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Contemplating my future

tonyturley

Hall of Famer
Nov 24, 2014
3,445
Scott Depot, WV, USA
I am one of the 800,000+ Federal employees not being paid during the partial US government shutdown. I’ve served 31+ years in the field of aviation safety, and I’ve long been ready for a new chapter in my life. The current political drama is the last straw. Our POTUS today threatened to keep us unpaid for “months, or even years, if necessary”. Although he is predisposed to making statements without basis in facts, this one is bombastic even for him. I am not looking to start a political argument, but I am seriously frustrated right now.

As soon as possible, I intend to file my retirement application, with an effective date of September 2019. That will hopefully give the HR processing office time to clear up their current backlog of applications.

I have for a long time been contemplating the next steps in my journey. Uncomfortable as it is, I think our domestic political drama may be the kick in the pants I needed to finally make a move. I’ve been told by many people that I should write or sell photos for a living. I know friends and family mean well, but they don’t realize it’s not as easy as putting up a web site and saying “Here, buy my stuff.”.

I have been tossing about in my head the idea of travel writing and photography. I realize I am a decent, but not “great” photographer. Truth is, I’m not really certain of the direction I want to take. I’ve read some books, and talked with one of you at length privately. Now I’m casting the net wide. Are any of you who write and or photograph for a living willing to offer any tips or advice for career transitioning? I realize I may be asking for the Secret Sauce. I’ll be 60 in a few months, and I’m really looking more toward building something that will supplement my retirement income. My wife suggests I begin with a blog. But how to separate from the pack?

Another question is equipment. My current gear is primarily a G80 + PL 12-60. Great combination, but is it good enough for paid use? I briefly considered a D610 or 6D for the potential higher IQ, but I have always valued smaller and less weighty. Is there anything else that can give me better IQ per pound? My thoughts lately have been turning back toward Fuji. I am just not certain if additional equipment is necessary, but I’m willing to go that route if it will help my transition.

This is both an unsettling and potentially exciting time for me. I’ve long had thoughts of trying to break away from the grip of The Man, and this may very well be the push I need. Input, advice, criticism, all are welcome.
 

gryphon1911

Top Veteran
Feb 6, 2015
956
Central Ohio, USA
I don't think there is really a "secret sauce" so much as transitioning to something different is finding the right fit for you.

If it is photography, then I'd look to see what other artists do, but not limited to photography. The biggest thing is finding the niche that you like and also has income. Could be from selling physical things to getting kickbacks from click throughs and advertisers.

Regarding gear. Anything is "good enough" if you are able to get the pictures that you want from it. The key is this...will more expensive gear make getting the images you want to create easier?

I still have a Nikon D50/Nikon 55-200VR image in 20x30 on my wall that was taken back in 2006. No one asks or cares about how it was created.

What I would do, is sit down and figure out what it is you want to do, then evaluate - do I have what I need to accomplish that end goal? If not what would it take to get there and do I have the ability to get those things I need? If not can i work toward it?
 

addieleman

Regular
Oct 20, 2012
143
The Netherlands
From what I've seen of your photography, I don't think buying new gear will bring you anything. To me it looks like your work hasn't depended on the gear used, whether it'd be Pentax, Panasonic, Fuji, Sony or whatever else you've used in the past few years. I think spending time on refining post-processing skills will be much more rewarding. As I've been completely unsuccessful in making money off photography or writing, I can't give you any other advice. I just hope the change will work out for you, best of luck!
 

Briar

All-Pro
Oct 27, 2010
1,395
Scotland
I watch more YouTube than regular tv, mostly travel vlogs. If I was heading in any creative direction that’s a journey I would explore. Vlog instead of blog.
 

davidzvi

Top Veteran
Apr 18, 2014
576
Boston Burbs
About your gear, tools are just that, tools. Depending on what you want to do, what area you want to concentrate on there may be better tools. Tools that might make the work easier. But until you decide the direction it's hard to suggest changing your gear.

Blogs, FB, etc? How good are you as being VERY active? I know I'm terrible at it, I was never able to keep a blog or even my business FB going.
 

tonyturley

Hall of Famer
Nov 24, 2014
3,445
Scott Depot, WV, USA
Thanks for all the replies. I know my wife is nervous about me retiring so soon. A family member has strongly urged against it based on their own experience. I just know the status quo is not suffient for me. Andrew's final paragraph sums up my thoughts fairly well.
 

