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Thursday, 08 December 2016

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Can o'worms Mike - What's a pro? Someone running a full time business, with premises, an agent, staff and so on, and able to change the car every few years and take a nice vacation and payin the kids college fees, or some poor schmuck tryin' his best to do everything on his/her own and barely making a living (or even worse, subsidised half the time by his/her spouse!)

More than 10% of your blog posts are good.

Quite a few more than 10%, and I suspect most of your readers will agree with me.

:)


In the army, 1964-'67, I was a "pro" and I loved it. I wasn't tied to one place. I got to experience many situations and learn along the way about things that I otherwise would never have encountered. Of course, there was some drudgery, hours in the darkroom turning out hundreds of photos of the new commanding general to be placed in every building on post, various "grip & grin" shoots for press releases, getting dragged out in the middle of the night by the MPs to photograph auto accidents that involved GIs. I loved the aerial assignments. I once photographed an autopsy. The assignment I most loathed was the officers' wives tea parties. The range of what I did was exciting and fun but unlike the average independent commercial photographer, I did not have to go out and round up assignments. I think if I'd had to do all my own marketing it would not have been any fun at all.

The best comparison for becoming a pro photographer was the comment I heard once..."its the only thing harder than acting to get into"..

In finance the equation is risk vs. reward. Is the financial reward big enough relative to the amount of money invested? Mike's equation is work vs. reward. Is the reward (financial or otherwise) big enough relative to the kind and amount of work invested?

Related is how much is enough? Why is LeBron James still playing basketball? How much money is enough? I'm sure that for him the "otherwise" reward is as big or bigger than the money.

And then there's Bill Gates who is working hard giving his money away.

I'm glad you enjoy writing these articles because I enjoy reading them.

No. Not because of the hard work. Because of the hard work doing things that aren't fun. I work for a big company and get to specialize on what I went to school for, while other people handle human resources, finance, advertising, dealing with clients, etc. That fits my personality. If I could find a job that would pay me reasonably well to spend 40+ hours a week just doing the photography I enjoy, I'd probably pounce on it, but I don't think such a thing exists.

Imagine being an accountant for 40 years. Who would want to do that?

Imagine writing computer software, surrounded by male pigs for 30 years who wouldn't know a decent place to eat if it hit them on the head, would you work in a place like that? (I did.)

Who would be a pro football player? You spend your days being hit on the head by other big guys that are trying to maim you.

Given my personality, I think the worst career choice for me would be wedding photography. Week after week of spoiled princesses throwing tantrums because they have invested so much of the past 5 years building up to the "most important day of their life", with a psycho-mother in tow, surrounded by drunken guests. And odds are 50/50, it'll all end in divorce by the end of the decade.

If people didn't have so much fun, they'd think that life was a misery.

Wow, I really think this one depends on what sort of pro photographer. Because it's like pro drivers: there's bus drivers, long-distance truckers, limo drivers, school bus drivers, race car drivers....you get the picture. Each of these would have their own aptitude set.

I am doing fine arts repro and installation photography as part of my job. Love it. Could do it all the time instead of my other duties. I'd never tire of it (and now there's tons more variety to it, from copy stand to giant paintings to outdoor sculpture to video). I think I could easily do architecture and travel as well.

Wedding photographer? Events? Sports? Fashion? those are my footsteps you are hearing as I run away as fast as I can.


I have a friend that I met through photography. He's a highly educated guy with a very well paying job in finance, where as I left school at 15 and have no formal qualifications. One day he tells that he'd never become a pro photographer as there's no way he'd work for £20,000 a year.

I was working in a call centre at the time, earning £14,000. I warned him that he should not even think about going pro. At least not until he'd gained some tact

I like taking pictures, so I'd never turn pro. Same reason I am not opening a brewery, a hot sauce company, or a catering business.

I made the decision not to turn pro in 1969- Woodstock weekend. I worked in the defense industry, abd was between jobs ('high priced migrant labor' in those days). A commercial photographer friend who I had assisted on occasion when i had time, offered me a partnership. In my work I sometimes had as many as four (4) 'bosses', all with different agendas. But I did photography for myself-what i wanted, when I wanted, how i wanted, or not at all. If I turned pro, I would have a boss or two, and not be doing my own photographic thing. I thought about it, said thanks, but no thanks, and have never regretted it. I'm the only boss my photos must satisfy, and that's hard enough.

