Instagram alone sees about 100 million photos and videos posted every day. That breaks down to more than 1,100 posts each second.
In a world packed with photographers, what are the challenges for people wanting to make money by taking photos? How can professionals set themselves apart?
To find out, we turned to the experts.
Chap Achen’s photography is seen throughout Red Wing and beyond. Photo courtesy Chap Achen
Achen began taking photos in middle school when his father, a professional photographer, gave him his first camera. While the focus of his early work varied, the camera was most frequently pulled out for vacations and to photograph model airplanes on the sidewalk to make it look “as if they were taking off,” explained Achen. Before focusing on photography, Achen was a pilot for Red Wing Shoe.
A photo by Chap Achen for a Red Wing Shoe advertisement. Photo provided by Achen.
Along with learning to take photos, Achen said he learned how to develop the film by helping his father in the dark room.
Asked about the ubiquitous access to cameras nowadays, Achen said he is glad to have gotten his start in photography before the surge in popularity.
Chap Achen has many black and white photos on display around town. This photo shows oak trees in winter. Photo provided by Achen.
“It’s been very democratizing for everyone,” Achen continued, but with that democratization comes challenges for those looking to make money selling their work.
The reality of so many would-be photographers, he said, is that if a professional is too expensive, most people can find a friend or acquaintance for cheaper or for free.
“It’s extremely difficult to stand out in that type of environment,” Achen said.
Maeta Avery (Maeta Grace Photography) works as a photographer and nurse in Red Wing. In her photography business, she focuses on candid photos of people. Photo provided by Avery.
Avery had to make a name for herself in the new era of photography, and is working to grow her own business.
She got into photography with the encouragement of her husband. At first it was something to do while also raising her sons and working nights.
“I bought a camera and having two kids at home I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing. I can capture their childhood and remember all of these little things,'” she said. “I had no desire to get into business initially.”
Maeta Avery likes to takes photos of a moment instead of a pose. Here, a family laughs and spends time together as Avery snaps a photo. Photo provided by Avery.
Avery got the idea to start a business when people she knew saw her work and requested that she take their family photos, too.
Avery attempts to set herself apart from other photographers through her style, focusing more on candid and in-the-moment shots than classic posed photos.
Gina Rippentrop is a full time photographer based in Red Wing. She focuses on portraits, everything from head shots to senior photos to family photos. Photo provided by Rippentrop.
Rippentrop’s path to photography has a similar beginning to Avery. She also got started by taking photos of her children.
“I found that once I picked up the camera, I just loved learning everything about it,” she said. “I just had no idea how much was involved in the craft of photography, so I just kind of became obsessed with learning and it was an instant passion for me.”
Gina Rippentrop’s image of two siblings. Photo provided by Rippentrop.
Rippentrop focuses her work on people. She said she loves photographing everything from headshots and family portraits to high school athletes
Once her two children were in school, Rippentrop decided to pair her love of photography with her business degree and started her own company. The full-time photographer can usually be found in her office at Tower View or out around town taking photos of people or real estate.
Rippentrop is said she is excited about the accessibility of photography today.
“I just think it’s amazing that we all have a camera with us at all times,” she said, adding, “The best picture is the one that you actually take.”
An example of senior photos by Gina Rippentrop. Photo provided by Rippentrop.
Though she loves that everyone can snap a picture at any moment, Rippentrop said she holds to the idea that there is something very different between phone or point-and-shoot photography and a professionally captured and edited photograph.
“Instagram filters are amazing and all the really cool editing that a lot of people do is super fun, but I think that just offering a classic, bright, colorful photograph is timeless,” she said.
Along with the classic look, Rippentrop offers to help her clients prepare for the shoot by planning outfits, find the side of their face subjects prefer to get photographed and discussing perfect backdrops.
Barbara O’Brien, a photographer living in Stockholm, specializes in animal photography. Photo provided by O’Brien.
The Stockholm, Wis., based photographer found her niche: photographing animals.
O’Brien did not set out to become a professional animal photographer. Instead, she said she worked as an animal actor agent. When 3M saw an audition photo she took, the company asked if it could use the image in an advertisement. When she learned that she could make money taking photos of animals, O’Brien said she wanted to do nothing else.
“I had no idea it would be the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” she said.
A goat by Barbara O’Brien. Photo provided by O’Brien.
Animal’s are her favorite subjects, partially because she knows how to work with them.
“I know what motivates cows and chickens,” O’Brien said.
Animals don’t complain about the finished product, she added, unlike human subjects who may look at photos and say something like, “I don’t like my nose!”
“Animals never say that,” O’Brien joked. “They always think that they look great.”
Animal photographer Barbara O’Brien published “DogFace,” a book of dogs, in 2014. Photo provided by O’Brien.
O’Brien said she is always willing to talk with aspiring animal photographers, her way of paying forward the help she received from professionals who went out of their way to help her when starting out.
Advice for the up-and-comers
Here’s the advice the four local photographers have people trying to advance in the field.
Achen: “You need to become very familiar with the camera that you’re using. … And decide what type of photography you’re really most interested in.”
Avery: “Be willing to invest in it; not everything is free. YouTube is great, but to get in-depth information and education you have to invest in it and put some money towards it in order to get anything back from it.”
O’Brien: “Know your value.” And, work with good photographers who are willing to teach you.
Rippentrop: “I would say to just pick up and start. Because I think where a lot of people fall into is they say, ‘I’m not artistic.’ Everybody says it. … But I strongly, strongly believe that we all are artistic — we just have to practice it. … Photography’s one of those things where you just have to start.”