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Turning Pro Part III ~ Passion and Vision

A few weeks ago I wrote 15 Tips About Turning Pro.  I thought it would be a good time to expand on some of those tips and add a few more. Today’s article is the third in that series. Hope you find these new suggestions useful. If you missed the previous two articles in the series, you can read them here: Portfolio and Persistence and People Skills and Generosity.

Part 3: Passion and Vision

Remember the day you fell in love with photography, that ‘aha moment’ when you knew this was going to be a life-long passion? Did you wonder if it was possible to turn that passion for photography into a full time job?  Well, if you are good enough, experienced enough and have a solid portfolio to present to prospective clients, that dream can come true.  There are risks, however, such as the obvious ones of leaving a secure 9 to 5 job to launch into the unknown career of freelance photography, but I want you to be aware of another consideration when making the jump to becoming pro, the one of possibly losing that passion for the craft once it becomes your every-day job.  Sooner or later, it could happen.

It happened to me and to many other photographers I know.  Once your fun hobby becomes your job, dealing with all those daily, nitty-gritty tasks such as marketing and accounting can become chores that most creative people don’t enjoy. You may feel your initial vision is now compromised to meet the needs of your clients. In a way, it is. You are shooting what they want, when they want it and even how they want it.  After all, that’s why they hired you! You’ll need to use your creativity to comply with their demands, all with a smile. I nearly lost that passion a few years ago until I realized the problem. I was shooting for clients during the week and leaving my camera in the closet on the weekend. I knew I couldn’t be choosy about the jobs I took and was accepting work I didn’t particularly enjoy.  Plus I was also spending a lot of time processing my clients’ images and not mine. So, when the weekend rolled around, I wasn’t shooting for fun anymore.  The good part of accepting all those jobs during the early years is that I eventually discovered what I liked and disliked. It’s all part of the process.

What changed and how did my passion for photography become stronger than ever?

I challenged myself to shoot self assignments on a regular basis. I made a priority to make the time for this, no matter what. This allowed me to freely develop and express my vision without worrying about anybody else’s. I got out of my comfort zone and shot unfamiliar genres. I learned so much this way, and soon became better prepared for the unexpected during commercial shoots. The result was almost immediate – I fell in love with being a story teller all over again! My renewed passion and confidence gave me the edge I needed to better sell myself as a pro photographer, to acquire new clients with whom I could specialize in genres that I truly enjoy to shoot.  And my business grew because a more satisfied photographer makes for more satisfied clients!

Personal assignments can vary, so you decide what works best given your schedule. A few ideas would be regular photo walks with a predetermined theme, a one-day photojournalistic assignment, or a bigger 365-day or 52-week project. If you are currently a pro photographer and experiencing the same loss of passion because photography has become just another job, I urge you to give yourself some personal projects to find your muse again. It’s there – just buried!  If you are about to make the jump to turn pro, remember to keep self-assignments part of your routine to keep your passion fresh and alive.  A bientôt!

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Valerie Jardin I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it's an obsession, almost an addiction. I am pleased to be a new master of street photography at The Arcanum. When I'm not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! Visit my Website Follow me on Facebook , Twitter , Google+.

  • http://www.wildlifeencounters.eu steve slater

    As well as assigments for customers where you have to follow a script I also make sure I spend some time each week which I call me time. During this time I shoot what I want to and also use the time to push the boundaries and experiment.
    Sometimes what you like to shoot is also liked by customers so this can become profitable.
    Example:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Scenes-from-Italy-and-the-Alps/G0000ID.UepOSY4U/I0000T2OZwE2BgBg

    The main thing is it stops making the job 9-5 and brings the fun back into it :)

  • ccting

    Great article. !

  • Helen

    This is all very well and good, but, being constantly asked to work for free in return for potentially being exploited and “it’s good experience” is wearing extremely thin. And trying to sell your work to commercially viable organisations who always retort with the old chestnut of “we love your work but we can’t pay” is seriously grinding me down.
    I’ve had to take another temp job just to pay the bills as in the UK there’s no work. Or lots of very amateurish organisations offering photo shoots for £10.
    I’ve no idea at the moment how I’m going to break this game. I tried 20 years ago and experienced the same thing.
    I’ve been told such hilarious things as: “you should shoot weddings for £50″, “you know nothing about lighting (really)”. I gave up my well paid job to go back to University to re-train and re-study my love of photography but I swear more established photographers are scared of new talent coming through and ‘stealing their clients’ which is nonsense.

  • http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com raghavendra

    every photographer should read this article!
    when love and skill work together expect a master piece.

  • http://www.photomint.com/blog Lara White

    So true! I was very surprised to find how much going pro affected the passion I had for photography as a hobby, once it became work!. When you start a business, you don’t realize how the day-today operations of running a business can impact your passion and joy for photography.

    Self assignments are the perfect way to continue to push yourself to create images that will inspire you and keep your passion burning, which is so important for photographers. I found myself to be personally inspired by the self portraits ebook by Anna Gay, as that was something that I do only for me. What’s great about turning pro is that your skills develop at a much, much faster rate than you typically would as a hobbyist. So among the many benefits is that as you are able to start channeling that passion you started with into a photography that is just for you, you not only have a much better command of your equipment and ability to create the images you envision, you also likely have a few more lenses to play with!

  • http://www.photomint.com/blog Lara White

    Self assignments are the perfect way to continue to push yourself to create images that will inspire you and keep your passion burning, which is so important for photographers. I found myself to be personally inspired by the self portraits ebook by Anna Gay, as that was something that I do only for me. What’s great about turning pro is that your skills develop at a much, much faster rate than you typically would as a hobbyist. So among the many benefits is that as you are able to start channeling that passion you started with into a photography that is just for you, you not only have a much better command of your equipment and ability to create the images you envision, you also likely have a few more lenses to play with!

