BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Paul D. Freedman
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/10/2008
Contact Paul
Paul's Gallery

Second Career at 60

I just turned 60 and I have been pursuing my interest in photography for the last 5 years. I am taking courses, doing workshops and reading a lot of books.

As I begin to think about retiring from my day job the thought of making a few dollars from my photography has crossed my mind. I do not envision opening my own studio or doing weddings but maybe selling some stock photos or doing a calendar or selling some of my work at arts and craft fairs. Maybe some kids birthdays or publicity shots for businesses.

I have also thought of finding a professional that I can assist on shoots and learn at the same time.

My question is this. Do a lot of people take up photography semi professionally at a later age (post retirement) and are there opportunities for someone like me to apprentice or is that usually reserved for the kid just out of photography school looking to start a career?

To love this question, log in above
3/31/2012 11:01:57 PM

John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Hi Paul,
Judging by the people who take my classes there are a lot of folks who want to start shooting professionally later in life. One of the advantages that a person can have is experience in areas other than photography. A young person just starting in photography doesnít have experience in other things, he/she not only has to learn photography, but also how to apply photography to different sorts of subjects. When I shoot photographs of construction, what I know about construction helps. When I shoot bank executives, it helps that Iíve shot bank executives, and other business people in the past. I think one of the best things an experienced person can do is to photograph and write articles for magazines. Magazines publish regularly, so they always need material, and they appreciate an experienced point of view. Look at the magazines that you already get. I do use mature people as assistants on some occasions, however, as I may take hundreds of pounds of equipment on location, a personís strength does matter.
John Siskin

To love this comment, log in above
4/2/2012 10:45:05 AM

Thomas Schoeller
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/4/2006
  Hi Paul,

Few things to keep in mind about the options you discussed. Stock photos are usually done through an agency, and most agencies require that you provide and maintain a large inventory of stock photos and continue to provide a steady flow of new images per month. I myself don't sell through an agency-but am open to such usage by request. Just to prepare you, providing stock photos for a steady income or even PT income is not easy.

I have had a calendar published, and fortunately sold out within a 2 mo. period. A limited production run of 500, I signed each copy and sold both as bulk to retail stores (@ 8.00 per copy) and individually for $15.95 ea. To do this on your own, that is quite the undertaking and may require a substantial capitol investment. Most of the advertising "bulk" providers who make calendars can't even get you the calendars for $15.00 each plus shipping, so be sure to figure in your net cost and projected sales.

The art show venue is an EXCELLENT choice for someone starting out like yourself. The nicer your booth display to compliment your artwork, the better off you will be. A professional looking delivery goes a long way. Start simple, mount on 3/8 acid free foam board and be sure your matting cuts are super clean.

The courses, reading books and workshops are pointing you in the right direction! Always maintain enthusiasm in what your doing, so long as you don't spend $$ needlessly this will be a fun start to your journey.

I don't think your question has a one size fits all answer. I can see possible challenges starting at a later age simply based on the fact that success rarely happens so quickly, it takes time to build a business starting with fundamentally good foundation and then marketing yourself. However, with age comes wisdom...right? I wouldn't let "60" get in the way. It's the 50 anyhow

To love this comment, log in above
4/11/2012 6:09:02 PM

Paul D. Freedman
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/10/2008
Contact Paul
Paul's Gallery Editor's Pick   Mrs. and Maltese
Mrs. and Maltese
ISO 200, 50mm lens at 1/125 f10. Studio strobes
© Paul D. Freedman
Nikon D90 Digital ...
Thanks John and Tom.

I am certainly going to pursue the art fair venue. I have taken some portraits of my wife and did some prints for a baby picture for a woman at work. So I have already gotten some people to ask me to do pictures of their grand kids.

I do not want the responsibility or headaches that comes with Weddings but I have considered doing business promotional shots and start out by charging only for the pictures they purchase making it no risk up front for the customer.

As far as spending money, I do tend to burn holes in my pocket. While I have not spent 3-5 thousand on a full frame DSLR, between a set of basic studio lights, lenses, filters, bags, flashes, software and classes I am certainly into my "hobby" for a good piece of change. I tend to be a bit of a gadget freak.

While I do spend a lot on photography I also was spending a lot on golf and I will never make a nickel playing golf so my retirement will be more productive behind a lens then on the green.

I am attaching a couple of recent portraits I did in my basement with my basic lighting kit. I have gotten some wonderful reviews from friends and relatives but would appreciate some more objective opinions.


To love this comment, log in above
4/11/2012 6:43:28 PM

doug Nelson   If you are adept at Photoshop, you might consider a retouch business. I ran one through a mom-and-pop photo store. I put loved one's faces on celebrity bodies, took out-of-favor relatives out of wedding photos - all kinds of fun stuff. Many softwares exist to automate retouch functions.

Since I have worked with veterans for years, and the WWII, Korea and Vietnam vets are fading fast, families might appreciate a sensitive portrait. Whether he/she wants to wear a uniform is up to the vet. You would have to learn more than I do now about lighting.

I am thinking of a "photographic services" business in which I do a few small weddings and other events, and retouch.

How about a "boudoir" business where I set up the camera and lighting, show the customer how to set off the camera remotely, and give the customer the SD card after the shoot. Discreet, eh?

To love this comment, log in above
4/12/2012 8:23:13 AM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.