Three Hilarious Life Truths About Becoming a Professional Photographer

Three Hilarious Life Truths About Becoming a Professional Photographer

In the song Sunscreen, Baz Luhrmann teaches certain “inalienable” truths about life: you’re not as fat as you imagine, politicians will philander, and you too, will get old. So I’ve compiled a short list of some funny yet brutal life-truths about becoming a professional photographer.

The Love of Your Life May Leave You

Fine, I get it, that heading went a tad over. But it is not entirely my fault. I was just reading some comments on my last article, The Must have Lens for Anyone Starting Out as a Professional Photographer and let’s just say, I got inspired.

You are starting a new photography business from scratch which usually means long hours buried deep inside a dark room cursing at Lightroom and a dearth of new income in your bank account. Quite a few people tend to counter this by spending more hours on their new profession, usually in that same dark room, away from any signs of social life telling their partners to go to “that” silly barbeque by themselves. I mean, who’s got time to make small-talk while watching that piece of soy-based fake meat cook ever so slowly. Spare me!

When you take on professional photography, your pillow talk will also change. It could be a rant by you on how stupid your latest client is because they think that the image you worked so hard on, is “too underexposed.” I mean what do they even know about exposure. Do they even know how to read the damn histogram? I didn’t think so either! And then you hear something eternally beautiful and life-defining that makes you stop for a second. Yes, that’s coming from your partner who has dozed off. That’s how interesting your “my day sucked because my passion is now my profession” story was.

Another pillow talk scenario that could materialize: “Babe, now that I’m on my way to becoming a professional photographer, I think I need to take my photography up a notch and buy a good set of professional lenses. And don’t worry I’ve done the calculations. I can just put it on the credit card and including interest, I will only need to pay $32 per day… for the next… umm... two years.” Good luck with getting sleep or those lenses after that conversation!

You Will Be Crowned ‘Designated Photographer’ for Life

That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? You naive little lamb! Let me shatter these rose-tinted, image stabilized glasses for you.

On the rare occasions that you decide to come out of your hole and mingle with fellow members of your species, your photographically-challenged older relatives or friends will feel a strong urge to increase the number of clicks they must have of themselves because they have the expertise of a “professional photographer.” And these photos must be clicked using a pre-historic phone with a sensor as big as some microscopic fungus and photo quality that makes the sound of nails on a chalkboard seem bearable. Or if you’re particularly lucky that day, you may get to click these photos with their gigantic tablet. You might as well have brought along your 27-inch iMac and used it as a camera. Well, at least you can hide your “kill me now, please” expression behind these items.  

The ordeal does not end there, however. For your younger friends who believe that they are on their way to becoming social media influencers, the act of photographing will usually be followed by damning judgment. “Oh no! I look so fat! Why is the angle so low? You can see all my three hundred double chins. See this amazing photo taken by my friend, can you click one like this?” You will be so torn by a raging internal debate on whether to explain why your photo is better given the constraints or to give them some sass by saying that the camera simply captures reality, that in the end, you will end up making a half-hearted attempt at mimicking that selfie they showed you.

The end result? If the photo is clicked with your camera and they like it, “buddy, your camera takes amazing photos!” If the photo is clicked with their phone and is not to their liking, “you should speak to my cousin, he’s not even a pro and he takes amazing photos...”

Sigh, I give up.

 You Will Lose Your Right to Earn Serious Money

The world’s definition of a professional photographer:

photographer

noun

A subspecies of humans who follow their passions. Thus, they are happy to work without pay and have given up all ambitions of owning a house, car or any material objects apart from prime lenses. This group can lead perfectly healthy lives given a few drops of “exposure” once in a while.

When you make the leap to take up photography as a profession and the news spreads like wildfire amongst your social circle, people will come up to you and congratulate you on being “brave enough” to follow your passion. Don’t get too excited. These are euphemisms people use to mask their astonishment on someone having given up on an exciting career in reconciling numbers through intellectual activities like using calculators. These same people probably tell their kids bedtime stories about photographers who went bankrupt and lived miserably ever after.

Of course, I’ve exaggerated in this article and it is not all doom and gloom. I hope you enjoyed my take on these life truths for photographers. What are some of the other hilarious truths about photography in your opinion?

