Don't Quit your Day Job {How to Become a Pro Photographer} - Digital Photography School
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Don’t Quit your Day Job {How to Become a Pro Photographer}

^ That's me ^

When Darren launched the new dPS ebook – Going Pro recently, he said that the majority of the emails he gets are about how to start making money as a photographer. Ditto, Darren! The eBook is amazing and gives you so much of the information you may be craving. What I’d like to talk about today is the realities of going pro and the one thing you need to do to safely quit your day job.

With the proliferation of affordable DSLRs, photography has quickly become a business-in-a-box for many. Although camera equipment is expensive, this can be a relatively low overhead business to run once you have acquired your gear and this makes it appealing for those who see it as a great way to finance a very expensive hobby or have a flexible part-time job. I find it so funny when folks think I’m rich because I charge £2k for a wedding. What they don’t realize is that I have to pay for insurance, hired equipment, my assistant, petrol, the cost of producing the end-product, etc. In total, I make a pretty decent income, but not a giant one.

It’s so super important that you not get into this business out of either desperation or lethargy. I know so many young people who see people like myself and other young(ish) business people and want to be successful too. They’re desperate for money but instead of getting a day job and building their business on the side, they wait for a big break to fall into their lap and it rarely ever does. What they don’t realize is that business people are hard workers. We have to hustle for the money and work really hard to keep it coming. I know a wedding photographer who does two weddings every weekend and still has his day job.

So, yes…it has to be talked about…the dreaded day job. This is where your photography business building success starts. When you have an income that’s not related to your photography business, you are free to build something that will last. You won’t make rash or unreasonable decisions out of desperation and you will be able to approach your new venture with a clear head. Albeit, a tired one, but it’s better to slowly build your empire than to get a domain name, a limited company and a giant loan all in one day.

While you’re working your day job, start your business slowly in the way all businesses -photography related or not- start. Decide what you actually want to be shooting (find your market), formulate a business plan, build a portfolio and begin building your business brick by brick. You will start making a small income and as you build, it will grow. Eventually, it will begin to rise towards the amount you make in your job. Then, it will begin to overlap with your normal day job income. This is when you can start to cut back on your job and carefully work your business more. And one day, the photography business will overtake the day job and you’ve done it! You have become a full-time pro without risking life and limb (and missing quite a few meals and water bills).

So be safe, make sensible decisions and enjoy your life as a professional photographer!

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Elizabeth Halford is a Hampshire Photographer and keeps a rockin'photography blog where she writes about photography and business in "real.plain.english". She's addicted to Facebook and can be found answering photography and business questions every day here on her page

  • http://www.kerstenbeck.com ErikKerstenbeck

    Hi

    Great article and sage advice! Although I consider myself a Photographer and have been paid for some work, have shot events, weddings, exhibited, none of this would have been possible had I not had a steady income from my Day Job as an Engineer. This has taken the stress out of Photography and allowed me to focus on technique, learning, etc without having to wonder if the next gigs will pay the mortgage.

    It also has allowed me to have fun photo shoots, ones that are just for me, to practice, refine my skills, like this day at the track!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/2237/

    Perhaps one day I will leave my Day Job, but right now, this is just the perfect balance!

  • http://www.panfocusstudios.com rio h.

    i can’t imagine quitting my day job at all, but what sucks is my weekend time is really limited. i have to split it with family, rest and photography, among other things. it’s a very competitive field, especially portraiture, not to mention a lot of people are too cheap to pay for a photo shoot. so i’m not quitting my job for that :) i am, however, venturing into stock photography. it’s kind of a big challenge to always think what would sell as stock, but also less pressure for my busy lifestyle because i just shoot anything i feel might be worth something.

  • http://www.siobhanrhodes.co.uk Siobhan Rhodes

    Fab advice. I started my business 18 months ago. At first is worked around 60 hours per week compressing my full time bank job to three 12 hour days. It was tough but gave me the chance to have the other four days on photography. Gradually photography built up (which seemed to take forever!) And I cut my hours at the bank to half days. After a lot of hard work I’m now feeling I can take a bit more of a jump. I have a very supportive employer (and husband!) And I am taking a short unpaid career break. This is exactly the low risk strategy I need. I take the summer off to shoot weddings and generate more work and I know I have something secure to go back to! My advice would be to keep working, keep pushing and don’t stop trying. Eventually I know I will get there!

  • http://jenniferstampsphotography.com/ Jen Stamps

    What a great article! As someone who has very recently started to turn my photography into more than a passion and hobby, this is exactly what I needed to read. It’s kind of what I was already planning (don’t quit the day job just yet), but it’s nice to hear that from a pro who has been there! Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

  • scottc
  • Dave

    You’re absolutely correct about not quitting your day job. The problem is people thinking that a nice DSLR = Pro Photographer. DPS is a great place to pick up beginner photography techniques and learn a little bit about the science, but any photo enthusiast who is serious about going pro will put in the time in the field and, hopefully, apprenticing or in a classroom. There are things that I picked up in the darkroom, processing black and white film, that I use daily. Composition can only get you so far. In the digital world, color correction can make or break a photo. I knew there was an epidemic when I saw a guy who was shooting his first wedding (ever) with a 5d MKII on auto.

    The other thing is that we are all (I include myself in this) so ego-centric about photography. I have stopped reading the comments here due to all of the self promotion and lack of relevant input from commenters. Maybe I’m the only one who ever read the comments, but I think you can learn from other folks’ perspectives and experiences. But these days, nearly every comment is, “Oh, I love this. You can check out my pics just like this at http://www.mypicturesaresomecrappyvariationofdigitalhdr.com.”

    I apologize for the rant, but I’m a long time reader of this site (seldom a comment contributor, admittedly) and I hate to see it become another place where people whore themselves for attention and pageviews. DPS,in my mind, should be about learning from people who understand the art, appreciation of said art and discussing about how to better yourself at the art. Even for seasoned vets.

    But hey, maybe DPS is doing good business and I’ve just outgrown it. Maybe I need to work with Darren on a sister site for pros ;)

    Anyway, here’s my web…. just kidding.

  • http://www.rowanlamb.co.uk Rowan

    The advice about slowly building your business whilst working in a day job as well is excellent, and something that a lot of people don’t think about. It’s hard to jump into photography as a job, and it’s great to see a successful photographer admit that they had to start slowly! Thanks for the article.

  • bfeldman

    I dont want to become ‘pro’ on purpose so I definitley have a different perspective on this.

    I do however find it interesting that a professional in the field is making a recommendation to ‘the competition’ to start slow.

    Sometimes people need the ‘do or die’ position to get themselves going, though the smart decision is always to plan ahead.

  • http://www.matthewblasseyphotography.com/blog matt blassey

    great read and advice about choosing a sensible path in your career. thanks for the article

  • http://www.lenmoserphotography.com/ Len Moser

    I don’t agree with your statement about it being expensive to turn pro. It has never been cheaper! For $500 you can purchase a DSLR. Compare this to the film days. My first Hassleblad cost $2500 and that was just the body and a standard lens.

