The most significant benefit of being a photographer is that photographers generally love photo-taking (this is pretty obvious). Doing something you are passionate about is something many people are dreaming of.
Generally, most clients are courteous to photographers since they need the photographs from the photographers. So, it seems not so wrong, right?
However, we have to face the reality that things are not always sweet. There are plenty of disadvantages, whether insignificant or critical, of working as a photographer.
Fashion photography is most probably one of the most desirable fields of photography. We are lured by the prospect of working with the hottest and trendiest people out there. what does not kill you makes you stronger.
Fashion photography is a genre of photography that focuses on displaying clothes or other fashion items.
Said like that, it seems so bleak compared to its magnetic power. What started as a commercial need of brands to illustrate their collections became a galaxy in the last 50 years on its revolving around a new sun, this season trendiness, and full of stars; stylists, fashion editors, fashion brands, hairstylists, make-up artists and obviously models.
You cannot shoot a fashion spread without a crew. It is collaborative work where connections are way more important for a photographer than their lighting skills.
A career in fashion photography requires, well, a lot of things. First of all, if you want a real shot at it, you need to be in one of the fashion capitals, Paris, New York, London, Milan, where fashion is happening and where you can gain access to a crew.
To help you bypass the queue in front of the door of editors or fashion houses, you are required to have patience or connections (ideally both. If not, you might have to consider cryonics).
It demands that your favourite dish is pasta out of a can, as you might not see any real money for quite a long while.
It calls for a lot of self-control as you often work with prima donnas. Finally, it entails a lot of will and creativity to build a portfolio with a recognizable style.
Disadvantages Of Being A Fashion Photographer
Exploitation From Friends
Some friends are more than willing to invite their photographer friend to their parties because he can help them capture the moments for free. It doesn’t mean all these friends are super cheapskate, but, for sure, they don’t know the actual cost of professional photography (cost of equipment, energy and time required for post-production work) is very high.
The most insulting thing some friends can do to a photographer is to suggest to him to help them with some photoshoots for free so that he can “build up his portfolio”.
Unfortunately, they are belittling his existing portfolio and think that no client is engaging his photography services.
Of course, all these are probably unintentional and may benefit a photographer if he’s new to the trade.
Clients And Models Set Their Ridiculous Expectations.
Clients may be on purpose or not by not reading the service agreement. They may then throw ridiculous expectations during or after the shoot, which may sour the relationship.
For example, some clients will request the raw files that most professional photographers would not provide unless agreed upon for a commercial shoot. There are two main reasons why they want the raw files.
Firstly, they want to have a “memory of the actual shoot”, which is expected but, unfortunately, will likely tarnish the reputation of the photographer somehow in the short or long run. Secondly, they know that professional editing is expensive.
Thus they want to either do the editing work independently or send the files to some cheap editing services to do shoddy work since non-professional photographers couldn’t tell the quality anyway.
There are many other misconceptions and myths in professional photography that will lead to all the wrong expectations.
You’re Never In Many Photos.
People always ask you to take group photos or photos for an event, which means you’re not usually in many images.
You’re Incredibly Picky With Images.
You’re picky with the quality of pictures; you want someone to take a picture like you would, meaning it’s not easy to let someone else take the picture because it probably won’t be right to you or as good as you may want, which is something you have to learn to accept.
Good Cameras And Gear Are Expensive.
You don’t need to have a good camera to be good but, with today’s technology, people want the best possible quality they can have, especially if you are selling images.
This means that you have to fork out a good amount of money for the equipment needed.
Just for an idea of the cost associated: a Nikon entry-level full-frame DSLR camera body runs about $1,500 currently (Nikon’s current sale price), a 50mm lens runs about somewhere in the range of $100-150, a decent zoom lens will set you to make another $500-800 minimum.
Meaning that to start, you’re going to be shelling out $2,100 at the low end, not including batteries, flashes, and other accessories.
Many lenses can easily exceed thousands of dollars. Being a photographer comes with a price tag.
Many People Think, “It’s The Camera.”
While the camera may take some good images in the automatic setting, the camera can only do so much. Try to take a picture while in the automated environment when there is low light without the flash going off. You most likely can’t. A photographer will know to drop the shutter speed, pump up the ISO, and drop the aperture if needed. Good photographers think of different perspectives, learn how to frame a good photo, and know how important the composition is. While the camera may be able to do many things, the camera cannot do it without knowing how to manipulate the settings to capture what they want to achieve.