Right out of college-back in the day I was hired as a Police Crime Scene Photographer and Crime Scene Technician. This based on my Liberal Arts Degree that included lots of photography in both Journalism and Arts Department. Two years into this, I had completely lost my passion for photography-at least the practice of it. It was nearly eighteen years later-after a one year stint in Santa Fe, where there were a number of good photography galleries, that I cautiously dipped my toe back in the water. Went all-in after that. Most recently in my so called retirement-I got a license to sell Real Estate which I do kind of sort of-good reason to get out of the house and meet people. I was asked to do some of the photos for a fellow realtor, and I said sure. Didn't take long for me to realize that doing this as work is something I have zero interest in. Makes me realize I don't know how portrait, wedding photographers make it interesting for themselves-if they do. In any event, I'm only making photographs of things that actually interest me from here on out.

>>Would you want to do that, or would it drive you crazy?<<

It's the other way around: you already have to be crazy to start an endeavor like that.

Just kiddin'...

I toyed with being a local "pro" doing environmental damage photography as a result of 15 years of citizen activity documenting damage being done to Redwood National Park proposals in the sixties. I actually did some work for a few land owners who needed some documentation done.

However, doing all the film development work, providing proofs and test prints turned out to be a lot of un-fun work because now there was "pressure", both in time and results. Then "final" prints had to be made. The field work was great and my clients were happy. But I wasn't - I just didn't have the "grit" to do this on a daily basis. And by "this" I mean ALL the associated work necessary to finish a job with a client. And that doesn't even count the hustling to get more customers.

Mike's last two paragraphs of this blog ring precisely true! That's happy me there. Just add one more point: Show your "great print of an image you care about" to someone and then he or she asks, "how much do you want for it"?

Uh, Oh! Here we go again...:-)

At least pro golfers get to play on some beautiful courses that they would also enjoy as an amateur. Pro photographers, on the other hand, may be forced into taking the types of pictures that don't support their personal vision. Maybe that's better in a way, as private shooting can remain different...and enjoyable. [The same issue applies to photo amateurs who might occasionally exhibit work for sale, i.e., produce work to sell versus work for personal satisfaction; the two often don't coincide.]

Do what you love. The power of love turns work into play.

40+ year photography career here, started in a studio during high-school, and now I'm 62!

There's a few big issues here. I had my own studio for about 10 of those years, and I liked it fine. What happened is the nature of the photography business changed, the people IN the photography business changed (both buyers and sellers), and the technology changed.

If I could go back to film, work with the type of people I was working with in 1982, get the same services I was getting in 1982, and work on the same jobs I was working on in 1982, for the same percentage of income as back in 1982, I'd be more than happy.

I've had to reinvent myself to stay employed, but it's a terrible life compared to what it once was, and there would be absolutely NO way I would become a photographer today, if I had the same feelings as I had then, and the business was presented to me as it is today.

I can tell you, managing a staff of disgruntled millennials, all mad about the money they make vs. what they paid to be in college, with very few options at all for a better reality, I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy!

The ad people I was working with at the beginning of my career were veritable geniuses compared to who you have to sell to, and interact with, today. We all understood the expenses and all agreed on a range of pricing. There were a ton of people eliminated from the industry because they could NOT get the technology of film and lighting down, or were not organized. You could buy equipment and use it forever (I still use it today!).

I learned a log time ago that the "best and the brightest" seem to filter through different job titles depending on the era. The type of people I was meeting in the late 60's and early 70's were those left-over mad-men-and-women. By the late 80's those "types" had moved on to investment banking, commercial real estate, whatever, but they weren't in my business anymore and I was horrified by who was...

To answer your question - "Would you want to do that...:" It would drive me crazy! No offense. But I think that is due to the topic(s). I researched and wrote legal briefs and papers nearly every day for 30+ years and enjoyed it enormously, mostly. There was enjoyment in having the winning argument, of course, but a big part of the pleasure was organizing the ideas and bringing them together on paper to persuade other readers.