    Because of the proliferation of digital cameras, every other month another photographer opens up shop. Just Google “your town” and “photographer” to see what I mean. I live in a town of 60K and there are 35 photographers listed in Google maps. That’s one photographer per 1400 people. You cannot make a living with that. I suggest to your readers: Don’t EVER quit your day job!

  • SMM

    It is refreshing to know I am not the only one going this route. I work a full-time job during the week and while for the past five years I shot “professionally” as a newspaper photojournalist/writer/editor, I decided I wanted to take my photography further. I took two classes, where I actually didn’t learn much, before reaching out to a pro photographer acquaintance. Just eight months later and I have a business license, all new mid-grade equipment, have been a second shooter for several weddings, have done one solo with my own second shooter, and have booked more than $5,000 in upcoming weddings and portrait shoots. That’s all by word of mouth. It helps that I took photos professionally for so long in the small town I grew up in, but without even advertising I get at least two phone calls a week for different styles of shoots. I don’t even want to advertise because I don’t want to be overwhelmed between my full-time job and my side business. My point being that with the right preparation and management, starting slow can turn out to be a great thing.

    As for the comment above about the competition advising to start slow, I have found many of my photographer friends and acquaintances are very open with trading advice, and even business. It is truly wonderful that in a world where there is so much animosity, artists like photographers are friendly people who don’t mind sharing their knowledge with their so-called competition. Pay it forward …

  • http://www.fuzzypig.com Fuzzypiggy

    Thing that gets me is the tag “Pro Photographer”, it’s held in awe and esteem but all it means is that you get paid to take photographs. Like any business there are those that are absolutely stunning at it and for every one of them, there are 1,000 cowboys waiting in line to rip you off.

    I think about it sometimes, making money from this but I know I personally would lose the love of doing it, if it became a job. It’s wonderful hobby and it really helps me switch off the stress of my job and I am greatful for that one thing that stops me going mental!

    I seriously admire anyone who can take a creative hobby and turn it into a living AND still maintain the love of the work, that’s something I just don’t think I could personally do.

  • http://www.digital-product-creators.com/?hop=maximdel Photography Expert

    There are many kinds of home base jobs or business these days. The possibilities are never-ending but the difficulty of most people today, is how to keep up with some of the advance competitors. You could also try something new and experiment with things. If you already feel that you like what you’re doing and you are actually enjoying it, that’s the first sign that you are getting closer to your success.

  • http://CustomPinoyRides.com THE aSTIG @ CustomPinoyRides.com

    Oh man I can totally relate to this. Actually, I don’t think I even have to quit my day job!

    I do Car Photography for my website http://CustomPinoyRides.com

    I do my shoots during weekends, where I go to events, shows, races, fun runs, and all that. My site is very well supported by the local custom car scene, and my sponsors are the best in the business.

    What I try and do is multiply myself. I founded the Car Photography Club (in case anyone is interested to join, there’s a banner on the right sidebar of my website leading to the forum). For photographers who are looking to get their work showcased on a site such as mine, they get to show their work on my site for free. Exposure for them, content for me. Sort of like the same guest blogging done here, and on other blogs!

    So there, work-life-balance for me. :)

  • joe bodego

    So right you are, I do security/Body guarding on the weekends and special events-plus my regular web developing day job which affords me to buy especially my lens. I have been building my photography business for about a year now. Sure the jobs come once every 2 months but in the interim I am building my photography arsenal of lenses, soft boxes, flashes you name it. I now have some top lenses while I wait. You don;t have to aspire to make your living from photography but it’s a damn good side job.

  • Jack

    The affordable consumer grade DSLR’s in my opinion is what has led to the photography market to be flooded with would-be professional photographers. It seems that every day on my Facebook page their is a new “photographer” born. One common scenario seems to be: Someone gets a new DSLR….. they take a few pics of their kids….. everyone oohs and ahs over them and suggests that maybe they should start taking them professionally. Next thing you see is the new Jane Doe Photography. When I retired I had aspirations of making money as a photographer and do mostly sports photography. I have top-of-the-line equipment and study photography and graphics daily. I do fairly well with my sports posters but that’s about it. I live in a county of about 17,000 population and “photographers” are running over top of each other here. No way would I quit a job to become a professional photographer in this environment.

  • http://richcopley.com Rich Copley

    When I hung my shingle out early this year as a photographer for hire, several friends and family said, “Pretty soon you’ll be able to quit your day job.” I had to laugh and say, it’ll take A LOT of photo gigs to make up for my salary and benefits. At this point, quitting the day job is a not even on the radar or desired (and fortunately, photography is a small part of my job). But it has been great to turn a long-time passion into modest money-maker, especially as my children become more expensive. ;-)

    The trick though is to balance the day job, photo work and still have time for a life. Still working on that one.

  • http://www.agnesealjena.com Agnese Aljena

    I have exactly the same experience – for about 5 years I was building my photography customer base while continuing to work in office. It was really annoing on Mondays, when after doing what you love on weekend you had to go where you get paid. It took a lot of my energy and time. But it was absolutely necessary – both for building customer base and acquiring knowledge, practice ect.

    My “turning” point was my first child. I spent a year at home with her and at that time started my own studio. But I had possibility to return to my Day job if I fail. It was very good “plan B”, which I luckily didn’t have to realize. But only now – after 3 years with my own studio – I feel more or less safe and don’t worry about next month income.

    I would add one more thing – while you are at your Day job, start saving for your “safety airbag”. It is good feeling if you have on your savings account at least 3 months (preferably more) salaries that you can use if necessary. Money loves people who are not stressed about money :).

  • Mark

    I agree. Most of my friends love my photos and all of them ask when I am “going pro”. The fact is, I don’t want to. Most pro photographers in my area have to hustle 50-60 hours a week to make $10k less a year than I do in 40 hours at my day job. You have to be VERY good to make a good living at photography and though I love my friends and their enthusiasm, I know MY skill set is not up to par yet. I’ll keep photography as a hobby, that occasionally pays, and keep having fun. :)

  • Photobury – Seattle

    Dave – August 8, 2011 at 4:56PM

    Abso-freakin-lutely right…

  • Der

    Brilliant article , I thought I was the only one in the world trying to do both at the same time and trying to balance home life and being a Dad. I work my ass off , I am shattered tired most of the time , as someone already said up there , the kids are becoming more and more expensive all the time. I have been at this now for years , I will say one thing though , it has made me a much better photographer , I am not depending on the income to pay my mortgage at the moment anyway , I have put together a studio kitted out with all the gear I need , have all the camera’s and lenses I need and have updated all my computers in the last few months , I have put nearly every penny I have earned back into photography so that I can provide a better service to my customers , when I am not working or being a Dad I study photography , lighting , camera settings , you name it , I have found that the more I study and learn that I find out that I have so much more to learn and am pretty sure that I will never know everything and that is what keeps me interested. Yes I do get some flack from full time photographers every now and then but it doesn’t bother me , as I said I work my ass off , I work with passion and I give every job my all. To all you Guys and Gals who are in the same situation , I take my hat off to you , its not easy , it takes serious dedication , most of the photography I do is pretty much antisocial hours too. But I love it and it is worth it al in the long run. I am so glad i read this article and was able to get all this off my chest and know that there are a lot more like me out there. Well done DPS , I look forward to this email every thursday.

