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Wednesday, 19 February 2014


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Interesting and valid idea, but a bit of apples and oranges. There are professional fishermen, yes, but they usually have big boats and use nets. Hard to make money otherwise. Golf is something you do for your own, not for others, so much harder to make a living from it. Yes, there are some pro golfers but they are a rare breed. Many musicians play in a band, in some neigbourhood bar or restaurant and draw some income from it. Not sure if it is now easier for individuals to sell music with Apple Store etc. Photography is one of the few professions where no qualifications are required, cost of admission is to buy a fairly cheap piece of equipment and after that one is basically able to produce functionally identical products as a seasoned professional. At least that is the common perception. It is not easy to make a decent living with a camera. Most people should not even try. That is a very valid point that the quote brings up.

Having taken photographs for pay and not for pay, give me the latter any time. But when it comes to writing, I've come around to agree with Samuel Johnson: "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money."

Profession (n) A hobby with tax headaches.

Frankly Scarlet, I don't give a damn.

Couldn't have said it better myself.


There's also that distressing question "Are you a professional?", with the subtext "Are you any good?"

I've pretty much given up explaining that I am better at some kinds of photography than many who make money doing other kinds of photography.

"You must have a very good camera, what kind is it?"


I have a friend who will tell me "you're in the wrong profession" when I show him my photos (typically of kids, but more recently from a ski jump that I shot freelance for the local paper - something I've done twice now, in addition to sending them unsolicited photos from school events for free). Aside from the limited opportunities for a photographer to make money in a small rural town (that already has at least one full time pro), he misses the point that the word enthusiast is based on enthusiasm. Being an amateur is fun ! I never have to "get the shot". I shoot what I want, when I want. I have no clients to please but myself, though I do have my audience of friends and family (and if I don't want grief when I buy new toys, it helps to shoot pictures that my wife likes). I can take pictures at a birthday party and get around to going through them a month later.

Now, granted, I read about some pro photographers whose jobs sound fun. But they either have personalities that let them do a job that I could never do (just read Jeff Cable's latest blog post about shooting the men's US hockey team in Sochi and having to push aside a crowd to get the shot) or live a lifestyle that I don't want to live (travel, time away from the family, etc). And always, the pressure to satisfy the client.

I will say, though, that photographers have company. Woodworkers are often expected to make some side money with their hobby.

So True. Actually I would not want to be a pro. Well unless I had a line of beautiful women all knocking on the door for portrait sessions. That could change my mind. :)

Welcome salve for one of the nagging insecurities of loving, yet no longer making made money from, photography.

The flip side to this is having a job where people expect you to give them freebies. As a winemaker I get this all the time. "Can we have some samples?" I usually ask for free samples back, e.g. free insurance, free legal advice, free car parts. Then I get a nod of comprehension.

Nothing will destroy a hobby faster than turning it into a business.

...and yet, people DO make money from being in the fishing business, and of course, pickin' guitar. The trouble is to try and keep the business side from wrecking what you love, and maybe that's impossible...

BTW, this reminds me of a conversation I had about six months ago with some people when I was on a job. I was depressed because the industry I had known for decades had been so reduced it was tough to make a living at (and filled with people giving it away), and I was thinking about leaving it for good. One person piped up about how this was a great opportunity for me to finally go on and do something in life I really wanted to do. She proceeded to wax on for minutes about how she had been in the tech industry for years, making a lot of money, and how she never really wanted to be doing it. Finally, she moved to California with her sig-other, and became a trainer, which she loved.

After she was done, I told her I had done EXACTLY what I wanted to do for years, became a photographer, and ran my life EXACTLY the way I wanted to run it, and was blissful, until the amateurs in my industry and the change in technology made my life extinct. The trouble was not doing what you wanted to do in life, it was finding something else to do, that you really didn't care about, to make money when that didn't work out...

Once again, shut-up the crowd...

Well, I've probably been asked by dinner guests "why don't you open a restaurant" about as often as I've been asked "why don't you become a professional photographer." Same answer in both cases: don't want to be destitute.

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