Freelance and Business, Marketing, Self-Promotion, Thoughts & Theory, Uncategorized
The Benefits of Hobby
When I was 16 I wanted to be a professional photographer, shoot for the yellow rectangle, all that. I think in part because I felt like I wouldn’t be a real photographer unless I was making a living from it. Then something clicked and I think one of the reasons I dodged doing this professionally for many years was because I didn’t want the demands of vocation to steal the joy from something I loved so much. But I was still dogged by words like “amateur” and “hobbyist,” if only because it felt like I was being defined by what I wasn’t – a “professional.”
Pursuing your vision and loving your craft has precisely nothing to do with how you make your living. The real photographer is the one who shoots what she loves and is committed to learning her craft well. Money often just makes it unnecessarily complicated.
In fact, abstaining from career photography can have advantages, and as a follow-up to yesterday’s post about “going pro,” I wanted to add a little perspective to the would-be converts. Abstaining from career photography:
Can mean having a day job to fund the gear you want. Pros are often forced to spend their money on necessities: marketing materials instead of the 14/2.8L lens they want. The hobbyist gets the cool lens, the pro gets postcards.
Can mean the flexibility to shoot what you want to shoot without the demands of clients hemming in your artistic impulses.
Can mean being free of the pressure to create on demand.
Can mean the freedom to pursue the art of your vision without commercial concerns or distractions. Ideally a working photographer finds/makes the time for personal projects she is passionate about; it just doesn’t always work out that way.
Can mean the freedom to love your images without feeling like they’re only truly good photographs if someone buys them. Allowing your vision to be validated only by dollars is a terrible trap.
In the best-case scenario, doing this for a living is as good as doing it as a hobby. Sometimes more so. Doing this for a living can mean doing it more, pressing deeper into the art simply from necessity, and being able to write off some cool gear. I love doing this and making a living at it, right now I wouldn’t change that for anything. But the notion that you aren’t a real photographer until people are paying you is rubbish. Vincent Van Gogh didn’t sell any of his work during his lifetime. Sure, he went crazy and lopped an ear off, but he was incontrovertibly an artist.
So if “going pro” allows you to both make a living and pursue your vision – go for it. If remaining a hobbyist allows you to pursue your vision without the pitfalls of making it your trade, go for it. Either way, serve your vision with passion. Shoot what you love, even if it costs you (and it will!), that’s when you’re a real photographer.