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?