Many amateur photographers dream of being a professional and making their passion for photography pay enough to live that dream.
It’s the allure of traveling, exploring, and photographing the landscape, wilderness areas, and far off travel destinations that drives many to take what they love to do part time and turn it into a full time business.
Pros and amateurs have the same passion: to be out there exploring, experiencing, discovering, and documenting with a camera.
It is the idea that being paid doing what you love to do will allow even more photographic opportunities, including travel to exotic places and that in turn will earn enough money to fuel the same cycle.
In reality, that idea, that dream, may be more of an illusion. Going pro brings a whole new set of challenges and hurdles.
Dreams are free, reality has costs.
Why Amateurs May Have More Fun
The amateur photographer often has other means to make a living that in turn subsidizes that passion to photograph. Many have the latest and greatest gear and the means to travel from time to time to exotic or distant locations to satisfy that passion.
- The amateur can explore and experiment and make mistakes and no one cares. They can pick up where they left off and be comfortable no matter their skill level.
- They can leave photography for other life’s interests and return anytime they wish.
- They never have to consider how to monetize their efforts or determine what to shoot for today’s markets. Since they are shooting for the joy there is not really a cost or an expense that needs to be justified.
- They usually do not need costly business insurance and if they have a regular job, they may not have to pay the outrageous costs of health insurance, need to pay for office space, or have a business license.
- The amateur does not have to be a people person or master the skills of salesmanship or marketing themselves or even negotiating tough deals.
- The amateur has nothing to prove to anyone except to themselves. Only they care whether they are a great photographer or not.
- The amateur can pick and choose where and what to photograph based on places they wish to visit. They photograph for fun!
Being a Pro is Also Fun, Occasionally.
The pro on the other hand must spend a great deal of time and costs to master their medium. The pros constantly have to work on their skills to stay competitive to meet client needs.
They need to own a lot of gear and it is usually well used and some of it needs updating every few years.
The pro spends most of their time on business needs seeking new clients and business opportunities. They need to continually evaluate what to shoot that has the best chance of financial return. That includes shooting subjects the markets demand but may be less interesting.
Working pros need to always watch the bottom line and are often trying to determine whether they can afford new gear, afford an employee to lighten the load, or how to justify the costs to shoot a destination they wish to visit but may not be in demand by the markets.
They have to compete in possibly the worst market ever and earn enough from their photography to make the house payment, pay for business and health insurance, the car, food, the children’s needs, and save for those quarterly tax payments. All while banking some cash for the slow times.
- The pro needs to master self promotion, marketing, image pricing for today’s markets, and develop the skills to fiercely negotiate a decent price.
- On assignment, pros shoot what the client wants and the way the client wants it shot.
- The professional photographer needs to prove themselves constantly, every single day to somebody they hope to do business with.
- They need to prove themselves to be worthy of a call back by having a resume of notable achievements. They must stand out!
- They need to spend years building a library of high quality stock images that can beat the competition.
- They need to prove they can handle the assignment and that means having other assignments under their belt.
- The pro needs to push relentlessly at everything they do and often needs to be available 7 days a week for any potential business.
The pro wears a lot of hats. They need to create great images, process and archive those images, research new markets, promote their business, make sales calls, negotiate a sale, deliver the product, and no doubt much more.
Who Has More fun: The Pro or Amateur?
When a photographer turns pro they are starting a business and that businesses product is photography. That product needs to meet the needs of specific client base for that business to succeed.
Pros compete against anybody and everybody no matter their background and today there is often little difference between a pro and amateur when looking at the quality of images.
Most pros in today’s markets struggle to find enough time (or money) to shoot as much as they wish. The business demands first and foremost, their efforts to a market the businesses products.
This business like any needs capitol investment in the form of equipment and marketing tools as well as financial resources to build an inventory of great images before much income is generated.
The business of photography has little to do with photographing nature these days! It is now all about nurturing a business that creates and sells photography.
If you are considering going pro, take time to seriously evaluate WHY you want to do that. If it is all about the love of shooting, you may find your current lifestyle allows more shooting and more enjoyment. Being in the business of professional nature photography forces you to spend much of your time being the owner of a business.
In today’s markets there is nothing wrong with being an amateur who spends their time photographing simply for the joy!
What do you think? Please leave a comment.
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