  • http://www.kerstenbeck.com Erik Kerstenbeck

    Hi

    Wonderful article! I think the one of the challenges is to keep learning, pushing boundaries, shooting, experimenting, making mistakes – even when nobody is there to tell you to do it! Full Time means Full Time and Pro means that you have to treat this like a Career and not just a Paying Hobby.

    Also keep your camera with you at all times and be ready for anything…here we lucked into a Vintage Carousel in Santa Monica and grabbed this shot before being busted by the No-Shots-Here-Without-A-Permit Cops!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/coming-full-circle/

  • Average Joe

    Valerie, this was such a great post! Very encouraging and helpful. Merci beaucoup! :)

  • steve marcum

    Why can’t people comment without having to post a link to their work. Sometimes I think they post a comment just to be able to post the link.

    Steve

  • http://energizeyourphotography.blogspot.com EnergizedAV

    The more I work for other people the more “self assignments” I think of. The old “Gee I wish I could be doing such and such instead of this.” But the great thing about today is that we have so many avenues such as DVD sales, prints, Youtube, blogging, and so on. Keep the money jobs coming in, but by all means explore it all.
    Good post, Valerie

  • http://www.iAwani.com/ iAwani

    after reading this article, passion alone is not enough. We have to have skills, knowledge and network.

Some older comments

  • EnergizedAV

    June 19, 2012 04:00 am

    The more I work for other people the more "self assignments" I think of. The old "Gee I wish I could be doing such and such instead of this." But the great thing about today is that we have so many avenues such as DVD sales, prints, Youtube, blogging, and so on. Keep the money jobs coming in, but by all means explore it all.
    Good post, Valerie

  • steve marcum

    June 12, 2012 12:57 pm

    Why can't people comment without having to post a link to their work. Sometimes I think they post a comment just to be able to post the link.

    Steve

  • Average Joe

    June 9, 2012 07:06 am

    Valerie, this was such a great post! Very encouraging and helpful. Merci beaucoup! :)

  • Erik Kerstenbeck

    June 7, 2012 12:17 am

    Hi

    Wonderful article! I think the one of the challenges is to keep learning, pushing boundaries, shooting, experimenting, making mistakes - even when nobody is there to tell you to do it! Full Time means Full Time and Pro means that you have to treat this like a Career and not just a Paying Hobby.

    Also keep your camera with you at all times and be ready for anything...here we lucked into a Vintage Carousel in Santa Monica and grabbed this shot before being busted by the No-Shots-Here-Without-A-Permit Cops!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/coming-full-circle/

  • Lara White

    June 6, 2012 01:04 am

    Self assignments are the perfect way to continue to push yourself to create images that will inspire you and keep your passion burning, which is so important for photographers. I found myself to be personally inspired by the self portraits ebook by Anna Gay, as that was something that I do only for me. What's great about turning pro is that your skills develop at a much, much faster rate than you typically would as a hobbyist. So among the many benefits is that as you are able to start channeling that passion you started with into a photography that is just for you, you not only have a much better command of your equipment and ability to create the images you envision, you also likely have a few more lenses to play with!

  • Lara White

    June 5, 2012 05:00 pm

    So true! I was very surprised to find how much going pro affected the passion I had for photography as a hobby, once it became work!. When you start a business, you don't realize how the day-today operations of running a business can impact your passion and joy for photography.

    Self assignments are the perfect way to continue to push yourself to create images that will inspire you and keep your passion burning, which is so important for photographers. I found myself to be personally inspired by the self portraits ebook by Anna Gay, as that was something that I do only for me. What's great about turning pro is that your skills develop at a much, much faster rate than you typically would as a hobbyist. So among the many benefits is that as you are able to start channeling that passion you started with into a photography that is just for you, you not only have a much better command of your equipment and ability to create the images you envision, you also likely have a few more lenses to play with!

  • raghavendra

    June 5, 2012 12:25 pm

    every photographer should read this article!
    when love and skill work together expect a master piece.

  • Helen

    June 5, 2012 10:48 am

    This is all very well and good, but, being constantly asked to work for free in return for potentially being exploited and "it's good experience" is wearing extremely thin. And trying to sell your work to commercially viable organisations who always retort with the old chestnut of "we love your work but we can't pay" is seriously grinding me down.
    I've had to take another temp job just to pay the bills as in the UK there's no work. Or lots of very amateurish organisations offering photo shoots for £10.
    I've no idea at the moment how I'm going to break this game. I tried 20 years ago and experienced the same thing.
    I've been told such hilarious things as: "you should shoot weddings for £50", "you know nothing about lighting (really)". I gave up my well paid job to go back to University to re-train and re-study my love of photography but I swear more established photographers are scared of new talent coming through and 'stealing their clients' which is nonsense.

  • ccting

    June 5, 2012 09:42 am

    Great article. !

  • steve slater

    June 5, 2012 09:30 am

    As well as assigments for customers where you have to follow a script I also make sure I spend some time each week which I call me time. During this time I shoot what I want to and also use the time to push the boundaries and experiment.
    Sometimes what you like to shoot is also liked by customers so this can become profitable.
    Example:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Scenes-from-Italy-and-the-Alps/G0000ID.UepOSY4U/I0000T2OZwE2BgBg

    The main thing is it stops making the job 9-5 and brings the fun back into it :)

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