For a long time I have felt lost with what to do with my photography hobby. Should I try to hustle to turn it into a business, or stick with it as a hobby? And if I turn it into a business, what kind of business? Quarantine has forced some decisions that are a long time coming. I have decided to move away from model photography and continue along my path to shooting other subjects, such as nature, flowers, landscapes and documentary images. I have also launched a new website and Redbubble store.
Whenever you bring up photography, it seems as if everyone has an idea for how you can turn it into a business model. The first thing they say when you mention you are a photographer? “Do you do weddings?” Weddings, at least in the past, were certainly the venue to find high-end clients, especially in smaller municipalities. They also require high-end gear for challenging lighting situations. And they pay top dollar – or can – because of the family politics and stress involved with working them. I don’t think my skill set or my gear is well suited for weddings, before you ask. Then next up, you get asked about advertising photography, and portraits, headshots, maternity, family, et cetera. Okay, no people? What about real estate? Or cars? Or products?
The problem with all of these markets is that they are all over-saturated. There are too many photographers and not enough demand, so even the top dollar weddings get downgraded to a person on a Facebook group asking for a student photographer willing to trade their services “because this couple is so in love.” An inverse relationship of demand to supply ends up flattening the revenue possibilities. So for all the hustle you have to engage in for a dwindling low-end client base, it never really interested me to chase after that. Either you’re hustling for models to notice you to work for free for their Instagram feeds, or you’re chasing people who want a cheap product. When you can take photos with your phone and put them on Facebook instantly, who needs a professional?
So I practiced my portraiture with amateur and professional models and for a time I was passionate about that. But model photography comes with its own issues. Too many photographers, again, and they are all working for free, or hiring models. There are no clients, other than the photographer and the model. Maybe in New York or Los Angeles, you can get some fashion clients to hire both of you, if you can get noticed in that cutthroat market. Who wants to buy prints of people they don’t know, even portrayed in an artistic way? So the model photography scene ends up becoming a social community; a place for people to party, and make like-minded friends, and hook up, with only a few professional models making a living at it. The photographers make money to shoot their personal projects with models on things like weddings. Or they are independently wealthy, as many photographers are. I quickly became burnt out on that scene. I wanted to give up portraiture entirely.
Upon quarantine, I was looking for ways to stay creative, and I got really interested in self portraiture art. I set up a portable studio in my office, and I’ve done a couple of shoots so far. I find it a great way to express myself and still make some art. I also found myself shooting more nature photography. At first, on my daily walks through my neighborhood, I shot flowers with nothing but my cell phone. But then I started bringing my DSLR and got stronger shots, naturally.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my five years of photography archives. I have thousands of photos gathering dust in my hard drive that the world won’t get to see. They are mostly model portraits, but they were still good work. I didn’t want my new photographs to turn into that.
So I finally launched a Redbubble store. It’s a print-on-demand store where people can buy prints, clothing, notecards, journals, and more, with my photography printed on it. The store takes care of the printing and the shipping, and all I have to do is upload an image. It has really energized me in thinking about my photography. I realized it was unsatisfying just collecting shots for a portfolio. I have a strong portfolio already. I want to get my artwork in front of people.
Art, like music, is better if it is performed for an audience. I don’t even care if no one buys even a sticker. And I did already achieve my first sale. Mainly, I just want other people to see and enjoy the art I make. Making art for myself is just not as fulfilling. It’s therapeutic to write in a journal or work with models, but I also create to help and inspire others, as well. I am interested in flowers and nature because this kind of photography is a way I can bring beauty to others who might not have the same opportunities as I do.
I have also started a website to showcase my past body of work in portraiture. I am not currently booking portrait sessions due to CORVID-19, but in 2021, when it is safe to shoot again, I hope to start accepting clients. I have decided I will no longer accept solicitations for trade-for-photo (TFP) collaborations. I will not say I will never work with models, because I may still pursue personal projects as I find myself inspired. But I am done working for free. This means I will be shooting far more nature and documentary photography and far fewer portraits. But change is good.
You can visit my new website at http://siriusrosephoto.redbubble.com. As always, your support is appreciated.
Update: I got rid of Wix and combined everything into my WordPress site! http://dnruttan.com
I offer my blog for free because I believe in the public domain, but if you wish to donate $1 to encourage me to continue creating, by all means here are two online tip jars where you can support my work: