Read as Petey Place talks about his career as a Professional Photographer. Find him at www.peteyphotography.com and on his Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.
What do you do for a living?
I am a professional traveling creative photographer.
How would you describe what you do?
Every day I email, call, text, and prospect/ book photoshoots. A lot of details are figured and mapped out beforehand. I then travel to the photoshoot, set up my lighting, work with the clients, shoot at multiple locations till we get the shots that we’re looking for. Some of my shoots last up to 8+ hours, not including driving to and from the locations.
What does your work entail?
It includes getting in contact with my clients, figuring out what kind of shoot we’re going for and what sort of feel they’d like their photos to have. Then from there it’s scouting locations, talking about wardrobe, lighting and concepts. After the shoot, all of the photos are uploaded to my laptop and edited with LightRoom2 and Photoshop CS5. Usually during the shoots I have a couple of favorites and I’ll go ahead and edit those first. From there, further inspirations come from those and into the other final photos.
What’s a typical work week like?
My typical work week includes editing in the morning with lots of coffee. It’s something I enjoy doing first thing in the morning. If I have a good feeling about a shoot, I’ll start editing once I get home. Some of my best shots have been because I worked on the photos asap. During the week it’s all about editing, emailing and booking shoots for the weekends. I also create websites on the side. Prospecting for photoshoots is huge. You can’t wait for clients to come to you. Being an entrepreneur is great but you have to be able to know how to sell yourself as a professional, your work, and gaining consistent work to keep the ball rolling.
How did you get started?
I was fresh out of college, and didn’t have a job. I had a lil bit of loot left so I figured….Let’s get a camera (First one was a Canon XTi) and some Alienbee’s and go on an adventure. It’s been a real blast since then. I spent pretty much whatever I had on some very basic lighting and camera gear and took a really big chance and set out with nothing but hopes and dreams.
What do you like about what you do?
The thing I like the most is that I’m living my dream. Photography is a labor of Love. I don’t even consider it a job, it’s just something that is a part of me. Ask me 5 years ago if I would ever be a photographer, I would have said no way. Not my thing. Creating became a passion of mine. Lighting is very intriguing to me and I love using lighting in my photos to create mood and feeling. I like being able to travel, meet some pretty awesome people, and create photographs that I hope inspire others in their journey of photography.
What do you dislike?
Took me a lil while to figure out what I didn’t like…..and it’s nothing to do with what I do, I don’t like when business gets slow. I love what I do and I aim to keep bookings going one right after the other.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
Each and every shoot is paid by the people hiring me to photograph them.
How much money do Professional Photographers make?
How much you make absolutely depends on how much you can successfully sell yourself and your work, keep customers happy, and really focus on customer retention. I always stress to fellow photographers to not shoot for free. Professional Photography is an industry, and to keep it being an industry of business, professionals need to be making a living. I’m not a fan of photography colleges, however, I think it would benefit people looking to make photography their living, to take a look at some business courses and working in sales. If you prospect well, you should be able to trip over $30,000-$60,000 or more, a year. It’s all about how often you’re shooting and taking a good look at your pricing. It doesn’t make sense for you to pay to do your job.
How much money did/do you make starting out?
My first shoots were just $50 per shoot, humble beginning but it allowed me to get the process in motion. Always charge something. Working for free isn’t free. You still have to pay for your own gear, your studio rental, your gas to get to the locations, etc. If you build value in yourself and your work, people won’t mind paying you what you deserve.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
All you need is a genuine passion and drive to do this. I’m all self taught, I never stepped foot into a single class for photography or for photo editing. I’ve learned so much from each shoot I do and I apply that to future shoots.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Meeting deadlines. Sometimes there is just not enough time in a day to do everything.
What is most rewarding?
Gaining clients who become really good friends. Also, being able to make a living doing what I absolutely love and not doing the normal 9-5.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
It takes a lot of work, a lot of bad photos, lots of ambition and networking. It really is all about who you know. Having good contacts in the business will help out greatly. It will take time, and things might be slow in the beginning but you have to start somewhere. If you have the drive and passion to make this work for you, then by all means go for it. But remember, shoots just won’t be handed to you. It does take work and lots of un-replied emails and phone calls. You just have to keep going at it.
How much time off do you get/take?
I can “choose my own hours” but the more work I can get done and shorter turn around time for a shoot, the better. I can choose to take time off whenever but just like any business, you’re not making money unless you’re working.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
Some have said that I don’t have a “real job”, however, I’m the one at the end of the day that has to be happy with what I do in my life. Photography is me, through and through. It’s what I’m all about. I love creating. I couldn’t stand having a “real job” and not being able to be creative and use those talents, skills, and ideas every single day. I have to create.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
Keep on doing what I’m doing and book “bigger” shoots. I love traveling and working with people.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
It’s fun but it is trying. It’s all about customer service, customer retention, being mindful of their time and getting them the results that they’re looking for. You have to please your customers, since they are the ones hiring you for your talent, skill, vision, ideas, and creativity.