During this week I had a chance to sit down with a student from the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale to talk about what it is like to be a Professional Commercial Photographer in Miami. I thought it would be interesting to post this conversation as it gives a sneak peak into what it is like to get started in the photography business and what it takes to be successful once here. This is the interview:
Q – Photography Student – How did you get into this line of work? Get started in this job?
A – Professional Architectural Interior Photographer Craig Denis – For me it just kind of happened, I actually grew up in New York and went to school out there for Fine Arts with a concentration in photography so I didn’t come out of school with a professional portfolio that people would hire me for. When I finished up college I decided that I wanted to go the commercial route because it was a more feasible way to have a business and actually pay my bills. I always had an eye for photography but I had learned absolutely nothing about how to make a living doing it in school. So I pursued a further education on the commercial aspect of photography and I got accepted to a school in Massachusetts called the Hallmark Institute of Photography. The school looked great and I was excited to go but the only problem was they only took new students in October and it was November at the time, I just missed the cut. I still had every intention of going but I had way too much time to find something else to do. I was very interested in the intricacies of Architectural and Interior photography and I ended up scoring a full-time job assisting Dan Forer, a very busy Architectural Photographer down here in Miami in March of 2005 and have been here ever since. I worked with Dan for a whole year and that was the best grad school program I could have ever went to, I actually got paid for what I was about to go to school for. After I worked for him for a year and took in an enormous amount of information both technically and on the business end, I decided to go freelance and pick up assisting work with various other photographers in different aspects of photography to broaden my photographic knowledge.
Q – Photography Student – How did you prepare yourself for this job? This profession?
A – Commercial Interior Architectural Photographer Craig Denis – It really happened gradually, it got to the point after a few years of assisting that I felt that I could do just as good or in some cases even a better job than the photographers I was working for. Thats when you know its time. I started to slowly build my portfolio and the confidence to pursue my own clients and there was a transitional period where I was assisting and picking up my own work at the same time. It takes a while to build a steady client base but once you do things just start rolling naturally and I began to phase out assisting work.
Q – Photography Student – Knowing what you know now, would you take the same job again? Why or why not?
A – Professional Photographer in Miami Craig Denis – It was a long road to get where I am now and I really cannot picture myself doing anything else. This is not really a job that I took or was hired for, it’s more of a lifestyle that I have chosen and while my style and expertise are constantly evolving, what I essentially do will remain the same.
Q – Photography Student – What do you like most about it? Like least about it? What do you find most rewarding about your work?
A – Commercial Photographer in Miami Craig Denis – Being freelance I get hired and fired almost every week and to be honest I don’t think I could go back to a 9 to 5 job doing the same thing every day. Professional photography really keeps you on your toes, there is something different going on all the time, but at the same token you never know when things are going to slow down. And when they are slow sometimes I can sit for weeks with out a job wondering if I am ever going to work again which was really hard in the beginning. For me work comes in waves I am either slammed or dead with nothing in between.
The most rewarding part of what I do is at the end of every job I walk away with something more than a paycheck, the images that I create help to continuously build my portfolio and in turn land me better gigs.
Q – Photography Student – What skills or personal qualities are necessary in this career?
A – Architectural Photographer in Miami Craig Denis – For one you really need to be able to scrap around and you have to really want it. This type of work is not for everyone. When I was primarily a freelance assistant times were tough, I would clear my bank account out every month just to pay my rent to the point where my balance was $13 one month, $26 another month. I learned fast that you need to have to be able to keep your overhead low especially in the beginning. This allowed me to save money, invest in new equipment and keeps me doing what I love to do without stressing out about finances.
Some of the skills required to be successful can be taught, the use of photoshop, lighting equipment, camera systems but if you don’t have the eye none of those things really matter.
Q – Photography Student – What, in your opinion, is the job outlook in this career area? What will affect its growth or decline?
A – Interior Photographer in Miami Craig Denis – Unless there is a zombie apocalypse the only thing that will affect my growth or decline is me and my motivation. I feel like there will always be a need for the image because the image is what sells a company. The first thing you look at in an advertisement is the picture and if the pictures don’t sell the company, their product or service, then they are going to have a hard time selling themselves. As a photographer you always have to adapt to new changes in the industry in digital technologies and capture systems and unless you are motivated to keep up with these changes you will fall behind. There are the basic fundamentals of photography that will always be there but unless you are up to date with the most cutting edge technology you are going to have a hard time moving forward.
Q – Photography Student – Are you active in any professional organizations in this field and which would you recommend?
A – Professional Architectural Interior Photographer in Miami Craig Denis – At the moment I am not but I hear ASMP is a good one to get involved with, there is as South Florida chapter which is also available for assistants.
Q – Photography Student – Would you advise people to enter this career area? Why or why not?
A – Commercial Interior Architectural Photographer in Miami Craig Denis – Well that really depends on the person, if you are looking to be in it for the money you are looking in the wrong direction, but if you have a creative eye and are looking to build something for yourself and have the motivation and passion to make that happen then yes it can be a very rewarding career.
Q – Photography Student – What do you look for in an assistant?
A – Professional Photographer in Miami Craig Denis – Someone who is punctual and eager to learn.
Q – Photography Student – Can you suggest anyone else whom I could contact for additional information?
A – Commercial Photographer in Miami Craig Denis – My friend Matt Horton www.hortonphotoinc.com who actually went to the Art Institute of Ft Lauderdale years ago. Matt is primarily a wedding shooter these days and is doing very well for himself and his family. 954-290-5497. Another amazing photographer that is also a very good friend of mine is photographer Tom Clark you can view his website at tomclarkphoto.com
For more from this and other projects visit my blogs on Craig Denis Photography on Facebook, Craig Denis Photography on Merchant Circle and on Craig Denis Photography on Blogger and check back for more updates weekly.