People Overlook Photographers
Do you know that iconic image of your favourite sports team or player, well do you know the photographer’s name? Most of you won’t be able to answer this, proving my point. People recognize great images but not the artist behind the image, even though his/her name may be on the image.
Sometimes You Want To Enjoy It As Well.
People sometimes ask you to take photos of the event just because you’re a photographer. While sometimes you don’t mind, other times you would like to enjoy the game or party like everyone else.
There Are Nasty Clients.
A photographer may be lucky most of the time, but not always. Sometimes, there will be nasty clients who are ridiculous. Some of those who have low IQ or/and EQ may even try to spoil the photographer’s reputation via social media even though he has done nothing wrong at all.
For instance, a return client hired me to do a wedding shoot for her brother. For event shoots, as mentioned to the client and also stated on my service agreement and through my website, there’s an only essential enhancement (colour, exposure correction) and not skin-retouching (advanced editing) that would require a considerable amount of time for professional work on every photograph.
After sending them the photographs, her sister-in-law then requested me to do additional editing and quoted her the usual rate for professional editing. She didn’t reply and started a false accusation on a Facebook group for budget bridal, saying that all my photographs were “bad angle” and “wrong focus”, without posting any of my work as evidence.
There Are Nasty Co-workers (Models And Hmuas)
Many photographers do collaboration work with talents to produce good artwork for their passion or to do marketing. Many skills have approached me after seeing my work, and thus I have encountered some very nasty ones.
For example, an aspiring model was pissed off because I didn’t want to do any free shoot for her. She then sowed discord between me and an HMUA by twisting words (and tone) from the stories I had shared with her, which involved the HMUA. She continued badmouthing me while working with others when I had done absolutely nothing wrong to her. I had already helped her with two albums of professional work before I realized something’s wrong with her character.
The mentioned HMUA, who I used to work very closely with, in return, started sowing discord between other mutual friends and me. The first time I realized she was backstabbing me was when a model confronted me after speaking in private.
It’s normal for co-workers (photographers and HMUAs) to have a debrief or discussion about the shoots and models to improve and judge whether they should work with the models/talents again. The HMUA asked the model about the shoot suddenly to arouse her curiosity and told her that “Skai said don’t expect too many good photos”. The model didn’t even realize the HMUA was intentionally trying to hurt our relationship.
Some Clients May Have Doubts About Paying The Booking Fee.
While it’s essential for clients to place a booking fee (deposit) to secure the timeslot of the photographer, some of them will hesitate to pay upfront. They are afraid that the photographer would “run away” with the money even though the photographer has an excellent reputation to maintain after spending so much time, effort, and money to set up the website and social media profiles and have large portfolios testimonials from previous clients.
They are likely not going to think in the photographer’s position that they (clients) are unknowns who may find another (probably cheaper?) photographer after confirmation, which will waste the photographer’s time and cause loss of income rejecting other clients’ requests. Unfortunately, there are stories of photographers (and service providers in other related fields) who have spoiled the market and clients’ trust. They are very rare, but they still exist.
Photographers Get Weird Requests.
If a photographer were to reply to all messages/emails, it would drain his time and energy. Not responding is terrible, while replying with a short “yes/no” answer may be harmful. Somehow, a photographer may receive too many weird requests that he cannot respond to or reply appropriately.
People may approach a photographer to ask him to retouch their photos to be “rewarded” by having the permission to add the edited photographs into his portfolio, which he doesn’t need. The pictures’ copyright belongs to the original photographer who has captured them and not the retoucher or the subject inside the photographs. It is also an indirect insult that the photographer’s portfolio isn’t good enough.
Random strangers may approach photographers for advice or even doing surveys regarding photography. The photographers may want to help but are likely to be overstretched.
Many Models And Hmuas Don’t Cooperate Fully.
There are chances that the photographer has to work with inexperienced models and HMUAs, and some will be full of themselves. Some of them may have done a few photoshoots with random photographers who usually don’t care much about the procedures as long as the models can show some cleavages during the shoot.
