I don't want to be a pro photographer after all

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by entropicremnants, May 25, 2013.

  1. entropicremnants

    entropicremnants Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 16, 2012
    John Griggs
    Kind of a catharsis really... it's been cooking in my mind and then I find myself stating it out loud, although sometimes it comes out as, "I am just an amateur art photographer". And no, it has nothing to do with Marissa Mayer's foolish speech.

    When I picked photography back up after a long hiatus, I had an idea in my head that I was supposed to be a "pro" photographer. I think I had "quality" and "pro" mixed up in my head. I do want to do quality work, and to have it be "mine".

    So, I started looking for gigs, got a few, made a few dollars and figured I was on my way. But if I'm honest -- I don't like doing that over and over again. I would prefer to just be creative and do what passes with me for "my art" -- whatever that means exactly and even I'm not totally sure, lol.

    When I was doing music, I was in a few bands and got tired of playing out and doing the same songs over and over and over... well, you get the picture. The low-level pro stuff like weddings and so forth just don't have enough interest for me. I far more liked composing, or jamming, or improvising new parts for the old songs -- which doesn't work too well sometimes in a band, lol.

    I really think I'm no different in photography. I just want the creative side, but I'm not interested in the business. When I see someone like a Giulio Scolio or other pro who is not only managing a business but pushing into new technologies and techiques I'm in awe. But I can't see myself having the business acumen. That's why I work for other people in my day job, lol!

    So, I'm altering my website and presentations and I'm just going to do what I do and hope people get and/or stay interested in it.

    With that in mind I'm even selling the OM-D E-M5. I don't need its capabilities and frankly I like the Panasonic's more (strangled gasp from the Olympus fans).

    I don't know if there's anyone else out there as confused as I was, but I thought I throw this up as something to think about if you're sitting there wondering why you don't make more of a move towards the business end. Maybe it's just not time yet, or maybe it's not for you. I have no idea, but I think it starts with being honest with yourself about WHO YOU ARE. It's amazing how difficult that is at times, at least for me.
  2. cstevens

    cstevens Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 11, 2010
    I can feel where you are coming from, each year I toy with giving up the business. Photography is a part time business for me, and by that I do mean a tax paying business, but its not my full time occupation.

    As I get older, I do feel the business gets in the way of my creativity because mostly the clients I work for dictate what they want, and while they pay me who am I to complain.

    I just feel its getting to the point where I would just as sooner revert back to a hobby photographer….although not sure how I will afford the OM-D EM-6 when it comes out lol.
  3. Bob T

    Bob T Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 8, 2012
    Knoxville, TN
    Completely understand....I went through the same, thing only with video.

    Did some amateur stuff with a nice consumer camera...enjoyed it...geared up to a prosumer video camera and gear...did a little more.
    Made a web site, put some videos on the web, sold some DVDs.
    Got hired to do a full length DVD for a local drag race series...did that...
    Then I bought a $3.3K video camera...and then....nothing.
    Frankly, I didn't enjoy it as a job. It was a great hobby, but I didn't like the business side of it.
    Taking care of clients...ick...

    So I sold the camera, closed the web site, bought a GH2 to shoot video I wanted to shoot....
    I enter some low level video contests...take a lot pictures and have fun with it.

    If it ain't fun, why do it?:smile:
  4. daum

    daum Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 26, 2011
    that's exactly how i feel. I love taking high quality pix for myself but i don't think i'd want to be a pro. But I will not sell off all of my stuff. As an enthusiast, I'd like to have these things at my disposal (High end and full frame cameras).
  5. slothead

    slothead Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 14, 2012
    Frederick, MD
    Ahhhggggrrrsssttthhh... (strangled gasp)
    How honest of you John. We are becoming more alike every minute!
  6. entropicremnants

    entropicremnants Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 16, 2012
    John Griggs
    Ha ha! Thanks but I'm not selling off all my stuff. Just paying for the lens I want for the Panasonic's I have. Also may be getting the GX2 in the future depending on what it really turns out to be.