Christop82

Regular
May 2, 2017
48
I'm also a federal employee, and actually a little disappointed I'm not furloughed. In reality government shutdowns are like paid vacations. I know it can be unsettling when you're paycheck to paycheck, but you will most likely be reimbursed. I've heard many bombastic statements the past few days, a 70% tax rate, free college for all, free health care for all, and the lovely m*f* word by a newly seated representative.
As for the gear, I would definitely figure out exactly what I was doing first. The g80 and leica may be perfect for whatever that is.
 

BrianS

Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
3,798
40 years ago several friends told me that Wedding Photography was the bread and butter of a photographer. I suspect that all these years later, this statement is more true than ever. I have a friend that is establishing a Photography business doing weddings and family portraits.

I remind you that Congress has always given back pay to Federal Employees affected by the shutdown. Furloughs are different- that is the only time that I lost pay. I got even by carrying over leave from that year. We're not the only industry affected by closings and furloughs. Given that you have 31 years of experience in Aviation Safety, I suspect that you could get a job easily with private industry. I would not want to rely on a new photography business to live off of. If you have retirement, and if necessary could add to it with a consulting job within the aviation industry- go for it.

My wife is always telling me I could retire and repair lenses for extra income. The latter- I do to relax. I cannot see myself retiring and walking away from computer engineering. I'm fortunate that I like what I do.
 

davidzvi

Top Veteran
Apr 18, 2014
576
Boston Burbs
One question for you. At 60 (I'll be 55 in .. days) what major life events are still ahead of you? Are the kids out of school, married, do you need to downsize your home? Can you do those on your retirement benefits and your wife's income? How much more do you need to make? Don't forget to think about business expenses, insurance can be a big one. Both liability and to cover your gear and office/computer equipment. As soon as you make a dime from your images your homeowners policy won't cover your gear. And you need a good backup system.

One thing to be careful of. Photography can be a very lonely business. Sounds odd right? Shoot an event with 200-300 guests that you interact with maybe a little more than the people you run into at a shopping mall. Then you go home and sit in front of your computer the rest of the week by yourself. It's another reason I'm going back to IT.
 

davidzvi

Top Veteran
Apr 18, 2014
576
Boston Burbs
40 years ago several friends told me that Wedding Photography was the bread and butter of a photographer. I suspect that all these years later, this statement is more true than ever. I have a friend that is establishing a Photography business doing weddings and family portraits.

I remind you that Congress has always given back pay to Federal Employees affected by the shutdown. Furloughs are different- that is the only time that I lost pay. I got even by carrying over leave from that year. We're not the only industry affected by closings and furloughs. Given that you have 31 years of experience in Aviation Safety, I suspect that you could get a job easily with private industry. I would not want to rely on a new photography business to live off of. If you have retirement, and if necessary could add to it with a consulting job within the aviation industry- go for it.

My wife is always telling me I could retire and repair lenses for extra income. The latter- I do to relax. I cannot see myself retiring and walking away from computer engineering. I'm fortunate that I like what I do.
40 years ago it might have been. Today in the world digital world? Not so much. The digital world has made things VERY difficult. I don't want to side track the thread since events don't seem to interest @tonyturley, but the industry has been hard hit.
 

tonyturley

Hall of Famer
Nov 24, 2014
3,445
Scott Depot, WV, USA
Thanks again for all of the replies. There truly have been a lot of unhelpful comments from both sides over the past weeks. I'm truly hoping the comments today of keeping the government closed for months or even years was to rally his base. One never knows. We took some precautions figuring this was coming and so far, we're doing OK. I know there are people out there who are in far worse financial shape.

Some of your comments about things I should consider have been helpful. Yes, we've discussed the possibility of downsizing our home. My camera gear is insured in a separate policy, but only for non-commercial use, so that would have to change. Liability insurance, too. Like I told my wife: yes, I am frustrated right now; no, I don't like that we are being used as bargaining chips; yes, I am seriously considering retiring at the end of this year, but I'm casting my net to get as much information as possible, crunching numbers to see if we can make it work at this point in our lives. I reassured her I'm not going to make a hasty decision, although earlier I was ready to file my retirement papers then and there. While I may be frustrated with this whole mess, I'm not going to do anything that hurts our future together.
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Jul 13, 2011
3,936
Lexington, Virginia
No advice but I do sympathize. I’m about a year older than you. No federal pension but a retirement fund that’s been bouncing around lately. Of course, a tenured academic is hard to fire so I can work as long as I want. I’m good for five to nine more years but I don’t want to overstay my usefulness. The problem is figuring out what to do once I retire. I really want to retire moving toward something and not away from something but I haven’t thought of anything yet.
 
Last edited:
Nov 11, 2011
11,377
Milwaukee, WI USA
I assume "retiring" from your current job doesn't mean retiring (never working again).

