The Struggles

Lately I have been feeling extremely stressed about trying to be a photographer.
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I have been shooting for years now, spent a long time perfecting my portfolio and learning this trade. Had a couple gigs shooting events, a couple wedding gigs, and a couple people actually willing to hire(pay) me for a portrait session but considering the size of my portfolio and how long I have been shooting now(6+ years), I have started losing all of the passion that drove me in the beginning of this journey. Everyone wants to shoot with me, but no one wants to pay me. I can’t keep up with the trends, the technology, constantly posting things on social media when I need to work full time jobs to pay for life because I am not making enough as a photographer to sustain myself.

I quite frequently ask myself, “What am I doing wrong? Why doesn’t anyone want to hire me? How do I market myself better? Is it my art, or do people just not like me in general?”
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My dreams and aspirations feel extremely out of reach at this point, and I am questioning whether or not I should even continue trying to achieve this.

Everyone I try to talk to about this says the same thing…”You’re work is amazing, don’t give up, you’ll get there. Don’t give up on your dreams, it’ll happen.”
As much as I would love to believe them and appreciate their kind words, all I hear is blah blah blah. I have been trying for so long, I followed everyone’s advice, I quit my day job and tried for literally YEARS to make it as a photographer and just keep end up having to go back to work because I wouldn’t be able to eat if I didn’t.

I am not looking for “fame” – I am just looking to be able to do what I love, and only what I love. I just want to be able to put food on the table from having regular photography gigs, and from print sales. My feeds fill up with more and more photographers, all able to afford the newest gear, constantly talking about amazing clients and shitty clients, and I can’t help but be discouraged. What am I supposed to do? I can’t keep up, I don’t follow trends, and there are just SO MANY photographers these days, what is going to make someone even hire me over someone else…especially when I have such a weird style.

I am not sure if this is just a rant, or a cry for help…
Is there anyone out there that has any advice for me besides don’t give up?

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4 Responses To  “The Struggles”

  • Just fully read your entire post as initially Ihe page partially loaded. Again it sounds all too much of the same struggles I have spent thousands on equipment have had people ask me to shoot for them but never for free. I have quit my job 3 times in the last 4 years and spent two years unemployed learning as much as I could about photography putting myself out to what I thought were the right places but have had a picture put up at a Zoo from a Flickr post again unpaid. I am starting to look more and more into stock image sites and already made a few sales that way but tooo was discouraged as not many photos were accepted or they were would have 1000 views and no buys I find if something isn’t necessarily working at least it can gain you exposure. Also I joined viewbug recently and there are 100s of contests that once you add photos sometimes they enter you automatically into some and I see images like yours win all the time. I shoot birds and nature what you shoot is more unique and fits the American Horror story, Edgar Allen Poe, America Mcgees Alice sort of genre and I know there is a lot of desire for that kind of work .
    One last recommendation is maybe start a Gofundme or kickstarter campaign and put goal of wanting to create a hardcover book with a portfolio of your photos to sell and advertise you never know how much response you could get if you use gofundme you make whatever is donated regardless of goal but with kickstarter you need to reach a goal. I started a gofundme days ago just to get some help with some psychiatric evaluation, and help with bills during rough times and already in a week had over 500$ in contributions. I have purchased quite a few art books and even have one by an artist floria sigismondi who has somewhat similar work to yours and has shot many celebrities such as Marilyn Manson. Also checkout http://beinart.org/ it is a collective of surreal art from paintings to photography and they are always looking for artist to exhibit they are booked into early 2017 for exhibitions but always are willing to take submissions for consideration to be placed in a gallery or featured on there site if anything a lot of great art and inspiring artists there.
    Overall good luck on your journey and continue to share your passion with the world.

  • Hey,
    I love what you do. I just read your post and wanted to share an idea, though it might sound foolish or pointless…
    I’m a nature photographer. I’m not currently trying to live only from this activity, as a matter of fact I just succeeded in finding a new job that, hopefully, will allow me to fulfill some of my aspirations. Photography may become a secondary activity, if I apply myself.
    My point is, when you’re a nature photographer, you would rather take only nature pictures, but at some point you have to consider shooting some bloody humans, to make a living 😉
    You, on the other hand, seem to take pleasure in shooting humans, and you’re great at it ! But your work actually inspires me, in the way you shoot forests for instance. I also really loved your owl pictures.
    From what I read here and there on your fb, you like to travel. Maybe you should try to look into nature photography for a while. I don’t know what opportunities you would have in the USA, but I guess there are many travel and nature magazines willing to pay for an original look at the local natural parks, or a travel report…
    Anyway, this is a very wild guess, but sometimes doing something new is the best way to get back on your feet.
    Here is a french photographer I like, maybe you’ll feel inspired : http://www.alexandredeschaumes.com/

    A quick word about your website : maybe this is not your preferred way to get in touch with people and find jobs, but people need websites because they don’t want to bother talking to others. My advice is to make your “about me” page more attractive. You say you have experience shooting events and weddings. All right, can you show us your work ? And you’re going to start doing workshops… If you’ve already tried that, show some pictures of the best sessions you had. If not, you should release your programme, set a first session, open the reservations…

    That’s all I have for now. I have to tell you that your work is gorgeous and you shouldn’t quit photography, because living of your passion is essential and doing a job you don’t like really sucks. Sorry if this part sounds like more blablablah :)

    Bonne chance !

    Matthias, from New Caledonia

  • Hi Tara.
    I feel your struggle, I really do. I haven’t been shooting seriously for as long as you have, so I don’t have a solid portfolio like you do. But the struggle is the same for most of us these days. There are few clients willing to pay for our work. I think it is because most people really don’t appreciate the work a photographer puts down for the shots we deliver. They don’t necessarily understand that it is so much more than just pressing the shutter.

    I really don’t have any advice as I am just thinking of starting my own business next to my full time job. As I also, like you, need to keep my job. And most days I am so tired after work that I can’t even stand the thought of coming home shooting or editing. And because of that sometimes my work is really half-assed.

    I don’t know the tax-rules where you live, but the fact that almost 35% of our income here needs to go to taxes doesn’t make it any easier. To be able to live, we have to push the prices to a level where paying clients can’t afford our rates.

    I realize this probably isn’t really helping you at all, but at least you know you are not alone in this struggle. I truly love your work and hope you catch a break!

  • Tara,

    Have you tried getting your work in galleries? Your work is definitely in the fine art area as opposed to family portrait. Galleries might get you exposure to the kind of people who would be interested in hiring you for a fine art shoot. Also you may be able to sell some of the work you’ve already done.

    You’re right about there being so many photographers. It’s a lot easier to get in with digital than it was when i started in the 70s. You have to find a way to separate from the herd.

    One problem I see with your portfolio is that all the models are young. They photograph beautifully but they aren’t the demographic that has money to spend on fine art. Don’t replace what you have but add some older models, in their 40s and 50s. That’s the demographic that has the disposable income to pay for your work.

    Just my thoughts. Hope they are of some value.

    Oh and the shot of the girl in the ballet slippers is absolutely stunning and belongs in a gallery, if not an art museum!

    Best of luck
    Stu

    https://www.facebook.com/stugillisphotographer

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