  • monkeyfurball

    “Then, it will begin to overlap with your normal day job income. This is when you can start to cut back on your job and carefully work your business more. And one day, the photography business will overtake the day job and you’ve done it! You have become a full-time pro without risking life and limb (and missing quite a few meals and water bills).”

    Ok, I see that happening for some folks. I make about $750,000 a year at my day job. I doubt I can make that much in photography, but its a fun hobby.

  • http://www.lonnieray.net Lonnie

    Great article,,and Dave, great comments also…right on the money!…..Yes everyone with a camera thinks they are “pro caliber” these days. But I have noticed, that if I have a big lens on my camera, people will come up to me and ask if I am a professsional photographer. It is ironic, but the photographer who I paid big bucks to photograph my daughter’s wedding, actually gave me so much advice and help in choosing labs, suppliers, etc… he was very open with suggestions and tips and I consider him a friend even today

  • http://www.stuartmeyerphotography.com Indy Wedding Photographer

    You hit the nail on the head with this article. Starting in photography with the goal of becoming a professional photographer is exactly the wrong approach, unless you’re going for photojournalism. Wedding and portrait photography work best when they start out as hobbies. Then, one needs to test the business side in stages to see what works and what doesn’t because there is a lot of trial and error involved. What works for one photographer may not necessarily work for another, depending on their personality, style, and the local market.

  • http://photogroh.zenfolio.com Jan G

    I’m a budding fine art photographer who does not consider herself pro by any stretch yet, though I’m steadily progressing (aspiring) and studying to that end (and starting to win awards). Further, I don’t shoot “for hire” yet, nor claim to, but know many who do, both full and part time now.

    My concern is the flip side of this article, where I’ve seen some part-time “pros” who DO have good paying day jobs with benefits not charging as much as full time professionals *because they don’t have to*. I.e, they live comfortably off their day job, and because they are not hungry or truly need the photo income, they under charge compared to full time business owners because they may not carry biz insurance, be registered, or just can afford not to. (I’m presuming they have sufficient/commensurate pro photo skill here and know an f-stop from a bus stop – hold that thought.)

    This often leaves full time pros struggling to explain their prices to folks who say “but Joe only charges $500 or $1000 for a wedding, why are you $2000″? Well, Joe doesn’t really need the money, and only shoots when he wants to/can, and may not be paying for all the true costs of doing business (permits, business liability insurance, certification, business licenses, taxes, studio space, retouching time, plus equipment, education, etc.). Joe can walk away from his photography “business” easily if needed, or keep it as a hobby (and perhaps should). I’ve heard multiple (true) pros say they will not leave their house for less than $400 minimum. (Some would say that’s low still.) It’s just not worth the opportunity cost. Yet a lot of part-timers do all the time *because they can*.

    I’m all for folks keeping their day jobs as they slowly build their photo biz and also recommend it for all the reasons mentioned. But I feel that if you present yourself after hours or at any time as a *professional* photographer for hire (shooting people /products/places on contract – not as you feel like it or just for friends) and hang out a business “shingle” (biz cards, website, etc. saying “hire me to photograph you”), please respect the folks who struggle to run a truly viable *full time* photography business and are paying for all the true costs of doing business (providing all their own “bennies”, which people who have on their “day jobs” constantly under-estimate, paying permits, carrying business and health insurance, covering down times) and charge *commensurate* with the market in your area rather than undercutting them. That said, *if you don’t have the skill to match or feel comfortable charging that much*, then keep it as a “hobby” and take classes and keep shooting and practicing as a hobby until you do. You may well “get there” and be able/comfortable charging the right rate one day. Some say you are not charging enough until someone complains about your prices, smile. (I know, everyone’s complaining about prices in this lousy recession, but you know what I mean.)

    To that end, I strongly recommend all aspiring US pros join a local professional organization or PPA (www.ppa.com) affiliate to learn more about what’s involved in truly “going pro”. And pros can help distinguish themselves further by going for Certification at http://www.certifiedphotographer.com. Those who have deserve every penny they get and more for all the reasons mentioned. Good luck everyone.

  • http://silverspringsphotograpjy.com Kristi J

    I am one of those “professional photographers” who Jan G mentions. I make my living by shooting people! Legally I might add! I love my job and working with people to make them look fantastic and creating a memory they will enjoy for many years to come. I am also the president of one of the local photography groups who is also a PPA affiliate. Being such I get to meet and see a lot of these “faux photographers”, the people who I classify as someone who shoots part time and with less professional results. They also charge ridiculously low prices, prices that I cannot compete with and stay in business. They are hurting legitimate businesses and driving consumer demand for cheap photography. As digital cameras get better, even cell phones these days can take a decent image. It is going be harder and harder to show people that a professional will still capture those important occasions better than “uncle Joe”. I can’t sell an 8×10 for $9.00, and yes I have seen people charging this!! it’s not just lab costs that drive the cost of that print. But people who have other incomes don’t think about that. From that sell, I have to cover insurance, equipment and any other expense associated with the business. Oh wait, I still need to make an income from this, I don’t have any other way to make money.

    Literally professional photographers spend hundreds if not thousands of hours constantly learning shooting techniques, lighting (yes that means using flashes, and something that MOST, yes MOST new photographers have no clue about) and Photoshop from professionals who are experts in each of these areas. See the Difference is an excellent video put out by PPA http://www.ppa.com/articles/415/See-the-Difference-Video.php
    In addition to all of this, professional photographers spend a lot of time learning sound business practices.

    Most new photographers don’t realize that a professional photographers makeup of the business only has them actually shooting 20% of the time. The rest is all marketing, selling and retouching. Photography can be rewarding, but it really doesn’t have a lot about shooting. Most photographers out there right now are shooting without business licenses and insurance. You destroy property and you can get sued quite easy. Or you shoot a wedding and the dog eats your memory card, you think it will never happen to you? It can! And a bride and groom will sue you for losing the images of their important day.

    If you are just starting out, don’t say you are a professional if you are just starting out. Shoot a lot, learn and make sure when you start charging for your photography that you are charging what it would take to support you in that if you lost your income from your current job.

    Just my two cents worth….

  • Diane

    I am in the process of getting a photography business started, but it’s a slow process, despite not having a day job taking up my time.

    I was made redundant over 18 months ago (along with my husband who also worked for the same company), and have been unable to get another job since then (and neither has my husband). So I cannot afford the training I know I need, and I cannot afford the new equipment that I know would help, but I have tried to do what I can with the meagre resources we have.

    I have been taking photographs for years, starting back in the film days, and I know my f-stops from my elbow, but I am struggling with portraits, having only ever taken landscapes and family photos up to now. I have done a few (reasonably-priced) workshops, but even then some are not worth the cost and the effort, but you don’t know this until you pay your money and go.

    So, I am stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place, but I am continuing to educate myself by reading blogs and forums, etc, and getting a little practice, to the point, hopefully, where I feel ready to let myself loose on the general public! But my confidence is at an all time low due to the job situation, so it’s really hard to get a belief in my ability to do this.

