Fact or Fiction: 5 Stereotypes about Photographers
The photography industry has changed drastically over the last couple decades, and many stereotypes about photographers have evolved from this. Let’s talk about 5 common stereotypes and whether or not they’re true.
“Photographers don’t have a formal photography education.”
Based on several recent polls, 20-54% of ALL working Americans report that they’re currently working at jobs that are unrelated to their majors. The largest study found that the number was just over 40%.
That’s a high number, but photographers take this number up a notch. The vast majority of photographers who have entered the market in the last decade don't have a college degree in photography.
That being said, there are many other ways that photographers get educated nowadays. Conferences, workshops, online classes, 1-1 mentoring, and YouTube are the major education tools that today’s photographers use to educate themselves. So just because a photographer doesn’t have a photography degree doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing.
Are there photographers out there who have little-to-no photography education, college or otherwise? Absolutely. But you can typically pick those people out by their low prices and lack of professionalism.
“Photography takes no serious skills.” >>>>FALSE<<<<
This is a natural conclusion based on the Stereotype #1. However, this one is very wrong.
The common cause for this belief actually stems from the public’s general inability to distinguish a technically good photo from a technically bad one. Being able to do that takes photography education (formal or informal). So while a lay person can look at two photos and claim that they’re technically equivalent, a skilled eye can look at the two and determine which photographer was educated on camera settings, composition, lighting, posing, safety, editing, and more.
Taking a photo takes no skill anymore. Taking a good photo takes skill. Taking a good photo consistently? That takes a lot of skill.
Again, are there photographers out there who have very few technical skills? Definitely. But assuming you don’t have a trained eye, you can again weed out the vast majority of them if you eliminate the low-priced and unprofessional ones.
“Running a photography business is cheap.”
This stereotype is often held by people getting into photography and by the general public.
In reality, here’s an off-the-cuff list of common expenses that photographers will have:
Credit card processing fees
Licensing fees (LLC filing, Sales tax license, Trade name filing, etc)
Digital gallery software
3-5 memory cards
Cost of goods sold (printed products)
Studio rental Utilities
I’m inevitably missing other common costs, but suffice it to say that many photographers have a serious reality check in their first year about how much the business actually costs.
“ ‘Expensive’ photographers are scam artists.”
Unfortunately, what the current public thinks is “reasonable” or “expensive” for a professional photographer is often completely disconnected from reality. I don’t know about your state, but here in Nebraska, fast food restaurants are hiring people with no experience or relevant skills for $15/hr.
In comparison, here are a couple quick examples for photographers. (If you think I’m crazy and that my numbers can’t possibly be correct, please read this article for the math breakdown.)
After overhead and taxes, the average full-time photographer who charges $500 for a 1-hour family session will have a take-home income of $11.25/hr.
How about a wedding photographer? The average full-time photographer who charges $4,000 for an 8-hour wedding will have the same take-home income of $11.25/hr.
What about the “luxury” photographers? Like the ones charging thousands of dollars for a family session and doing in-person sales sessions? Those photographers typically spend way more 1-1 time with their clients and are much more likely to have a commercial studio space and/or staff. As a result, they take on much fewer clients and have much higher overhead costs.
Any way you slice it, the percent of photographers who are taking home more than $50,000 in a year is in the single digits.
The saddest part about this whole thing is that the public’s current narrative of “reasonable” photography costs only exists because we photographers have created it. (If you’d like to read more about how that happened and how we can change it, you can read this article.)
“Photography is a side hustle, not a 'real job'.”
Hopefully, my answer to Stereotype #4 has largely explained the reason why this fifth stereotype is often true. A photographer can certainly set their prices in a profitable range and work like crazy to get enough clients. But Stereotype #4 takes a serious toll on this effort, and if they aren’t able to make a livable wage, they often leave the industry entirely or take a second job that can help pay their bills.
I hope this article has shed some light on the common photographer stereotypes. If you learned something, please feel free to share this!