    Not interested in high end and/or full frame. I can do just as well for what I do (large prints) with lesser cameras and I don't want all the weight for my urbex runs. If you like "big iron" more power to you -- you''ll need it to carry it all, lol! :th_salute:
  7. DynaSport

    DynaSport Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 5, 2013
    When I started getting more and more into photography several years ago, I thought I wanted to try and make a living at it myself. Or at least a substantial second income. I blame at least part of that on seeing the outstanding work many of the pro sports photographers do and wanting to be able to do the same thing. I thought it would be fantastic buying top of the line cameras and lenses and having access to the venues the pros do.

    Then reality hit and I realized at my age I didn't have the time to start at the ground floor of the pro sports world and I couldn't buy the gear I needed myself.

    Then my interest turned to portraiture and I bought a simple light set up and started doing some portraits for my church and a few people who saw my work and asked me too. Even turned into a couple of weddings that I didn't really want to do. Then when I saw how much work weddings are and all the PP people expect, I decided I didn't want to do weddings anymore.

    I still love photography and would love to be able to buy pro level gear, but I just can't justify that to myself, especially in my current financial status. So, I am now honest with myself and just want to take pictures to please myself and no one else. I don't want to get paid to do anything. It takes the fun out of it for me.
  8. snkenai

    snkenai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 5, 2010
    To Pro, or not to Pro?

    In the early years I had tentative thoughts of becoming more that just a hobbyist. Several well meaning people (not photographers), actively encouraged me too. But in my own mind, I knew that an occasional good picture, does not a pro make. And I had looked at enough really good stuff, to know, that I couldn't make the grade. AND, I really did not have that ambition and drive", that it takes to succeed.
    So I've settled for the best, .... for me that is. And after many years, I'm just a "snapper", that get's a keeper now and then. And, that is enough for that part of my life.
    I still like to have nice equipment for it. :smile:
  9. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here Subscribing Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    I continue to refer to myself as an artist, and not a mere photographer. I do consider photography an artistic medium, and it's become my main focus lately. I've done a few gigs, people seem to like my work. However I don't have enough experience to call myself a professional, and honestly that term contradicts my artistic background. You never hear of a "professional artist", it's just not used in that way. On many occasions when I'm out shooting I get asked if I'm a pro. This question always stumps me and I usually smile and go "not really". I probably looked really stupid.

    I have a day job, it pays the bills. Photography is one of my passions. Ideally I would like my passion to pay the bills. I'm trying to figure out how to get there without turning this passion into just a job.
  10. Just Jim

    Just Jim Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 20, 2011
    "...photography is an art-perhaps the only the only one in which the amateur soon equals, and frequently excels, the professional in proficiency" - a letter in the 1st issue of Amateur Photographer in 1884. It was in the context of the Royal Photographic Society competition of that year.

    A quote to think about.
  11. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Well, John, it's long been a philosophy of mine that a sure way to kill the pleasure in anything is to do it professionally. I realize that some people manage to keep loving what they do for a living - and God bless 'em. The last time I could say that about myself was perhaps 30 years ago when I was in commercial radio and the industry had yet to self-destruct. The best I can expect now is to tolerate what I do to earn money and to keep separate the things that bring me real joy. What you say makes sense to me. I'll have to keep visiting your website and see how it evolves.
  12. twokatmew

    twokatmew Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jun 1, 2012
    Lansing, MI, US
    On two occasions my passions have ultimately paid the bills. Trouble is then my passion became work, and I had to find a new passion. :eek:

    Sent from my phone. Please pardon my brevity!
  13. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    I was a pro, but I've never sold a print, never shot a wedding, had complete control over my photos, some control over what I shot, traveled on someone else's nickel, ... I loved it. I loved the rush the safe was open and editors were walking around with packets of $100's in their hands and pockets "... a bus of school kids were kidnapped in the Central Valley, Madera, get there" ... a plane ticket and a wad of $100 and you're gone. The slow times, crosswords puzzels with a pen, then cruise along Pacific Coast Highway looking for a feature photo ... art, the editors called it. I was a photographer with the best job in the whole freakin' world ... for a kid.

    So John, what are you looking for ... affirmation? Most successful commercial photogs the marketing/business side is more important than talent. I'm not saying that commercial photogs aren't talented, just that marketing and sales drives the business more than talent.

