An inside look at what it’s like to be a photographer
Sometimes a job description isn’t enough. It can’t tell you what a job is really like, what an average day could be, the workload, the education you need or the salary.
Ryan Emberley is a professional photographer whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail and the National Post. He shares his experiences on working in his field in his own words.
What do you do?
I’m a photographer. Under that wide umbrella, my primary focus is event photography and corporate photography.
What does an average day look like?
Fortunately, my days are never average. Every day is different and varies wildly. On a busy day, I’m up at 8:00 a.m. editing photos from a gala or fundraiser I shot the night before, as my standard turnaround time for event photos is the next work day by 10:00 a.m. From there, I’ll grab breakfast, change, and head off to a corporate event shoot– maybe the appointment of a new CEO, or the launch of a new campaign. After that, I head back home to edit a few select photos for immediate delivery to the client, and then I’m back at it in the evening for another cocktail party. This time of year (one of my busiest), this is a pretty standard day.
On the other side of things, I’m lucky to have some days off here and there– where I wake up only when my body is good and ready (such a concept, I know), take clients and prospective clients out for lunch meetings, and generally just recharge the ol’ battery.
How stressful is it?
I think I once read somewhere that event photography is one of the most stressful jobs out there. And it can be, sometimes. But overall, I wouldn’t be a photographer if it was a stressful job that threw my life out of balance. Certain clients can be more stressful than others, but as a self-employed person I have the ultimate say on who I do or do not work with.
That said, as the captain of my own ship, the financial side of things can, on occasion, be stressful. Cheque chasing is a constant. And there are dry spells.Stability (or lack thereof) is something that scares a lot of people when they consider self-employment, and that’s a legitimate fear. But on the flip side, I feel like I have ultimate job security. I’m not subject to office politics, nor do I rely on one or two clients. If something doesn’t work out– that’s fine. On to the next one. Prior to being a photographer, I worked in the media industry here in Canada, wherein ‘job security’ is an oxymoron.
Is it good for intro- or extroverts?
Being an extrovert is absolutely crucial in my industry. I’m constantly selling myself to existing and prospective clients. I have a natural inability to blend in the background, so this suits me just fine.
Are the hours long?
In general, the hours are very manageable. That said, I’m very fortunate to be a busy event photographer. Sometimes the hours – both actively shooting and editing back at home – can be grueling. I still wouldn’t trade it for a 9-5 desk job, though.
What’s the pay like?
Generally, I think most event photographers have a tough time paying the bills and often have another job or two as a result. I wouldn’t enter the field with hopes of striking it rich. But if one sticks with it and finds success, there’s a lot of earning potential.
I’d imagine the bulk of photography jobs used to be with publications. That’s no longer the case. And if there are jobs with magazines or newspapers, they usually pay very little. I focus on the corporate side of things, and that can be very lucrative.
What education do you need?
None! But it always helps. I have a Bachelor in Journalism from Ryerson University and find it’s been useful in my career.
What job experience do you need?
None! I switched over to event photography with no formal training or experience. It takes a keen eye and willingness to learn on the job and learn quickly. It’s a job for hustlers. If you’re not hustling, there’s no chance for success. There’s so much unsexy work that goes on behind the scenes– you need to be dedicated to being the best.