  • http://www.rosiemccobb.com Rosie

    Definitely agree with this article! I myself started learning to shoot while working another “day” job back in 2002 (which I actually worked at night).

    One other approach to work your way toward “going pro” is to look into part-time, entry-level photography jobs. I work as a still life/product photographer, and my first low-paid job was working in the archive of a retail company, photographing past inventory, and doing very basic retouching of the images. Since the images were for record-keeping only, the standards for the photography were much lower, and enabled me to get more experience with professional equipment, while bettering my skills. Archives exist at all kind of companies, across varied industries – your best bets are retail companies that sell products, auction houses, antiques stores and dealers, museums, art galleries, and other collections that house objects. Images that are used in promotional catalogues, advertising, or for other sales purposes are always done by more experienced commercial photographers, but business that keep track of inventory or past product don’t usually require as high a level of skill.

    To add another perspective to the debate about “going pro,” I would venture – perhaps atypically – that it’s almost better to have less passion, but more practicality, when approaching whether to make your living as a photographer. When you care very deeply about a certain type of creative expression – to the point where you only view “success” through a very narrow lens – it can thwart your ability to make money. I went to school for completely different art forms (creative writing and film-making), and in those realms I still, to this day, will not compromise what kind of work I do in those areas: I only want to work on projects I really care about, make in my own style and voice, and am passionate about. With photography, I am less passionate about it as “art,” so I am more able to approach it as a business, and not get hung up on only doing a certain type of work, or only work that is really creative. A lot of still life and product photography jobs don’t actually offer a lot of stereotypical creativity to the photographer, as there are whole teams involved in creating the final image – it’s more about learning how to interact with clients, art directors, and stylists, and carrying out the client’s vision. That in itself is “creative,” as you’re using problem-solving skills related to lighting and composition skills, and communication skills as you brainstorm with other members of the creative team. But it’s not the free-form, in-your-face creativity most people expect when they think of photography. There are so many different aspects to our field, you’re definitely not a “failure” if you never go pro; many fine art photographers I know do not make a living as commercial photographers, and in many ways, it’s to their benefit, because they’re not burned out by shooting every day, and can shoot in their spare time because they love it, and are shooting only what kind of work they want to create, in their distinct style.

  • John Deir

    Good article, better responses, But I’ll make note here from my perspective:

    I’ve worked all my life, provided well, gave much, had little time for myself. Now I’m 62, wife past away, lost my job and anyways I’m to old to be doing construction. Always enjoyed pictures and photography; found the pictures of the past my greatest rewards/possessions. I’ve decided to learn this medium well and devote my time in doing so and hopefully gain financially too as retirement will not provide enough.

    Now, what I’m coming to is if you have a love for something, you have to follow through with it; weather a leap of faith or a strong commitment. To be safe and careful about a passion only delays your commitment and limits yourself and the pace of this technology will out distant your ability to stay up with it. Then a day will come and you will have regrets for not committing, and time is like that perfect moment when the light on a subject is perfect; wait and its gone. Sometimes you have to believe in yourself and be out there.

  • http://www.stuartmeyerphotography.com Indianapolis Photographer

    I frankly don’t see how anyone can make a living as a photographer. In the film days, most of the work was done before the film was sent to the lab. It took a lot of practice to nail it right the first time, and not everyone had the confidence or know-how. Average photographers didn’t take many chances, bringing big lights and a lightmeter, then blasting away to get that deer-in-the-headlights look indoors. Getting the shot was paramount to trying something new. After taking the picture, there was little that could be done but hope they came out properly exposed from the lab. As a result, only photographers who knew their f-stops, shutter speeds and light ratios like the back of their hand could confidently use their intuitive knowledge to experiment with lighting creatively. It truly took a master photographer to get it right the first time, all the time. Not everyone had the desire to enter a field where you had that type of responsibility and the potential to really screw things up if you didn’t have a lot of experience. You had to really know your stuff. Enter digital photography. With digital, there is instant feedback and after a couple of test shots, settings can be dialed in and the creative process takes over. Even ordinary folks with rudimentary knowledge are getting better results than in the film days. On top of that, by shooting in RAW, there is more leeway to bring underexposed or overexposed shots into acceptable territory. Color balance is much easier and today’s digital cameras provide acceptable results at 3200 and 6400 ISO. Post processing can “fix” a lot of mistakes. Basically, digital cameras and Photoshop have liberated the average person to become a professional overnight. That’s why there are so many professionals. Only those who truly stand out with a unique product and have the marketing genius are making a living at photography. Those who pine for the days when each town had one or two studios serving the entire community need to wake up to the new reality. Yes, it’s true that new pros undercharge – today’s post processing is extremely labor intensive – but, they do it because they can. In the film days, they couldn’t.

  • Charyl

    People just need to face the fact that photography is a “saturated market”. When you are trying to break into a profession that is saturated you will ALWAYS have people that do not charge anywhere near what the market price should be. It is just a sad unfortunate reality.
    What this means (to me anyway), is that you need to reconcile to this fact and look within yourself to make sure that you are in the business for the right reasons. If you love what you do and you have properly educated yourself then charge what you feel you are worth, period. If you have the skill people will pay.
    The other key to doing will in a saturated profession is a term know as differentiation. Find what you do well, do it better than anyone else and stick to only that. Don’t try to be all things to everyone, it’s not smart from a business perspective.

    Just my two cents. Don’t get hung up so much on what others are doing, if the truly are as poorly skilled as you think then time will sort that out.

    Just focus on your own business/ skill level and it will all work out. Most importantly stay positive!

  • http://www.lizstabbertphoto.com Liz Stabbert

    I’m so glad you posted this right now, it’s something I needed to hear. I’ve been without a day job for a while and have been trying to run my business, like you said, out of desperation. But my business just isn’t in a place yet where it can support me so I was stressed and unhappy. I’ll be starting a day job soon and had been feeling discouraged since I really had wanted my business to (magically I guess) boom. Though, instead of looking at it like a failure, I’m going to look at it as something I’m doing FOR my business (and my own sanity!).

  • Gaurav

    im an amature photographer and i was confused wether to go with day job or full time photography job your article helped me thanks for a fatherly advice great article………..plz tell me how to go part timer in fashion photography im 20 years of age and doing graduation

  • bushsong

    As an accountant, I used to tell all my clients that it takes at least 5 years to become an overnight success. ;-)

  • http://bit.ly/oufr4c Brian Fuller

    Yes. Keep the day job until the photography income and time forces you to make the switch. I currently do enough photoshoots to cover the costs of my equipment maintenance and upgrades. Maybe someday I’ll turn it into a profit, but just making it a “free” hobby is enough for me at this point.

    http://bit.ly/oufr4c

  • freeopinions

    I was in my fifties and had put in enough time on my “day job” to pay for the house and earn a modest pension. I thought: “Before I go to my reward I want to do something, anything, that is photography.” I ended up getting a job as a lab monkey and went on to process film and make prints for lots of “professional” wedding and portrait photographers. Only a handful of them were good enough to make a living doing it, and you could tell by the volume of film that came to the lab (and the quality of the images) who was working at it and who was kidding themselves.

