Making Money with Photography and Dropping Out of Art School

Making Money with Photography and Dropping Out of Art School

this week I talked about how I make money with photography the future of this channel and some upcoming photography related projects this is in celebration of me hitting 50k which happened just yesterday as of when I'm recording this so big thank you to everybody who watches these videos it means a ton and grab a drink because this is probably gonna be a longer episode I got a ton of great questions on Instagram and I'm gonna answer some of them today a good one to start with is how did you get started taking photos by kyle the fisherman so I started off when I was living in London as a videographer I just started making actually a couple YouTube videos totally unrelated to photography but I started as a videographer making little fashion videos and I worked for a fashion media company when I lived there and then about three years ago when I moved to New York I took a trip to Japan with some of my friends and I ended up buying a 35-millimeter camera there and that's how I started taking photos that's how I transitioned from video to photo so it was cool knowing like all the basics like aperture and shutter speed and all that when I started taking photos and I had some idea of what I wanted to make but I guess I've only really been taking photos for like three years now we're in with who would your dream photo shoot be I've always wanted to photograph Tom Sachs in his studio here in New York Tom Sachs is like a sculptor and an artist and I've been a fan of him for like three four years now way before I moved to New York and yeah I think it would just be incredible to photograph him in his studio what kind of medium format camera would you suggest for someone moving from 35 millimeter it's actually a super common question that I get all the time and I would recommend the Mamiya 645 which is the camera that I started shooting medium format on as well and there's a ton of great options but I think that's a really good camera because first of all you get 15 shots per roll and it's just a nice stepping stone because it's the smallest negative that you can get on medium format so it's not incredibly expensive when you're starting out but it is a decent upgrade to 35 millimeter and that camera feels really good and they're pretty cheap as well I remember buying my for like 250 bucks which isn't too bad for a medium format camera so yeah check out the Mamiya 645 there's also an autofocus version which is pretty expensive but the manual focus 1 is amazing did you go to photography school that's actually the reason I moved to New York I just finished my sophomore year a couple months ago and I think I'm gonna take a year off to just pursue photography on my own I felt like I wasn't necessarily learning enough in school for it to be worth it and I also felt like I was compromising opportunities spending my time at school making work that I didn't necessarily care as much about so I'm gonna take a year off and see how it goes I feel like a photography degree doesn't necessarily get you anywhere whereas something like an economics degree is totally different but I definitely learned a lot from school as well and I'm really grateful for the 2 years that I spent there how did you go about meeting and working with other creatives when you first started so right when I moved to New York I reached out to a couple of my favorite youtubers who were here one of them being John Hill the skateboard youtuber he had over half a million subscribers when I started working with him and I sent him an email saying that I'm a videographer I just moved to New York I'd love to help out with his videos and through meeting up with him the first time filming something I became more of a regular filmer for him being able to work alongside him was an incredible way to see how a youtuber makes youtube videos and that's a big part of how I learned to do this right here which is making youtube videos if you're trying to work with somebody who's in a position above you I would say reach out and try and find any way that you can add value to them as a way of being able to work with them or meet up with them people like him get a ton of emails ton of DMS so make yourself stand out by offering whatever you're able to do to add value to their lives that's also what I do with photography assisting I assist a photographer called Ryan Platt quite regularly here and I reached out to him as well just by being able to be an assistant and I know studio lighting so I told him I could set up your studio I could do your lighting for you and you can just shoot that's how I'm able to work with people like that I guess this next question makes sense but do you live off photography and how do you make your money and afford New York I do a lot of photography work a lot of video editing work that I don't talk about on this channel necessarily but I make money through doing commercial photography as well through doing YouTube now as a source of income for me as well things like selling prints zine x' assisting other photographers is a great way to get paid videography Jobs was a great way to get paid and I still do a lot of freelance video work that I've never talked about online really as a way to make money the photography jobs where people are generally getting paid are the ones where there's a paid product being photographed so something like e-commerce photos or serious fashion editorial photos those generally pay pretty good money because people are making money off of those photos when I photograph music artists rappers that generally never pays I almost always lose money spending on things like studio lighting rentals film developing so if you're trying to chase photography jobs that make money just make sure you find things to photograph where people will make money off of the photos that you're taking because otherwise you're probably not gonna get paid a big thing is also just doing the jobs that don't pay money but are cool photos for your portfolio so that you can improve your work and get hired if there's a cool opportunity to photograph somebody interesting or even just anywhere that I might be able to make an interesting photo for my portfolio I'll generally always say yes because I'm just trying to build out my portfolio of work right now where did you live before in New York it's kind of complicated I'm originally from Belgium I moved to New Jersey when I was 8 I spent five or six years in New Jersey growing up and then I moved to London for the next five years and now I'm in New York for the past three or so make a video about shooting with the contacts g1 I actually broke that camera like a month after I got it the viewfinder just got smashed while it was in my bag I think and I couldn't really compose a photo through it I did recently pick up a Canon a one as a 35 millimeter replacement camera so that should be a fun time to shoot with what's your next milestone you want to achieve as a photographer I definitely want to put out my first book at some point a photographer's first book is just like a really significant stepping stone I think in every photographer I admire has had a really fascinating first book so it's a pretty special thing to put out there in the meantime though I think I'll definitely do a zine as well before another book or something I absolutely would not want to rush my first photo book but that's kind of always something that's in the back of my head as I make more photos it would definitely be something more narrative based like that project in New Jersey that I've been shooting but I'm not sure yet at this point we'll see how it goes somebody said why do you shoot on film and that's a pretty like open-ended question I have a lot of things to say about that but I've had a