Should you turn your passion into your job?

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People write to me every day saying, “I just love photography, how can I become a professional?”

And many of those that have already started, tell me, “I seem to be running around like crazy, for very little money!”

In truth – this is often what happens – you start with a dream and sometimes it turns into a nightmare! How can you make sure that doesn’t happen to you?

Consider the fact that photography is probably a release for you right now – something that you love doing in your spare time, something that makes you feel creative and fulfilled, something that gives you recognition from your peers when they spot your talent and appreciate your pictures. Once you turn your passion into your job, you need to maintain that creativity and fulfilment, and the best way to do this is to keep your job manageable, be realistic about how much money you can earn in today’s marketplace, and make everything as simple as possible, to allow you to be free to shoot and enjoy your life!

Let’s start by asking you WHY you want to be a professional?

Do your friends constantly tell you that you take great pictures and that you should do it for a living?

Have you got the iPhone bug – found out how creative you can be, and now want to take it to another level?

Maybe you’ve already bought your first DSLR and are just loving it!

Is it for the recognition you would get?  If someone buys your pictures, would you feel more confident about your ability?

Or is it because you want to give up your job – and you see photography as a fun way to earn a living?

Well the truth is, that it can be a fun way to earn money. But it’s got to be a balance – between enjoying your photography and earning enough money to live on. In my experience, it’s not quite as straightforward as simply shooting photos and getting paid for them.

Full time photography can easily become a very big job, in which you spend much of your time involved in marketing, admin and accounts, and very little in actually doing the passionate bits – just like many jobs. So it’s a good idea to think carefully about exactly what it is you want to achieve, in order to remain sane! And it’s also very important to consider how you are going to make money in today’s marketplace, with such increasing competition.

The accessibility of camera phones has inspired a new-found passion for photography in many people.

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Camera manufacturers are starting to recognise that they need to make cameras much simpler. Apple have revolutionised photography with the iPhone – they have created the perfect camera – it’s the one you always have with you – what could be more perfect than that?

It’s simple and easy to use and you don’t have to spend hours on your computer sorting out the pictures. You can make your decisions as soon as you take the photos – enhance them, put borders on, upload to Facebook and share with your friends – all in a matter of minutes. Apps have made photography even more fun!

So what’s this got to do with being professional?

Everything. The easier it is to take good photos, the more people want to be a photographer.

And the truth is that more people CAN be a photographer. But perhaps just not in the way it used to be done. Right now, things are changing dramatically in the world of photography,  so before you pack in your job and live your dream, here are a few things to think about, which I hope will make your decision easier.

In the past there were very few people shooting pictures in a contemporary way, and shooting with film was much harder than shooting digital because you needed greater experience and technical knowledge in order to deal with difficult lighting situations for example. It was also very expensive. Because photography was perceived as so technical, most clients knew that they needed a very experienced photographer to shoot them if they were to get really good photos.

Today it’s very different – many people simply ask their friends to shoot pictures at their wedding. Years ago this approach often ended in disaster, as cameras were either too basic to take a decent-quality picture, or too tricky for most people to know how to use. Now, however, it’s quite easy to get a good picture with the simplest of cameras – digital cameras make sure that most of the technical side just works. The trickiest thing to get right is getting the most out of your subject – this does require people skills and this is where many professionals have succeeded in the past. However, even this is changing. Many young couples are now used to shooting their own pictures – and they often know how to look really good in them – as many people spend their lives photographing themselves and showing off on Facebook!

Most wedding couples will have at least one friend who is really good with a camera and has that creative edge over other people (that person may well be you, as you are reading this). The result is that they have a whole lot of photos of their day shot from all different angles, by lots of different people – culminating in a really good record of their wedding.  They can download, free, any pictures they want from their friends’ Facebook pages and share their wedding quickly and easily online.

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So why is this relevant?

It’s relevant, because if you decide to start up a business, you may suddenly find that you are in competition with so many more photographers, and that charging enough money to make a profit and pay your mortgage is not as easy as it used to be.  Your passion and creativity may suddenly decrease when faced with lack of income, and admin overload, and you may find that the time taken to find clients and run your business in such a competitive and ever changing market, far outweighs the benefits.

Many people trying to make a full time income from photography are really struggling right now – not just because of the recession, but because of the way our industry has changed so rapidly.   Even a major player like Kodak has been unable to keep up with the changes that are taking place. Even they did not see how quickly all this would happen.

But if you’re smart, you can turn this to your advantage. The world has changed and it’s time to move on with it. Everything is set up for you to fulfil your passion of taking photos and selling them, whilst maintaining a good life/work balance. Provided you are happy to shoot pictures for a small amount of money to supplement your income, then you are very likely to succeed as a new photographer in today’s marketplace.

The solution

In my opinion, right now, the best starting point for getting paid for your photography is to set yourself up with Photobox ProGalleries.  This allows you to take pictures of your friends and clients, upload them to your ProGallery, set your own prices and let Photobox do all the admin for you!  You get to take pictures, receive recognition and earn money, without the stress and numerous dull aspects of running a full time photography business. You can personalise your page, decide which products you want to sell, and the prices you want to set – then help your clients with their order, or let them do it themselves – whilst Photobox print them all up and send them to either yourself or your client direct – thereby allowing you to have as much control over things as you feel comfortable with.

I genuinely think this is the ideal way for people starting out in social photography today, to enjoy their passion and make money from it at the same time. I wish they had been around when I started my business – they’ve taken all the stress out of the admin side – which means you can spend much more time shooting, and you can give your clients what they really want – which is a great set of pictures to do what they like with.

http://www.photoboxgallery.com/take-a-tour

Just take a look at some of the galleries on here, and you’ll see just how creative some photographers are, and how they can make money from photography.

ENJOY YOUR PASSION

So, my advice is this – set up a small business if you like, but focus on shooting for fun – make that your key priority, and don’t let it get out of hand! Settle for getting paid enough to cover your costs and give you a bit of extra money. That way, you can really enjoy photography with the added bonus that the competition will no longer matter to you.

Above all else, continue to shoot what you want to shoot to keep your passion alive. There’s a lot of fun to be had with photography. You can keep on learning, being creative, getting recognition, and really enjoying what you do.

Good luck!
Annabell x

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