What It Takes to Make It in Photography

Accomplished artists give advice to aspiring youngsters

By Lori Harel
Epoch Times Staff
Created: August 1, 2011 Last Updated: August 2, 2011
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LUMINOUS: Antelope Canyon, Ariz., photographed by a highly accomplished photographer, pulls the viewer in through composition and special light effects. 'Driftwood and Glowing Sandstone, Antelope Canyon,' Alain Briot, 2004. (Courtesy of Alain Briot)

LUMINOUS: Antelope Canyon, Ariz., photographed by a highly accomplished photographer, pulls the viewer in through composition and special light effects. 'Driftwood and Glowing Sandstone, Antelope Canyon,' Alain Briot, 2004. (Courtesy of Alain Briot)

NEW YORK—How many photographers are there in the United States? The statistics say there were 152,000 photographers in 2008, and the numbers are projected to grow 12 percent to 169,500 by 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To the question of how many photographers there are, responds, “As many as stars in the sky!!! But only a few are professional photographers who can capture quality photos.”

And that is becoming a major hurdle for professional photography, according to Scott Frances, an accomplished photographer of architecture and design, who was recently interviewed by The Epoch Times.

When it is said that competition is good for consumers, is it really? What does it imply?

These days adequate labor is expensive. Obtaining or having experience is expensive. Investing in proper tools and equipment is expensive. Being legit is expensive. All of the above produces quality, so quality is … yes, you got it: Quality is expensive.

Take faux painting of interiors for example. A few years back, it was a craft of a few who charged a pretty penny to glaze walls in lavish mansions. Quality was there for the affluent.

Then competition came in and changed that formula with do-it-yourself books, which were adopted by some paint companies. They sold specialty brushes, odd-looking tools, and ready-made glaze mixes with brochures that explained how to use those odd tools, visually instructing readers on how it’s done.

How many blotched, uneven, grotesque paint jobs had to be redone by professional faux painters who were called by hysterical homeowners afterward? I’m not sure if there are any statistics, but the number of unhappy homeowners also may have reached the number of the stars!

And if these blotchy walls were accepted as up to par, well … then the overall standards of beauty were lowered as a whole. Competition is fed by budgets. Budgeting affects integrity, and lack of integrity affects quality. Is lack of quality good for the consumer?

According to Frances, “There is a lot of pressure of this economy. It has been going on for a long time, and there are more and more and more photographers coming along.

“There is a huge amount of competition coming from the bottom, and there is a usual amount of pressure from the top for prices … and there is a great sacrifice of quality these days,” Frances said.

He added, “People don’t care if it’s great, so you see some terrible terrible photography out there. There is less interest these days in great quality.”

To the question of what protects the artists and their integrity, Frances replied, “Photography, it’s sort of a lone-wolf business, where it’s just a bunch of people running their own businesses not knowing what the other one is doing, [not] getting together, and [not] agreeing that, look, we are not going to give this away anymore.

“A lot of young people call me coming out of school. There are a lot of schools pumping out tens of thousands of photography students every year. I keep my door open, I like to give advice. Sadly, I often find myself having to say that this is a tough situation. It’s a very very difficult business, a very difficult business model, and it is getting worse and worse.”

Frances compared the situation with girls wanting to become models: “The problem is that, look, it’s an attractive field, it’s like how many girls are to grow up and become a model, how many girls are really going to be models? Not that many.

“Usually for girls who want to be models, they find out pretty quickly that it’s not going to happen, but for people who are coming out as photographers, they are spending a lot of money on education, they are spending a lot of money on equipment, they are spending many years assisting. So by the time they are 30 or 35, they are fully invested, and it’s probably not going to happen. And that’s a tough thing because where do you go from there?”

Some reach 35 years old, and it seems as if their dreams are coming true. Frances said that those may say, “Let’s give it a few more years.”

He continued: “The next thing you know you are 40. You have no resume. The road is littered with road kill. Hardly anyone actually gets his career off the ground. What happens? A lot of them go to other aspects of the industry: retouching, photo editors, other peripheral things.” At least they stay in the industry, Frances commented.

Analyzing the Problem

Alain Briot, an accomplished landscape and nature photographer, states on his website, “When it comes to developing a personal style what matters most is finding out who we are, what we like and dislike and what we want to do with the time we can devote to our chosen medium.”

Briot came to understand the lack of the search for self-awareness during his schooling years of studying photography in France,

“During the discussions we had as students we forgot one crucial element: ourselves. We focused on others, on the Masters, on the recognized, the accepted, the artists whose work was collected by museums. What we needed to do was focus on ourselves. We needed to think about what motivated us to study the arts, be it painting, drawing, or photography,” Briot writes on his website.

David Brommer, an experienced professional photographer who runs the free event space at B&H, the famous store for photography equipment in Manhattan, said similar things during a class on finding your personal style.

Next…Brommer has his students asked themsevles why they want to be a photographer


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