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10 Comments

People always attribute good shots to a good camera, but bad shots to the photographer. Can you imagine telling a host how wonderful their dinner is and follow it with, "You must have a really good stove." Or telling a golfer with a great score, "You must have really good clubs." But we hear it all the time.

JetCity Ninja's picture

good post. you must have an excellent keyboard.

Charles Burgess's picture

...or telling a great auto mechanic "You must have really good wrenches"...or telling telling a preacher "You must have a really good Bible"...or a radio talk host "You must have a really good microphone"...or the greatest drummer, John Bonham, "You must have really good drumsticks"...or Jimmy Hendrix, "You must have really good guitar picks"...or just as Michelangelo finished painting the Sistine Chapel, the Pope tells him "You must have really good brushes"...

yanpekar's picture

All the points are so far from true. None of these had happened neither to my colleagues or myself. What is the reason for generalising and making it sound as if it happens to everyone who becomes a professional photographer? It may just scary some people of.

JetCity Ninja's picture

using anecdotal evidence in an attempt to debunk an anecdote exemplifies a failure in logic.

that's not an anecdote; that's scientific method.

on topic, his experience may be affected by culture. asians tend to be far more judgmental of those who choose career paths without guaranteed, verifiable income. this is of course a sweeping generalization but one that is supported by many anecdotes from unrelated people of asian descent. i make this statement because i'm of Asian descent, and although i'm not a professional photographer, i can relate to some of what he posted.

they may be based on his experiences, but whose experiences do you expect him to draw upon? generalizations aren't universal. you may not have experienced any of these things but that doesn't make commonly shared experiences a falsehood. clearly you live in a utopia so i'm unable to relate, so if you could clarify, i'm all ears because i'm genuinely curious.

I don't usually comment but just had to this time. You make a valid argument. You must have an excellent keyboard as well

The love of your life may leave you. Or not. That has nothing to do with photography and a lot to do with you (or your love interest) as a person. You will be crowned designated photographer. Well, if you're a doctor, you're the designated health care specialist. If you're a teacher, you have to help teach Johnny how to do his homework. If you're a psychologist, you get to hear people's problems. Human nature is to glom onto the person with expertise who might give you freebies. As far as not making money...hey, does anyone in the arts make decent money? My parents were artists and we were dirt poor, no furniture poor, kids selling flowers to tourists in the street so we could eat poor. When my daughter decided to pursue an arts degree, I had someone ask me why I was allowing her to follow a career course where she wouldn't make any money. But honestly, I don't know any photographers who are as poor as my family was, because to do photography you have to have money to invest in equipment. There usually is someone, or a second job, that helps you get going.

Actually it's called "Occupational Fallout". Anybody in any line of endeavor has this affliction. There is no cure for it unless you move...move FAR FAR away and commit yourself from ever mentioning that "I Once Was..." But then because your ego gets the better of you and the affliction reacurs, you start again doing what you once wanted to get away from. YOU ARE DOOMED!! But admit it, you love it and enjoy the disease even with all the negative conditions it causes.

Charles Burgess's picture

"The Designated Photographer", that rings true 1000%, at least for me. I find point-n-shoot and cell phone cameras a real blessing in disguise in most social settings where I am repeatedly asked to take a photo - and if it's their point-n-shoot or smartphone, even more so: I don't need to do any post processing. Among friends, family, and other social groups, I am expected to use my Nikon D810 with the battery pack extension, even when most of the time it is a setting more appropriate for candid snapshots. The later is like taking a deer rifle to go squirrel hunting, or a deep saltwater fishing rig to go fishing in the pond for bluegills...well, some folks still think it's OK to use dynamite for fishing!

"See this amazing photo taken by my friend, can you click one like this?" [OP]...I prefer this approach, as it closely resembles a commercial comp brief that includes photos similar to what the client has in mind. This is where a old smartphone (out of service, only used for offline apps) comes in handy: open a posing app (the one with line drawings) and hand it to the person making the request; while they are scrolling through the poses, you can mingle with others; many times it ends up being a small series of groups shots (because of the posing app), which takes up less time than the original scenario in Soni's article. Yes there is always a chance the person will drop the smartphone, which isn't a problem since it is an old one you don't use anymore (best way for photogs to recycle old smartphones - just delete sensitive data).