Art and Photography

Friend wants to quit a good job, take out a student loan, and become a photographer

  • Last Updated:
  • Aug 19th, 2012 9:10 pm
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[OP]
Newbie
Jan 7, 2008
46 posts
4 upvotes

Friend wants to quit a good job, take out a student loan, and become a photographer

My friend is frustrated in his current job where he earns about $75K. He wants to quit, take a $50K loan, and attend a school of photography for two years so as to become a professional photographer. I don’t think it’s a good idea.

For one, he is almost 50 years old, and so the return on investment on the $50K loan will be poor. And if things don’t work out for him, he will have a hard time getting back into the job market at his age. At this time, I think he needs to be preparing for retirement (he doesn't have a very large nest egg, either, which is why he needs to take out a student loan to attend the school).

Also, ever since digital photography eliminated the technical entry barrier to the field, anyone who can buy DSLR camera can take a reasonably good picture. Plus the cameras on phones are getting better and better. I presume that means photo studio businesses aren’t that profitable any more. After all, if people have lots of digital family pics available, why go off to photo studio? And there aren’t that many magazines or newspapers around anymore to hire him as a photographer.

So, in my mind, that just leaves wedding photography. Which means that he’ll be competing with “Uncle Bob” who owns a Canon Rebel T3i and can take good photos for free, or semi-professional hobbyists who have full-time jobs, but who use their free time and weekends to indulge their hobby (and so can offer a wedding package fee for very low cost).

Are there any full-time professional photographers here? How difficult is it to make a career of photography? Are there good opportunities in professional photography, or is wedding photography pretty much all that he can reasonably expect to end up doing? Am I wrong to advise him to not go into the field?
46 replies
Deal Addict
Jul 13, 2009
2887 posts
643 upvotes
Mid life crisis?

Is he any good?

...and why $50k loan? $50k is way more than enough......

Does he still have a mortgage? Kids to feed? Wife to feed? Can wife feed family? Does he have enough saved for retirement?

There's a billion factors. Just like starting any business there's risks, there's rewards. There are photographers who make peanuts, then there are photographers who clear $80k to $100k+ gross.

Why not part time, then transition to full time when the time is right?

There's a lot of opportunities in photography...just need to carve out your own niche and specialty. Just like being a cook, you could be McDonalds, or Hot Dog Stand, or Jamie freaking Oliver.
[OP]
Newbie
Jan 7, 2008
46 posts
4 upvotes
bhrm wrote:
Jul 18th, 2012 10:36 pm
Mid life crisis?

Is he any good?

...and why $50k loan? $50k is way more than enough......

Does he still have a mortgage? Kids to feed? Wife to feed? Can wife feed family? Does he have enough saved for retirement?

There's a billion factors. Just like starting any business there's risks, there's rewards. There are photographers who make peanuts, then there are photographers who clear $80k to $100k+ gross.

Why not part time, then transition to full time when the time is right?

There's a lot of opportunities in photography...just need to carve out your own niche and specialty. Just like being a cook, you could be McDonalds, or Hot Dog Stand, or Jamie freaking Oliver.

The $50K loan is tuition for the photography school. And he doesn't have a wife or children, just a girlfriend.

He doesn't know if he will be a good photographer; he is still in the process of learning how to take photos. He's taken a few workshops, and now wants to do the two-year program. The primary factor driving his decision is his dislike for, and frustration with, his current job.

I don't think the switch has been well thought out, and he may regret it later. Then again, maybe I am just being a gloomy Gus.
Deal Addict
Oct 3, 2007
3040 posts
364 upvotes
I think it is a bad idea. Going to school for two years does not guarantee you anything. It takes several years after that to build a client base (you're not going to land a decent salary job as a photographer after two years of school and no prior experience). So yeah, two years of school and another couple learning the ropes, maybe two or three more to build a steady client base (ASSUMING they're good and can market themselves)...puts him nearly at 60 with a job that still pays less than his current one...

...and none of it is guaranteed.
Neil Ta, Epic Wedding Photographer. My Instagram
Sr. Member
Feb 10, 2005
775 posts
130 upvotes
Richmond Hill
+1

Nothing is more miserable than going to work every day and feel like you are going into a pressure cooker. Looking back, I would rather be frustrated with my wife than my job.

If that's how he feels, then, nothing can save him from thinking about quitting. However, low energy level and job frustration goes side by side, and I am not sure if that applies to your friend or not.

