The Bluest Skies in Texas – Big Bend National Park, Texas

The Bluest Skies in Texas

The Bluest Skies in Texas – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright © 2013 Jeff Lynch Photography
Click on the image above for a larger version.

Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with GP-E2 unit attached, set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 284mm, f/16 for 1/60th of a second at ISO 100 using Singh-Ray’s warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.

GPS Coordinates: 29°13’8″ N 103°2’60” W, 2223.4 ft

How do you make a photographic hobby pay?

I thought I’d repost this article from early 2010 since the economy and market hasn’t really changed all that much (sad but true). – Enjoy!

Fort Davis

Fort Davis, Texas
Copyright © 2013 Jeff Lynch Photography
Click on the image above for a larger version.

Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with GP-E2 unit attached, set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/16 for 1/6th of a second at ISO 100 using Singh-Ray’s warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.

GPS Coordinates: 30°35’56” N 103°54’24” W, 5342 ft

Many aspiring photographers and devoted camera buffs ask me the same question year after year, “How do you make a photographic hobby pay?”.

At first I’m tempted to tell folks that it’s impossible because gear lust tends to overcome common sense in most amateurs (and many professionals). The manufacturers keep adding features to keep us dishing out money for new cameras every year. If we fall into this trap (we’re all guilty of this folks) then it’s impossible for amateurs or most professionals to break even, let alone make a profit.

Successful professionals understand this reality very well and look at their gear as capital equipment that depreciates over time. No small business replaces capital equipment before it’s fully depreciated and the key to making money as a small business is watching your cash flow like a hawk.

However, somewhere along the way, serious amateurs begin to realize that their 10 megapixel 20D or 12 megapixel D300 is really all they need to achieve consistent image quality. They come to the realization that a good photograph has a lot more to do with the photographer than with the camera. It’s a profound and humbling realization for most and it’s the time when they sets aside their gear lust and begin their search for knowledge. It’s the time when serious amateurs seek out teaching professionals at workshops, seminars and photo-tours.

It’s also the time when many begin to give back to the photographic community as a whole. This is where many folks really begin to grow as photographers and discover that sharing knowledge freely with others multiplies their opportunities to connect with potential customers, sponsors and other photographers that share their passion.

The next steps amateurs take to make their craft pay for itself depend greatly on the personality of the photographer.

Selling fine art prints or coffee table books to the general public is hard work and most amateurs know very little about their regional market for such images.

Microstock photography is one possible revenue stream but a quick search on sites like iStockphoto turn up thousands of incredible images from very talented amateurs and professionals. (Face it. The stock photography market today is already flush with talent.)

Getting commercial work as an amateur is extremely difficult, given the fact that so many top-notch professionals are already out of work due to the ailing economy and the rapid decline of print media. Competing in the commercial arena means going up against the likes of David Tejada, Tyler Stableford and Kirk Tuck. Not for the weak of heart.

Some how do you make your photographic hobby pay for itself?

  • Control your gear lust and stop spending money for the latest & greatest stuff! The easiest way to break even is to stop spending your hard-earned money on a new camera every year.
  • Volunteer at your church, your local food-bank or your local civic center. NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organizations) in your local area may well need the services of a photographer to document their work. But please don’t under-bid your local pro who needs all the work he can get.
  • Sell to small, local companies that won’t usually hire a professional photographer to shoot their widgets, facilities or staff but want new images for their web site every so often. (Just don’t do this in Sugar Land ;-))
  • Sell your services to local folks that need a simple but professional head shot for a blog, Twitter or Facebook. You don’t need a studio. Make house calls using your minimalist “studio in a box” on-location lighting kit.

If you’re good and can find a local niche for your work, your photographic hobby has the potential to pay for itself. Even if it doesn’t, you’ll have gained valuable experience that most hobbyists never dream of.

Our Lord and Saviour said it best in the New Testament, “Give, and it will be given to you.” (Luke 6:38)

The Ride of a Lifetime

A Drive to Remember

The Ride of a Lifetime – Davis Mountains, Texas
Copyright © 2013 Jeff Lynch Photography
Click on the image above for a larger version.

Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with GP-E2 unit attached, set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/16 for 1/6th of a second at ISO 100 using Singh-Ray’s warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.

GPS Coordinates: 30°43’9″ N 104°11’16” W, 5846 ft

This is one long and wordy post so dig in.

We live in interesting times my friends. It’s stated that just one generation ago most folks went to work for a company at age 20 and retired from that same company at age 62 with a generous “pension plan”. Today, we’re told, the “average” person will have worked at five to seven different companies in two to three different industries by the time he or she reaches age 62. This “new age” worker may never retire at all and if they do, they walk away with a 401K “savings” worth considerably less than they think their 40 years of hard work is worth. Not exactly the “American Dream” the previous generation lived.

Or is it?

Much is currently being said about how the rise of the Internet and the new “Social Media” are killing off the world’s newspapers, magazines and television. We’re lead to believe this new age of instant and “free” information is sucking the life blood out of the once robust news and entertainment industry and creating a generation of FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram addicts that can’t get enough of their 24x7x365 fifteen minutes of fame. Not exactly your evening news with Walter Cronkite.

Or is it?