For me, doing something that I'm good at, but hate to do, isn't a good thing. I got A grades in college for my writing. In one script writing class, my work was often read, in-front-of-the-class, by the prof. But I'm loath to write for a living—too much effing trouble, for too little effing reward.

Working in Hollywood was enjoyable, but it cost me my marriage—and I didn't get to see my children grow-up. On one film I worked for three months, twelve hours-a-day, and only had one day-off each of those three months. Sorta hard to have much of a family life with that kind of schedule. If the writers/whoever went-on-strike, that put everybody out-of-work. Meh. People lose houses because of that. Double meh.

Since retiring from Hollywood, I've got some tear-sheets from my work—but a tear-sheet and two dollars won't buy you a cup of coffee.

If I had it to do all over again, I'd have stayed in school and got myself a PhD. And never have owned any lightmeters.

I studied biology and finished with a Ph.D. in 1998. At this time, I decided to leave this field and join a company which specialized in scientific software for chemists, as a software developer. This reason for this decision was that I loved to write to code; I even ran pet projects in my leisure. Looking back at the 18 years as software developer, I really had to learn that a being a professional (as in, working for clients) requires an emotional distance to my work. Mind you, I still enjoy going to work, but the love of the early days is gone.
Back to the original question: I really love taking pictures and visual arts, and I'd find it heartrending to attain an emotional distance to it. This would completely destroy it for me, and for this reason I'm glad that I am not a "pro".

I was just writing my thoughts on this the other day. Thinking about my own career track, and what I've told my students these last two years.

I spent two years in high school studying photography. During one of them, I skipped nearly all of my academic classes so that I could focus on a year long independent study. While in high school, I did every low hanging fruit photo job you can think of. Like--Sears portrait photography, one hour photo lab tech...etc.

I studied in college for two years until I was offered a paid internship with state government. Then immediately after that, I began working as an assistant for two local commercial/editorial photogs.

I spent two grueling years lugging their equipment around. Loading their cameras. Keeping their clients occupied while they worked. I learned more about photography and it's business end in these two years than I did in college.

Then at the ripe old age of 22, I stepped out and started my freelance career. It was 1997 and I spent a summer chasing toddlers to pay my rent. Talk about hard work! And no, not in a studio. Literally chasing them through back yards and parks! When I wasn't chasing kids, I was chasing stories for my city paper as a low paid stringer. Way too many boring evenings spent shooting field hockey. (I'm not a sports person- no offense to the field hockey athletes.)

I had a career break that fall which kicked off a career as a magazines feature photographer. I shot everything and anything. From travel to politicians to food, and cars and architecture. In between assignments for dozens of publications, I also shot advertising and produced several bodies of personal, artistic images which I exhibited.

Then after the GEC of '08, luck delivered a dream client to me. A major East Coast travel publication asked me to shoot for them on contract. What this entailed for the next several years was travelling extensively for assignments. Both domestically and abroad.

A typical assignment would look like this: Leave Philly for Dublin and land at 8:30 local time. Shoot first story at the airport (with no sleep and jet lag starting). Drop off bags at hotel. Shoot literally all day- my last frame was taken at about 11:45pm in a local pub as I shot very merry musicians. Wake up the next day, shoot at dawn. Eat. Pack. get in vehicle and travel to location two. Shoot all day again. Yes, past 10pm. We did this for 6 days as we drove across the country, spending each night in different accommodations.

Upon returning home, I spent days just sorting through the take to find a loose selection (about 600 from about 3500 frames) to show the art director. He would choose his favorite 150 or so images, then I would spend another several days editing the raw files.

Sometimes, these trips would come back to back. From one country and time zone to another.

And you know what? I loved every sleepless minute of it!

Now, I've been teaching college students. And although my classes are not about the business side, I discuss this very topic with them. I start out explaining the 10,000 hour concept. And add in 100,000 frames to that mix. (spent studying your failures, not using highspeed shutter). And then I tell them about my career and ask how many of them want to commit to a life like that. For only a modest, yet comfortable, income.

I usually wrap up that class by telling them that my career was on the low energy side of the game. Newspaper photographers, war photographers and some commercial photographers work much crazier hours with less sleep.

