Fine art photography – What does it mean being a professional photographer?

Photography, one word to describe an art but an infinite number of photographers

When I decided to become a full time photographer in late 2013, the first question I asked myself was “what’s being a photographer?“. Then, I decided to look around and I saw it exists many different kind of photographers and photographies.

Let’s see together what are the main ones, without being exhaustive!

The merchants who sell photographs

First of all you can find the photographers who work on command only.

This is the case for the wedding photographers, for portrait and fashion photographers. These photographers expect their customers to contact them for a specific photographic work, whose prices are most of the time based on the time they’re going to work on.

To me, this is an activity I can hardly imagine practising. I’m really incapable to work on command. I like to work for myself, to take photographs I’ll love. The first customer of my photographs is myself! If my shots don’t satisfy my own exigence, I won’t never show them to someone else!

As wedding, portrait or fashion photographer, your first purpose is to please to your customer, regardless of whether or not you consider that you have done a good job.

Wedding photographers

Then, you have photographers who chose to sell a lot of copies of their photographs, as posters or cards for example. Places like Paris are full of people like those. It’s easy to sell posters of the Eiffel Tower, of Montmartre. Tourists buy them as a souvenir from Paris they bring back in their country to show to their friends “we were there!

These posters or postal cards don’t worth more than the price of their souvenirs. I mean nothing. One day, they’ll finish in the trash bin. The photographers sell hundreds or thousands copies of one of his photographs at a cheap price, but with the volume they’re able to live thanks to that!

But the competition is really hard in that industry.

When you go now at Ikea for instance, you can buy large size photographs for a really cheap price! But most of them are heavily edited in softwares like Photoshop and they don’t capture something real.

There’s nothing real in this kind of photographs and the job is now to be more a graphic artist than a photographer. To my mind, it’s really sad because it means that you don’t work anymore to get pleasure in taking photographs but by editing them.

But everyone need to eat and live, and it’s a work like another one.

The photo reporters!

By far the most dangerous job you can reach as a photographer! I don’t really remember the figures but dozens of them passed away every year! They’re are where the information need to be captured then send their works to the medias to show the world what’s going wrong on this planet.

I was selected to exhibit my photographers about Egypt at VISA Off Perpignan this year. VISA is the biggest photo reportages festival in the world and takes place every year in the city of Perpignan, south of France.

I met many photo reporters there and you can’t really imagine all the risks they take to bring the photographs you’ll see the day after in your favorite newspaper!

The most incredible thing is that most of them are not even paid to go on the ground to make this job and to take all these risks! They go often by their own and are only paid when they send a good photograph that is going to be bought by a media!

1944_operation overlord robert capa

And, of course… the more you want a good photograph, the more you need to be close to the subject… and many of them die, only to provide to our world some proofs and clues about what is happening in very dangerous and forgotten locations.

I would really have wanted to be a photo reporter, but it’s really too dangerous and I don’t think that my own life worths the price to pay to be one of them.

Robert Capa is probably the best example of a photo reporter! He was on the front line with his camera during the Normandy landings and died by walking on a mine in Indochina the 25 of may 1954…

He was the greatest, the most famous and one of the creator of the Magnum Agency…

Contemporary and conceptual arts

A category I don’t really like… Most of conceptual and contemporary photographers are graduated from Art Universities, they all think they’re the best in the world and they produce incomprehensible artworks. And if you don’t understand anything to their Art, they say it’s because of you and not of them!

Well, I’m too bad with them because I’ve already seen some really interesting series of contemporary photographers. But this kind of photography talks to your brain not to your heart!

And people say that If you don’t like their artworks that’s because you’re too stupid to understand… or not open minded. Choose what you prefer…


I’ve to say that I really don’t meet them often in International Photography Competitions. I think that this is a different world defined by its own rules and supported by a large network of galleries throughout the world like a very closed microcosm only composed of initiated people.

And it’s definitely not my world because when I see an artwork, it needs to speak to my heart or to my feeling, not to my mind or to my brain!

The street photography

In this last category I will mention the greatest, like Henri Cartier Bresson, Sebastião Salgado, Robert Doisneau, Simon Wheatley, Steve McCurry and so more…

These photographers have “invented” the street photography, this one Henri C. Bresson called the decisive moment. They are storytellers because they tell beautiful stories with only 1 or 2 photographs.

Girl begging for money in Bangkok
They don’t need any words to explain the context and the story behind the photograph. They know how to capture the deepest emotion in a person and to share it with the world through emotions and feelings.

They’ve in common that they travel a lot, encountering many different cultures and people. They brought to the people the true visages of our world, whether it’s a good or a sad visage. They’re open minded and always keen to try something different.

They like freedom and they practice the photography they chose. They don’t work to put a terrible photograph on first page of a newspaper to create the buzz. I think that being a street photographer is to be the reflect of our world, the real one, not the one we watch on TVEvery single photograph is a visual punchline but not shocking, invading your mind and your soul, that moves you in what you’re and what you think.

Most of the time you need to go in galleries to see such photographs because usual medias aren’t interested by this kind of work. But here is, for me, the true purpose of the photography: testimonies about lifeAnd this doesn’t happen in the newspapers or on TV…

Fine Art photography – How it works

All fine art photographers sell their artworks in limited editions, 30 copies all sizes for me for instance. Or they can sell rights on images to editors who want to publish a book about an artist, a collective or a topic.

The prices of these artworks are based on the notoriety of the photographer. The more the photographer is famous, the more the prices are high. Notoriety is by far the most difficult to handle with and is not always linked to the talent of the photographer.

Some are gifted to sell their artworks (good or bad), others are only gifted to take photographs.

I think that at the end, the most important is the recognition by his peers. That’s why I participate to photography competitions or festivals to win distinctions and awards. And in less than 1 year I won 54 distinctions with 45 photographs, participated at VISA Off Festival, exhibited in Beijing and Cairo and won the Moscow International Fotos Awards in 2 categories, Architecture and Children.

Everywhere in this sprawling city of over 16 million people we can see people practicing their activity even on the streets that are completely paralyzed by the traffic jams for more than 8 hours per day. It may seem surprising at first to encounter a blacksmith in the heart of town, but horses are many to browse streets to transport commodities and materials.   Their harnesses sneak easily in side streets blocked by the crowd and they are easy "to park".

When a customer buy one of my photograph, it’s not only because the artwork pleases but also because it’s an investment and that he can expect to sell it later at a better price and make some profit.

That’s something really fascinating because if you want to gain notoriety, you need to be a good photographer and a good seller, you need to use the new tools like Social Networks and blogs, to be expert in SEO and webdesign and to be able to write about your own photographs!

Not really easy isn’t? And the way is very long to the day you sell your first artwork! Patience is a necessary virtue for both taking photographs and develop his own business!

Patience, everything in life is always about patience! Can be frustrating sometimes 🙂

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