Most freelance photographers spend much of their time looking for new business, which can come as a surprise to new graduates entering the marketplace.
“Basic courses in photography cover equipment, processes, and techniques,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor. “Learning good business and marketing skills is important and some bachelor’s degree programs offer courses focusing on them.”
Some? Seriously? I can’t imagine the irresponsibility of a school sending a graduate off with a diploma without a skill so key as business. Perhaps this is why we find our markets diluted with hungry, idealistic photographers being churned out only to find there isn’t a market for them.
They’re educated, they’re smarter, more savvy, and by default, artistically talented. But having the skill and passion to create visually stunning images is not enough to survive as a photographer. There is a critical need for business savvy – contracts, accounting, marketing, etc.
Setting the camera on Program and hoping for the best isn’t the solution, nor is ignoring that pile of bills and thinking elves will pay them and send out your invoices.
Business Skills Must Be Emphasized
So, what’s to be done? The school of thought at some point was that starry-eyed students would flock to institutes of higher learning under the promise of education leading to higher dollars in our profession.
But look at these numbers from the Labor Department: “Median annual wages of salaried photographers were $29,440 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $20,620 and $43,530. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,920, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,430.”
New Generation Must Embrace the Challenge
There is a critical need for a new generation of photographers, visionaries who can make a difference. Whether they come to us through an institute of higher learning or as an apprentice of an experienced photographer, they are a necessity.
Even newly graduated freelancers are professionals and are worth the money they make in the same way that a young lawyer charges for his or her time.
We are business people, part of an industry. We want a good standard of living. That’s why it’s vital that schools teaching photography recognize their responsibility to teach the business skills necessary for their graduates to succeed.