Is it possible to be a full-time photographer in the media era?

Written by Dat Vinh Tran Pham

Most people would say being a full-time photographer in the digital age is hard to provide financial stability. Yes, as a photographer, I agree with it; however, it is possible if you are disciplined, motivated and ambitious. In this article, I am going to share with you, four important aspects that aspiring photographers should be considering.

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Change your mindset

I put this one in the first list because to me, this is one of the significant points that emerging photographer should pay attention to. As photography has been changed forever since media convergence especially when social media has played an important role in the industry. That’s why if you want to work as a professional photographer in the digital era, you need to have a different approach. You cannot approach the industry with the mindset from pre-internet era, otherwise, you may be unable to support yourself. As Joel Tjintjelaar, a fine art photographer specializing in B&W photography, said in his blog, photographer now a day should not limit themselves with regard exploring digital world, and they should willing to adapt themselves to work in a new environment. Justin Mott, a famous American photographer who has shot over 100 assignments for difference big publications such as TIME magazine, New York Time, Forbes and more. In an interview with Matca magazine, he points out an important point that most young photographer always thinks they have to be talent or have an expensive gear to have a successful career in photography. “It’s not about talent, I just work my butt off and build a plan and stick with it. For me it’s not about the gear or talent, it’s about ambition and motivation.” Justin said.

Start using Instagram right now!  

Some photographers would not agree with me at this point, because they think social media is killing photography. However, I don’t think that way, I think social media is a “paradise” for photographers especially in this digital era. In the conversation with Jack Hart, graduated in bachelor of photography at Griffith University, and now working as a professional commercial photographer in Brisbane, he commented that social media is his best “wingman”, the platform has helped him with regard to introducing his works to a large of audiences. The 75-year-old famous American photographer David Alan Harvey, who is an active social media user in general and Instagram in particular. Most of the photographers at his age don’t use social media, but he thinks differently. David once said in an interview with Magnum, Instagram brings various advantages for a photographer. For example, with Instagram, you can public your works without certain process as you work in official publications. You can actually take control and build your own audience, and people will follow you if they love your work. David Guttenfelder, well-known from his North Korea series. 6 years ago, the audience witnessed a thing that they haven’t seen on social media that is a photographer using Instagram like a story-telling tool to tell a story about North Korea. At first, David just thought Instagram is just a simple place to post his work and his personal life, but soon he realised that it has become an important tool for him in terms of reaching a wide audience.

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It is not just only taking photographs anymore

I keep saying this to my photography fellas if you want to take a photographer as your career you need to think deeper than just taking a beautiful picture. Nowadays, photographers need to have a range of skill-set if they want to survive in the industry. Earle Bridger, a former lecturer of photography at Griffith University said photographers know they should need to know how to shoot video, recording, sound editing, copywriting, and photo-editing. furthermore, importantly, they should know how to implies these skills in their career. Crover Sanschagrin, a co-founder of the photography blog called PhotoShelter said in the article “12 Things Photo Students Need To Know/Study Before Graduation”, Student photographer should update their background knowledge by studying minor in history, language, sociology or psychology course instead of just studying photography. By doing this, the photographer can dig deeper into a topic that you are pursuing instead of just see the surface of the iceberg.

Start your own project

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To me, this is the most important thing, because from my experience if you want to get a job from a newspaper, magazine or commission work you need to a project in your hand to show the editors. As Justin Mott is an exemplify example, 10 years ago he started his own project in Vietnam called “Legacy of Horror”. This project has opened many opportunities for him such as he won the Marty Forscher Award and the Emerging. Moreover, it has brought him opportunities to shoot more than 100 commission assignments around Asia for New York Times.

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