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Can surf photographers make money?

Can surf photographers make money?
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Do surf photographers make money? We would like to know.

I received an interesting DM, so I decided to write about it.

I got an interesting DM from a friend of mine who asked, "I'd like to try surfing photography.

Can you make a living from surf photography?

These are really simple and good questions, and I'm sure everyone is curious about them.

Let me introduce my actual situation.

Expenditures for Surf Photography

Important camera equipment needs to be prepared.

Camera equipment uses telephoto lenses, which are quite expensive.

Here is a rough idea of what it looks like.

  •  Telephoto lenses: Main: 1 telephoto lens of about 400,000 yen, 2 lenses of about 200,000 yen
  • Normal lenses: Five 250,000 yen lenses, several 150,000 yen lenses, and three 70,000-80,000 yen lenses
  • Camera bodies: Main: 3 used 100,000 yen, sub: 300,000 yen, spare camera 50,000 yen
  • Filters and other accessories: ND filters alone cost more than 100,000 yen, including 40,000 yen per filter.
  • Tripod: 200,000 (will not last a year due to rust)
  • Sights, etc.: Gimbals: several tens of thousands of yen, sights: 15,000 yen (replace every 2 years due to salt)
  • Batteries: 10,000 yen per year

Approximately, the initial investment will cost about the same as the cash price of a car.

A professional photographer will need several lenses, each costing 1 million yen, so without an equipment contract with a camera manufacturer, a significant outlay is required.

Other expenses

A camera alone is not enough to capture surfing.

This is another rough example of my case.

  • Car for transportation: 0 yen since the car will be used for commuting.
  • Fuel cost: Since we will be traveling all over the island, we will spend about 10,000 yen per month, or 120,000 yen per year.
  • SD cards: We take hundreds of thousands of pictures a year, so we buy 1,200 yen x 50 cards almost every week, which is 60,000 yen per year.
  • Processing computer: 150,000 yen per computer, 300,000 yen at least for IMAC for video and image processing.
  • Image processing software: about 1,500 yen per month, 20,000 yen per year
  • Maintenance fee for web album for image distribution: about 10,000 yen per year
  • Insurance for camera and other equipment: about 10,000 yen per year
  • Photography equipment: several tens of thousands of yen per year for cleaning equipment and overhaul costs
  • Data storage: 10,000 yen per year for external HDD, etc.
  • Wifi, etc.: 3,500 yen per month

Furthermore, surf photography takes a lot of time and effort as well as equipment.

  • Shooting on Saturdays and Sundays during the daytime: Unpaid because it's a hobby
  • Long hours under the hot sun: Physically demanding
  • Processing the shooting data: After the shooting is over, I work hard late at night to develop and process the shooting data.
  • Providing the data: This is the most time-consuming work for those who want the photos.
  • Creating high quality albums for distribution: uploading photos to a web-based album while paying a maintenance fee of 10,000 yen per year.
  •  SNS support: Handling a large number of DM approval requests sent in English.

Furthermore, it is about social networking sites such as Instagram.

  • SNS posting: this in itself is easy
  • SNS DMs, spam handling, etc. are required

In my case, it is also difficult to respond to DMs on social networking sites. I get quite a few DM approval requests from overseas.

For example, here is an example. (Japanese translation)

'Hey, I saw your installations. Great, let's do business together. Let's do business together. You give me money, I'll give you ideas, OK?"

It looks like this. If it's in English, it's still a mystery, but DMs that I don't know what the heck language they are in, or DMs that are machine translated into Japanese are even more unintelligible.

If you get about 200 "Likes" per post, you will receive several DM approval requests each time, so in my case, I have about 900 posts on Instagram, so I estimate that I have received about 3,000 mysterious DMs in total.

Deletion request response

Since it is difficult to confirm the identity of a photo posted on a social networking service, it is natural that the person may not like the photo.

Although it is rare, we do receive requests for facial modifications from the person in question, and we need to respond sincerely to these requests for modifications.

Photo Request

Sometimes, after a while after the photo was taken, 'I want my picture, please'.

It is quite difficult to find a specific person from the huge amount of back data to respond to this. Sometimes it takes all night to find them.

May be asked to photograph surfing

In my case, I can only shoot on weekends when I am off work, and since I do it as a hobby, I politely declined, so I don't know the details, but I think it is very hard to follow only certain people with a camera.

Response from those who met us there

I don't know because I had to turn down all requests to take pictures at the beach, but I think it must be very difficult to deal with these requests.

I heard that it costs about 100 yen per picture after several hours of shooting standing under the blazing sun and processing the images in the middle of the night.

