published hundreds of times in international publications, but am still trying to get even better stories into more famous magazines. The door is always slammed closed and you try to get your foot in the door. It never ends.
2. You are a small business, not that different from a plumber or electrician. You have a specialized skill and would like to concentrate on the creative side of your work, but instead you need to constantly deal with the business side of small business. I am constantly writing checks and paying bills. I have to take photo jobs I don’t love to pay the studio rent, and all the overhead like equipment. I hate paperwork, but there is also insurance, estimated taxes, and worker’s compensation, etc.
3. Self Employment taxes at 15%. Most people only need to pay 7.5% to Social Security and Medicare, but as a self employed individual, you have to pay both the 7.5% everyone in the US pays, but also the other half your employer normally pays. That is not refundable or diminish-able like other taxes. If you pull $100,000 profit, then $15,000 goes to taxes…..then pay your regular taxes like everyone else.
4. Equipment. I am an equipment junkie. Like many photographers, I like my toys and gadgets. I have got some amazing stuff, but the camera companies keep coming out with more goodies and more mega pixels. I know I don’t need it, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting it. Back in the days of film, you bought a couple Hasselblad 501cm or 503cw and you were set for years. Now I had a Canon 5D, 1DS Mark III, but bought the 5D Mark II, the Mark 3 and the 5Ds…do I buy the Mark IV? No, but would love the extra ISO if offers. What is in store for next year? Let’s not even get into medium format digital. They all break too and the resale values are terrible.
5. All your clients need so much help. It is great my clients need me, but I have non stop questions and things to solve for them. I am freelance, but many of my clients need me full time.
6. The more successful you get, the less time and control you have over each photo. I am shooting lots of catalogs, models and editorial stories, but I have to move on so quickly to the next gig, that I sometimes never even really review the final files. They are usually retouched by someone else and when I see them up on a company’s website, sometimes I see errors and things I would like to have done differently.
Best of luck everyone!