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7 Reasons You May Not Want to be a Professional…

7 Reasons You May Not Want to be a Professional Photographer or Golfer

It’s been mentioned before. As a matter of fact it was on Feb. 18th, 2013 that I first commented on one of the deterrents to becoming a professional photographer and implied that at some point there would be a follow-up entry on the subject. The comment, that 3.4 percent of a professional’s time is spent shooting and 96.6 percent of his or her time is spent doing everything else that is involved in running any business may have been too heavily weighted on the “shooting side”.

Way back then, 13ish months ago, and perhaps still holding out hope that the industry would in some way start to recover and that the proverbial cream would rise to the top, I was still optimistic that those I had taught and mentored would have a reasonable shot at earning some cash, maybe even a living as a photographer. Now, even less so.

Today, if asked, by someone I had a strong dislike for and who was graced with the most amazing of skills, if striving to become a “professional” photographer was a a wise decision, I could not bring myself to encourage their pursuit.

To be completely honest, when asked about the feasibility of a career in photography, I would liken an individuals chance of real success in the industry to be akin to making it on the PGA Tour. Very, very, very few make it. Of those with the greatest of work ethic, most will invest a great deal of time and expense only to wallow a while at the club or qualifier level and then sell their clubs in disgust and self-disgrace. Some will win on a rare occasion but will have to keep their day jobs in order to keep up with new advances in technology. Fewer will make it to “the dance” with a chance to play regularly. Most of them will find that they would have been better off financially in keeping their day-jobs and competing on long-weekends than sluffing around at the bottom of the tour eating bad food, drinking worse whiskey and nurturing their bad backs by sleeping in a tent. Getting your card, does not mean keeping it is easy. Only those who “win a major” will be afforded a chance to rest on their reputation a while the work roles in. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are more Tigers and that some may have the skill, and more importantly the drive and business acumen, to reach the top-level and surround themselves with an entourage of supporters to look after the 96.6 percent so that they can focus only on the task at hand, just not very many.

Not unlike the game of golf, most of which is mental, most of the photography game is not physical. It has nothing to do with gear or your ability to use it although having the budget to buy the best helps. These days, almost everyone has the ability to quickly learn the basics. Success in photography often has more to do with creativity and your ability to market yourself and your business than it does your ability to make good photographs. You have to make the best of bad lies, play well under pressure and sink a bunch of putts.

Becoming a professional golfer means giving up golf. In order to succeed in golf, you need to give up playing golf. You won’t play with your buddies, or your family, and you won’t drink while you do it. Similarly, pro photographers make fewer photos than a hobbyist and dedicate significantly less of their time to shooting. They spend way more time selling, editing, managing social media, and accounting. You won’t make photos socially and you won’t drink while you do it. A pro golfer plays less golf but spends a great deal more time on golf-associated details… range practice, short-game practice, putting practice. You want to be good at golf, you work at golf. Those who do nothing but play the game stay average or below. You want to be a pro photographer, you give up on photography and you work at it. Reason number one that you may not want to be a professional photographer… you actually want to enjoy making photographs.

Reason Number Two: You may not want to be a pro photographer or golfer… if you like your family. The sacrifices are very similar. They both work all the time. The “traditional work week” of a golfer is spent working (practicing all day, every day) and then “family time” is spent working (competing Thursday through Sunday with more practicing thrown in for good measure, not to mention the bar time with the boyz, and more time spent on the range practicing and more time in a corner feeling bad for one’s self). For a photographer, the “work week” involves the business of photography. The evenings and weekends (family time), when non-photographers and the subjects of photographers are available to be photographed, is spent making photographs. What this means is that time with family and friends is next to non-existent.

If you enjoy regularily dining with real family and friends on foods of great variety, you don't want to be pro golfer or photographer.

Your time at home will be spent with someone beaking you for your inattentiveness while you contemplate your next photo or tweet.Morning Lecture - 1/400 sec. @ F4.5, ISO 2000 - 150mmMorning Lecture – 1/400 sec. @ F4.5, ISO 2000 – 150mm

That may lead to a… ScrapScrap - 1/800 sec. @ F5, ISO 4000 - 200mm1/800 sec. @ F5, ISO 4000 – 200mm

but with any luck it will end in a forgiving… CuddleCuddle

You won’t enjoy being a photographer or golfer if you don’t like yourself. In both cases you will spend a great deal of time alone. It may or may not be due to your looks.Solitary LivingSolitary Living - 1/2000 sec. @ F4.5, ISO 1000 – 180mm

You may not want to be a photographer or golfer if you can’t handle  being subjected to constant self doubt and re-evaluation.RWGP8683

Reason number five you may not want to be a pro photographer or golfer… There are snakes in the grass and, it’s a real rat-race out there. Whether the rats or the snakes come out on top remains to be seen but either way, in both professional ventures you will have to be extremely competitive and have a bit of killer instinct. Without it, you will likely come and go without being noticed.RWGP8889

You may not want to be a pro photographer or golfer if you, in any way shape or form, lack confidence. Unless you can puff up your chest, spread your wings, and say with conviction that you have what it takes to get the job done, you will fail. You have to be able to take charge of every situation, believe in yourself, and most importantly, finish. Your competition should be afraid of you.RWGP8694

And the 7th and final reason you may not want to turn pro… You are doing it for the money. Surely I need not elaborate on this. The desperation and stress placed on doing anything that you love for money will surely remove your love for it.

If you love photography so much so that the idea of doing so for a living has actually crossed your mind, give long and hard consideration to it and then, keep your day job, for it will pay the bills and provide you with the leisure time one needs to actually go out and make photographs. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do but sometimes it would be nice just to make photos for the sake of making photos, not because I’m invoicing someone to do so. Earning a living from photography, at least for me, has meant less time making photographs.  So if what you really want to do is make photos, just keep doing it. Keep clicking and sharing – good will come of it and you will continue to enjoy it.

Thanks for reading and allowing me to combine three or four passions in one blog. The photos above were all captured during a recent visit to the San Diego Zoo. There are a few more images below the contact form that I just could not find a way to work in.

Spring is just around the corner and with it comes my time on the range and time on my bikes (two things I love dearly), as well as more time earning a living by making photos and teaching others to do so. While at it I will continue to offer a diverse range of services and conjuring content for these pages. If you need me, let me know.

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Problem with making photos at a zoo is they are often not open during the time of day that offers the best lighting conditions. That combined with the fact that I was at the zoo with two adult women who I believe were there to “put miles on their new walking shoes” meant working rather quickly. I tried to make the best “compositional practice” out of a somewhat hasty visit and had fun doing so. I had no budget and no restraints, only a few moments to try and capture some memories… the reason we take photos in the first place.

Most of the variations in camera settings stemmed from having to adjust for lack of light (higher ISO as there was a lot of working in complete shade) or a desire to include more detail and depth of field (higher apertures) Let me know if there are any that stand out to you.