Thoughts on today's and yesterday's posts (both of which I'm reading for the first time today): Some years ago my wife gave me as a birthday present Ann Lamott's book Bird By Bird, her book on writing. She talks about going to writing seminars where she tells a group of wannabe writers that they'll probably never get published but that's OK because their writing is worthwhile and they should keep doing it for themselves. She describes their faces falling as she talks and then some timid soul raises a hand to ask if one needs an agent to be published. Lamott says yes, but tells them agents are busy and selective and they probably won't be picked up by an agent. Faces fall again and at last someone asks how to find an agent. And so it goes.

Do what you do for yourself first and don't worry about the money it might generate; most people who became rich or famous as writers or photographers or whatever didn't start out to become rich and/or famous, they were totally consumed with a passion for what they did.

My second thought is of Daniel Pinkwater who describes his beginning writing career as a solitary pursuit. He had friends who wanted to write who were out traveling the world to have "experiences" about which to write. Pinkwater stayed home in Hoboken, I think, and decided he had to sit at a table for one hour each day. The table held writing materials but he wasn't required to write; all he insisted of himself was that he sit at the table for an hour.

In the beginning all he did was sit. But eventually he began to write, and the hour turned into 90 minutes and then a couple of hours and then a chunk of the day. Pinkwater says this was how he developed the discipline to write every day. His friends who were out having experiences never became writers as I recall.

I see the same faults in my students, and one of the great disappointments of my early teaching career was the discovery my students weren't nearly as passionate about photography as I. It's still disappointing, at the end of a long career, to see a student who paid for a class sitting in the back of the room playing with his phone instead of doing the work necessary to get better. Nothing comes to us if we don't work at it, but when I was 20 I thought I knew a lot, too.

Nothing ruins a hobby faster than turning it into a business.

Pro versus Amateur is one of those shouty Internet memes which damages everything it touches. Is it a recent import from sport, which you rather hint at? Previous eras didn't make much if anything of the distinction so why should we. I don't see what good comes from having anything to do with it. Application and talent plus usually a dose of luck will out if you really want to go the distance. I guess the rest of us can enjoy a slow, easy-rolling, genial, tolerably good ride doing what we love from time to time. Was Caesar a Pro? Or Giotto or Newton? Is the Pope a Pro? I don't think he runs courses showing you how to Pray like the Pros, photography-style.The whole thing is ridiculous when one steps back a little.

I have a friend who is an elite swimmer. He is a gem of a human being, but swimming is his life. He literally eats, drinks and breaths swimming. If you enter into a conversation with him, you guessed it: you will be talking about swimming (and don't bother attempting to change the subject, haha). There is a mindset that people like my friend or Larry Bird or Serena Williams are born with, where shooting free throws for 3 hours or hitting a tennis ball all day long or swimming morning and evening is what they do, and with passion. For me? Get me out of the pool after a 30 minute lap swim! Please! I've read where there have been superior athletes to the guys and gals who win the gold medals, or make it in the major leagues or what not, but they don't apply themselves full throttle, they don't possess the "mental circuitry" of the guys like Michael Jordan or Michael Phelps. And well, that's okay! Not everyone can have one activity or vocation dominate their life, although clearly some can and as Mike noted, society rewards them monetarily. As to me, I like Mike's definition of an amateur photographer. Count me in! Let us each go as far with it as makes us happy. As to vocation and life, those things that I do that bring me energy, I keep on trucking with. Those things that empty my tank, I try to set aside best I can. Thanks Mike for a thought-provoking blog. I think you're batting at least .300 on your blog, you're definitely above the Mendoza Line!

Real happy amateur here ! I love this freedom even taking it seriously.
robert

Based upon my experience with high-end audio, when your hobby becomes your profession, it's time to find a new hobby!

Yup, I've been a pro photographer since 1979. I've done all kinds of things, and have had to learn how to do them all well. There are many kinds of ways to be a photographer. When I graduated college, I worked on staff at Tiffany & Co. in NYC as one of their two staff photographers. I quickly learned that shoot stuff was not my passion and left to freelance, and find my way in the world.

I've been very fortunate to always find a way to make a living through photography. I've shot journalism, sports, magazines, annual reports, higher ed, weddings, bar mitzvahs, food, jewelry, architecture, interiors, and aerials. I decided that I prefer to shoot people, and that's been the mainstay for me since the mid 80's.

