Why You Shouldn't Be Scared to Develop Your Passion for Photography Into a Career

I encounter lots of people who are torn between pursuing their passion for photography as a career or keeping it as a treasured hobby. There’s naturally that underlying paranoia that doing what you love full-time and taking on the pressure of monetizing it will kill your enjoyment. I’d like to say that years after going “pro,” I still love what I do every day. If you’re unsure and need convincing, here’s why I believe you too should take the plunge.

If you’re thinking of making a serious go at being a photographer, there’re a few things you should know. The first is that you need to be committed to the cause. You have to be prepared to put the hours in, many of which will be unpaid during the first couple of years. It’s not the type of job that you can leave at the door once you finish a shift; rather, it becomes a way of life, particularly if you’re freelance. Unfortunately for us creative types, being a photographer goes further than just working with your camera or having an eye for good composition. It’s about being business-minded and learning how to handle social media and self-promotion. For me, getting to immerse myself in all things photo-related brings me more life satisfaction than I know any other career choice possibly could.

Perfecting Your Talent

They say practice makes perfect. And if that’s the case, what’s better for it than making photography your full-time job? Even the boring days, where you’re shooting something for money rather than for love, are still beneficial. Being a full-time photographer means you are constantly using your camera, and as we know, constant practice is how we get to know our cameras better. The same goes for editing; I learned everything I know from hours of experimentation. Shooting several times a week means I am always working with Photoshop, and to this day, I am still stumbling across new tools, different techniques, and varying ways to maximize what Photoshop can do for my images. All of this experience is, I feel, helping to shape me as a confident and capable creative and helps maximize my skills. I can feel myself becoming more confident in my abilities because I am putting them to use on a daily basis, and I entrust myself to actually execute the ideas that I’ve let myself get excited about. Working through different challenges and customer requests is a great contributor to progression, since we are catering to the needs of someone else rather than staying in our comfort zone. When we shoot purely for the love of doing so, we shoot what we prefer. We stick to the lighting setup that we know we’ve already mastered. That’s not to say we don’t improve our skills when working on personal projects, but when we’re not busy jumping through hoops to meet a client’s demands (motivated by the thought of a paycheck), we tend to have no need to leave our comfort zone, and so we rarely do.

The People You Meet Will Change Your Outlook on Life

One of the things I am most grateful for about being a photographer is how sociable the job is. Sure, many hours of my week are spent alone, fixated on a computer screen, editing photos or planning an upcoming project. But, being a portrait photographer has enabled me to work with hundreds of people, many of whom I would never otherwise have had the opportunity to meet. Aside from getting to work with people that are pretty, talented, or successful (all very much perks of the job), being a photographer grants you the privilege of working with people you wouldn’t instinctively stop to chat to. If I take on a corporate job, I can potentially be meeting, talking, and photographing a team of 20-30 people. It will involve photographing people from all races, religions and sexualities.

I’ve had jobs before I was a photographer that involved regularly being around the same people as part of a team, and while it can provide a great sense of community spirit, I’m a very sociable person that enjoys meeting new people and hearing different opinions. Since pursuing photography, I’ve also relocated to London, a place that has opened my eyes to many of the lifestyles one can assume in 2016. To say it’s made me a more open-minded and understanding person is an understatement.

One of the many perks includes working with models who have travelled the world and have plenty of stories to share.

Work the Hours That Suit You (Within Reason)

In the same sense, my routine as a freelancer means that my hours are quite sporadic. I worked a 9-5 job for years as a teen and into my early twenties. I know everyone says it, but I realized pretty early on that the 9-5 life just wasn’t for me. Even knowing my day job wasn't permanent and that it was purely just to fund my move to London didn’t really help. I’m naturally more productive in the evenings and often find it best to work late into the night. If you’re a spontaneous person who detests being stuck in the same routine, this may just be the perfect job for you. As well as unconventional hours, you can expect a schedule that changes not only on a weekly, but also a daily basis. My working week is never the same twice, which I actually find to be quite refreshing. It certainly allows me to utilize my desire for constant change, because as long as the work is being done, I allow myself to keep hours that aren’t considered traditional. It may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly a formula that works for me and is a big factor in why I feel this career choice is one that suits me greatly.