I say he's better off to go take a loan and use that money to go into business himself if that's an doable alternative. Take a loan to learn photography with a purpose of making a good living out of it does not make sense to me. It is just too risky.
Sr. Member
User avatar
Jul 8, 2012
816 posts
164 upvotes
VANCOUVER
For a guy that just started in photography, I don't know how he can fall for the field so quickly and give up a job for it. Ask him to go interview some professionals and ask them this one question, "what don't you like about your job?" If there is a constant theme that your buddy also hates, well, that may curb his enthusiasm for photography as a profession.

If he hates his job, there are hundreds/thousands of occupations out there that may not need 2 years of education and $50k loan. If he hates the job because of where (company) he works, he should look for another company to work for as a change of environment maybe all he needs.
Deal Addict
Sep 4, 2002
1114 posts
92 upvotes
Halifax, NS
In my opinion, there is not enough information to tell. Obviously the OP doesn't want him to do it, so their explanation of the situation is likely biased. For all we know, this guy is approaching retirement age and wants to have something to do after retirement. 50 is a good time to be thinking about that for sure, so there is absolutely no harm in his consideration.

Plus, we also don't know his current and/or previous experience. Maybe he has business management training/experience and he sees an opportunity to start his own business. Or maybe it's just always been a dream of his, but he's never had the need/opportunity/motivation to pursue it.

I agree that he likely doesn't need to pony up $50k for education, but without knowing the course and/or school he plans to attend, it's hard to make that judgement too. Maybe there are strict entrance requirements and they can guarantee a job afterwards (maybe they hire?). It's unlikely, but we don't know this. Maybe this includes all the equipment he'd need and some of it goes towards starting your own business.

Aside from the fact that I doubt any bank would give him a $50k student loan at 50 years of age, if he does get one, power to him. Chances are he would never pay it off anyway, so that alone would be less of a risk to him.

My point is that I don't think it's really fair to crush this guys dreams. Not everyone is successful at taking on their own business and the ones that are, often have supportive people in their corner. Help him understand the risks involved, but support his decisions. They don't affect you at all.

Most start up businesses fail. But all of the ones that never start fail.
Member
Feb 19, 2004
279 posts
18 upvotes
Maybe this isn't about photography at all; perhaps your friend just wants to quit his job.
Jr. Member
Mar 19, 2009
101 posts
6 upvotes
I LOL'd at the $50K Loan to study Photography, agree with one of the posters. What do they teach you at school that's worth $50K? I think your friend just wanted to quit his job.
Sr. Member
May 29, 2012
743 posts
40 upvotes
MAPLE RIDGE
imAnewbie wrote:
Jul 19th, 2012 9:36 am
I LOL'd at the $50K Loan to study Photography, agree with one of the posters. What do they teach you at school that's worth $50K? I think your friend just wanted to quit his job.

You can't make a good living doing photography...
The money is terrible in fact. Tell him to just perhaps spend that loan to explore a new area that actually will make a good living and be more pleasant than his current work.
Sr. Member
Jan 2, 2008
659 posts
38 upvotes
He can pay me 50k and I will teach him everything I know.
Toronto Automotive Photographer
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Deal Fanatic
Aug 29, 2006
7620 posts
1506 upvotes
On the other hand, I know a few guys that quited their even better paying jobs in oil & gas to become wedding photograhpers. For most of them, it started as a hobby, taking photos for friends and family, then friends of friends as good source of income to fund their gear upgrade, finally full time better paying job.

For the most part, people still are paying to get a wedding photographers and their going rate are like $3000~4000 a wedding on the low end and more skilled are asking for even more. So, if on average you do 2 weddings a month even, it adds up to a nice pay chk.

I am not saying everyone will be able to do it for a living but if you are good, it is not always a poor choice of career, too.
The Devil made me buy it - RFD. :twisted:
Deal Addict
Feb 13, 2007
1169 posts
95 upvotes
From your description - terrible idea.

I assume the $50k is to pay for his life as well as schooling, since there's no program of any sort in Toronto that would be charging $25k a year. So this would be to cover his rent and expenses as well.

Regardless, photography schools require a portfolio submission for degree programs. You can't just buy a camera and decide to take courses. You have to have a decent level of skill already to get into any reputable program. Some, like Sheridan, are incredibly competitive. He probably won't get in, which will stop his plans immediately.

He wants a new job? Then he should find a new job that he's qualified for.

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