My photography plan

Yesterday I blogged about the plan that I have put together to help me reach the goals I have set for myself in life.  Today I will discuss in more depth my photography plans.  I’ve actually had a plan for my photography development for some time and I have made small and major changes at various times.  In general, though, it is still very similar to what it was a year ago.


The end goal will be one where I regularly sell fine art prints of my work that people hang on their walls.  I do not expect to reach a level where I am internationally or even nationally known, but I would like to reach a level where I can find galleries willing to display and sell my work.  In terms of income, I am not planning to make enough to be able to live on or even retire on – I have other plans to take care of those issues.  I would like, however, the sales from my photography to be able to pay for a vacation or two each year.


I have divided my progress into six stages between where I am now and where I intend to be.  As I have mentioned in my previous posts, my current gear consists of a Canon 5D, 580EX and MT-24EX flashes, Canon 50mm 1.4, Canon MP-E 65, Canon 16-35 2.8L II, Sigma 80-400 4.5-5.6 OS, and a Tamron 24-135 3.5-5.6, and a Gitzo 1348 tripod with a Markins M20 ball head.


Stage 1

The goal of this stage has been to get into micro stock photography and make enough money to pay for more equipment.  I have already made great progress on this stage, having already purchased the tripod, ball head, MP-E 65 and twin-lite flash, and most recently the 16-35mm II.  The only lenses remaining in this list are the following.

                Canon 24-105mm 4.0L IS – this lens will replace my Tamron

                Canon 180mm 3.5L – I need more reach often than the MP-E 65 allows

                Canon 1.4x extender – I really do not like getting near bees

                Canon Angle C view finder – for macro and real estate work

To finance my purchases in this stage, I am allowed to use any reward, gift money, or money from micro stock.  The outlook is currently very positive to finishing this stage next year.


Stage 2

After stage 1 things get a lot tougher.  In this stage my camera hobby becomes completely self sustaining, as I am no longer allowed to use gift money or rewards for camera equipment purchases.  I am only allowed to use money that my photography generates.  My current plan is to make this money from a combination of micro stock and real estate photography.  I currently plan to purchase the following equipment in stage 2.

                Canon TS-E 90 – macro is one of my favorite subjects and this lens will allow me to do some interesting things

                Filters – I already have a polarizer, but I would like to get a few colored polarizers, gradient, and neutral density filters.

                Canon 600mm 4.0 IS – I am still debating somewhat between this and the Sigma 300-800 5.6.  However the extra stop, IS, and focus limiter look too strong to pass up.

                Canon 1Ds Mark III – If they release a new model that is 22MP this will be in stage 2.  If not, I will move this item to stage 3.


Stage 3

I’m not sure how long it will take me to finish stage 2, as the last two items are very pricy so I’ll need a rather booming real estate side business.  In this stage I will turn my attention to learning portrait photography and lighting.  I have strong feelings about what I intend to accomplish in terms of portrait photography and I intend only to attempt to capture images that reflect the true nature of a person or people.  In particular I plan to photograph my kids, but I will likely also photograph friends and family.  I will likely take some portraits for income, but I suspect this will not be a common occurrence.  I will absolutely not take pictures of models, as I find this very fake and vain.  The equipment I plan to purchase during this stage is the following.

                A professional lighting setup – this will probably include modifying my garage

                A top notch portrait lens – right now this looks like the Canon 85mm 1.2L


Stage 4

When I reach this stage, the major equipment purchases will be for the most part done.  Granted, if a new camera body comes out I may take a look at it, but this stage is when I make the turn from taking pictures that make me a profit to taking pictures to improve my skills.  Granted, the above exercises will improve my skills and I am constantly learning new things, but there is a huge difference between real estate photography and stock photography on the one side and fine art photography on the other.


I likely will spend money earned from my other endeavors to pay for classes and seminars where professional photographers will help me improve.  The goal in this stage is to be able to produce a picture of such high quality and printing that someone will pay to hang it on their wall.


I have not settled on the exact exit criteria for this stage yet, but my current thoughts are that I must have my works displayed in two galleries and I must sell at least ten prints.


Stage 5

This stage is the final transition on the way to my eventual goal.  The primary aim in this stage is to no longer rely on stock photography and real estate photography for any meaningful income, but instead rely entirely on sales of fine art prints to pay for camera equipment and a vacation.  I do not have numbers in mind, but in today’s dollars I would hope to earn somewhere between $15k-$30k per year.  As I said, I have no intentions of giving up my day job for this.


To achieve this I would continue to work towards getting my works displayed in more galleries and art shows.  I would also market my work as best I can and continue to improve my skills.  I will only exit from this stage when my original goals have been met.


Stage 6

There is no exit from this stage.  Basically in this stage my goal is to continue to create excellent prints and sell them.  My goal already achieved, this is the stage where I look into how far I can really go. 

Comments (2)

  1. Martin Ritchie says:

    I think your plan leaves a lot to be desired. It concentrates too much on equipement and says nothing about technique. I think it would be better if your plan concentrated on technique. For example:

    Stage 1: Landscapes- I would like to produce a nice portfolio detailing a particular geographic feature in you area. (maybe a ravine, a mountain whatever just explore it fully and take lots of pictures in multiple light settings and seasons.)

    Stage 2: People- Aquire a good portrait lens and make a portfolio of pictures of everyone you can get to sit for you.

    Stage 3: B&W – repeat stage 1 and 2 but use B&W exclusively (prefer film but digital okay). That way you will learn more about texture and lighting then you can with  colour.

    Stage 4: Exhibition – Get a galary to exhibit some of your work.

  2. jscalev says:

    Martin, I appreciate your feedback but I did need to tailor my plan around the fact that I cannot spare funds to purchase $7k lenses and cameras.

    By forcing myself to sell at an early stage I get a very rude introduction into what people like and do not like with photographs. Friends may say my shots look nice so as to not hurt my feelings, but buyers will not purchase anything they don’t like.

    As I said before, this is a plan that I have for myself and so far I have been successful with it. I would not advocate or propose anyone else use it.

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