As mentioned in one of my previous posts photography can be an expensive hobby. Many people think it’s not worth spending a lot of money in photo gear unless a return on investment is expected, otherwise mentioned “you get your money back”. This made me ask myself this question quite often in the past: “should I start taking photos for money”? Should I become a professional photographer?
But what is a professional photographer?
From my humble experience I can identify four categories of photographers. First one is the “absolute amateur”, who only takes pictures for remembering the moment (and/or posting them on Facebook or other social media). Usually (s)he uses the smartphone, a point & shoot camera or sometimes an entry-level DSLR. This is how all of us started.
Second category are the enthusiasts. They want to get more than just capturing a moment. They become interested in the artistic side. They invest in gear and in learning how to use it and which limitations it has. They experiment, they probe different angles and views. They are aware that a good photo might also require some editing. And they learn how to do it. However they don’t make money out of photography or they only do this occasionally. This is where I would currently “place” myself.
Third category are the “semi-pro” photographers. They earn money from photography but only do this on a part-time basis. They might have a full time job and use photography to increase their income. Or they just don’t earn enough from photography to do it full time.
Finally the fourth category are the pros, who practice photography mostly for money. No more pleasure but business! This is their main income source. This is their job. Most of the time they are “specialised” in a specific genre: events (weddings, parties), fashion, news photography, nature. Well, nature photographers are a smaller percentage, at least most of the pros I know are shooting events.
Now back to the question: should I become a full-time photographer (or at least a semi-pro)? Well, I thought a lot about this, especially when I had a job change in mind. Yes, two years ago I changed my job by switching to software development. This was another hobby of mine for many years and now it’s a job. So the answer to the above question was no. And still remains no. Let me explain you why.
First, as mentioned before this hobby is one of my favourite ways to relax. Yes, for me its relaxing to go out and take pictures. It’s a way to forget about the daily stress and to connect with nature. Comparing to it software development is not relaxing. It’s interesting, it’s challenging and I like doing it a lot. But it’s not relaxing at all, it makes one’s brain work at 200% capacity. So I found it more suitable as a job. This also allowed me to free my spare time and use it for the other passions and interests (like photography).
Second, in my opinion the most wanted type of photography is event photography (especially weddings). I practice this genre from time to time but I’m aware I would only like to take such photos occasionally. I like nature photography, this is what makes me happy. Why should I switch to a genre I don’t really like just for the sake of money? It’s very important to like you job especially as it takes a great amount of time in each one’s life!
Third, I discovered stock photography. In my opinion it’s the best way to make your work visible both as amateur and pro, to create a portfolio and also gain some money out of it. Let’s call it a “compromise” between the amateur and the pro. How much money do I get from stock? Well, not so much. This is because nature photos are not in the “most wanted ones” category. Yes, other genres like “people having a good time” sell better. But I don’t care. I will continue practising what I enjoy. I won’t change my preferences for the sake of money. The satisfaction that a part of my photos (even if a small one) will be useful for other people and will help them achieve their purposes is great enough to make me continue posting on stock sites. It also motivates me to get better in photography, including the editing part. And I must admit this part really improved in the last two years both in quality and speed. Last but not least, stock photography is about selling your work but the pressure is low (unless it becomes one’s main income source). I really like this! I post what I like and whenever I like. Of course part of the pictures might get rejected but this is also good. It helps me assess the quality of my work and to find improvement opportunities.
I like to take photos. But I like doing this without pressure and without stress. Imagine for example how it is to take photos of a wedding. You need backup for everything: camera, cards, lighting etc. What would happen if you lose the pictures you’ve just taken and for which the customer has paid? I know how it feels to lose pictures even when not doing it for money. What happens if you “lose” one of the most important moments of the wedding for whatever reason? It’s not like “losing” a beautiful bird that takes off from the lake. It’s about credibility and professional image loss. Also working for the customer means deadlines. There’s no more relaxation but responsibility and accountability.
Well, for all these reasons I prefer to remain an enthusiastic photographer. And I’ll continue to do what I like most!
P.S. Check these posts too:
What Photography Means to Me (4)
Insects. And Some Findings on Photography and Editing
Some Findings About Editing Airshow Photos
Birds. And Some Findings Regarding Shooting and Editing
Spiders. And Some Findings About Photographing Them