    It was during my time in the lab that the so-called “photojournalist-style wedding” became popular; You shoot three or four rolls of 35mm snapshots and hand the film to the customer, telling her to “get the film processed and make whatever prints you want. That’ll be $300.” It had to be the laziest way to shoot weddings I ever saw, but I knew several people who had never sold a print that did that. Buy a cheap camera and one zoom lens and become a professional photographer—how could it get any easier?

    I’ve been out of that business for a long time now, but I can only imagine how the digital revolution has made it even easier for the self described entrepreneur to get into the photography business, Just go to any local art fair and look at all the photo-artists who have a Canon Rebel, a Tokina lens and went to the Grand Canyon last weekend…

  • Solescobar

    When I was planning to go to Europe for the first time, my bf gave me my first DSLR and I decided to use it to pay part of the trip. I was working full time so I used weekends to do family sessions, romantic, babies… a few months after that a friend called me and told me that a couple was getting married and need a low cost photographer.. When I talked with them and I was totally honest and told them that I had absolutly no experience in wedding photography but I was going to do my best and did every tutorial I saw in YouTube.. I bought a external flash and did it…. The newlyweds loved their photos at the end… They even recomended me and so far I´ve done 14 weddings without any advertising… Obviously I call it my “trabahobby” (trabajo means job in spanish) I still have my full time job and I dont plan on quitting just yet because it helps me buy all my equipment and I just charge $500 for weddings which gives me more “low budget” clients… Hopefully the experience and recomendations will pay off and soon I will be able to live just with my photos… But it really helps to have a regular income… I now have a new DSLR and love my Trabahobby!

  • Lorri A

    Buying this book on payday (Thursday) – I hate my day job, it’s getting worse every day, so even if I could earn enough with photography to cut my hours at my day job, that would be a huge help.

  • Mary Ace

    I have a 5 year plan and loving the fact that i can put time into photography and still work my 9-5 for now… Def dont wanna rush the process!

  • http://hairy1travels.com/hairy1travels/ Jeremy Hayden

    As a sideline to my day job, an old SLR, decent 50mm lens and decent flash used to earn me some good pocket money doing budget weddings, family photos and the occasional insurance job. Now mid fifties, I’m looking towards a retirement plan and stepping back into this game with some reasonable DSLR gear.
    Some simple rules: edit and dump the “junk” because quality, not quantity, matters most. Do your planning beforehand and know your gear inside out. It’s very often tricky shots that will get you recognition. If you can’t adapt and respond to the moment you will miss them. If you do hand over all of the good digital images (i do), ALWAYS produce some quality prints. This avoids clients printing their own, badly, and criticising your photography as a result.
    In reality any mid-range bridge camera from the last 5 years will deliver the quality needed IF you really know how to use it. A good DSLR with a couple of good lenses makes it a lot easier, again, IF you can use them properly.
    Have fun, but don’t quit the day job until you have a full diary of photo work and some proven successes.

  • deprivedfed

    I have seen this many, many times the photographer could not put food on her table but would not work an 8 hour job. She is still broke and trying to pull gigs. Have known her for 7 years now and after all the college her parents paid for she is no further along than when she started. She is good just has no money.

Some older comments

  • Gaurav

    October 9, 2011 04:11 am

    im an amature photographer and i was confused wether to go with day job or full time photography job your article helped me thanks for a fatherly advice great article...........plz tell me how to go part timer in fashion photography im 20 years of age and doing graduation

  • Liz Stabbert

    September 3, 2011 03:52 am

    I'm so glad you posted this right now, it's something I needed to hear. I've been without a day job for a while and have been trying to run my business, like you said, out of desperation. But my business just isn't in a place yet where it can support me so I was stressed and unhappy. I'll be starting a day job soon and had been feeling discouraged since I really had wanted my business to (magically I guess) boom. Though, instead of looking at it like a failure, I'm going to look at it as something I'm doing FOR my business (and my own sanity!).

  • Charyl

    August 16, 2011 02:16 am

    People just need to face the fact that photography is a "saturated market". When you are trying to break into a profession that is saturated you will ALWAYS have people that do not charge anywhere near what the market price should be. It is just a sad unfortunate reality.
    What this means (to me anyway), is that you need to reconcile to this fact and look within yourself to make sure that you are in the business for the right reasons. If you love what you do and you have properly educated yourself then charge what you feel you are worth, period. If you have the skill people will pay.
    The other key to doing will in a saturated profession is a term know as differentiation. Find what you do well, do it better than anyone else and stick to only that. Don't try to be all things to everyone, it's not smart from a business perspective.

    Just my two cents. Don't get hung up so much on what others are doing, if the truly are as poorly skilled as you think then time will sort that out.

    Just focus on your own business/ skill level and it will all work out. Most importantly stay positive!

  • Indianapolis Photographer

    August 14, 2011 01:58 pm

    I frankly don't see how anyone can make a living as a photographer. In the film days, most of the work was done before the film was sent to the lab. It took a lot of practice to nail it right the first time, and not everyone had the confidence or know-how. Average photographers didn't take many chances, bringing big lights and a lightmeter, then blasting away to get that deer-in-the-headlights look indoors. Getting the shot was paramount to trying something new. After taking the picture, there was little that could be done but hope they came out properly exposed from the lab. As a result, only photographers who knew their f-stops, shutter speeds and light ratios like the back of their hand could confidently use their intuitive knowledge to experiment with lighting creatively. It truly took a master photographer to get it right the first time, all the time. Not everyone had the desire to enter a field where you had that type of responsibility and the potential to really screw things up if you didn't have a lot of experience. You had to really know your stuff. Enter digital photography. With digital, there is instant feedback and after a couple of test shots, settings can be dialed in and the creative process takes over. Even ordinary folks with rudimentary knowledge are getting better results than in the film days. On top of that, by shooting in RAW, there is more leeway to bring underexposed or overexposed shots into acceptable territory. Color balance is much easier and today's digital cameras provide acceptable results at 3200 and 6400 ISO. Post processing can "fix" a lot of mistakes. Basically, digital cameras and Photoshop have liberated the average person to become a professional overnight. That's why there are so many professionals. Only those who truly stand out with a unique product and have the marketing genius are making a living at photography. Those who pine for the days when each town had one or two studios serving the entire community need to wake up to the new reality. Yes, it's true that new pros undercharge - today's post processing is extremely labor intensive - but, they do it because they can. In the film days, they couldn't.

  • John Deir

    August 14, 2011 12:47 pm

    Good article, better responses, But I'll make note here from my perspective:

    I've worked all my life, provided well, gave much, had little time for myself. Now I'm 62, wife past away, lost my job and anyways I'm to old to be doing construction. Always enjoyed pictures and photography; found the pictures of the past my greatest rewards/possessions. I've decided to learn this medium well and devote my time in doing so and hopefully gain financially too as retirement will not provide enough.

    Now, what I'm coming to is if you have a love for something, you have to follow through with it; weather a leap of faith or a strong commitment. To be safe and careful about a passion only delays your commitment and limits yourself and the pace of this technology will out distant your ability to stay up with it. Then a day will come and you will have regrets for not committing, and time is like that perfect moment when the light on a subject is perfect; wait and its gone. Sometimes you have to believe in yourself and be out there.

