I will speak from a perspective of a non-American here. I find lots of U.S.-based photographers who are working on projects they hate, and they admit it. I tried to dig into the reasons for that, and here are my conclusions, and my advices.
If someone works on a project they hate, there are two reasons: they agreed to do it, or they made a mistake accepting the project. The second reason is not what I'm going to talk about, because it's not the usual way of doing business, but rather it's an exception. I want to emphasize on the regular agreements photographers do to work on projects they hate: money.
What Happens When You Work on Projects You Hate?
Ignoring, for now, the causes of the decision to work on projects you may hate, let's think how that may affect your career:
- You may market yourself as a photographer who does only such projects. You will become famous for that.
- You get more projects of this kind because of referrals and word of mouth.
- You do work you don't like and thus you don't invest your full potential in it.
- You get nervous and act in front of the clients pretending you like it. You are not a photographer, but an actor who can shoot pictures.
- You don't want to show it in your portfolio, but this may look like you don't get hired for any jobs.
- You show that work in your portfolio and it brings you more of the same.
- You invest your time and your money in these jobs.
- You don't have time to hone your skills in areas you'd love to work in.
- You live in a constant state of dreaming of dream projects.
- Building a different name for your business will be much harder, because you are known for the work you hate.
Do I need to discuss what happens when you love the project you work in? You. Just. Enjoy. Your. Job.
The basic needs of a human being are food, water, clothing, and a shelter. Unless you have a garden or a small farm, you need to pay for your food and water. The shelter is something very expensive in the U.S. and in many so-called First World countries. In developing countries, having shelter is not that of an issue (what a paradox). Having a space to live may cost you mortgage payments, taxes, or a rental fee.
People work on projects they hate because of covering the expenses for their basic needs. I haven't heard of someone doing unwanted photography jobs to buy a Ferrari.
How to Avoid Working on Projects You Hate
- Minimize the need of money. This may sound ridiculous to most of you, but you probably do not need most of the things you think you want.
- Don't go into debt. I understand if you already did that or you've been born in this situation, but don't go deeper.
- Don't buy expensive gear if you can't afford it. Cheaper gear can go a long way. Today's digital still cameras are way better than many of the digital cameras professionals used in the past. You can shoot commercial work with cheaper gear that can buy you a more durable one. Try to be creative. Limitations are a great way to fuel your creativity.
- Do extra work on the projects you hate, making pictures you'd love. This way you will get partially paid for what you love. This is possible with clients that are open for ideas you would do as a complimentary work.
We are not born to be slaves. You won't have other chances to enjoy your work than in the days of your life. If you are wise enough, you can turn the projects you hate into a fuel for your creativity, and make you more organized. You can build a portfolio and a name as photographers who only do work that they love and share.