I’ve noticed from my web stats that quite a few people (I would guess those who are considering photography as an alternative career) will Google something like “what is a typical day for a photographer”. We do have a previous article on this under the For Photographers category, but the answer is and remains that there is no such thing as a typical day, particularly for photographers who work on location. And of course the work is very different depending on the kind of photography you undertake, portrait photography is very different to commercial photography, for example.
My educational articles are couched in the context of what I do, given that I am a location portrait photographer (who also has a dedicated animal photography side to my business). Taking pictures is usually a very small part of a location photographer’s working week, it’s probably about 5% of how I spend my week. the rest breaks down into the many tasks which one has to do in order to run, market, and maintain a business. Those who are considering turning to photography as a career often forget this; they might be used to their day job, where their employer will have separate people or departments to take care of things like IT, marketing, accounts, typing, new business acquisition etc etc. The bottom line is that if you are a photographer you are likely to be the only pair of hands available (it is very unlikely that you will have the overhead to employ other people, apart from an accountant) and therefore those tasks will fall to you. That is on top of the post-production, meetings, travel, and product design which is part of each photography assignment (taking the pictures is just a very small part of each project). So it is fair to say that most social photographers like myself spend many hours each day at their desk and it’s not uncommon for the working day to end on the wrong side of midnight.
Let’s take one day last week as an example. I was in my office at the reasonable hour of 8 AM, and throughout the day my work consisted of admin: I had both of my websites to back up, then I had to install the latest versions of the software which runs both of my blogs, followed by some tweaking to get things to work properly. I then upgraded some of my existing editing software to the latest versions, costing me around £90. I then had to order some marketing templates which came to about £150. I discovered we were low on ink so that was another £75 gone that morning. Our gift cards needed updating for the animal photography business so I had those to design and order which meant shelling out another £130. I was also very behind on my accounts, but I decided I couldn’t quite face looking at January’s outlay (around £2,000 to cover Convention attendance alone!) so I decided to leave that for a few days. I had a couple of enquiries from work experience applicants to deal with then I grabbed a quick sandwich at my desk at lunchtime. Here and there I’m trying to work on my Associate distinction. But most such Panels are a couple of years in the making, and require a huge amount of time. I carried on working on a few of the images I was thinking of including and prepared some for a preliminary test print run. I took a break from this mid-afternoon to do a bit of postproduction on an outstanding shoot, then I started work on calculating this year’s revised pricing which meant cross referencing the increased charges which have come into force from my various suppliers. It was now 7 PM and fortunately someone else was making dinner! I realised I hadn’t ordered the right sized envelopes for the new gift cards, so I had that to deal with. I then discovered a couple of the functions of my recently updated Blogs weren’t working so the software had to be tweaked again – there goes my evening walk! I then remembered to submit an online quote to check the latest business insurance rates. At this point it was 10 PM and the bathroom needed cleaning as with the other domestic chores one has to find time for.
So I think it’s fair to say that the notion that a photographer’s world is glamorous has been put to rest. Yes, the work is often very challenging, but it can be fun, and we love what we do – but be aware there is a huge amount of admin that goes with it. I think that is the norm for anybody who runs their own ventures. The reality is that few newcomers consider the reality of the business – you must be content with the fact that your life will be one long marketing exercise and you will not have much time off, if any. This is fundamentally why the profession is suited to more mature individuals – you may have noticed that there really aren’t that many ‘young’ photographers (bar the fashion photography world) who have established a workable business.
By contrast to the admin described above, a few days later I had the great pleasure of spending an entire day listening to and talking with top photographer Bjorn Thomassen, when I attended one of his inspirational lighting workshops. Days like this do make our world quite special – and incredibly enjoyable. The great thing about being a photographer is that, despite the stress of owning a business, you will so often look forward to the jobs in your diary. Every job, and every client, is unique (at least they are as far as I am concerned) and will require your unique input. This is what I live for, there is nothing quite like seeing the joy on a customer’s face when you present them with images they will love and treasure.