I’m not going to embarrass them by revealing his/her identity but the message struck a chord with me. This photographer – let’s call him/her ‘Sheila’ (I don’t know any Sheilas) is an outstanding landscape photographer and a very good photographer in general. Sheila has a ‘proper’ job and is a very keen amateur/hobbyist photographer. Recently though Sheila has done some commissioned jobs – weddings, engagement shoots, portraits – that kind of thing. This is fantastic of course – I love it when any of my students have success. It’s obviously good for them and equally satisfying for me in playing some part in this. And then I get this message from Sheila that basically says that she’s lost her photography mojo. It was all becoming a bit of a chore…
This made me think. I love photography. Since I picked up my first 110 camera when I was a kid it has always fascinated and captivated me. To do it for a career was my dream. However Sheila’s experience is something that I can certainly identify with. Having a hobby is usually a release from the day to day stresses of work and life. You do it when you want to and how you want to. That’s the fun of it, there is no pressure, no deadlines. What happens when you have to do it for somebody else, to their expectations, on their timescale? The dynamic changes of course.
You HAVE to perform. This thing we do for fun gets real serious, real quick. The vast majority of creative photographers are self employed – so we have to deal with clients, marketing, paperwork, finances, taxes etc., all the things you need to when running a business. This is not what a lot of us signed up to when we picked up our cameras. It can really affect your passion for photography.
Speaking honestly, I have had a few of these periods during my career. When I first took up photography the joy of buying new kit and playing with it for the first time was like the first Christmas you remember. I used to sit in bed reading the manuals and went to sleep with the camera sat carefully on my bedside table, dreaming of using it the following day. There have been times over the last 12 years where I’ve refused to even look at my cameras for days, weeks even. However I don’t think it’s ever been caused by the actual photography per se. It’s usually been the ‘other stuff’. The Great Ceiling Collapse of 2007, ‘The End of Film Photography’ circa 2002, the ‘All Banks are B’stards period’ circa since dawn of time, being prime examples. Doing what you love for a living is not easy. It has, as with all careers, peaks and troughs. Being a great photographer is not enough – you must be prepared to do all the ‘other stuff’ too.
Now the balance here is fine – keep photography as a hobby to be enjoyed and treasured as a creative outlet? Or embrace the dark as well as the light and try to become a pro.
I can’t answer that for you. If that question is on your mind all I can say is that you should dig out all the negatives and ask yourself if you can handle them. Is the grass actually greener on the other side?
Photography is more than a job, it’s a way of life. You don’t necessarily need to be a pro to validate your creativity. Some of my students are better than some established professionals I know of. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they should do it for a job. My advice is to enjoy it and squeeze every bit of happiness you can from creating images. If you strongly feel that you want to take it further as a career, then maybe we should talk.
Sheila? She’s doing fine – back creating gorgeous landscapes at the moment and loving it. I’ve no doubt that if she wants to turn pro she has the aptitude to do so, especially with the experience she’s just gone through.
My ‘secret’? I would have to say that my best asset is that I’m too stubborn/stupid to give up.
But seriously, for me the peaks outweigh the troughs and I’ve learnt to deal with everything else. It is not easy but I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.
If you feel you need any advice on this matter please contact me.