lot of people telling me recently with the way I edit my film that I should shoot digital because I just edit so much anyway but I think for me film first of all is much more about the process I really enjoy how slowly I can work with film whereas when I pick up a digital camera I just fire off as many shots as I like and it just makes me less intentional I just learned with the process of film and that's what I'm comfortable with so that's what I stick with it's not necessarily that I hate digital in any way I just know exactly what I'm gonna get when I shoot on film and also I still think regardless of my editing the colors that I get out of film or just way more natural and softer and it just has really nice textures as well when you zoom in on the photo I love the grain and I think when you look at a digital photo it just looks it looks over sharpened to me it looks over processed a film photo just looks natural and would you ever move back to Jersey probably not moved back but I am planning to stay there for like an extended period of time soon just to be able to make more work and focus a little bit more on the project that I'm shooting there do you ever see yourself shooting digital the way you shoot film which is a good follow-up I actually totally would buy a digital camera really the only digital camera I own right now is this one that I'm filming on it's a sony a6300 and I have thought about buying a digital Fuji recently just because I always rent a when I have commercial jobs so I've thought about getting an ex-pro too because that seems like a cool camera to also shoot some creative work on I'm not opposed to digital in any way at all but regardless I think the majority of my creative work will always remain on film at least for the future I'm not sure oh this one's pretty interesting do you have any photo books or favorites by female artists absolutely my favorite photographer right now is Alex Prager I love her work she makes super elaborate photos which basically have the production value of an entire movie and they're these really elaborately staged photos that are super 80s inspired and they always are stunning to look at I saw her show when I was in London last summer and she's an incredible artist I'm a big fan of Patrick Collins who does a lot of cool portrait and editorial work right now for Gucci and a ton of different magazines a lot of people don't know this but I have a podcast called c41 podcast and there's a lot of questions in here asking if that's coming back anytime soon it definitely will be coming back I'm just trying to plan it in a way where it's gonna have a little bit nicer production value and ever since I moved into this studio that's kind of just taken a pause for a minute while I try and figure out a podcasting setup in this studio but I have a ton of people who I want to have on there in the future for sure any tips for getting that flat past Ellie look you have in some of your photos definitely shoot your film overexposed so you get a ton of shadow detail scan it yourself if you can because you can really customize the look and then also just edit it because editing film is okay and I guess the main thing is just look for nice colors in your photo it's not necessarily about adding colors to a scene that wasn't already colorful would you ever do fashion related content I literally wear exclusively Carhartt pocket t-shirts I don't think I would have much to talk about so no no fashion sorry are you putting out any new zine soon I definitely plan to do a zine that's like a portrait portfolio almost it'll be contact sheets and the final image kind of like these books they you see like magnum contact sheets and contact hi I really want to do a portrait related scene I'm already planning it out with the designer of my last scene his name is Mateus he's an incredible designer and that should be pretty fun but that's definitely a month or more down the road are you planning to live in Belgium someday even just temporarily I have thought about going there for a while to make some work that I've been sitting on for ages but nothing in the near future what made you decide to rent a studio and go YouTube full-time for those people who don't know I have a small studio space here in Manhattan which they're referring to that's a tough question I decided to go full-time with YouTube because it's definitely a dream of mine and it's just something I want to try and pursue now that I have the opportunity the moment that that kind of presented itself a little bit I definitely just decided to go for it because I saw the potential in this YouTube channel and I hope to grow it in the future and it's also a way that I can just make the photos that I desire for a living without necessarily having to take on commercial jobs like weddings or event stuff anymore because I was getting pretty tired of doing that kind of stuff and it kind of made me lose interest in taking photos even the ones that were for myself so the moment I saw an opportunity that allowed me to make an income with photography that wasn't necessarily just the commercial stuff I yeah that's what I went for are you more attracted by the technical aspects or by the artistic way of making photography this is a tough question because I definitely started taking photos just because like a lot of people I was interested in trying out film and as I experimented with film I kind of lost interest in the format itself as my main inspiration for wanting to make pictures and I like to think that now I just want to make photos I think that a lot of people who watch the YouTube videos get into photography because of cameras because the majority of photography related content right now on the Internet is camera based it's camera reviews gear reviews how do you do this editing tutorials and I think that gives people who are starting out or just hobbyists the wrong impression that making photos is just about having the right camera and having the right film and the right gear and the right scanner when really if all of the content on YouTube was about making artistic photographs then I think people would have a whole different approach so definitely for the future of this YouTube channel I want to talk more about things like finding meaning in your photos how to develop a personal style how you can get hired the business of things the logistics getting your work published making things like zine and and also just videos documenting my own work and me making photos because that's the kind of content I want to see from other photographers I wish I could watch behind the scenes videos from my favorite photographers all day long instead of camera reviews so that's definitely what I want this channel to lean towards more in the future I'm gonna get onto a couple last questions because this video is getting insanely long if you're still watching you're amazing I don't know who would watch all the way through this but ratio of peanut butter to jelly in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I don't know how do you train your photographic eye there's a couple things you can do just look at as much work as possible whether it's movies books go to art galleries honestly this whole YouTube channel in a way it's just me and my experiences as a photographer documenting as I go along I share things as I learned them and that's been really fun I think that's where I'm gonna wrap it that was really fun I hope you learned something if you made it all the way to the end of this video comment something goofy like editing your film is not okay aside from that you can check out my Instagram it's at Willem for big thank you for watching this video and supporting this channel I upload every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. and occasionally a little video in between Sundays that's it for now peace


