Ever wanted to say ‘I quit’ to your full time job and follow your passion for photography? Ever wondered what happens when you actually do it?
I refuse to use the phrases “professional”, “amateur”, and “semi-pro” unless I really feel forced into it – what does it mean? You don’t ask a dentist if they’re a “professional” (whilst you hope to god that they’re definitely not an “amateur”).
If you take photographs which are visually appealing to a wider audience than you, your mum, and the cat. Photographs that are technically competent as well as appealing, and you’ve got to the point where other people might even be tempted put them on their walls or pay* to publish them, then you are probably now qualified(?) to be called a photographer. You could say that you have now reached the rank of being a skilled artist in the field of photography, which is Art, with a capital A, by the way. It doesn’t really matter if it’s your job or not.
We are all photographers, some of us make money out of it, and some make a living out of it. Some of us (including me) have been full time photographers employed by someone else, many of us (including me) have dipped in and out of full time self employed photography as other, generally more secure, career opportunities have come along. Some photographers (yep, including me) write features for publication, as well as taking the accompanying photographs – does that make them, us, me less “professional”?
Consider that there also are some really excellent photographers who have become full time photographers only to then realise that doing this as a business means you actually take a lot less photographs, and spend a lot more time on admin. I know several who decided they don’t want to do it full time anymore. Does choosing not to be a full time photographer suddenly make their work less relevant, or the poorer for it? I bet they aren’t financially poorer for it! Photography does not pay very well. It used to, when I was in commercial photography many years ago photographers charged £300-500 a day. Today, many commercial photographers are fighting for work and charging £200 a day. This is because everybody has a camera, even on their phone, and many camera owners think they’re photographers (they aren’t).
Some photographers are exceedingly good photographers, but really rubbish business people. The flip side of this is that there are also some successful full time photographers who aren’t actually very good at photography, but they are amazing business people. That is just the way the cookie crumbles.
Anyway I have, and it’s not unusual, ranted on for a while about what is really just a matter of linguistics. If you’ve stayed with me this far then you are probably wondering what this has to do with the title of this post? (And, well done by the way for sticking with me by the way).
Well as I did say in the opener, many photographers contemplate what it is like to quit their “proper” job and follow the dream of doing what what they really love, of becoming full time photographers, and hopefully if not rather essentially, earning a living from it.
I’ve read the magazines, when those who have Made It feel inclined to tell us about It, but this point they are often famous. Yes, the pleasure of selective and possibly rose tinted memory, of back when anybody with determination could make it in the field, or with bravado could score that lucky break. It sells magazines, fame sells magazines, and dreams sell advertising. If they were an unknown then you probably would want to read it? Or would you?
What actually happens when you make that decision, when you hand in your notice, when you take a deep, deep, breath, and press send on that email that will change the whole course of your future, and possibly not for the better (at least not monetarily, and certainly not straight away)? Well folks, I am about to find out. Today I handed in my notice, I took a deep breath and I pressed the send button on an email I have been drafting and redrafting for years.
Tomorrow, whilst still in the glowing honeymoon period of the “freedom” on the horizon and the comfort of knowing there is still another pay check, I take those first steps.
And, at the end of June 2017, I won’t have a job. Because I will be working as a photographer, and if I’m working as a photographer then I am not working but doing what I am passionate about, and then it’s not a job anyway.
*pay, in real money, not in exposure, you can die from exposure and it doesn’t pay the bills.