I work on staff at a mid sized university in NJ making images for advertising, marketing, media relations, the web site, and a large variety of editorial magazines. It's fun, and it's also draining as there can be many long days. There's a fair bit of office politics too. Just like any other job, it has it's ups and downs.

One thing that hasn't been affected over the years is my enthusiasm and commitment to making photographs. For clients I make sure that they are useful, and when I shoot for myself, it's all about how and what I see. I am more passionate about making photographs than I was when I was young.

The main thing about what I do when on assignment is to always find a way to make it interesting, no matter what the job is. I had a much harder time doing that when I was younger, but as I've gained a bit of wisdom I realized that to stay engaged takes work, and lots of it. So no matter what, even the most boring event, I try to challenge myself to go a bit further, look a little deeper.

That's what separates the pros from those that are not. The ability to keep it fresh and stay at the top of your game, and most importantly to be able to create on demand, and not only when the mood strikes you. It takes practice.

I was a studio/wedding/portrait/craft photographer for twenty years in three separate towns in Vermont. I would not trade them for anything. But it was work. Besides the sexy part, shooting, printing and presenting there was all of the minutiae that take more time than one can imagine. Billing, following up on billing, taxes at both ends, advertising and re-doing prints (all darkroom). It's a commitment and involves much more than 8 hours a day. And every customer is your boss. Taught me more about lighting and printing and discipline than just swanning about with a Nikon.

Amateur photographers are judged by their best six photos of the year; professionals are judged by their worst six.

Well you're not the 36th blog I check out each day...

I was a “pro” photographer for 30 years - after which I became an ad agency creative director - and enjoyed almost every minute of it (book work and cash-flow not so much). Because I resisted the temptation to move to NYC and specialize (food photography), I was able to enjoy the challenge of working with a wide variety of clients (Fortune 500s or their ad agencies) - food, product, people, fashion, annual report reportage and some editorial work thrown in for good measure. So it never got boring or repetitive. Not to mention that, amongst many other things, I learned how to hypnotize a chicken or that I could safely put my arm (up to the elbow) into the mouth of an elephant and stroke their tongue while she purred like a cat. Good work if you can get it.

No, I certainly wouldn't want to be a pro photographer - I'm a happy snapper.

I wonder how many people have jobs they enjoy? In my last 20 years of work I was lucky - probably more than 50% of my time was enjoyable or satisfying - but I think I may have been fortunate.

(One of the things I''eve been musing on in this year of unexpected election results is - who actually wants to do all the jobs that are allegedly going to be repatriated to various countries as a result of political developments? Working on the track at Dearborn or Dagenham was always stressful and unsatisfying, surely. Picking peas (Lincolnshire) or grapes (California?) is always going to be poorly-paid and backbreaking. Who wants to do those things?)

A pro I've been corresponding with in Britain is very talented, has won numerous "Societies" memberships and honors, and tells me she's presently working on average about 100 hours a week.

Many of the motorsports pros I've shot with for years that follow various racing series are also incredibly hard-working. I remember one year, Brian J Nelson, one of the most successful (and hard-working!) motorcycle racing pro photographers in the USA, told me he was "home" only 30 days for the entire year previous; rest of the time he was at some racetrack, sleeping out of his van.

No.

Not unless the world beat a path to my door and begged to buy any art I felt like creating at my own pace at any any price I set.

That's so surreal it's almost funny.

I've read interviews with painters who have gone from amateur to full time artists; many of them have said that because of the extra time that pros spend traveling, selling, schmoozing, showing up at art openings, maintaining their online presence, etc., they don't spend any more time actually painting than when they were amateurs.

So why do it? I think that being a professional artist, photographer or musician is like joining the priesthood: you should only do it if you can't do anything else. Not necessarily out of incompetence - meaning that there's something in you won't be satisfied if you pick a different profession.

Reading this article was an amazing experience for me. It was as if I was proof reading what I would have loved to convey in words for many years. I've tried to explain this to others for a long time without much success. This article just put into words what I couldn't after all these years. A profound thank you to you Mike.

I very much agree with this. I find amateur photography often frustrating enough that I've never had a strong urge to turn it professional, quite apart from the horrors of running one's own business.

