Take Pictures is Not Enough

[Scattare fotografie non è abbastanza: versione in italiano qui]

There is always a moment, I think, in everyday life, when we stay still for a moment thinking: why we do what we do? Why we choose to do that? In my experience, why avoid a sure job, a financial security, a peaceful routine made by work and comforts, for a life full of incertitudes? For a daily life always full of doubts, where monthly earnings can be high, ok or sometimes low, without any sureness? The answer can be only one: Life is too short to waste it in something we don’t like. With all the difficulties, the incertitudes, anxiety and worries, this is the life I’ve choosen for me, the life that I love and that, in future, I hope will be more gratifying than a easier life but less rich of emotions and free time. Money are important, it’s not possible to say otherwise: we can’t live only with art. But it’s true that a fixed salary doesn’t make happiness, because where you earn in money, you risk to lose a lot in welfare. I take pictures since I was 10, but when I was a teenager I wanted be a journalist (of sport and then a film critic), in the meanwhile I always took pictures. Later I’ve discovered that photography was not only a passion, but the job of my dreams. The question is: in order to become a photographer, is take pictures enough? Absolutely not.

Venezia

When I began to work as a professional, I use to spend entire days taking pictures, I’ve travelled more than now, I did a lot of photo walks because I thought that be a photographer was that, mostly. Actually if you want to reach a little bit of success, take pictures is not enough: you need to be known. If you want to work as a fine art photographer you have to understand that the time you pass in front of your pc is important as the time you pass on the street (and sometimes even more). For example: few weeks ago my name was in the list of 25 Best Fine Art Photographer in the World: yeah, it’s cool. But, let’s say it, in the world there should be hundreds of photographers much better than me. Their problem? Maybe they don’t work enough to be known. To be in that list is an award not only for my images, but mostly for my “dark job”, my daily routine in front of the screen, sending mails, working on my social networks, showing projects to the crowd and to photography magazine.

Can I say to be a photographer? To me, it’s easier to say that I DO the photographer. I do the photographer, but also the social media manager, blogger, press office, webmaster. Going out to take pictures is awesome, but sometimes it could be frustrating: you can have maybe dozens of beautiful photos and a few people to show them. So? If you want to be professional you have to do much more. I’m going to tell you my story, it’s about fine art photography.

We can start from the most logical thing: pictures. Think to a project, a series, don’t take single photos (well, not only!). A series with a common idea are easier to put inside a story and, so, to be proposed to a magazine or a gallery. Try to understand which is your style, put together your interests and organize the biggest part of your work in a project, much better if it’s charming as well. Enjoy good moments, when the creative flow involves you and governs you: it happened to me when I began to work on my first “Urban Melodies”, in December 2012. I had to wait December 2014 to get some results. In the meanwhile my work was going on, producing new works, improving my website, opening an account on every social network good for my goal, learning how they work, trying to understand which contents are better for every kind of social network. After all this work, the famous web-magazine Fubiz noticed a picture I’ve posted on 500px, since then my work began to be viral, appreciated, recognized, sold. Be posted on a magazine with a lot of followers can give you a sort of popolarity for a week or two, but you have to do more, it’s not enough. After realize a good project, open a website (I was lucky, I can do it on my own, but if you can’t, try some template on wordpress, it’s easy to use). After the website, that it will be you business card on Internet, go on with the social networks: Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, 500px, Behance, Tumblr, Linkedin and everyone you think is good for you. My suggestion is to open an account every month and work every month just with the social networks you have. If you open a Facebook page today, work on it all July. Then in August you can open an account on Twitter and work on Facebook and Twitter for a month. Than Flickr in September and so on. Everything will be less stressful until the moment where I am right now: manage every account in the same time. You have to be patient. In the meanwhile, if you need it, find a supporting job: waiting to live only with photography, I work in a Pizzeria since ten years, for three times a week. A good way to have some money sure and have time to work on my first activity.

Don’t be worried about likes or follower: I mean, they are important to reach the right people, but don’t forget your goal: be known from people that want to pay for your pictures. Don’t use social networks to feed your ego (despite the temptation, I know). Don’t post a lot of things: the minimum is ok, but constantly. Involve the audience, make questions, ask for a suggestion. Share other photographers’ work, you have to love photography more than yourself. When your work will be good enough, find on google all the photography magazine in the world (well, the most important). Find their email address or submission section and send your story, your project (with a link to your website of course). If you did a good job they will be happy to publish an article about you, maybe with an interview. One day the article will be under the eyes of the right people, as it happened to me: now I have a contract with seven societies of wallcovering or art gallery around the world, from US to Brazil, from China to Russia, from Israel to France. All these proposals began when I’ve shown my project “Urban Melodies” to magazines and my socials: for example last year I’ve opened an account on Behance, I’ve uploaded my project and after few days I had an offer from an american society (ok, it was luck, I can admit it, but I had this luck because I’ve opened an account on this social, for me unknown).

A project, a website, social networks, magazines. Ok, now your work is quiet known, it could be the right moment to partecipate in a contest or a festival. Winning is hard, but if you think to have the possibility to have also a mention, let’s try. Maybe they will let you show your pictures in a group exhibition and it would be nice. Showing your images in small place is also a good thing, but the important is don’t waste your time. How to avoid it? I’m going to tell you my experience: when I was a beginner, I use to exhibit my photos in every place: disco, bar, bistrot and places like that. When they accepted me, I always tried to ask the permission to sell my prints on a small table: if you have to show your picture in a place where nobody will see them, excepting your friends and a group of strangers, take advantage of that night to sell some print. I use to print them in a small size (12cm x 18cm), selling them for 1 euro each. They were my first earnings with photography and, even though I didn’t earned more than 40 or 50 euros for night, I earned enough money to do expenses, or buy a low cost ticket for a travel, or anything else. So you can pass a night with your friends, chatting and drinking, and you can also earn some money. At the beginning it’s ok, I can assure you.

And now? After all this dark work you’ll have a lot of followers and, if you are good and lucky, someone will ask you how to buy your prints. If you are very good and lucky, someone will propose you a contract. If you are very very good and lucky, a gallery will come to ask you a collaboration or, better, an exhibition.

Remember that: it’s very hard to catch results immediatly, very hard, maybe impossible. Be patient, good things happen to who knows how to wait for them. If photography is your way, you only need time. There will be difficult moments, a lot of difficult moments, but my suggestion is, if you can, don’t give up. I’m recording a constant improving, year after year, in a financial point of view but also my name is growing up, people recognize my style and it’s a good thing. Study a lot, search a lot, read a lot, watch other photographers’ work and their way to work on the social networks. Be a photographer isn’t the awesome and idyllic job that everyone thinks, full of travels, wasting of time and photography: be a photographer is an awesome job, but you have to cultivate it. A job composed by a lot of dead times in front of the screen, but it can also be full of satisfactions. And when satisfactions will come, let me say it, you will be invested by joy. So be patient, don’t give up and stay positive. Surround you by emotions: loving people, music, art, books. This is the best protection, waiting for better days.

PS: It was really hard to write it in my funny english. I’m sorry for all grammatical mistakes. 🙂

[Looking for more inspiration? Join us in the group Living Is Easy With One Eye Closed]

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