  • Rosie

    August 14, 2011 05:03 am

    Definitely agree with this article! I myself started learning to shoot while working another "day" job back in 2002 (which I actually worked at night).

    One other approach to work your way toward "going pro" is to look into part-time, entry-level photography jobs. I work as a still life/product photographer, and my first low-paid job was working in the archive of a retail company, photographing past inventory, and doing very basic retouching of the images. Since the images were for record-keeping only, the standards for the photography were much lower, and enabled me to get more experience with professional equipment, while bettering my skills. Archives exist at all kind of companies, across varied industries - your best bets are retail companies that sell products, auction houses, antiques stores and dealers, museums, art galleries, and other collections that house objects. Images that are used in promotional catalogues, advertising, or for other sales purposes are always done by more experienced commercial photographers, but business that keep track of inventory or past product don't usually require as high a level of skill.

    To add another perspective to the debate about "going pro," I would venture - perhaps atypically - that it's almost better to have less passion, but more practicality, when approaching whether to make your living as a photographer. When you care very deeply about a certain type of creative expression - to the point where you only view "success" through a very narrow lens - it can thwart your ability to make money. I went to school for completely different art forms (creative writing and film-making), and in those realms I still, to this day, will not compromise what kind of work I do in those areas: I only want to work on projects I really care about, make in my own style and voice, and am passionate about. With photography, I am less passionate about it as "art," so I am more able to approach it as a business, and not get hung up on only doing a certain type of work, or only work that is really creative. A lot of still life and product photography jobs don't actually offer a lot of stereotypical creativity to the photographer, as there are whole teams involved in creating the final image - it's more about learning how to interact with clients, art directors, and stylists, and carrying out the client's vision. That in itself is "creative," as you're using problem-solving skills related to lighting and composition skills, and communication skills as you brainstorm with other members of the creative team. But it's not the free-form, in-your-face creativity most people expect when they think of photography. There are so many different aspects to our field, you're definitely not a "failure" if you never go pro; many fine art photographers I know do not make a living as commercial photographers, and in many ways, it's to their benefit, because they're not burned out by shooting every day, and can shoot in their spare time because they love it, and are shooting only what kind of work they want to create, in their distinct style.

  • Diane

    August 13, 2011 08:25 pm

    I am in the process of getting a photography business started, but it's a slow process, despite not having a day job taking up my time.

    I was made redundant over 18 months ago (along with my husband who also worked for the same company), and have been unable to get another job since then (and neither has my husband). So I cannot afford the training I know I need, and I cannot afford the new equipment that I know would help, but I have tried to do what I can with the meagre resources we have.

    I have been taking photographs for years, starting back in the film days, and I know my f-stops from my elbow, but I am struggling with portraits, having only ever taken landscapes and family photos up to now. I have done a few (reasonably-priced) workshops, but even then some are not worth the cost and the effort, but you don't know this until you pay your money and go.

    So, I am stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place, but I am continuing to educate myself by reading blogs and forums, etc, and getting a little practice, to the point, hopefully, where I feel ready to let myself loose on the general public! But my confidence is at an all time low due to the job situation, so it's really hard to get a belief in my ability to do this.

  • Kristi J

    August 13, 2011 06:44 am

    I am one of those "professional photographers" who Jan G mentions. I make my living by shooting people! Legally I might add! I love my job and working with people to make them look fantastic and creating a memory they will enjoy for many years to come. I am also the president of one of the local photography groups who is also a PPA affiliate. Being such I get to meet and see a lot of these "faux photographers", the people who I classify as someone who shoots part time and with less professional results. They also charge ridiculously low prices, prices that I cannot compete with and stay in business. They are hurting legitimate businesses and driving consumer demand for cheap photography. As digital cameras get better, even cell phones these days can take a decent image. It is going be harder and harder to show people that a professional will still capture those important occasions better than "uncle Joe". I can't sell an 8x10 for $9.00, and yes I have seen people charging this!! it's not just lab costs that drive the cost of that print. But people who have other incomes don't think about that. From that sell, I have to cover insurance, equipment and any other expense associated with the business. Oh wait, I still need to make an income from this, I don't have any other way to make money.

    Literally professional photographers spend hundreds if not thousands of hours constantly learning shooting techniques, lighting (yes that means using flashes, and something that MOST, yes MOST new photographers have no clue about) and Photoshop from professionals who are experts in each of these areas. See the Difference is an excellent video put out by PPA http://www.ppa.com/articles/415/See-the-Difference-Video.php
    In addition to all of this, professional photographers spend a lot of time learning sound business practices.

    Most new photographers don't realize that a professional photographers makeup of the business only has them actually shooting 20% of the time. The rest is all marketing, selling and retouching. Photography can be rewarding, but it really doesn't have a lot about shooting. Most photographers out there right now are shooting without business licenses and insurance. You destroy property and you can get sued quite easy. Or you shoot a wedding and the dog eats your memory card, you think it will never happen to you? It can! And a bride and groom will sue you for losing the images of their important day.

    If you are just starting out, don't say you are a professional if you are just starting out. Shoot a lot, learn and make sure when you start charging for your photography that you are charging what it would take to support you in that if you lost your income from your current job.

    Just my two cents worth....

  • Jan G

    August 13, 2011 05:19 am

    I'm a budding fine art photographer who does not consider herself pro by any stretch yet, though I'm steadily progressing (aspiring) and studying to that end (and starting to win awards). Further, I don't shoot "for hire" yet, nor claim to, but know many who do, both full and part time now.

    My concern is the flip side of this article, where I've seen some part-time "pros" who DO have good paying day jobs with benefits not charging as much as full time professionals *because they don't have to*. I.e, they live comfortably off their day job, and because they are not hungry or truly need the photo income, they under charge compared to full time business owners because they may not carry biz insurance, be registered, or just can afford not to. (I'm presuming they have sufficient/commensurate pro photo skill here and know an f-stop from a bus stop - hold that thought.)

    This often leaves full time pros struggling to explain their prices to folks who say "but Joe only charges $500 or $1000 for a wedding, why are you $2000"? Well, Joe doesn't really need the money, and only shoots when he wants to/can, and may not be paying for all the true costs of doing business (permits, business liability insurance, certification, business licenses, taxes, studio space, retouching time, plus equipment, education, etc.). Joe can walk away from his photography "business" easily if needed, or keep it as a hobby (and perhaps should). I've heard multiple (true) pros say they will not leave their house for less than $400 minimum. (Some would say that's low still.) It's just not worth the opportunity cost. Yet a lot of part-timers do all the time *because they can*.

