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Benefits to pursuing photography as a career

Published:Tuesday | December 13, 2016 | 12:00 AMSashakay Fairclough
O'Neil Foster
Jovian Blair poses with a turtle.
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Jamaica is a very small country, so it is no surprise that saturation in most industries is a common cause for concern. There are, however, very few industries more saturated than photography. As social media use grows, so does the demand for professional photographers, and, with scores to choose from, it could be safely concluded that the demand has been met and exceeded.

Jovian Blair is the 31-year-old owner of Above and Beyond Productions, along with his business partner O'Neil Foster. A micro company with only five subcontractors and four permanent team members, they offer a wide variety of services from graphic art and video editing, to photography and social media marketing. As a seasoned photographer, Blair started out as owner of JB Photography back in 2008, before merging with Above and Beyond Productions a few years later in order to expand his portfolio.

He admitted that since then, the industry has grown tremendously.

"There are more players in the industry and the skill level has improved so most people are really good. Also we help each other out. There are groups on Facebook where we give each other advice, plus the senior photographers and videographers sometimes take the younger ones on jobs and get them used to the business."

He agreed that saturation is a problem because of the immense competition; however, he believes that most well-known photographers have managed to distinguish themselves from the rest by building a brand and maintaining their clientele through the output of high-quality work.

"I stand out by trying to be creative and by studying and improving my craft. I ensure my prices are reasonable and try to find inspiration beyond Jamaica by using themes that will stand out here."

The sad truth is that even with creativity and inspiration, Blair valiantly acknowledges that Jamaica is still a difficult place to do business. The high taxes and constant price renegotiations with customers who either refuse to pay or simply cannot afford the asking price because of the economic mire that Jamaica is in, remains a detriment to the field. Additionally, his greatest pet peeve with the industry is the fact that the prices are not properly regulated, so less experienced individuals will charge very little for generally costly jobs and inadvertently drive down the market price.

"Some people do it [photography] as a second job, so it is not a concern to them how much they make, as long as they make something. For example, if a wedding is supposed to cost $200,000, someone else may be charging $25,000 so the people planning the wedding will go for the person with the extremely cheap price. I am not sure if there is a union or board for this but something should be done about this so prices can be regulated."

Jovian also believes that the Government should do more to assist entrepreneurs, especially those who have to import items to assist with their craft

"The Government should work with the customs people to lift the duties on computers, photography and video equipment as long as people can prove that they are the owners of companies that do media related work because the prices to receive these goods are far too high".

There are however, many benefits to pursuing a career in photography, especially when one is passionate about it. In Jovian's case, it has drastically improved his people skills.

"The jobs helps me to meet very interesting people. On a personal level it has helped to reduce my shyness. I am around a lot of overly attractive women and people in positions of power, just people I am normally afraid to speak with, so doing this job has really helped me to overcome that.

"My advice to aspiring photographers is to make sure you actually love it because it is going to take a while before it becomes profitable unless you know some people who can get you work immediately. Also, don't worry about not having everything when you first begin, because for a long time, all we had was DIY gear and one camera, yet, our work was on par with people who had far more equipment, so just be confident and sure that this is what you want".

It is not all about business for Above and Beyond Productions and they give back whenever the opportunity arises, especially when it comes to assisting other young entrepreneurs.

"We assist young entrepreneurs by helping to promote their businesses and by giving them guidelines on how to get the business started. We are also volunteering partners with the National Council on Drug Abuse so we provide content for them for free and we get vulnerable young children involved in these initiatives so they learn the dangers of drug abuse".