We’re told that the massive influx of cheap DSLR cameras from Japan, Korea and China is driving down the price for professional wedding, sports, travel, commercial and landscape photography so much that thousands of professional shooters have been replaced by millions of amateur shooters, effectively killing off the entire industry. It’s said that the stock agencies have been replaced by the micro-stock agencies that have themselves been supplanted by Art Directors trolling Flickr and Google Images sending the already rock bottom prices for photography even lower. Not exactly what Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Lachapelle or Annie Lebovitz had in mind when they got started.

Or is it?

The Shifting Paradigm
Sometimes we forget how far technology has come in such a short period of time and we underestimate the impact this change has caused in our daily lives. Prior to the twentieth century mankind’s basic situation hadn’t changed much in the past 10,000 years. Yes, civilizations had risen and fallen, wars had been won and lost and the Lord had sent his only son to redeem our souls. Still, people’s daily lives revolved around their family, their village and their region. Most knew little about the rest of the world and few had spare time for idle curiosity.

That all changed in the past 150 years with the most dramatic changes coming during the last 50 years. The industrial revolution created a new paradigm for non-farm workers and gave birth to the “9 – 5 Job”. It created thousands of jobs by inventing mass production, making durable goods cheap enough for these same “workers” to buy.

But the industrial revolution also killed many jobs by making those durable goods less expensively than they were made “by hand” before. The artisans and craftsmen of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century experienced this technological “shift” firsthand and found their life’s work too expensive to compete against the marvels of mass production. (Sound familiar?)

Fast forward to the 1930’s, 40’s & 50’s and the rise of the modern labor union. Union workers strike against company owners and win wage and benefit increases and give birth to the first pension plans. Non-union white-collar workers negotiate for the same benefits as their blue-collar brothers and create an affluent middle class with one single goal; retirement.

Never before in the history of mankind had a large percentage of people “stopped working” at age 62 and spent the rest of their (now longer) lives pursuing leisure activities. Whole new industries emerge designed to cater to this new middle class. The newspaper industry and print journalism in general flourished as people had the time and money to spend learning about the rest of the world. But this “golden age of print” didn’t last for long.

Radio and television become the media of choice in the 1960’s and 70’s with the war in Vietnam and the anti-war protests at home being covered every evening at 5:30 PM (CST). Newspaper subscriptions began their decades long decline and advertisers flocked to the TV like bees to honey. (We’ve been here before haven’t we?)

Fast forward to the 1980’s & 90’s. The integrated circuit is developed and the computer age is upon us. Main-frame computers costing millions are quietly replaced by faster and smaller mini-computers and a whole generation of assembly language programmers find themselves “made redundant” (until the Y2K scare). Only a few years go by and the venerable mini-computer falls to the “personal computer” or PC. A whole generation of COBOL programmers find themselves also “made redundant”. Apple opens their doors and Bill Gates releases Microsoft “Windows”. IBM and DEC find their market share dwindling day by day. (Getting the picture?)

Fast forward to the past decade. PCs, laptops and notebook computers are everywhere. Microsoft releases Excel, Word, PowerPoint, SQL Server, BizTalk Server, Exchange Server and Commerce Server and dominates the world software market. The smaller software companies and contract programmers find themselves broke, acquired or run out of business by the GIANT Microsoft. The governments of the US and several European nations sue Microsoft due to their dominance and domination of the global software market. Microsoft’s market share and profits continue to climb while the PC manufacturers find themselves barely able to make a profit. Mergers take place. Some hardware companies go out of business altogether and the profit margins of the remaining few continue to shrink. (Seem Familiar?)

Apple reinvents itself, retools, revamps and re-engineers its line of desktop, workstation and notebook computers and carefully controls the hardware to match their new operating system, OS-X. Apple opens their bricks & mortar stores amid speculation that they’ve lost their mind, but the crowds love the concept and devout PC users begin to switch to Mac. Microsoft releases one slow, buggy operating system after another which fall flat on their faces. Apple begins a series of humorous ads laughing at Microsoft’s misfortune. Apple releases new iPods, MacBooks, iMacs, Mac Pros, iTunes, the iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 4G, iPhone 5G and the iPad series. Microsoft continues to watch their market share begin to slip until it’s an all out avalanche of folks switching to Apple products. (Myself included)

In Closing
For every dramatic “shift” in our society, in our technology and in the world of business, there will be those that adapt, survive and even thrive. There will also be those that cannot adapt and they will rail against the heavens, gnash their teeth and loudly call out for “social justice”.

The best advice I can give anyone starting out in the photo business is to follow your own path and be realistic in your goals. For example, there are thousands of very talented wedding photographers around the globe looking for work. The average price that a typical wedding photographer can charge has dropped by 50% in the past two years. Perhaps this isn’t the best time to target that market segment.

Finding niche markets or industries needing economical photographic work is not simple but with Google and the help of your local Chamber of Commerce, it can certainly be done. Do some research and get a listing of all the small businesses in your immediate area. Send out a targeted email blast and follow up with a phone call. Don’t sit in your home office spending hour after hour on FaceBook, Twitter or Instagram. If you want to succeed as a professional photographer then get out there and “sell” your services.

Follow your own path and enjoy the ride of a lifetime!