Advice to a New Photographer

Old City

News Flash! The Photography Industry is not dead. It is not even dying. Good photographers, with good business and marketing skills are earning good money every day in every niche of this industry.

It is not easy. It is not fair. If you want to be a fashion photographer and you live in Montana, forget it. But if you can match your skills to the needs of your area and if you know how to market yourself, you can make it.

I have been working full time as a photographer since 1982. I can honestly tell you that each year, in fact almost every month, some photographer laments that the gig is up. They are right it was up for them but not for others.

I will say that starting out in this industry is not for the faint of heart or those who need lots of cash flow right away. Like the music industry or being a professional athlete few, very few will make it and even fewer will rise to the top.

So how to start? I would suggest that you make a list of photographers whose work and career you admire. Then I would camp out at their doors. When they say go away, I would go away for a week and camp out again. I would do this over and over again until somebody gives me a break and lets me in. I would not ask for money. I would fine a way to support myself during the night or better yet, on weekends. I would just hang out and learn as much as possible. Do this long enough, a year or so, and you will know what your next step is.

It is a very hard road and it might not be for you. That’s ok. In twenty years of running my own studio. I have seen assistants’ come and go. Only one as made it to the ranks of being a true professional photographer and supporting himself well. You might be better off with a career in web design or information technology and just enjoying photographing for its pure pleasure. If a professional career is what you seek then follow the road to the brightest doors.

People like to blame the demise of Photographic Profession on digital cameras. They say it makes it to easy to take a decent picture. Has anyone noticed how word processors have made a dent in the book business? Has anyone noticed that having the latest version of Word makes people better writers?

I am not saying it’s easy, it never was. But, it is still doable if you have the talent, the discipline, the ambition and the people skills.

A little luck also helps.

I hope this helps.


Zave Smith


About Zave Smith

Commercial Photography for Advertising.
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4 Responses to Advice to a New Photographer

  1. Thom Gourley says:

    Encouraging words in a tough year, Zave. Thanks for taking the time to share. It’s been a sparse year for me, but I’m still alive and haven’t given up at all.

    Continued success!


  2. People skills. Ah, there’s the rub.

  3. justsomedude says:

    great words of wisdom! i am not looking to be a professional photographer in any means, but how would you suggest getting access to media passes to certain events? i am currently a law school student, but i figured snapping a few pictures at a concert/event with a fancy camera would be a pretty cool hobby.

  4. Some good words, Zave.

    I just read a pamphlet written over a hundred years ago that sort of fits right on there too. It is called, A Message to Garcia. Anyone can find it, it is good read.


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