As much as I hate the idea of it, I don't expect I will ever be able to stop working. The miracles of modern medicine just mean that our suffering will go on until we are 95 or 105...instead of the old 75-80.

To my mind.....you may be ready for a career change...and I'm sure your years of experience would be valued by some in the industry.....even if it is in a different aspect of it than you may be working now.

I assume the current political climate will change....it always does. I would suggest you try to make your decisions WITHOUT regard to what is currently going on.....because it will sort itself out.

Good luck in your search.
 
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BrianS

Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
3,798
40 years ago it might have been. Today in the world digital world? Not so much. The digital world has made things VERY difficult. I don't want to side track the thread since events don't seem to interest @tonyturley, but the industry has been hard hit.
I've been to weddings where the couple asks that the guests take pictures and give a copy to them. I've also been to weddings where a professional has been hired. I have a friend that has recently setup a side business shooting weddings and family portraits- enough so to cut back to part-time at the "day job".

I would never consider trying to make a living as a photographer in today's environment. 40 years ago- "the thought crossed my mind". There was good money to be made shooting weddings on the weekend, had a number of friends that did so. I paid for the first half of college working in a camera shop. The second half- writing code for supercomputers. Got a job writing image processing code for supercomputers out of college. 40 years at the same place, this month.

I noticed a bad column in my M Monochrom shots at ISO 10,000. I'll add a fix to my Fortran code that I use to process the DNG files. Stupid Digital Cameras. If this happened on a film camera, I'd just find the burr on the pressure plate and polish it down.
 
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Reactions: aln
If you are going to try and make money from photography/art, I suggest trying to get something established before you retire. Unless your retirement income is enough to sustain you on it's own.

When my dad started selling prints of his work, he first worked through a couple of local galleries. And then through facebook. The work he sells is mainly of images of things local to Louisville. Including sunsets with local landmarks. But also some macro work of insects and flowers.

The other thing my Dad did which really helped get his name out is start shooting local musicians. He does this for free and shares the photos with them for free because he enjoys the music. The unexpected bonus from this was a ton of local artists spreading the word about him and his photography.

40 years ago several friends told me that Wedding Photography was the bread and butter of a photographer. I suspect that all these years later, this statement is more true than ever. I have a friend that is establishing a Photography business doing weddings and family portraits.
This! The one constant source of income for working photographers is weddings and portraits. If you can establish yourself as a portrait photographer, life is a lot easier. Family and senior portraits can get you by pretty well. The downside is that you have to do a lot of them.

If you do weddings seriously, it will take an investment in gear. Because you will want to have backups. Things go wrong at the worst times. I had 3-4 bodies, and backups to the lenses I used the most. But, once you are established, you can make a lot of money doing 1 wedding per week, or less.

A lot of people do a combination of weddings and portraits as the two types of photography/incomes compliment each other.
 

tonyturley

Hall of Famer
Nov 24, 2014
3,445
Scott Depot, WV, USA
Thanks for the further replies. I like Steve's "I really want to retire moving toward something and not away from something but I haven’t thought of anything yet." And Luke, I am ready for a career change. Just need to find the right path. Unfortunately, living between two small cities where the economy has been battered for so long will not make it easier. Bobby, your first paragraph is pretty much my wife's sentiment.

Still no movement on the political front this morning, and both sides are more entrenched than ever. Comments from both sides make me think this will end up eclipsing any other government shutdown by a wide margin. Yay.
 

wt21

Hall of Famer
Aug 15, 2010
2,361
I'm sorry to hear about your situation, and TBH, I don't understand how people can be ordered to work but not be paid?? Any rate, while sorry on the one hand, this could be a good move. A few years back, I left a good company for something I thought was awesome. It wasn't (far from it) so I moved to a different company, from which I got laid off, and then in a kids-going-to-college panic, I joined a third train wreck (it looked OK from the outside) which I had to get away from. It was the bleakest 4 1/2 years of my career, but now I'm in the best job I've ever had for all the right reasons, and this new position represented a pretty big change from my career for the 18 years prior. It took the prior 4 1/2 years to help me understand part of my issue is I wanted a change from what I had been doing.

I hope this "kick in the pants" becomes a blessing in hindsight and you find something that keeps you so enthralled, and works to your natural talents.
 

john m flores

All-Pro
Aug 13, 2012
1,450
Oh man, Tony, so sorry to hear that you are so frustrated. I'm a motorcycle travel writer and photographer. Been doing it for nearly 15 years. It's a side hustle for me and has been both very challenging and fulfilling and has made me a better writer and photographer.

PM me if you have any questions.
 

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