  • Anthony Bila says:

    Editing your film, is editing your film. Nice vid, I'll be in NYC in about a month to shoot fashion week, would be rad to connect.

  • spyrate kondax says:

    Make a Canon a1 shooting video!! It would be very interesting to shoot it at night!!

  • nemesis says:

    you photographed duckwrth?? holy shit

  • Adam Lindner says:

    Editing your film is not ok 😀

  • Sophia Popescu says:

    You're doing it, man. Thank you.

  • Carter Bliss says:

    uploaded this the day I decided too drop out and pursue photography and art

  • says:

    keep up the good work and long life to your channel!

  • Aperture says:

    You need a Nikkor and not some Canon FD junk.

  • Roberto Salas says:

    Lemme move to NYC n b ur assistant bro. Nah but fr so excited for ur channel to grow all future content. Inspired

  • Joel García says:

    Editing your film is not ok

  • Maria says:

    Shady willem gives me life

  • TetsusaigaDrgn says:

    Willem, im so down to grab a brew and go out and shoot something if youre interested. Youre story is inspiring for me and wana meet more people with a common interest

  • Hector Rivas says:

    Hey man just wanted to let u know that editing film is NOT ok

    But really thanks ur work, the photos and this channel are inspirational and a great help !

  • Ming Mai says:

    Where to cop / scan film in NYC on the low? :")

  • sicheng's talents says:

    i also do photography but i have been categorized as the lower class cuz i still need to polish some of my unskilled in editing.

    but for real, im okay if people categorized me as lower class in photography cuz some of my picture can't make it to the satisfaction.

    and, i really do get some inspiration on your videos on how to take pictures or use the best camera although can start with any cameras but it just depends on whether this or that type of camera 🙂

  • GrindStudios says:

    Even when you blow up, keep the minimal style you have right now. People definitely dig it

  • GrindStudios says:

    i told u you were gonna blow up!!!

  • JadeTheSage says:


  • Phillip Destruge says:

    Dude I appreciate all your content on here. And I love the fact that you want to see something with more substance from other photographers rather than how many cool features their cameras have. I’m gonna begin something similar on IGTV. Would love to collaborate some time if you’re cool with it. Thanks!

  • Andrew Sesay says:

    editing your film is not okay, ok. Keep it up Willem!

  • LEGENDARYus 360 says:

    just wanted to say, i did watch it fully, listening to you talk about your experiences helps my photography even more, and i hope to be as good as you are and even better maybe, i've learned and enjoyed photography from people that are actual photography lovers, and one of them lives out of it too. i'd say i love videography more but photography is a bit more chill than video, and i never tried film but i have an instaq which is really something i use when i am at a shoot, i'd shoot my model keep it for my self, you probably won't read all of this or this comment but hey, keep it up.

  • Michael Quintana says:

    boop boop

  • Chung Zoya says:

    This is the first time I finished Q&A video on YOUTUBE for such a long time. It's inspired and knowledgeable. Thanks for your sharing and keeping accompany with our passion, photography. Cheers!

  • totanpotato says:

    Something goofy

  • Triscuits For Days says:

    The ratio for a pb and j…Well I'm not a fan of them…so all peanut butter or all jelly haha

  • Remy Shoots says:

    I really want to hoot film, i know i will in future

  • Cris Geelen says:

    Pizza is what I developed my film with.

  • Jordan Robert Taylor says:

    Always more peanut butter than jelly…. maybe a 2:1 ratio. Also, love your film style. It's really helped me go into a direction of attempting to find my own style when editing. That natural grain look is incredible.

  • Josiah Hutchison says:

    Love your content, man! I'm glad you're continuing to find success

  • Marcus W Carlsson says:

    You are doing great work here, means a lot. Thanx!

  • Alex Blake says:

    Meh edit your film if you want to, surely no different to messing around with colour balance in the dark room on the enlarger?

  • benoit petit says:

    Hey Willem, I'm a recent subscriber and i love the way you talk and explain things this is really enjoyable.
    Just wanted to say that i'd really appreciate you to speak about the economic system of photography (how you post a photo etc… as you said)
    Big up , keep up

  • nefbydesign. says:

    on god.

  • Keshia Salim says:

    Something goofy

  • Elena Handrea says:

    Editing your film or digital is OK cuz you can show your style! peace 🙂

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