“Find a Job You Love and You’ll Never Work a Day in Your Life”.
Incredible quote this, but does it capture reality in its true essence?
This is a topic open to debate, but what we have to say is based on several conversations with photographers who moved from being a hobbyist to a professional, earning their livelihood making pictures. Of course, a contrast of opinions came from the other side of the fence, from professionals who have loved everything about every single assignment they’ve ever taken up.
For the sake of the debate, let’s just talk about the former.
How different is shooting for money from shooting out of sheer love for photography? Significantly different, a lot of pros have said.
Topping the list of changes is the adherence to demand vs. shooting instinctively and making pictures like it’s nobody else’s business. A fashion photographer realizes he/she has to stick to a client brief, sometimes even shooting with flat “uncreative” light and little regard for the art aspect of photography. A wildlife photographer making profile, “clear subject” pictures of animals with no insinuations to their unique behavioral aspects. A wedding photographer shying away from “fine art” because that’s not what customers are keen to show in their album. These are not random examples with a low probability of occurrence. They happen more often than not.
Second on the list is shooting for popularity and visibility…not to appease one’s own heart. A lot of us are guilty of shooting to promote a business, not to promote the artist within. Often, we end up shooting pictures of people when, in fact, our interest lies in making images of everyday objects—images that would make no sense to anybody but ourselves. Going down this road has taken a lot of photographers away from shooting what they really love.
Embracing perfection when it’s the flaw in an image that defines it…that’s unavoidable when you’re a professional, right? How many times do wedding photographers focus on making a perfectly lit image with accurate skin tones, instead of capturing the mood of a scene? 8 times out of 10 if you’re unwilling to risk losing a customer (when in fact you have no idea if the customer would actually love it or not).
Finally, when was the last time you took your camera out for a fun ride—you know, just making pictures instinctively and deriving pleasure out of it? Instead of, spending hours learning a new technique that might work better for your business and practicing it until you’re no long willing to think beyond it. That’s not a first, is it?
It’s easy to emphasize that all of us took up photography because we love it and that we need to do it the way we love it. But, the reality is if you’re doing it for money, you’re not always going to be able to do that.
Having said that, those who have successfully and seamlessly blended both love and money into their pictures justify why it’s not impossible. Greats like Jerry Ghionis, or Gregory Heisler, or even the inimitable Ansel Adams show us how it’s done. All you need to do is figure out how you can make it work for yourself.