One Big Life Opportunity

The creative industry is an exciting and ever-changing one. With media constantly evolving, it’s really quite an exciting time to be involved in photography. Why would you not want to be a part of a community that allows you to express yourself in any way you can possibly imagine, to work in a field where there are no right or wrong answers, but instead only personal interpretations? How about for getting paid to do what you love? It doesn’t really get much better than that for life satisfaction.

It can be scary. Let's be realistic, you don't just decide you're a photographer one day and live comfortably. It's not without financial instability, the juggling of several jobs, and struggling to pay rent. Even when things are going well, there are many times that it feels quite surreal to be able to forge a career out of taking photos. It’s a frequent occurrence for me to be at home editing photos from a paid job, when all of a sudden, I have this overwhelming feeling that I should be at a “real job” in an office somewhere. It’s also not something that should be rushed, so for the sake of your finances and general mental stability, I highly recommend taking on part-time work as you transition towards full-time photography.

My advice would be that above all, don’t let any concerns about exhausting your passion hold you back. Instead, get excited about all of the amazing life opportunities that come with being a photographer. It's an incredible journey.

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marknie's picture

I'm scared to death because of State Power run Amok and the constant barrage of hatred and jealousy from other egotistical hating pros that refuse to work together let alone support me.

Mark Davidson's picture

I saw a great quote" Be afraid, then do it anyway".

marknie's picture

Good quote, which is why i still do it and have a kick ass portfolio, but still no support from other photogs. Im out an island here. All other pros are either jealous or paranoid. They rarely are ever kind to me.

Nomad Photographers's picture

I do agree with all you say. Meanwhile as a pro photographer, more exactly as a couple of pro-photographers, I have to say that many many hours have to be put into networking, learning how to build a website from the scratch (I knew that beforehand fortunately) and think in terms of SEO, visibility etc...90% of my time lately is unpaid job and with a family of 5 to sustain it sometimes get difficult to keep believing in yourself and your ability to work as a pro-photographer. But even through all this I don't regret my decision to have moved from office work to being a pro-photographer with the love of my life a few years ago. You can check our life and works here : http://www.thenomadphotographers.com

Wayne Du Bruyn's picture

Visibility will start with your link being correctly spelled....:) http://thenomadphotographers.com/
cool page though.

Nomad Photographers's picture

Thank you Wayne, I am ashamed of myself ! I was able to correct though now thanks yo your comment. Have a nice day

Anonymous's picture

I would most respectfully add to that 'specialise specialise specialise' .
Follow your heart to a place where you shoot things that truly speak to your artistic sensibility.
Johnny generic is the other guy, if you want to get the bookings you need to specialise in something and you need to take that place to the nth degree.

Jack Alexander's picture

Well said.

Wayne Du Bruyn's picture

Great read Jack , great motivation for those of us forging our way.

Jack Alexander's picture

Cheers Wayne - glad it helped!

Spike S's picture

I guess I'm the only one who doesn't see this as good advice. I have a lot of passion for photography and I make decent money as a shooter. However, the two things are totally disconnected. The passion is for shooting that pays little to nothing but I do it several times a week. On the other hand, because I am very good technically, I make money shooting real estate as well as corporate events and sometimes nightclub (party) events. Nothing there that makes me feel passionate in the least but the money is terrific.

I will add that I make far better money as a writer, which I didn't do professionally until recently. Although the hourly rate is lower, there are no business costs, no wasted time, no waiting, no shipping off equipment to be repaired, no new equipment costs, etc. etc. I could do it with a $300 Windows PC if I didn't already have a photo editing setup. And, on top of all that, the clients are always much easier to deal with, even $100B international corporations.

I have met literally hundreds of people (and read their posts online) who want to become professional photographers because they love photography. Some want to be nature photographers, some travel photographers. AFAIK, not one has ended up shooting for decent money.

Benjamin Scherliss's picture

Spike, I'm just starting to break-into Real Estate photography. I've seen some not even blink at $135 per job, while others won't budge over $85. Would you mind sharing what you've found is a reasonable rate out there? Do you think it's worthy of sticking with it?