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So you want to be a photographer or artist?

Ian Watts Photography and Digital Art - Artist

So you want to be a photographer or an artist – ┬ásounds ┬ásimple, right? Yes or No? Hmm… maybe, but is it that simple?
Ian Watts Digital Art - Artist

In short, that answer is yes, it is that simple – if you want to be an artist (I include photography in that – of course photography is art), you need to create art. Full Stop. Period. You’re an artist or a photographer. It doesn’t matter whether anyone likes it, or whether you get recognition from it – you create it for you. It’s your art and no one else can say that it isn’t art.

So, congratulations, your an artist.

Of course, what most of us mean when we say we want to be an artist, is that either we want recognition as an artist, or we want to make money as an artist. And that is where we enter a whole new ball game.

Ian Watts Digital Art - Artist

Let’s look at both. If you want to make money you basically have two routes you can go down. You can try and sell your art, your photography, or you can offer an artistic of photographic service.

Offering a Service

If you’re doing the second, offering a service, what you create becomes about what the client wants. As creatives, that can bring about all sorts of tensions, but can be an easier route to make money. The tension comes from being creative for ourselves or creating something for someone else’s vision. But you’ve got to be good, as it is a competitive market, and half the world has a semi decent camera these days. Heck, even our phones have semi decent cameras.

So if you’re offering a service, you need either to be really good or offering a service no one else is doing or be really good at marketing yourself.

Selling Art

So what about the first route – selling your art. Much more tricky as services such as Smugmug and Zenfolio make this easy for anyone to have an online shop. But that for most of us doesn’t equate to regular sales. Again we are in a bloated market. So we start pushing our photographs onto Flickr, 500PX, Instagram etc. in the hopes of gaining a following and celebrate when we reach certain milestones. But there is the trap. And it sneaks up on you without you knowing it. We start to create images that we know will gain likes, not images that we like. And suddenly we aren’t getting quite the enjoyment out of what we photograph or create because we aren’t being ourselves.

A selection of photo's taken around the Parkhall Estate in Stoke on Trent, UK

Either route, we end up spending a lot of time marketing ourselves – through social media, and maybe with Facebook ads and Google Adwords, and gradually we spend less and less time being the artist we want to be. Social media marketing is a profession in itself, with lots of complexities that we don’t necessarily know about. Not as easy as it looks.

Be True to Yourself

I am in the process of really analysing myself and what I want out of this – I’ve spent time exploring different genres, and I’ve spent time learning about Social Media – and it’s all left me a little empty. I seem to have along the way forgot why I picked up a camera in the first place. Not to please others, sell photographs, or offer a service, but to capture memories and emotions that mean something to me.

I suspect that the artists that stick to that, are the artists that ultimately gain the following. Think of the photographers that you know, that are well known. Are they creating work for others, or are they creating art for themselves?

So whether you offer a service to make money, or whether you do something else to make money, make sure your art is yours, and no one else’s. Share it, but try not to put too much value on likes and follows; because if you are creating art for you, you are already an artist – you have made it.

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