Similarly, I've always wanted to be able to play the guitar but somehow I've never wanted to actually play the guitar enough to become competent at it. In fact, I suspect I'd rather be seen (and feted) by others to be able to play it, rather than actually enjoying it as an activity in itself. This seems to be key for a lot of creative pursuits: if you can't subsist on the internal rewards alone, there are precious few external ones to compensate and they are usually hard-won.

I guess it's fortunate that I've been able to make a career in IT, a field I'm happy to tinker about in anyway on my own time. Now finally in a role where I get to work almost entirely on stuff I enjoy and avoid the tedious corporate ephemera that blighted previous jobs, I'd say the hard work finally paid off.

I now have similar arguments with my partner about the amount of time our children spend dodging activities they supposedly "enjoy" and "are good at". Apparently there are very few endeavours that can match the immediate rush of playing Minecraft.

Nope. Never, ever had the slightest interest. None at all. When I was a kid, the only professional photographer I ever met was the fellow who took our high school yearbook photos. Nice enough guy, though never thought that his job was anything interesting. In fact, never even thought much about his job at all. Then of course, there were the grainy black and white photos in our small newspaper. I suppose they were taken by a staff photographer, but I never imagined that that job would be interesting, at least in our very rural area. Never really gave it any thought either. Besides, to loosely paraphrase what Peter Turnley once said in an interview, such a job would have seemed a bit unmanly to many boys back then.

Later on, photographers I knew did portraits, or were those I knew from work: crime/accident scene photographers or photojournalists. My experience with journalists of any ilk was not something that would have inspired me to want to have anything to do with that career. And I most certainly would have never entertained the thought of doing product/commercial photography for someone else. No interest then, and even less now.

To me photography has always been a hobby. Over the last six or seven years, the time I spend actively doing photography---not including editing etc---has averaged between 10-15 hours per week. Photography of what I want, when and where I want. Wouldn't have it any other way.

I think it was Segovia who, coming on stage for a live recital when in his 80's, apologised in advance to his audience for illness forcing him to cut his practice to 12 hours a day, and his performance not meeting his standard.
!

For me, the question boils down to whether you can attain talent by dedication and practice.
For many years I believed if I had spent the time and money I spent in college on golf courses instead, I would have become a really good golfer and perhaps a pro. Golf, unlike most other sports, does not require any special physical attributes, and four years of working dillegently to correct one's mistakes should produce a positive outcome.
Now I'm not so sure.
(If an overweight slob like Babe Ruth showed up for tryouts today, would he even get past first base?)
As for me and photography, I spent three years in college pursuing a career in photo journalism. But in my junior year I compared my work with my fellow students. I considerd myself better and more consistent than 75 percent of my fellow students, but not even near the top 10 percent who captured A-1 images all the time.
So I switched from the one-picture career path to the 1,000-words career path and wound up with a 30-year newspaper career as a reporter, then an editor, then as a paginator when computers came on the scene. My photography was relegated to an asset, not my reason for being.
I'm still not sure whether I have any inate talent in either pictures or words, or whether I just got better with time and effort by correcting my failures.
Financially, I probably should have played golf.

She's a nice girl. You two have lots of fun when you go out. Why don't you marry her?

I think it was Segovia who, coming on stage for a live recital when in his 80's, apologised in advance to his audience for illness forcing him to cut his practice to 12 hours a day, and his performance not meeting his standard.
!

Arg: I attended one of Segovia's last performances in Philadelphia and was happy to see your reference to the maestro.

I've loved photography for over forty years and never even considered "turning pro." My response is, "Why take something I love to do and turn it into a job?" My work and photography complement each other and make each other better by filling the space in my life with vastly different activities.

My photo blog has been chugging along for almost seven years, so I made it past the four and quit. I've enjoyed that project as much as photography.

I can't even imagine not being a working photographer. I've tried to be responsible a couple of times when my daughter was born and I thought I needed to have "stability". Just made me miserable. Until I picked up the camera again. Sometimes I think I don't want to be a photographer. It's more like I need to be a photographer.

Working really hard is easy when you want to be there.

I've had the privilege of 25 years of standing in front of people who willingly give you a little piece of their soul. 1/100th of a second of pure honesty. Addictive as all get out, that is.