    I'm all for folks keeping their day jobs as they slowly build their photo biz and also recommend it for all the reasons mentioned. But I feel that if you present yourself after hours or at any time as a *professional* photographer for hire (shooting people /products/places on contract - not as you feel like it or just for friends) and hang out a business "shingle" (biz cards, website, etc. saying "hire me to photograph you"), please respect the folks who struggle to run a truly viable *full time* photography business and are paying for all the true costs of doing business (providing all their own "bennies", which people who have on their "day jobs" constantly under-estimate, paying permits, carrying business and health insurance, covering down times) and charge *commensurate* with the market in your area rather than undercutting them. That said, *if you don't have the skill to match or feel comfortable charging that much*, then keep it as a "hobby" and take classes and keep shooting and practicing as a hobby until you do. You may well "get there" and be able/comfortable charging the right rate one day. Some say you are not charging enough until someone complains about your prices, smile. (I know, everyone's complaining about prices in this lousy recession, but you know what I mean.)

    To that end, I strongly recommend all aspiring US pros join a local professional organization or PPA (www.ppa.com) affiliate to learn more about what's involved in truly "going pro". And pros can help distinguish themselves further by going for Certification at www.certifiedphotographer.com. Those who have deserve every penny they get and more for all the reasons mentioned. Good luck everyone.

  • Indy Wedding Photographer

    August 13, 2011 05:06 am

    You hit the nail on the head with this article. Starting in photography with the goal of becoming a professional photographer is exactly the wrong approach, unless you're going for photojournalism. Wedding and portrait photography work best when they start out as hobbies. Then, one needs to test the business side in stages to see what works and what doesn't because there is a lot of trial and error involved. What works for one photographer may not necessarily work for another, depending on their personality, style, and the local market.

  • Lonnie

    August 12, 2011 10:17 pm

    Great article,,and Dave, great comments also...right on the money!.....Yes everyone with a camera thinks they are "pro caliber" these days. But I have noticed, that if I have a big lens on my camera, people will come up to me and ask if I am a professsional photographer. It is ironic, but the photographer who I paid big bucks to photograph my daughter's wedding, actually gave me so much advice and help in choosing labs, suppliers, etc... he was very open with suggestions and tips and I consider him a friend even today

  • monkeyfurball

    August 12, 2011 01:26 pm

    "Then, it will begin to overlap with your normal day job income. This is when you can start to cut back on your job and carefully work your business more. And one day, the photography business will overtake the day job and you’ve done it! You have become a full-time pro without risking life and limb (and missing quite a few meals and water bills)."

    Ok, I see that happening for some folks. I make about $750,000 a year at my day job. I doubt I can make that much in photography, but its a fun hobby.

  • Der

    August 12, 2011 09:51 am

    Brilliant article , I thought I was the only one in the world trying to do both at the same time and trying to balance home life and being a Dad. I work my ass off , I am shattered tired most of the time , as someone already said up there , the kids are becoming more and more expensive all the time. I have been at this now for years , I will say one thing though , it has made me a much better photographer , I am not depending on the income to pay my mortgage at the moment anyway , I have put together a studio kitted out with all the gear I need , have all the camera's and lenses I need and have updated all my computers in the last few months , I have put nearly every penny I have earned back into photography so that I can provide a better service to my customers , when I am not working or being a Dad I study photography , lighting , camera settings , you name it , I have found that the more I study and learn that I find out that I have so much more to learn and am pretty sure that I will never know everything and that is what keeps me interested. Yes I do get some flack from full time photographers every now and then but it doesn't bother me , as I said I work my ass off , I work with passion and I give every job my all. To all you Guys and Gals who are in the same situation , I take my hat off to you , its not easy , it takes serious dedication , most of the photography I do is pretty much antisocial hours too. But I love it and it is worth it al in the long run. I am so glad i read this article and was able to get all this off my chest and know that there are a lot more like me out there. Well done DPS , I look forward to this email every thursday.

  • Photobury - Seattle

    August 12, 2011 07:07 am

    Dave - August 8, 2011 at 4:56PM

    Abso-freakin-lutely right...

  • Mark

    August 12, 2011 03:23 am

    I agree. Most of my friends love my photos and all of them ask when I am "going pro". The fact is, I don't want to. Most pro photographers in my area have to hustle 50-60 hours a week to make $10k less a year than I do in 40 hours at my day job. You have to be VERY good to make a good living at photography and though I love my friends and their enthusiasm, I know MY skill set is not up to par yet. I'll keep photography as a hobby, that occasionally pays, and keep having fun. :)

  • Agnese Aljena

    August 12, 2011 03:18 am

    I have exactly the same experience - for about 5 years I was building my photography customer base while continuing to work in office. It was really annoing on Mondays, when after doing what you love on weekend you had to go where you get paid. It took a lot of my energy and time. But it was absolutely necessary - both for building customer base and acquiring knowledge, practice ect.

    My "turning" point was my first child. I spent a year at home with her and at that time started my own studio. But I had possibility to return to my Day job if I fail. It was very good "plan B", which I luckily didn't have to realize. But only now - after 3 years with my own studio - I feel more or less safe and don't worry about next month income.

    I would add one more thing - while you are at your Day job, start saving for your "safety airbag". It is good feeling if you have on your savings account at least 3 months (preferably more) salaries that you can use if necessary. Money loves people who are not stressed about money :).

  • Rich Copley

    August 12, 2011 02:38 am

    When I hung my shingle out early this year as a photographer for hire, several friends and family said, "Pretty soon you'll be able to quit your day job." I had to laugh and say, it'll take A LOT of photo gigs to make up for my salary and benefits. At this point, quitting the day job is a not even on the radar or desired (and fortunately, photography is a small part of my job). But it has been great to turn a long-time passion into modest money-maker, especially as my children become more expensive. ;-)

    The trick though is to balance the day job, photo work and still have time for a life. Still working on that one.

  • Jack

    August 12, 2011 01:21 am

    The affordable consumer grade DSLR's in my opinion is what has led to the photography market to be flooded with would-be professional photographers. It seems that every day on my Facebook page their is a new "photographer" born. One common scenario seems to be: Someone gets a new DSLR..... they take a few pics of their kids..... everyone oohs and ahs over them and suggests that maybe they should start taking them professionally. Next thing you see is the new Jane Doe Photography. When I retired I had aspirations of making money as a photographer and do mostly sports photography. I have top-of-the-line equipment and study photography and graphics daily. I do fairly well with my sports posters but that's about it. I live in a county of about 17,000 population and "photographers" are running over top of each other here. No way would I quit a job to become a professional photographer in this environment.

  • joe bodego

    August 10, 2011 07:48 am

    So right you are, I do security/Body guarding on the weekends and special events-plus my regular web developing day job which affords me to buy especially my lens. I have been building my photography business for about a year now. Sure the jobs come once every 2 months but in the interim I am building my photography arsenal of lenses, soft boxes, flashes you name it. I now have some top lenses while I wait. You don;t have to aspire to make your living from photography but it's a damn good side job.

  • THE aSTIG @ CustomPinoyRides.com

    August 10, 2011 12:17 am

    Oh man I can totally relate to this. Actually, I don't think I even have to quit my day job!

    I do Car Photography for my website http://CustomPinoyRides.com

    I do my shoots during weekends, where I go to events, shows, races, fun runs, and all that. My site is very well supported by the local custom car scene, and my sponsors are the best in the business.

    What I try and do is multiply myself. I founded the Car Photography Club (in case anyone is interested to join, there's a banner on the right sidebar of my website leading to the forum). For photographers who are looking to get their work showcased on a site such as mine, they get to show their work on my site for free. Exposure for them, content for me. Sort of like the same guest blogging done here, and on other blogs!

