Santa Fe New Mexico Family and Children Photographer – David Moore» Blog Archive » Do you really want to be a pro photographer?

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This is the photography blog for photographer and writer David Moore. He's based in Santa Fe, New Mexico but speaks with a funny accent.


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    November 25th, 2008

    Do you really want to be a pro photographer?


    Alec Soth – the photographer who would have been perfect to accompany me on my ill-fated bike ride down the Mississippi (but that’s another story) – recently had a simple but brilliant blog post over at the Magnum Blog.

    He asked 35 of his fellow Magnum photographers 2 questions:

    • When did you first get excited about photography?
    • What advice would you give young photographers?

    The answers are fascinating, but one from Alex Webb really struck home:

    Photograph because you love doing it, because you absolutely have to do it, because the chief reward is going to be the process of doing it. . . . Take photography on as a passion, not a career.

    This view gets to the heart of the conundrum keen amateurs like me face when we start making some money from our photographs.I certainly started taking pictures because I loved doing it, and the more pictures I took, the more I loved it.

    But I’ve been lucky, and now a few people are paying me to take pictures for them, and I’ve got some photos in magazines and been a runner-up in a big competition that was open to professional photographers.

    But I still have at least one other day job. Web design and consulting pays the bills, and I also still do some journalism – I used to freelance for national newspapers and magazines in Ireland, and I’ve had a book published.

    I don’t want to be a pro – do I?

    As more and more keen amateurs adopt digital SLRs, and websites and stock photo houses offer the promise of a photography income, it seems like getting paid to do what you love sounds like a great idea.

    But you have to think hard about whether that’s a dream you really would like to come true.

    Putting aside the very real question of whether I really could be a full-time working photographer at some point in the future (especially in the current climate), what I’m wrestling with here is should I even want to.

    My friend portrait photographer and film maker Chris Felver told me in no uncertain terms that I should keep my photography as a hobby.

    Because trying to make a living doing it is often difficult and disillusioning, and can stifle the passion that you had for photography in the first place.

    Pure passion, no mortgage worries?

    So if _do_ want to do it for a career, then you obviously need passion. But can you still fulfil your passion if you _don’t_ do it for a career?

    I’m thinking of a couple of people I know from the Albuquerque and Santa Fe Flickr social group, whose work is at least as good as a lot of pro photographers – taylorkoa22 and jwoodphoto.

    The have their real jobs, and still find the time to devote to photography without the worry of relying on it to pay the mortgage.

    You could certainly argue that doing it as a serious hobby gives you more freedom than if you were a pro with weddings every weekend.

    I’m in the fortunate position of being self-employed, so if I’m commissioned for a shoot I can take the time to do it without calling in sick. And if I want to spend a while tagging photos for uploading to a stock house in the middle of the day, I can do that.

    My modest aim for 2009 is to cover my photography costs with my photography work. Definitely not jacking in the day job and having to make a living behind the camera, but taking a practical attitude to behaving and charging professionally to fund what’s an expensive sideline.

    If I end up doing more and more photography of the sort I like, and less web work, that suits me fine. But if that doesn’t happen, that’s fine too.


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