Dispelling One of the Biggest Myths About Becoming a Professional Photographer

A recent comment on one of my articles has become the straw that broke the camels back. Now, I feel the need to combat a common myth which dissuades many photographers from becoming full-time professionals.

My decision to become a full-time photographer (I use “full-time photographer” and “professional photographer” interchangeably) was not an easy one. I had job interviews lined up and knew that any one of them would yield substantially more bank than photography would, and they’d do so instantly. Despite how important the financial ramifications of starting a business were to me, there were a number of more abstract considerations. The chief concern from this category was regarding my relationship to photography itself. Namely, would I cease to enjoy photography?

Over the years, I’ve heard this as a very common reason for not pursuing photography as a profession. Honestly, there are myriad reasons why you might not want to pursue photography for a living: they range from the average yearly wage of a photographer being extremely low through to the industry being incredibly crowded, particularly at the entry point of a photography career. One reason I simply will not abide is that you might stop enjoying photography, and it’s a myth I want to dispel.

Let me unpack my reasoning behind calling it a myth a little before the comments come flooding in about their friend who loved photography but now vomits at the mere sight of a DSLR. I’m not saying that people don’t pursue photography as a career and fall out of love with it. I’m also not saying that you may not have a better relationship with photography by not becoming a professional photographer. What I’m saying is that if it’s a concern of yours, know this: you don’t have to end up losing your passion.

The primary reason for not enjoying photography as a professional is you’re not taking images you’re proud to take or passionate about. This tends to be for financial reasons, in that the area you’re passionate about doesn’t pay well, and you need to utilize your ability to earn some cash. There’s nothing wrong with that; we’ve all done it. I’ll still do it if the money is right. However, if you find yourself only taking pictures you don’t have a passion for, then you need to reevaluate in the following ways:

Firstly, did you become a photographer to follow your passion? If you did, then what on earth is the point of only shooting pictures you don’t feel anything for? To earn money. Well, you might as well get a better paid job than that and keep photography as a hobby.

If, however, you can’t quite make enough money in the area you like and are shooting mostly the areas you don’t, you need to recalibrate. No one became a photographer to be rich, so work out how much you need to do to survive, then pump the rest of the time into shooting what you love and then promoting it, marketing it, and networking for it.

The truth is, you can make a living being a photographer and not fall out of love with it. I am surrounded by photographers who I speak to every day who are professional and love what they do. I am one of those. Yes, there’ll be times where you’re working on projects you don’t love and wish you were spending more time on the projects you are passionate about. But remember there’s an important distinction between not always enjoying photography and always not enjoying photography.

Please, if what is holding you back from following your passion is the fear of sacrificing it, know it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re conscious that using your camera as a mere tool for cash is a slippery slope and you need to make sure you’re still shooting all the things you love to capture, you won’t fall out of love with your craft. I edit photography articles, I write photography articles, I watch photography videos, I listen to photography podcasts, I consult on photography and media, I teach photography, and this is all in-between being a photographer; I love it as much now as I ever did, and I’m not alone. I even asked whether my colleagues here at Fstoppers still love photography and was met with a resounding “yes” expressed in many different ways.

What are your thoughts about the relationship between a professional photographer and their love for the craft? Share in the comments below.

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