    So there, work-life-balance for me. :)

  • Photography Expert

    August 9, 2011 01:40 pm

    There are many kinds of home base jobs or business these days. The possibilities are never-ending but the difficulty of most people today, is how to keep up with some of the advance competitors. You could also try something new and experiment with things. If you already feel that you like what you're doing and you are actually enjoying it, that's the first sign that you are getting closer to your success.

  • Fuzzypiggy

    August 9, 2011 02:20 am

    Thing that gets me is the tag "Pro Photographer", it's held in awe and esteem but all it means is that you get paid to take photographs. Like any business there are those that are absolutely stunning at it and for every one of them, there are 1,000 cowboys waiting in line to rip you off.

    I think about it sometimes, making money from this but I know I personally would lose the love of doing it, if it became a job. It's wonderful hobby and it really helps me switch off the stress of my job and I am greatful for that one thing that stops me going mental!

    I seriously admire anyone who can take a creative hobby and turn it into a living AND still maintain the love of the work, that's something I just don't think I could personally do.

  • SMM

    August 8, 2011 11:06 pm

    It is refreshing to know I am not the only one going this route. I work a full-time job during the week and while for the past five years I shot "professionally" as a newspaper photojournalist/writer/editor, I decided I wanted to take my photography further. I took two classes, where I actually didn't learn much, before reaching out to a pro photographer acquaintance. Just eight months later and I have a business license, all new mid-grade equipment, have been a second shooter for several weddings, have done one solo with my own second shooter, and have booked more than $5,000 in upcoming weddings and portrait shoots. That's all by word of mouth. It helps that I took photos professionally for so long in the small town I grew up in, but without even advertising I get at least two phone calls a week for different styles of shoots. I don't even want to advertise because I don't want to be overwhelmed between my full-time job and my side business. My point being that with the right preparation and management, starting slow can turn out to be a great thing.

    As for the comment above about the competition advising to start slow, I have found many of my photographer friends and acquaintances are very open with trading advice, and even business. It is truly wonderful that in a world where there is so much animosity, artists like photographers are friendly people who don't mind sharing their knowledge with their so-called competition. Pay it forward ...

  • Len Moser

    August 8, 2011 11:06 pm

    I don't agree with your statement about it being expensive to turn pro. It has never been cheaper! For $500 you can purchase a DSLR. Compare this to the film days. My first Hassleblad cost $2500 and that was just the body and a standard lens.

    Because of the proliferation of digital cameras, every other month another photographer opens up shop. Just Google "your town" and "photographer" to see what I mean. I live in a town of 60K and there are 35 photographers listed in Google maps. That's one photographer per 1400 people. You cannot make a living with that. I suggest to your readers: Don't EVER quit your day job!

  • matt blassey

    August 8, 2011 10:30 pm

    great read and advice about choosing a sensible path in your career. thanks for the article

  • bfeldman

    August 8, 2011 09:43 pm

    I dont want to become 'pro' on purpose so I definitley have a different perspective on this.

    I do however find it interesting that a professional in the field is making a recommendation to 'the competition' to start slow.

    Sometimes people need the 'do or die' position to get themselves going, though the smart decision is always to plan ahead.

  • Rowan

    August 8, 2011 07:43 pm

    The advice about slowly building your business whilst working in a day job as well is excellent, and something that a lot of people don't think about. It's hard to jump into photography as a job, and it's great to see a successful photographer admit that they had to start slowly! Thanks for the article.

  • Dave

    August 8, 2011 04:56 pm

    You're absolutely correct about not quitting your day job. The problem is people thinking that a nice DSLR = Pro Photographer. DPS is a great place to pick up beginner photography techniques and learn a little bit about the science, but any photo enthusiast who is serious about going pro will put in the time in the field and, hopefully, apprenticing or in a classroom. There are things that I picked up in the darkroom, processing black and white film, that I use daily. Composition can only get you so far. In the digital world, color correction can make or break a photo. I knew there was an epidemic when I saw a guy who was shooting his first wedding (ever) with a 5d MKII on auto.

    The other thing is that we are all (I include myself in this) so ego-centric about photography. I have stopped reading the comments here due to all of the self promotion and lack of relevant input from commenters. Maybe I'm the only one who ever read the comments, but I think you can learn from other folks' perspectives and experiences. But these days, nearly every comment is, "Oh, I love this. You can check out my pics just like this at www.mypicturesaresomecrappyvariationofdigitalhdr.com."

    I apologize for the rant, but I'm a long time reader of this site (seldom a comment contributor, admittedly) and I hate to see it become another place where people whore themselves for attention and pageviews. DPS,in my mind, should be about learning from people who understand the art, appreciation of said art and discussing about how to better yourself at the art. Even for seasoned vets.

    But hey, maybe DPS is doing good business and I've just outgrown it. Maybe I need to work with Darren on a sister site for pros ;)

    Anyway, here's my web.... just kidding.

  • scottc

    August 8, 2011 09:53 am

    Roger on the day job!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5710067909/

  • Jen Stamps

    August 8, 2011 02:37 am

    What a great article! As someone who has very recently started to turn my photography into more than a passion and hobby, this is exactly what I needed to read. It's kind of what I was already planning (don't quit the day job just yet), but it's nice to hear that from a pro who has been there! Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

  • Siobhan Rhodes

    August 8, 2011 02:23 am

    Fab advice. I started my business 18 months ago. At first is worked around 60 hours per week compressing my full time bank job to three 12 hour days. It was tough but gave me the chance to have the other four days on photography. Gradually photography built up (which seemed to take forever!) And I cut my hours at the bank to half days. After a lot of hard work I'm now feeling I can take a bit more of a jump. I have a very supportive employer (and husband!) And I am taking a short unpaid career break. This is exactly the low risk strategy I need. I take the summer off to shoot weddings and generate more work and I know I have something secure to go back to! My advice would be to keep working, keep pushing and don't stop trying. Eventually I know I will get there!

  • rio h.

    August 8, 2011 01:52 am

    i can't imagine quitting my day job at all, but what sucks is my weekend time is really limited. i have to split it with family, rest and photography, among other things. it's a very competitive field, especially portraiture, not to mention a lot of people are too cheap to pay for a photo shoot. so i'm not quitting my job for that :) i am, however, venturing into stock photography. it's kind of a big challenge to always think what would sell as stock, but also less pressure for my busy lifestyle because i just shoot anything i feel might be worth something.

  • ErikKerstenbeck

    August 8, 2011 12:58 am

    Hi

    Great article and sage advice! Although I consider myself a Photographer and have been paid for some work, have shot events, weddings, exhibited, none of this would have been possible had I not had a steady income from my Day Job as an Engineer. This has taken the stress out of Photography and allowed me to focus on technique, learning, etc without having to wonder if the next gigs will pay the mortgage.

    It also has allowed me to have fun photo shoots, ones that are just for me, to practice, refine my skills, like this day at the track!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/2237/

    Perhaps one day I will leave my Day Job, but right now, this is just the perfect balance!

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