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You can make money on that!

July 27, 2009

It seems that whenever someone reaches a certain level of skill and confidence with their photography, thoughts inevitably turn toward doing it “professionally” and making money at it.  Very often, the level of skill at which this happens is woefully short of that required of a true professional. Professionals do more than just make pretty pictures. They do it consistently, no matter what challenges they face in doing so, and they do it even when the subject is one toward which they feel no passion.

If you see a magestic animal in the wild, or a stunning vista, or a laughing child or any other kind of “easy” shot, it’s no great trick to think it’s beautiful and to capture a nice image of it. When the animal has mange or the vista has power lines running across it or the child has snot running out of its nose and you can still manage to get a breathtaking shot, and if you can do that every single time, then maybe you have the skills to be a professional.

I see pretty pictures all the time. I see photographers all the time who take great pictures. Being professional requires being at a whole other level.

Assuming you make it there, prepare yourself for a few more bits of tremendous heartache:

  1. There is no money in photography. When people look at your pictures, they may say they are nice. They may say they are beautiful. They may say all sorts of things but unless they say “I really want to hand over my money so I can have a copy of this picture for myself”, it does you no good. Even if you do find enough people desperate to hand over their money, there is the question of competition. Professional photographers are a dime a dozen. The only thing differentiating most of them is price.
  2. Once you are doing it as a business, you no longer have the luxury of taking pictures that you enjoy. You must take peoples that people are willing to pay you for.
  3. When you are running a business, much of your time will be taken up with doing things other than what attracted you to the business in the first place. You will be marketing, selling, performing administrative tasks, marketing, promoting your business, marketing, prospecting, researching competition, marketing, networking, marketing and a hundred other things. Count yourself lucky if the actual taking of pictures occupies more than 10% of your time.
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