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Photography Question 
Paolo Cardone
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/17/2001
 

An urgent help!


Hello everybody I need urgently some help.
I'm a photographer in a small town in south of Italy with not a lot of possiblity to increase my clients.
I have decided to go in the United States in 2008, in particular San Francisco (CA). I see this city a very interesting place for my work and I'm sure that I would have more possibility than the place where I live now.
Last month I was there, and what I thought of this city confirms my thoughts.
The only thing, I'm afraid to make a wrong decision, I must work and not be a tourist...
I would like to know what you think about this, is it worthwile to go there or is it better to go New York (which I don't know nothing a tall as a city and what it offers for my work). Are there more possibily for my career?
I'm 44 years old and I can't take the risk to make the wrong decision.
Which city should I choose?
I thank you for your attention and await ansiosly a reply.
Best regards and sorry for my english.
Paolo


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12/5/2007 6:15:12 AM

 
Brooke M. Lewis
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/28/2007
  What type of photography do you do? Portraits, weddings, nature, etc - that will help with your decision.


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12/5/2007 8:59:50 AM

 
Paolo Cardone
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/17/2001
  Thank you Brooke.
I like work with people, weddings and fashion, this for eat.
For me I like take other type of photos, street and landscapes.
Paolo


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12/5/2007 9:11:11 AM

 
Paolo Cardone
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/17/2001
  Thank you Brooke.
I like work with people, weddings and fashion, this for eat.
For me I like take other type of photos, street and landscapes.
Paolo


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12/5/2007 9:11:31 AM

 
Carolyn  M. Fletcher
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/6/2001
Contact Carolyn
Carolyn 's Gallery
PickYourShots.com
  Having lived in San Francisco, I would certainly recommend it, not just for itself, but for the many other places that are within driving distance, such as the northern California coastal area, Yosemite, etc etc. It is very expensive to live there, but I'm sure not any worse than New York would be.


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12/5/2007 9:42:10 AM

 
Christopher A. Walrath
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/25/2006
  Carolyn is dead on with my point. To keep photography fresh you need a creative outlet for YOUR photography. New York City has the caost, Cape Cod and the Adirondak mountains within a day's drive. San Francisco has the Sierra mountain range, including Yosemite, King's Canyon, earthquakes, et. al. Check out area attractions, not for the purpose of being a tourist, but for having what you want in the way of photographic subject matter. You need to have something near by that you would enjoying surrounding yourself with and emmersing your photography in so that the hum drum of the money-making end doesn't drown your creative side.


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12/5/2007 10:14:32 AM

 
Christopher A. Walrath
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/25/2006
  Wow, sorry. My fat fingers were all over the place on that one.


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12/5/2007 10:16:09 AM

 
Brooke M. Lewis
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/28/2007
  This information is from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics - the top paying city for photographers is San Francisco. To read more, go to

http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes274021.htm

Top paying Metropolitan areas for this occupation:

1. San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA Metropolitan Division $56,670
2. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT $56,220
3. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI $53,760
3. La Crosse, WI-MN $45,690
4. New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division $44,400

Good Luck!


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12/5/2007 10:44:28 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Greetings Paolo. San Francisco is my neighborhood. I've been here for about 20 years and watched the photographic market evolve. While this is certainly a scenic area with a lot of photo ops, as your gallery shot of the kid on Pier 39 indicates, you need to think of this from a longer-range planning perspective.

In spite of it's size, San Francisco is really a very small and tight-knit community although it has a highly transient population as well. To that end, it takes some time, a year, year and a half or perhaps longer to get established here. When I say "established" I mean to develop working relationships with other photographers, assistants, associations, state and municipal agencies that issue shooting permits, gallery owners, labs, artist representatives, art buyers, publications, and others who can help market your work. You could get lucky and land something soon after arriving but don't count on $50,000 out of the gate. Starting salary for full-time assistants here is about 1/3 of that and most assistants I work with don't work full time. Studio jobs are few and far between. Rare in fact. And those that have remained, offer shooting positions usually to their assistants who have been with them for awhile. I can't remember the last time the San Francisco Chronicle, our local newspaper, actually hired a photographer. Just be aware that the competition here for obvious reasons, is pretty stiff.

So, not to be discouraging but you need to be financially prepared before you make a move to California. Consider the cost of living here is extremely high, even just to rent a room in a boarding house is very expensive. Look at SFgate.com for some want ads to get an idea of housing costs here. Gas prices as of yesterday are $3.85 for a gallon of medium grade unleaded. Muni Public transportation is great though so is BART. We have many specialty grocery markets here that are pretty costly too along with the usual chain stores.

