Around the time I started to take my photography seriously, a couple of years ago, I started to “follow” professional photographers on the internet. Reading strobist, going on a strobist seminar, following people like McNally, Zack Arias, JoeyL, Zemotion, duChemin, Wizwow and a lot of other professionals – reading their books, blog and tweets. All of them – good people, all of them inspiring – all of them – professional.
I was getting really serious about this. I experimented with different kind of business card. Wrote a plan. Designed a web-page, based on all the good advice from Arias. Focused on my strong points and worked towards a portfolio and web-presence that would show me to the world as the photographer I wanted to sell.
… I found that I was losing my passion. I went and shot a family. They where quite happy with the results – but I wasn’t. I had fun doing it, but afterwards, there wasn’t a single photo in the set that made me proud.
Working on a “perfect portfolio” was blocking me from doing what I wanted to do. The inner voice was going: “Don’t go shoot half naked models in an old factory – not good for the family friendly portfolio. Don’t do more macro, landscape, street art, etc. Don’t upload out-of-focus-but-fun shots. Somebody might see them and not want to buy my services.”
I went too far. In my search for perfection in a narrow business model, I had forced out all the things I also found fun to do.
The thing is; I’m really privileged. I’ve a nice, and paying, day job. I don’t have to make money on my photography. Sure it would be nice and it makes it so much easier to justify the purchase of new gear, that you made the money for it, with the old gear. It’s just an investment…
But it’s like the old food saying, either you live to eat, or you just eat to live … I don’t shoot to live – I live to shoot.
I think it was duChemin’s VisionMongers that did it for me. The sub-title of it is Making a Life and a Living in Photography, but what I found was, what that I while I was trying too hard make a living in photography, I was leaving my photography life behind. All those sacrifices duChemin mentions – I just wasn’t ready to make them.
Because I had no reason to make them; I was sacrificing a lot of things, and I didn’t know why. Because all those things I wanted to do – all those things at the end of the rainbow. I was already doing them. Maybe I wasn’t doing them 24/7 – Maybe I wasn’t living as a full time photographer, but I was doing it on my terms.
The reason professionals mention for becoming professionals photographers, is that they need to be shooting all the time. They want to shoot all the time. I understand that. I see where they are coming from. I understand that passion like that, helps you make the sacrifices needed.
But I simply do not have that drive.
I was trading my freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted to, with only doing some of the things I wanted, and some things I probably wouldn’t want to do, all the time. I got caught up in all the blogs filled with advice on how to become a professional, that I forgot to check that I really wanted – if I really needed that.
Could I do both? Do the fun stuff and have a portfolio targeted towards some kind of specific marked (or even two portfolios)? Sure. But why? So that I can call myself a professional photographer?
I think I’ll count my blessings, and “just” work on being a real photographer.