I have been doing photography for about 10 years now. I have done it in many different capacities: student, journalistic, landscape, wedding, portrait, film, digital, polaroid, etc, etc, non-professionally. I have seen the industry change drastically to the point where people will hire anyone with a camera, and where still photographers are being asked to be professional videographers. I saw film cameras fade away to digital, and shelves and fridges filled with film be reduced to virtually nothing. Since 2002 I have worked at a local camera store, that caters to many of the professionals in the area, and have seen all these changes happen first hand. The experience I have gained working there, as well as the people I have met and connected with are invaluable to me. I consider many of my customers friends, and the relationships I have been fortunate enough to develop are truly cherished. And, other than 5 weeks spent scooping ice cream, it is really the only job I’ve ever had…. until now.
I had a conversation a year or so ago with my wife about my photography. She was trying to convince me that I was in-fact a professional photographer, and in the end… she won. Come to think of it, she always wins, but shhh, don’t tell her I said that. Everyone’s definition of a professional is different, and I don’t even really have my own. Some will tell you: “it’s someone whose main income is generated from their work”, “it’s someone who charges for their services” there are many opinions on the topic. The only one I don’t agree with is “it’s someone with professional equipment”. I can go buy professional knives, pots and pans, but does it make me a chef? I can buy all the top of the line hammers, saws and screwdrivers, does it make me a carpenter? I can buy… well you get my point. One thing I read recently that sums it all up is “buying a camera doesn’t make you a photographer, it makes you a camera owner”.
Anyone who does photography and is passionate about it will tell you their goal is to do photography full-time. Well on June 1st 2011, I took one huge step toward making that a reality for myself. I am now fortunate enough to work only 3 days a week at my (former) full-time job, and am moving into a new studio. Now don’t think that I’m moving into a huge glamorous space, with tons of gear, and a phone ringing off the hook. I am starting small, I always have. My studio is a modest 350 sq/ft or so, with 12ft ceilings which to many people would be small. But you know what? I had previously been working in about 140 sq/ft or so with 7ft-8ft ceilings. If I can make that work, 350 sq/ft will be like working on a football field.
If you didn’t know already, the photography industry has taken quite a nose dive as of late. Many pros are having to take up a part-time job to make ends meet. The popularity of dSLR cameras amongst consumers has greatly increased the amount of people owning them, and the amount of people who are calling themselves professional photographers is increasing rapidly. A lot of the photographers you talk to will tell you these things. They will complain about the industry, how they’re business isn’t what it used to be, how they can’t charge what they used, etc etc. There is also, what I have seen to be, a smaller portion of photographers who are excited about the industry. This excitement is driven by all the recent technological advancements, the popularity of social media & the wealth of information available on the internet. As in any industry you have to stay on top of the trends, the changes, the advancements or you will be left behind telling stories of the good ol’ days. It’s like how Apple was pretty well the first (if not THE first) to popularize the smartphone, and other companies followed suit. After the iPad was released you saw companies rushing to put out their own version to compete. Apple and companies like it succeed because they are innovative and stay ahead of their industry, setting the bar for the rest. It is no different in photography.
Many people will think I’m crazy for diving into photography with the industry in the state it’s in, that I’m setting myself up to fail, and I definitely could. . When you’re old and decrepit how do you want to look at your life? You always hear people talk about living life to the fullest, having no regrets, but how many people actually live this way. I’m 28 years old and already have too many “what ifs”, nothing too serious but still things that I may have done differently. There is no doubt that our experiences shape who we are, and I would definitely not be who I am or where I am had my decisions been different. But this is one “what if” I don’t want. I don’t ever want to think, “what if I had tried to do photography full-time?”. I am following a long time dream of mine, eliminating a big what if & I am going into it with nothing but thoughts of success. I’m not looking to be rich & famous, I just want to make a living doing something I love.
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