Is Being ‘Just’ A Photographer Still Enough in 2022?

Once upon a time, we learned a skill, practiced it, perfected it, and that would be our main area of ‚Äč‚Äčexpertise and our way of making a living. In 2022, however, it would seem that mastering your camera, taking photos, editing them, and then applying that skill might not be all you need to be a successful photographer in today’s climate.

Video content is king

We are all aware of the push towards video on popular platforms like Instagram, which would compete directly with YouTube and TikTok. Photographers are embracing video if we want to get ahead and stay there, whether we like it or not.

So what does this mean for a mere old photographer in the moving image landscape of social media? Is this the expected new skill you must need to land jobs, meet or exceed customer expectations, and market yourself to an audience or grow your business and online presence?

Let’s discuss this further, using my personal experience as an amateur photographer who can now see a future as a creative entrepreneur in photography. Oh, I should probably mention that I don’t get paid to take pictures. Read on, and I’ll explain.

The photographer’s predicament

I am the kind of photographer who evolves in a very difficult niche. I do not do portraits, portraits, weddings, events or families, nor do I take pictures of scenic landscapes that would be considered art. I have never been exhibited or printed in any publication. Just to make it harder and more difficult financially, I shoot exclusively on 35mm and have no idea how a digital camera works. I know, I sound like the least ideal person to hire, and that’s because technically I am.

As you can see here, I enjoy a lonely shopping cart, an old sign, a tangled pipe, and various other extremely mundane topics that almost everyone misses. These subject choices are kryptonite killing any chance my anti-photography will compete with more traditional aesthetic choices in such a hyper-competitive industry. For 10 years I walked around doing my thing and didn’t get a bar of recognition or consider it anything other than the weird thing I did and enjoyed.

So how can I earn an income?

Fast forward to 2022 and I am now making between $500 and $700 a month from various sources of income, all related to my photography, but not directly because of it. These isolated photographs would struggle to earn that amount, and I’m the first to admit it.

So what is the source of the numbers I provided above? The answer is simple: YouTube, mainly. Creating a YouTube channel is the best and most rewarding thing I’ve done for my photography and exposure, no pun intended. For the past 14 months, I’ve been uploading videos almost every week with great help from a partner who picks up all the slack in the areas I’m missing. We became a team and together built a channel that is proving somewhat profitable with scalable growth on the horizon, provided we stay consistent, of course.

I’m not Chelsea Northrup with millions of views so my income is coming from a few different places right now: Google AdSense is one, sponsorship paid for videos, Patreon, a small amount from impression sales and now recently writing these articles for the dear readers of Fstoppers. It’s all very time consuming, but those are things that I really enjoy, so it’s a win-win through my lens. I’ve also started a podcast, which I haven’t monetized yet, but it means I have the opportunity to create long-form content that people can listen to while driving or working and continue to build my connection with my public.

I recently interviewed Sophia Carey, a 22-year-old London-based photographer who has many sources of income centering on her skills in portrait photography and design. Sophia has grown her business and diversified her income through income streams such as Skillshare, where she creates courses in portrait photography, brand building, and using color theory to enhance your work. Video is now an important part of educating people online and that’s another reason why getting used to becoming more confident in front of the camera and improving your video skills is not only worthwhile, but also vital. and lucrative.

It’s time to press record

All of these sources of income wouldn’t exist if I didn’t start on YouTube, so technically they all come from video and being on camera as a photographer. People appreciate education and entertainment, and I was able to monetize this business to hopefully cover the costs and walk out with a little in my hand to continue creating more.

Without YouTube, I wouldn’t have this audience, so that begs the question: is video the best way to grow your photography business and earn a living or make it a side hustle? Instagram reels are pushed and more of us watch video content, wanting to see the person behind the camera and connect with them even more than their photography. While this doesn’t suit a lot of people who are camera shy or want their work to stand on its own without them as a “personality”, it certainly suits someone like me.

I think with practice or a little tweaking we can all find ways to present ourselves to our audience in new and different ways or maybe open new doors for ourselves other than the traditional “I’m paying you to taking photos of this “model” that we all have is equivalent to being a professional photographer. While we all complain about the unfairness of algorithms and the difficulty of getting noticed online for our work, you have to admit that now, more than ever, we all have a chance to create the career we dream of. It depends on so many factors that I will leave for another article.

Social media certainly has its drawbacks, however, doing the ironic job of making us more connected but more alone, and it will inevitably get worse. So why not use these platforms to share and connect, in the true sense of the word, while giving your work more of a voice, a story, a face to the photographer?

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