Suggestions for turning a profit : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread's my big question of the week. I'm posting this on a few different forums to see what kind of answers I get. And, please, if there is some ancient thread regarding matters such as this which I have neglected to find in my searches, please direct me to it.

I'm a photography student in college. As such, my bank account is worn ever thinner by my photographic habits. Clearly, my photography is going to have to start paying for itself before long. So here's the big question- how? At current time, being in college and all, I can't exactly turn full-time pro just yet. I've investigated everything from stock to weddings to art galleries and would like to hear some input from others. Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated. Many thanks in advance.

-Dave Munson

-- Dave Munson (, December 17, 2000


Flame me, shame me but here is my take on all this. Good question. What interests you? Depends on where you live. The most practical, people I know of who make real day-to-day money in photography are commercial photographers who shoot the CEO portraits and corporate brochures, the photos needed to accompany magazine articles, the new store openings and so on. While you are still young enough to be humble, try to work as an assistant to a real, live working commercial photographer. You will learn the business and then that day comes when you have to cover something. Product photography-best left to the pros and you won't be getting out in the world. Fine art-awfully difficult. The craft fair circle-big upfront expenses. Newspapers-low pay for stringers. Individual portrait work-clients can be high maintenance and demanding; legal considerations. WORK WITH SOMEONE GOOD AND PRACTICAL AND LEARN FROM THEM.

-- David Stein (, December 18, 2000.

There is an old joke in professional photography circles that is probably truer today than it ever has been. Here is the joke:

"How do you make a million dollars in photography? Start with two!"

I've been doing it as a full time professional, and even though I do okay, I goota be honest and point out that there are about ten thousand better ways to make a decent living these days.

Consider doing it only if you have a strong entrepeneureal bent, like working for yourself, are willing to bet years of your life, get along well with people, are an avid self promoter, have solid financing and a business plan you can stick too...AND (and it is a very important "AND") this is the only thing you really want to do and are willing to sacrifice a lot of what other people consider a normal life to achieve this ambition.

-- Ellis Vener (, December 18, 2000.

My feeling is that the easiest way to be paid for photographs is to submit them as a package with an article to local or specialist magazines. Publications covering the local area for tourists, as well as adventure sports rags and other hobby magazines are often crying out for well-written text accompanied by competently exposed and focussed colour photos. They may not be as lucrative per image, but they are often more flexible about submission formats and many will welcome contributions from an enthusiastic nobody.

-- Struan Gray (, December 18, 2000.

I made a lot of money in college with photography but that was in an ancient time (1960's) -- I suspect that what worked then is no longer valid but here goes: Sports teams, game action shots (best sold to parents) , dances, parties, club groups, faculty members children, drama student portfolios, drama productions, weddings, engagement portraits etc., any event that lends itself to photographic mementos. Check the local business permits as well as the school policies because if you don't have all these covered, someone is likely to shut you down quickly. Other posters are correct, the bulk of the purchasers of professional photography are for business and commercial use and most of those doors will be closed to you.

-- C. W. Dean (, December 18, 2000.

When I was in grad school I tried shooting actors' headshots, being in New York where actors are legion and are generally poorer than photographers (maybe--lots of artists contending for that status), the infrastructure of labs dedicated to this work is there, and the work is potentially more interesting than weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, and such. I found I could do okay with this, but eventually academic life took over, and it would really have taken at least a year of aggressive hustling for jobs to develop a steady clientele. That is probably true if you're trying to break into any new market.

Other possibilities along these lines are copy photography for artists and libraries, particularly if you do large format, and event photography for your university. A good friend of mine has done both of these as a student to support his LF landscape habit.

-- David Goldfarb (, December 18, 2000.

Dave: I would do the type of photography where you can sell the prints alone, without any framing or matting. I do the art shows, but it took me a while to build up a good stock of prints, purchase my display frames and canopy, etc. I have more than $1,000 in my canopy and display panels and covers. I am afraid to count up what I have invested in frames and mats, plus all the extra prints. You need at least a dozen large prints, plus many smaller ones to do a show. I would do activities as C.W. suggested, where you can shoot the prints, deliver them unframed and take the money and run. The custom labs have package prices for dance and ballgame pictures in volume. The price is reasonable and you still have room to make a decent profit. This will mean the use of smaller format negs instead of the beloved 8x10. You may be able to sell a few prints through galleries, but it is slow going. There is always room for a good photographer to shoot activities, club meetings, PR pictures. Once you get a few jobs under your belt, I feel that the jobs will begin coming to you. As Ellis stated, you will have to be willing to give up a lot of evenings and weekends if you want to make it work.


-- Doug Paramore (, December 18, 2000.

Thanks for the quick responses. I've actually put a lot of thought into doing headshots for actors and musicians here, as Ohio University has very prominent theatre and music programs. The ample frats and sororities on campus also seem to hold some potential. I'll have to test the waters a little when I head back to school at the beginning of January. In terms of formats, the largest camera I'm currently taking to school is my trusty Mamiya 645, so it's not like I'll have to push my 8x10 or 4x5 aside to do these things (heck, I love my Nikon). As far as sacrificing my nights and weekends- no problem for me whatsoever. As one of the seemingly few sober students on campus, I always have plenty of free time that I'd happily devote to alternative photographic endeavors.

Thanks again for the suggestions....I'll be interested to hear what others have to contribute in the next day or so.

-- Dave Munson (, December 18, 2000.


I will give you the same advice I recetly gave to my son. Study hard, get good grades, go to Law School, (don't practice if you want) but then you can do anything that you want. IF photography does not work out, you have a great education to fall back on.

Make lots of money and practice photography as a hobby.

For what it is worth, that is my recommendation.

Happy Holidays,


-- Bill Smithe (, December 22, 2000.

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