Making photography your living

A good post at [EV +/-] Exposure Compensation on When photography becomes a business … The upshot is that when you start trying to make a living doing what you love, you compromise your art and start to lose your passion for photography.

A couple of quibbles.

Miguel says that when most photographers start trying to make a living at photography, “the initial driver is a personal passion for art, an internal need to express themselves with their photography.” Well, maybe. More likely they have a desire to make a living at something they love to do. Isn’t that what the What Color is your Parachute types tell us? Figure out what you like to do and figure out how to make money doing it.

What’s difficult about earning a living as a photographer is being allowed to grow. It’s frustrating to produce, as Miguel puts it, “a commodity.” Your job as a photographer is to try and make it more than that. If you learn new stuff, constantly try to make your work fun, there will be people who will want to pay you for that fun part.

There’ll be those that don’t, as well. But photography is like any other job: there’s the cool parts and the boring parts. You can be a photographer and have fun some of the time, or you can be a truck driver. Of course, you can be a truck driver who carries a camera, which sounds like a photography assignment to me…

The problem with working a job and keeping photography as your hobby is that your job is supporting your passion. As bad as it is to have to make boring photos (handshake photos, anyone? copywork?), it might be worse to do something else all day and then need to pick up a camera in your free time. At least as a working photographer, you have a camera and an opportunity all the time, you’re not sitting behind a desk unless you want to be. Somehow, doing cool photos in the afternoon (or even a cool personal bit of art shot between setups of a commercial shoot) makes up for the boring ones you had to do earlier that day. And you always have an opportunity to offer something extra special and personal to the client. If they bite, there’s validation for your personal vision.

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"The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people's reality, and eventually in one's own." - Susan Sontag, On Photography
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