Eventually, the newbies are being led to think that photoshoots can be done quickly without much planning. The most common problem from models is that they don’t think it’s necessary to show the outfits to be used for the photoshoots; in (usual) cases, they are supposed to provide the companies. Whereas new HMUAs may have their preferred comfortable environments for doing their work, even for outdoor shoots.
Ideas May Be Stolen.
Most people don’t realize that ideas are important assets of a photographer. Photography services do provide ideas (or solutions), which many photographers may have overlooked.
When a client or model approaches a photographer, the photographer may propose a unique concept for the photoshoot or develop a unique idea that suits the model. The photographer’s pictures may be stolen, such that the person can use them, with or without modification, with other cheaper photographers.
There was once when a staff from a big brand approached me; she requested me to come out with an idea for their commercial shoot so that the company would decide whether to use my photography services or not. I turned her down.
Not Everyone Appreciates The Photographer’s Photography Skill.
Most people are looking only at prices and not the personal touch of the photographer. Many people also think photography is solely about clicking the shutter button. Most people cannot tell the quality of photos, and they only want photographs to be taken. Eventually, most photographers have to get used to the fact that their work is not being appreciated.
Some People Think Photographs Don’t Need To Be Edited.
Since not everyone can tell the quality of photographs, most people are clueless about post-production work. They may suggest that the photographers not have to edit the pictures before sending them.
DSLRs are potent tools, but they are not smart enough to know what sets the photographers to want. Even the auto flash using the technology, known as through-the-lens (TTL), may fail to produce the “correct” exposure. Therefore, most photographers’ work will need to be processed to be “perfect” before sending it to them.
Photographs straight from the cameras may have their colour tones added. However, the raw pictures won’t look as good as what professional photographers will produce. They require at least essential enhancement by the photographers to look professional and unique.
Photo-editing requires time and effort. If someone thinks it’s unnecessary, they will never appreciate the photographer’s talent and are likely not willing to pay a reasonable price for the photography services.
Irregular Meal Time
As most of the event shoots, such as gala dinner or wedding, are held during regular mealtime, photographers are likely to take their meals at weird timing (early or late) on days with on-site jobs.
Even though many clients are very friendly and want the photographers to take some food during the shoot, most responsible photographers would not want to miss any good moment/shot during the event.
Will a responsible photographer sit down comfortably and enjoy the food with the guests when he’s being paid to capture good photographs? Of course, in particular situations, the corporate clients have catered food for him without the photographer’s knowledge. When all the guests (not many kids) are busy eating (can’t snap any photograph), it will be different.
Then, the photographer may be busy throwing food inside his mouth and risk having indigestion. For example, I may take 45 minutes for my usual meals, but I will likely finish it within 10 minutes during event shoots. As for portrait photoshoots, the golden hours (sunrise and sunset) are crucial. It takes time to set up and dismantle the equipment after the photoshoots. Therefore, mealtime would be irregular as well.
Photography Equipment Will Wear And Tear.
Equipment easily gets worn off over time or can be dropped accidentally. Even the shutter button of a DSLR has a lifespan. Replacements of parts may not be worth the money, so photographers may need to get a new set. It’s about money again. Replace, and replacement of parts can cost hundreds of bucks easily.
Photography Equipment Is Heavy.
A basic set up for an event shoot like a Canon 6D (lightest full-frame body at a period) with Canon 24-70mm F2.8 II lens and a Canon 600 EX-RT Speedlite can weigh near 2kg. Imagine you have to hold it up for a long duration and even on a single hand when you need to change the direction of light to produce better-looking photographs.
At times, when the venue is too crowded, you have to keep the camera by your side, and thus, you will be supporting it with a single hand. You may not be able to leave the camera hanging over your neck if anyone hit it accidentally, and thus your writing will be holding it most of the time in such a situation. I have injured my right hand from bisect to the wrist a few times.
For portraiture shoot, the basic setup will require a few light modifiers such as umbrellas, softboxes and light stands. There are also smaller items such as adapters and triggers. The total weight of equipment is usually over 10kg unless a photographer is going for natural light casual shooting.
Many photographers will usually bring an extra camera body and lens along just in case for paid work.
By reading the problems mentioned above, all aspiring and current photographers can take note and try to prevent the scenarios. While the market is highly congested and all photographers try their best to cut the pie, every photographer should not do anything to damage the market further.