Being a professional photographer these days is not easy. Everyone with a camera is out to make money, and the industry is saturated. However, despite this, there are some serious — and sometimes serendipitous — perks to the job.
The Backstage Pass
As a teenager, I dreamed about having a coveted VIP All Access Pass. I presume that movies like Wayne's World had a major (and possibly warped) influence on that view, but at the time, it seemed like the most amazing thing to be backstage at a concert or movie set. Now, I still haven't had the opportunity to shoot backstage at anything, mostly because that's not what I shoot and I haven't asked anyone, but my point is I could if I really wanted to. Oh, I did get asked to quote for a small film festival, but they didn't even get back to me. After I inquired, it turned out that they decided to "hire" a couple of students. Nice. I might just set myself a goal where, by the end of the year, I must photograph at least one concert/festival. Hmm.
Making Money Out of Being Moody
It can't be denied that most of us enter the profession because we enjoy it — at least, that's one of the reasons why I decided to turn pro. I would be one of the first to admit, though, that it's not all roses and gravy. Lord knows, I let people know it too. But it can't be denied that doing what you love and getting paid for it is an absolute privilege. This is something I need to tell myself often, because it's easy to get caught up in negative thoughts around the industry. There certainly is a lot to be annoyed about, however, I find that the best remedy for those unwanted emotions is to get up off my ass and go shoot something — to channel those feelings into something creative. Who knows, someone might just want to buy it. That is, after all, the origin of a lot of art, isn't it?
This point could well be lumped in with backstage pass, but this is of particular significance to me. I've had life-changing opportunities just land on my lap, partly due to pure luck, but they would not have happened if it were not for the fact that I was a full-time professional photographer. Last year, I received a phone call from an acquaintance in South Africa who needed help bringing more money into a conservation program. Lucky that I knew the guy, but it was my position and perceived talent that drew him to me. Since then, I've been to Africa three times (a dream of mine for many years), helped out on projects which protect critically endangered animals, had images published in Playboy Magazine, I'm in the process of setting up photography workshops out there, but most importantly to me, I've made some new friends, which brings me to my last perk.
I'm not talking about networking; I mean real human connections. I know this sounds cheesy, but hear me out. After many years of battling social anxiety and depression — which, among other things, led to some very destructive behavior, including prolonged isolation — professional photography gave me a bit of hope. And I mean specifically professional practice as opposed to amateur photography. Why? It forced me to interact with people in ways that I hadn't in years. I needed to do it in order to put food on the table, so I gave myself no choice. Of course, it wasn't as clear cut as that. If I were to approach someone for work, I need to be confident in my abilities — confidence being something that I was severely lacking over the last 17 years. So, I had no choice but to push myself to get better; getting better gave me more confidence and gaining this new confidence allowed me to approach people without hyperventilating. Turns out that a non-hyperventilating Mike can be quite a charming fellow (like most non-hyperventilating people). I've met some truly inspiring people because I haven't freaked out at the mere suggestion of talking to a stranger, some of whom I now call friends. I've even been on a few dates, and yes, I do attribute that to becoming a professional photographer. Because if I didn't have this creative outlet which also earns me money, I genuinely don't know if I would be here now, and I definitely wouldn't have the confidence to tell this story to thousands of strangers.
I'm Just Doing my Job
I'm not looking for kudos — because I'm basically doing the bare minimum as a responsible adult — I'm just doing what I'm paid to do using the point I outlined in advantage number two: I'm channeling my negative life experiences into something creative, and, who knows, maybe I'll make a connection with someone in the process.
Can any of our readers add to this list? Can you relate to any points on the list? Please let us know in the comments below.