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Can you live off photography?

S_Boulding 11 72 England
29 Apr 2010 6:26PM
So Im 16 and doing my A-levels.. (Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Maths) and I've always been intrested in photography and mainly animals, I chose my A-levels because I wanted/want (not quite sure yet) to become a Vet. But recentley I've just started really thinking that I want to travel and see the world, so can you make a living from taking photos and selling them? (Travel photos etc)

Can you be a professional photographer without taking a Photography A-level, then university?
I know that Its hard to make a living out of it and that it isnt really very realistic, but is anyone living on just their photos? And was it the right choice?

Or should I try and pursue being a vet or something else and then just keep photography as a hobby?
Thanks for your time

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KarenFB Plus
12 5.0k 171 England
29 Apr 2010 6:45PM
Hi Sarah! grin-dark.jpg

If you were my daughter I would advise you to carry on with your studies (I'm sure you are sick of hearing this, but you are very young and have the rest of your life ahead of you). If you are a qualified Vet you will always have something to 'fall back on'. You can still try to sell your images even if you have a full time career.
davidbailie 14 457 7 United Kingdom
29 Apr 2010 6:49PM
If your thinking about being a creative photographer and you have to ask the question you've just asked then I think the answer is don't do it!

If you don't mind being a high street portrait shootist (nothing wrong with that) - of course you can earn a living - probably for the rest of your life - subject to your business nouse. .................. You can also get into wedding photography, journalism +++ - just a question of learning the trade and applying yourself!

You can of course pursue your creative elements whilst being a jobbing Shootist! .......... There are a few Pro's on this site who do just that.

Do what you want to do! - unless you're desparate about high earnings - in which case think about becoming a banker amongst others - but ...... you'll probably find quite a few 'not so wealthy' bankers along the way Smile

Good luck to Sarah!

thewilliam 9 6.1k
29 Apr 2010 7:00PM
I always wanted to be a photographer but was persuaded to follow a "proper" education and get an engineering degree. Then just short of 50, after 20 years as an academic, I found myself redundant (in 1997) and practically unemployable.

With nothing to lose, I finally became a professional photographer. If I can't find a job, why not make my own job? What a culture shock! Something over 80% of all new businesses fail within the first 2 years and I nearly joined that crowd. 13 years later, I'm still in business.

Always remember that the UK produces more photography graduates than there are working photographers in the whole of the EU. Some 97% don't find their future in the industry.

If you really want something and have the determination, then you'll succeed whatever the odds.
sherlob Plus
12 2.9k 129 United Kingdom
29 Apr 2010 7:16PM
Sarah - become a vet. I reckon you'll be able to realise your dream of travel alot easier. E.g. Fancy a stint working in an African Game Reserve?

Good luck.

KevSB 14 1.5k 5 United Kingdom
29 Apr 2010 7:17PM
As a vet you can do photography as a hobby or take it more seriously later on but you will more than likely have work for life, as a photographer you cannot do the vets job and work can be very scarce ...you choose
Hugeknot 13 1.2k 2 Iceland
29 Apr 2010 7:43PM
There are many gifted photographers who are unable to make a living from photography because their business skills are lacking. Photography training might help, but I don't think qualifications will necessarily.
Heed the advice of those telling you to continue with your education. If you get some business training and qualifications, for example, this will put you in good stead for many things in life... if the photography career fails.
Stockczech 11 445 Czech Republic
29 Apr 2010 10:03PM
If you REALLY want to become a photographer, then you won't have to ask advice, you will just ignore those who tell you to get a 'proper' job. Wink

However, whatever you do, get as much education as you can. It's much harder to go back and obtain the qualifications that you requre when you have been out of the education scene for some time. Whether you need photographic qualifications is a debatable point. Many people have succeeded without, but education is never wasted. What is in no doubt is that marketing and business skills are equally as important as photographic expertise if you are working for yourself.

Being a vet is a pretty good job - and as already pointed out you can easily combine that with travelling around the world.

You CAN make a living from travel photography - I've done it for a long tme, but it's becoming harder as each year passes.

Whatever you decide, good luck!
LensYews 9 1.3k 1 United Kingdom
29 Apr 2010 11:29PM
I'd say Vet as well, at least then you'll be able to afford decent equipment for the hobby, plus if you're interested in wildlife photography you get to experience a vast range of animal behaviour and that understanding of an animal can make for great photos (out of working hours of course). Perhaps play the long game, Vet to start with and building up the photography business as a sideline. Once it's become sufficiently established, you can switch to that full time.

As Sherlob says, being a Vet can open up a lot of travel opportunities for you, and not just in the African reserves. You could work for one of the zoos and end up travelling to many of the world's great cities, etc.
MikeRC Plus
13 3.6k United Kingdom
29 Apr 2010 11:44PM

Quote:Can you live off photography?

....sure you can...Pete's been doing it for years.
thewilliam 9 6.1k
30 Apr 2010 10:14AM
When I had a proper job, I was better able to afford good equipment and it lasted indefinitely because it wasn't heavily used. I enjoyed owning and using it.

Most professional photographers make a subsistence rather than a living!
ade_mcfade 14 15.2k 216 England
30 Apr 2010 10:40AM

Quote:Most professional photographers make a subsistence rather than a living!

....is it better to live on subsistence and enjoy your work, or have a good income and resent every working hour?
miptog 12 3.6k 61 United Kingdom
30 Apr 2010 10:47AM

Quote:Or should I try and pursue being a vet or something else and then just keep photography as a hobby?

Keep your options open. You could also take Photography A-Level or its equivalent whilst at Uni. and/or whatever course/career you decide upon.

Quote:Most professional photographers make a subsistence rather than a living!

This is so very true.
theorderingone 14 2.4k
30 Apr 2010 11:59AM

Quote:Most professional photographers make a subsistence rather than a living!

Quote:....is it better to live on subsistence and enjoy your work, or have a good income and resent every working hour?

Subsistence for me every time!

Although I would say you need to make sure you really enjoy what you do, otherwise the lack of funds will soon get on top of you, leading to depression/failure.

I've been there, taken a step back, worked through it and now feel stronger for the experience.

I'm sure that with veterinary training there will be photographic opportunities open to you where that experience will help you. I'm not that well up on veterinary practice (I've never had a pet Sad ) but I know with medicine there's opportunities in medical photography, ophthalmology, etc.

Maybe a bit of research into what opportunities there are that will allow you to combine the two might be in order?
ade_mcfade 14 15.2k 216 England
30 Apr 2010 12:44PM
I must admit that leaving a 30-odd K a year to try and make a living from photos is a daunting prospect, but I am looking to do things I enjoy as well as the "bread and butter" weddings...

if I just did weddings, I'd probably go mad

But they appear to be the best place to start.

And I've done loads so there's no huge shock there

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