I'm not convinced the bureau of labor statistics that Brooke mentioned are all that accurate. Because of competition in the photographic market, I'd say from what Ive seen and heard, the annual fees racked up by good freelancers are about 10% less than that. Statistics include or omit a whole host of variables and are an average anyway. While you may be bent on San Francisco, the cost of living is a bit lower in south bay and San Jose with reasonably good transportation to San Francisco on bus or train.

On the other hand, I have friends who shoot advertising work and although their income has decreased in the past 5 years, they do well above $50,000. I'm a staff photojournalist with a news agency and do alright too but as I said, it takes awhile to get established here and New York as well. That's a very tough market too. And in same ways, it pays to be what we call "bi-coastal" and work on both ends of the country. But you still have to develop both markets.

Check out SFgate.com and all that has to offer. Look at the links too especially for housing rentals or real estate markets. If you have more specific questions, drop me an e-mail and I'll try to answer them for you. In the meantime, I think like me, you need a hat.
Take it light and good luck to you.
Mark


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12/5/2007 11:29:05 AM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  I looked at your gallery and it is beautiful work.
I would however stress that " the City"
and " the Work" does'nt seem to always matter.
You will go through the same "Growing Pains" anywhere you go.
I moved 2 1/2 hours away from the area where I grew up, started a business ect.
I had a terrible time rebuilding in San Diego area, it has taken years to "Dig in" here.
Thank goodness I had Job offers that same 2 1/2 hours away.
What I'm saying is you will never be sure what you do will be best right away, it WILL take a lot of time to establish yourself.
Move from your country, because you long to experiance this one! and really only for that reason, then everything else stands a chance to fall into place.

Wishing you the very best in all your new ventures,
Debby Tabb


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12/5/2007 11:36:39 AM

 
Jerry Frazier   you didn't ask about this option, but ny and ca are actually the two biggest, most competitive, and toughest markets to work in. if I were starting fresh, i'd actually move to the midwest and conquer an area that hasn't yet been conquered, if possible. I do know photographers who have done this, and they are basically the only photographer in a town, and do really well with that.

the avg price of a home in southern cal is around $750,000. ny is probably similar. I think san francisco is a little higher than socal.

not to be negative, but I don't think it's possible to plop into sf or ny, and just starting doing it. if it was that easy, we'd all just do that.


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12/5/2007 12:58:58 PM

 
Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/8/2004
  Paolo,

Let me give you a perspective from someone that doesn't make a living off of photography. Your plan is to jump into either of two markets that are most likely over-saturated with photogs. Mark has at least explained the job situation in San Fran. I would bet that NY is just as over-saturated.

You better have additional plans to take extra jobs just to survive and then you are not guaranteed success. Like the rest have said, I don't mean to discourage you; but, you need to realize what you are in for. It is going to be tough at best. Since the advent of the digital camera, a lot of people think they are photogs.

P.S. Your English is probably better than Debby's. (Debby, you should really use spell and grammar check.) It only takes a few seconds!


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12/5/2007 5:34:05 PM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Oh well,
I am by no means perfect,
but I do put forth Quality!
Thanks for the suggestion, butttt....


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12/5/2007 5:39:57 PM

 
Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/8/2004
  Oh Paolo,

Another thought. I hope you either have citizenship in the U.S. or a visa good for about 3 years. After 9/11, your quest to be a U.S. citizen is going to be questioned very extensively. You better look into what it takes just to get here.

Thanks for the compliment Deb! I resemble that remark.


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12/5/2007 6:13:59 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Unfortunately, the average cost of a home in San Francisco is about 1.2 million bucks. Astounding actually. Apartment rentals are off the charts too. For example, in the Marina area, a nice, reasonably well-gentrified neighborhood, a one bedroom apartment is about $1,600 per month plus utilities and a license to hunt for parking spaces, a whole different issue in San Francisco.

Another contributing factor here is our new universal health care for residents. A new and interesting program that's drawn a whole new influx of folks from all over the U.S.

I have to agree with Deb. and Todd as well. No matter where you land Paolo, it's going to take time to get established no matter how consistently good it is. I think a year and a half is probably a good number but it's hard to tell. I'd at least plan on that and picking up other work with whatever skills you may have.

Todd is absolutely right in that a lot of people think they're photographers since they have digital cameras. The market is oversaturated which made it more difficult for genuine photographers in the business to make a living at it.

And I also agree with what Jerry said here too as far as maybe looking into a different area although even Chicago is quite oversaturated with photographers too.

I forgot to mention in my earlier note that you should regularly take a look at our trade paper called the Photo District News (PDN) published in NY about things happening in various photo markets throughout the U.S. and even Europe. There is also Advertising Age, a newspaper that offers weekly insight into advertising agencies in the U,S, That may help you determine market trends here as well.
Mark


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12/5/2007 6:26:20 PM

 
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