  14. Just Jim

    Just Jim Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 20, 2011
    Press photogs are a different breed, than the professional portrait photographer. For the press it's almost more like a hunt, like a drug infused hunt looking and searching for that next shot. The photo journal is hardly an art, its a capture of an instant of brutal reality, not allowed the luxury of creativity. Always bound to preserving reality, and denying creativity past the camera's eye.

    The burn out I've seen in people I know is the slavish response to what they've done well, and the rote routine they're forced into, because it pays the bills. Especially my friend who works for a particular luxury hotel, great passionate photographer that shoots interiors... over and over, and all over the world. He quit, and he lost over 100 pounds. He'll gain it back though, he's shooting food now. lol.
  15. John M Flores

    John M Flores Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2011
    Somerville, NJ
    I was at the holiday party of a pro photo friend. The place was packed; you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a pro. But it's a tough market these days, the good ole' days are long gone and digital has opened the floodgates to any amateur willing to buy the gear and hang a shingle. Nobody actually talked photography because the conversation would have turned ugly quickly with tales of professional struggle.

    A young lass walks in and says that she's studying photography in college. The look on each and every now-struggling pro was precious. I actually left the room before they started giving advice because I saw only two paths - to crush her dreams right there with the reality of the market or to tell her to pursue her passion knowing full well that doing that is harder than ever.

    So no, I don't want to be a pro photographer either. It's a tough row to hoe these days, and as a friend said, then I'd have to pretend to like taking pictures of ugly babies.
  16. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Not entirely true. Creativity is integral to news photography ... just like adjectives are critical to writing a news story. While telling the story, accuracy is the fundamental and most important requirement of news, but that does not eliminate the need for creativity, but a controlled creativity that still retain the integrity of the story. Similar to other professional photography genres, the job is severely competitive. Unlike other photography genres, often the competition is immediately to the right and to the left of you. While one doesn't have to worry about marketing and sales, the stress is extreme and suicide is not uncommon.

  17. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    I totally understand the feeling, John!

    A while back when I first started taking photography more seriously (and spending more money and time on it), I instinctively started daydreaming about getting to a point where I could do paid photo work. I stopped dead in my tracks one afternoon and said to myself, I'm doing this because I enjoy it - and that's plenty! I don't need to justify my hobby by making money with it, because that's not the point. The payoff is the enjoyment I get doing it, and hopefully sharing my stuff with a few people that appreciate it.

    Now when I think about doing photo work, it's simply from a perspective of having fun with the hobby and doing things that help me grow and improve as a photographer. For instance, I'm taking some photo lessons with a local pro and volunteering with our church photo team not because I'm trying to build a portfolio and go pro, but because I'm having fun doing it and it's stretching my skills and experience. :thumbup:
  18. entropicremnants

    entropicremnants Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 16, 2012
    John Griggs
    Thanks -- great discussion

    Thanks everyone for jumping in and for the supportive feedback I've gotten.

    Some of you even wrote me privately to make sure I was okay and that was very kind -- I'm sorry if these seemed like some sort of existential photographic crisis because it's not. It's just an aging man who still doesn't know who he is sometimes, lol.

    But, I do think it's a good discussion as I'm sure some haven't figured out yet whether they want to try to go pro, or just maintain their amateur status.

    And if you really want to do it, and you have the chops, it CAN be done. But I think it takes a certain "fire in the belly" as they used to say.
  19. fsuscotphoto

    fsuscotphoto Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 15, 2013
    St. Cloud, FL
    I'm sure going to miss your pictures on the Oly threads!

    Sent from my iPad using Mu-43 mobile app
  20. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    rob collins
    Some facts about photography...

    Last year there were approximately 20m ILC (interchangeable lens cameras) sold globally. You might think that is a lot but there are 7,000m people globally.

    In the US, approximately 135,000 people are registered by the tax department as professional photographers.

    The median salary (50th percentile) of these photogs was US$27k per annum. That is not a lot. Chances are that if you are earning less, you are 1) either working part time or 2) you are a professional photographer.

    It really doesnt get much better. The 90th percentile (meaning only 10% do better) was US$52k in 2011.