Gordon

Kirk Tuck's (creator of the other thoughtful and well written photography blog) "The Lisbon Portfolio" is not only a fun read, but it clearly makes the point that a lot of professional photography-like a lot of professional anything-involves considerable routine, repetitive work.

What I think is absolutely amazing about TOP is the willingness of the pro community to mingle, participate and teach us amateurs who must be cutting into their lunch in the present cut throat environment - a special kudos and thank you to all the pro's (past and present) who comment.

amateur (n.) "one who has a taste for (something)," from French amateur "lover of," from Latin amatorem (nominative amator) "lover," agent noun from amatus, past participle of amare "to love"

I don't enjoy photography, I have little interest in photographing. What I enjoy is landscape photography. Hence why I have zero interest in a career as a wedding photographer, product photographer, etc. However, I have for the past 2+ years been doing landscapes full time and selling them (or trying to sell them) in art markets. Hence, I now call myself a professional photographer but it's the landscape part that is what I do and what I enjoy. Just pressing buttons on a camera is not what I'm interested in. When well meaning people make suggestions about other ways I could make a living as a photographer I simply tell them that that's not what I want to do. Like the other commenter said about driving. For a racing driver, it isn't the driving, it's the racing.
Anthony

I owned a small boutique winery for 14 years. I put my life and savings into it. I quit my career at a prestigious software company to pursue my passion and it almost wrecked my marriage. Making wine is a lot like photography and writing in the sense that so many people idolize the "lifestyle". I spent very little time making wine but the vast majority of it selling it. I hated the selling part. I've thought about going professional in photography, but getting out there and beating the bushes for new assignments or clients just makes me go cold. I've gone back to writing software for large companies. It's so much easier on me and my wife and kids. I do miss the freedom I had in those days running my winery, but god it was a lot of work.

I still get people asking me for advice about starting a winery and I say don't do it. Just enjoy wine as a hobby...

A little late to the party, but I heard a motivational speaker at a technical conference who said "If you just read 7 books about a subject, you can be an expert." I felt that was a slap in the face to the *real* experts in the room - those with doctorates who had spent countless hours slaving way at a computer or in a wafer fab to learn their craft.

To be or not to be; that's not really the question.

Unless you realise that you simply can't spend your life doing anything else, especially if you have actually been doing something else, then don't even think photography as career.

I spent most of my youth wondering how in hell to get into the business, and once I managed that, I spent more years trying to get into the single aspect of it that I wanted to do: fashion. Those pre-fashion years were not wasted entirely because I learned all I needed to know technically, but they did waste a lot of time that would have been better spent in developing the business side of it, and especially networking. From fashion I moved sideways, after a few years, to bespoke calendar design, photography and production and earned far better than I ever did as a straight photographer.

My working life as photographer started in '60 and I went solo in '66; the impression I have today is that the golden years were already in decline by the late 70s, but that I just managed to get the best out of what remained. I gave up around the late 80s early 90s when even my stock contribution was eroded when that market became flooded to the point of valuelessness. Bang went a pension plan.

I never wanted to be an employer, feel responsible to find work just in order to keep people in a job with me; it was work enough to keep my family going. I loved the process of analogue photography almost as much as the shooting. I often think that I would probably never have given photography a thought had I been born into the digital age. Worse, from younger guys active today, it seems that photography on its own will get you nowhere, that you also have to be very skilled in video just to exist, and that prices are not growing at all from several years ago, but clients expect twice as much from you for that same price...

The tight-if-brief team friendships that developed over a week or two's shoot abroad somewhere were beautiful - usually - and there was a huge sense of loss as we arrived back in the home airport. A group creative high is pretty strong medicine that brings powerful withdrawal symptoms when it's over. (Maybe that's what rock groups have too.) I would have hated teaching; I could never have pretended that anyone can teach anyone else to be a photographer, a great technician, yes, but not a photographer, which is about vision, which you have or do not have - it's not your choice. Work for the general public? Not on your life!

Today, I do photography to pass the time, fill my dotage with something other than depressing conversations with other relics. Irony is in that digital, which possibly more or less ended my business life, has also given me a neat way to keep photographing without going bankrupt. Divine justice?


Rob

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