Other difficulties

Before photographing the beautiful ocean, I would pick up any trash on the beach that was of concern to me.

My car was always full of trash I picked up (only plastic bottles) and I had to pay for disposal, but I did my best for the sake of my photos.

If you are a surf photographer, picking up trash on the beach may be a must.

Responding to requests for photo data

We receive requests for data from local tourist associations, airlines, travel agencies, local organizations, etc., for photos for their brochures and signs, and from pro surfers who visit the island for the JPSA.

In my case, I have provided all of them with no credit (no need to mention Shige-P) and free of charge, but even if I were to offer them for a fee, I would not make any money at all because I would only receive a gratuity at most.

I have also received requests for the originals, but it would be useless unless you can develop raw files, and since each photo is 30 MB, it would be practically impossible.

Equipment failure

Surf photography is also a battle against equipment breakdowns.

Even if you have insurance, if your equipment gets caught in a wave or dropped in the ocean or on a tetrapod, it is impossible to apply for insurance because you don't have the broken equipment with you.

'You sold it, didn't you?' I guess. In such a case, all you can do is to cry in the doldrums.

Do surf photographers make money? How much do you earn from shooting?

In my case, my income is 0 yen for 7 years.

I have not received a single penny of income from surfing photos, but it is unfortunate that I receive DMs saying that I am taking surfing photos to make money.

I put advertisements on this blog, but even if I get 1,000 hits, it is only about 1 yen, and it is a preparation period for domain development, so the actual income of the site is 0 yen at this moment.

The reality is that it is not so easy to earn traffic with a blog in the too niche field of Tanegashima, surfing, and photographer.

If your goal is to make money, there are plenty of other themes.

In my case, it's an introduction to surfing on a remote island, but crowds of people? That's impossible.

I think the cost of transportation and lodging would easily exceed 100,000 yen per trip for a person from the inner city to the remote islands.

Will surfers come to Tanegashima for a trip that costs 100,000 yen for two or three days?

From the point of view of PV and other factors, I think realistically speaking, it is unlikely.

On the contrary, I would like to thank those who spend a lot of money to come to the remote island.

Just as there is a network of surfers, there is also a network of photographers!

I have connected with several surf photographers in Japan through SNS, but it is regrettable that they are withdrawing from surf photography one after another.

Surfing photography is very demanding physically, as you have to shoot for long hours under the hot sun, but it is often criticized and does not bring in any income, so it seems to be a reality that they are withdrawing.

It would be much easier to sell photos of landscapes or cats, so I think it is inevitable that people are withdrawing from surfing photography.

I, too, lost three cameras, four toy drones, and two lenses to seawater, but there were many people who supported me, so I continued, but the reality is that the financial burden is quite heavy.

Surfing blogs can be created without taking pictures.


Back view of female surfer Photo by Shige-P, administrator

Have you noticed that there is something wrong with the photos in this article, unlike the rest of the articles?

There are countless license-free photos on the Internet, countless photos of big waves and dynamic surfing around the world, and they are free for commercial use.

Using these photos, you can create a website without any effort, or to put it another way, without having to go to the beach.

It would be quite difficult to compete with the large number of world-class photos with your own photos.

The result of a surfing photo shoot.

I have thought about shutting down my instagram many times because I don't earn a penny.

It would be easier mentally to quit as soon as possible, but I feel bad for those who have given me a lot of likes, so I am keeping it as it is! I am sorry to the people who have liked the site a lot, so I am keeping it as it is.

Also, I think it is a proof that surfers have been working hard and surfing, and I have continued to do so with the warm support of the people in Tanegashima who support me.

The result.

  • Our site manager's total income from surf photography is 0 yen.
  • Expenses are so huge that I don't even want to calculate them.
  • The time spent on photography and image processing is also enormous.
  • It's physically and mentally tough!
  • Equipment used at sea is difficult to sell.

But there is a good thing.

I often get smiles and thanks from the surfers I photograph.

It's the only thing that keeps me motivated.

Can surf photographers make money? Summary

My answer is, "Surf photography is very expensive, physically and mentally demanding, and not profitable at all.

I think only a few photographers can make a profit, such as those who have sponsorship contracts and equipment provided by the manufacturers. In my case, I was making a loss.

Therefore, I think it is a good idea to be a surf photographer as a hobby, but it is better to consider carefully if you want to be a surf photographer for profit.

If you want to make money with your photos on social networking sites or blogs, I think it is much more profitable to take photos that many people are interested in (such as cat photos), and the initial investment is small, so there is a high possibility of making a profit.

Thank you very much for reading this article about the financial situation of surf photographers.

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-Surfing (English)