. . . Have you ever stopped for one moment to evaluate just what it is that you hope to get from your photography? Maybe you just do it for the enjoyment? Possibly like me, you also write a Blog? If the latter, why go through all the time, expense, effort and worry (yes really) of doing so – surely it can’t be for the money?
With regards that last point, I was struck by this particular question a short while ago – how much money have I earned in the last 20 years from my photography, or the 3 years of this blog, or for that matter, the many countless photographic ‘weekends’ away?
Well that’s easy and you may or may not find the answer surprising – Ten pounds.
Yes, Ten Quid, a Tenner, a Bill & Benner, a Cockle, an Ayrton Senna, a Cock & Hen – and I can easily recall how I came to be in possession of that beautiful (if slightly limp) ‘Brownie’.
Five years ago I had this crazy idea of selling photographic prints. As chance would have it, there was a local photography exhibition just a few weeks away and in a moment of utter madness, I chose twenty of my (then) favourite images and had them printed as 16×12″ black & white photographs. As a finishing touch, I lovingly mounted each one in a chunky ebony-coloured wooden frame. Three hundred pounds later and on a cold and dark morning, I headed off to the exhibition. At an asking price of just £25 each, I was sure to make my money back AND turn a tidy profit for my troubles?
Herein lies a small (and painful) lesson – know your target audience. Don’t attend a photography exhibition in an area that’s indelibly linked with Landscape Photography (the Lake District) and whilst brandishing images depicting old rusty iron gates, or trees covered in fungus, or a woman sat in a rocking chair holding an air-rifle – the only things you’ll walk away with are an empty wallet, endlessly confused looks from anorak-clad ramblers and an eternally bruised photographic ego.
Not forgetting that you’ll also feel like a complete ‘prized tit’, proudly stood next to your greatest selection of photographic ‘art’ and amongst a swathe of ‘Scafell Pikes’, ‘Black Combes’ and expertly Photoshopped waterfalls, resembling ethereal cotton-wool meandering down a hillside.
Fortunately (not for me) on this occasion there was one photograph which, in the eyes of the eventual purchaser, offered such untold comedic qualities, that they just had to have it – whatever the price.
Sadly, ‘whatever the price’ was only from my standpoint, not the buyer’s. Sensing my obvious lack of success with regards the days entrepreneurial exploits and my barely concealed disappointment, twenty-five pounds very quickly became ten. SOLD !!!
The result at the end of a quite frankly exhausting day? One satisfied customer – myself left to load the car with 19 rather valueless framed prints (it’s amazing what you can fit in a wheely-bin).
Of course there’s more to being a photographer/blogger than mere money. A blog such as this one serves as an incredible portfolio (a CV even) of achievements over time, a diary so to speak and available at all times when the need to impress, beg or borrow arises. Fancy testing the latest camera exotica? No problem, just send the manufacturer a link to your website. Or maybe you want an ‘all access’ press pass? Easy peasy.
Yes there are other rewards to be found and enjoyed along the uncharted road of the photography blogger besides hard cash – freebies.
Take for example this fine publication below – a first edition of Leica’s new ‘M’ magazine and it has to be said, a treasured gift.
Now I want to make something clear right away. Leica call this publication a magazine, but I would suggest they are mistaken. This is in fact a book. It must be, for it has many pages, words and photographs and all are printed on very thick and high quality paper. This is not something you’ll be lining the budgie’s cage with after you’ve read it.
Featuring just over 193 pages, nearly as many photographs and encased in a properly bound paperback cover, the quality easily transcends that which you’d usually associate with the word ‘magazine’.
Featuring photographers as diverse as Trent Parke, Alex Webb, Jan Grarup, Anton Kusters, Ciril Jazbec and of course, the timeless and brilliant Mr Bruce Gilden – you would be hard pressed to find yourself in such good company throughout the pages of Photography Daily/Weekly/Monthly?
Then there’s the final joyous and creamy experience as you turn each page ‘only’ to be greeted by yet another finely captured and all-engrossing moment – each and every photograph was taken with the Leica M (hence the name 😉 )
“How much then do I ask for this fine visual and sensory experience? Not £30, no Sir. How about £20 then? No, this ‘magazine’ will set you back just £12 !!!” (Maybe that’s how I should’ve tried to sell my prints?)
. . . Issue Two of Leica M Magazine is now available to buy as a hard copy or digital download here (Just a link) . . .
Naturally being a blogger isn’t a license to collect freebies. Review cameras (unfortunately) have to be returned and there are the inevitable items which, if you wish to keep them, have to be bought just like everyone else.
Hence the rather tasty offerings below, Tap & Dye Legacy Black X Natural Leather Neck Straps.
Only one word comes to mind when I think of these straps – Quality. For years I had searched for a neck strap that harked back to the simpler days of yore. Just a piece of leather with a ring at each end. None of this braided, stitched, buckled, adjustable, sprung-clasped ‘bling’ so widespread today. A simple strip of leather that’s easily wrapped around the wrist, or carried over the shoulder.
Typically however, simplicity (as with Leica’s) comes at a price and especially when living here in the UK, as these straps are made in New York. Those shown above come in at slightly less than £72 each, imported and delivered to Blighty but represent something that will last several lifetimes. More money than sense? No – more like determined lust for something that looks, feels, works and smells right.
Which brings me to the present day – and the immediate future.
Recently in May, I was in London for just one day and one night. It was an all too brief visit, which after completing the ‘task’ that was my very reason for being there, I found myself with very little time left to photograph. As it happens, I managed to take just two pictures.
Luckily however, visiting London for a Street Photography expedition is a goal that’s been at the top of my to-do list for some considerable time and has already been arranged for the past few months. To that end, I will be visiting and photographing around London on the 14th – 16th June.
Fingers crossed I’ll be testing a new camera and lens for review at some point during my time there – one which I’ve yearned to try ever since the original version was released . . .
. . . So we come back to my original question regarding what I expect to get out of my photography and writing, and in particular why I spend such a large percentage of my free-time ‘putting it out’ to the world, free of charge?
Why not, for example, ‘litter’ this website with Affiliate Links and Advertisements, cackling with delight at the literal ‘pennies’ I would enjoy as a result? For sure, every article I write contains at least one link to another photographers site, or a manufacturers product – though they’re all just that, links.
The reason is simple. I’m a great believer that a person can ‘grow’ by giving and assisting others, though more often than not this rarely happens on a wider basis because of fear that by doing so, the individual may be missing out, or giving the other an unfair advantage – but it’s all ‘swings and roundabouts’. You win some and you lose some.
That is why I’ve never made any money from my photography. 🙂