Does Being a Pro Photographer Ruin Your Passion?

Does Being a Pro Photographer Ruin Your Passion?

I am sure you have all seen the comments where people suggest that being a pro photographer ruins the fun of photography. I want to dig deeper into this idea. Having spent a good proportion of my working life being a hobbyist and professional, I would like to offer my insight and experiences on the subject.

Firstly, we need to accept that everyone has different goals in life, whether money, time, freedom, or more likely, a balance of the above. It is also worth noting that photography itself is a vast profession, ranging from mall family photographers to celebrity status professionals who charge vast sums of money. I sit somewhere in the middle as a photographer who shoots ad campaigns, but I am not a known name to people outside of the industry. 

Why Does Being a Pro Ruin the Fun?

The main argument that I see for professional photography ruining a perfectly good hobby is that you have just gone from complete freedom to being at the mercy of a paying client. For most of us, at least at some point in our career, this is absolutely true. For some of us and in certain genres, this will always be true. Having to change a hobby where it has always been exactly what you wanted to adapting it at times to suit other people's narratives can be tricky, especially when it is such a personal thing for you to be creating. 

Stress and Pressure 

Throwing money into any hobby brings a level of stress and pressure that you previously will have only felt from your day job. For some, it’s a motivator, but for others, this can really tarnish the thought of photography. The thought of being valued and also having to deliver something that represents that value can be hard work.

Relying on Your Passion to Pay Bills

Sadly, rent and taxes are just a fact of life. We all have to pay up. Relying on your favorite hobby to pay the bills can bring a real amount of stress, especially when it is a career in which your success is directly related to how much people agree with what you believe to look good. Everyone has a different idea as to what good photography is, so if yours doesn’t tick enough of the right people's boxes, you will quickly find yourself coming up short each month. No longer is your hobby exclusively escapism, it is now a functioning tool to stay afloat.

My Take on the Matter

One of the perks of being a freelance photographer is that you are free. Yes, you have to do work still, but the day rates for shooting in most genres are high enough that you have to work far fewer days than you would if you worked in a Monday to Friday 9-5 job. This allows for far more flexibility in doing personal work. And if there is one thing that I have learned, it is that personal work brings in more clients than any other form of marketing. 

For me personally, I would rather the stress and pressure from photography than from a 9-5 job. I see it as an achievement each month when my studio, accommodation, and living costs are all paid for with my hobby. I am happy for a few days each month to be at the mercy of clients who want me to photograph things that I may not be into in a way that I don’t think is best in order to free up the rest of my month for me to play in my studio. The free time that being a freelancer affords me is perhaps the biggest perk of paying my bills with a camera. The biggest drawback for me is working out what to do as a hobby and a break from my work. It is all too easy to end up doing photography-related tasks 24/7, which is not conducive to creating good work. 

What are your views on the matter?

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10 Comments

Charles Mercier's picture

I guess the basic question to ask is whether you'd rather be working for someone else and at another job.

Bry B's picture

"Does Being a Pro Photographer Ruin Your Passion?"

Clients and students always ask, "how did you get so good at photography, it must be your passion".

I tell them passion is for enthusiasts. OBSESSION is for professionals.

John Seigner's picture

I just published a website showing 45 years of passion for photography. There is a huge hole in the middle when i was making a good living from photography. Thank goodness for retirement.

Marek Stefech's picture

perfect reading, i feel that exactly same

S M's picture

I’m only 4 years into my profession as a freelance photography myself, but I couldn’t envision going back to the 9-5 life I once lived. The freedom to be creative (within reason) and the ability to express yourself are seriously the biggest factors as to why I made the jump. Sure, photography started as a hobby and I miss the days of aimless wandering in the woods for scenic landscapes, but I have somehow channeled my obsessions into interior Design photography and love what I can create. Sometimes I’m at the mercy of the clients wishes, but for the most part they are hiring me for my passion and drive in creating something beautiful.

I have heard a lot of people say going pro will kill my love for photography, but the only thing it has done is drive my desire to be an entrepreneur and that I am okay with. And my free time, aside from being spent with my daughter, is now spent on working on projects I enjoy that help people see my vision as an artist more.

Excellent article Scott! 2 minor things I caught in the first paragraph. Proportion and mall I think might be typos, though I also wasn’t an English Major in college so I could be wrong!

james Tarry's picture

"Does Being a Pro Photographer Ruin Your Passion?"

Not one bit, probably love the job/photographing more now than when I started professionally 14years ago.

Timothy Roper's picture

You have to love the entire process, not just the taking photos part. And that goes for just about any kind of productive endeavor. Even for something like fine art landscapes, you'd better like the outdoors, hiking miles and miles, and even backpacking in all the elements if you expect to rise to the top of that field. If painful blisters on your feet ruin things for you, it just means you maybe need to find a new process. On the other hand, if you find a process you do enjoy or even love, how could it ruin anything?

Timothy Gasper's picture

If being a pro has ruined your passion for photography, then perhaps it's time to reassess what you're doing and if you should continue doing it.

Mike Yamin's picture

I've been doing it for about 13 years and I've found that I put my passion at risk when I chase money by shooting things I don't really want to shoot. What helps me is to have a few "fun" cameras to shoot personal things and, frankly, making enough money to turn down crummy jobs. That can be difficult to do when you're feeling desperate.