Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Photography to Sell or for the Pleasure?

We've all dreamt of that job, where you can combine pleasure with earning a living - so we can give up that mundane existence at work and I'm no different. I've been trying to sell my photos now since October 2007, when I got my first digital camera, a Canon 400D and signed up to Shutterpoint. As pressures at work got worse and the stress levels increased, I began to think of ways I could earn a living, enough so that I would be able to tell the boss to stick it one day. I'd been through the process before, thinking of things I could do, could I make use of my audit and quality training? Could I start up a mobile computer repair service? Both had been discarded for different reasons. In this new round of musing though, I was considering photography. Specialising in a saturated market though, means that sales are few and far between.
That was when I did some soul searching. Should I continue to photograph what I like, such as landscapes and wildlife, or should I shoot more commercial subjects? I probably have the greatest aptitude for historical architecture, probably from all the practice on holidays, visiting historical sites across Europe. Over the past couple of years though, I've concentrated on improving my landscape photography, to the point, where I think I can hold my own with alot of people and produce images with impact. It doesn't always work out of course, but I can tell when I'm in with a chance. My real passion though is wildlife, although I don't get as much opportunity to practice and I've produced a number of macro images in particular that I'm proud of. It gave me a real buzz to be shortlisted for the 2009 British Wildlife Photography Awards, even though I didn't get any further. Despite that though, it doesn't earn much money and that brings me back to the decision process I went through almost a year ago now. Advertising is where the real money is (although the recent recession has cut many advertising budgets) and anything showing people or human activity, especially children sells well. However, as a landscape photographer, it is almost the antipathy of what I do. To go from cursing under my breath to actively pursuing people would be quite a change for me, not to mention a whole new learning process. Another option would be electronics, food and other similar still life work, but I find such photography soulless. Many excel at it, but it has never really interested me. It was then that I decided, that the day I started photographing purely to make money, instead of photographing what I enjoy, would probably be the same day I put the camera back in its box, never to see the light of day again.
Having been through that thought process, if anyone asked me what they should photograph, my response would be "whatever you enjoy photographing". If you photograph something you enjoy, then there is a greater incentive to learn and improve, ultimately making you a better photographer and in a roundabout way, there is a greater chance of success, albeit, not necessarily in monetary terms. As artists, we are all looking for critical acclaim and while money is nice, I think that is what is important, to be lauded by your peers.


  1. Richard,

    As you stated I to have started this last year Photography as a release of stress and hobby from my Hectic and busy life of being a small business owner. I too have had these same discussions in my mind should I start putting my photos for others to view or possibly sell or not. I know that I am in a learning curve and only doing this as a release but would eventually like to make enough to pickup additional lens, equipment, etc as most do and see where it goes from there.

    I am glad to see that my thoughts are probably not alone in knowing I only like to shoot what I enjoy and if I have to sell my soul to make a living at what I enjoy it will not be done. (Camera will go in a corner). Like you said in your posting, I am an outdoor enthusiast who's love of wildlife has been my ability to stalk and track wildlife since I have been young. Now living for the past 10Years in the natural beauty of NE Wyoming and Western Black Hills, landscape and wildlife is always at my doorstep.

    I appreciate any advice that you have and direction is important as I have always looked to people for advice and suggestions as that is how we strive forward and get better.

    Good Luck and thanks


  2. Thanks for your comment Mark. I think probably the best advice I can give at the moment, is to focus on what you enjoy. If you enjoy what you're doing, then there is a greater incentive to improve and become as good as you can be. Equally, try to develop your own style, once you feel you've reached a stage where you think you know enough to start experimenting. You'll get alot of criticism on the way, as people tend to stick to what they know and are resistant to changing the accepted wisdom. Always listen to advice or suggestions, but the trick is to know when to ignore it after consideration or to say "yep, that's a good idea". However, don't follow advice blindly, otherwise you will end up doing things the same as everyone else and your photography will become a clone, without any individuality. Without people doing things differently, photography as an art will stagnate.