I Turned My Photography Passion Into My Career. Do I Regret it?

I Turned My Photography Passion Into My Career. Do I Regret it?

It’s safe to say we’ve all heard the phrase “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” There is also the antithesis to that, where if you love what you do, you’ll work 24/7. Well, I turned my passion for photography into my career, but the ultimate question is: does it feel like work, and do I regret my decision?

I would love to give you a short, sweet, nicely packaged answer to this question and have this be a lot shorter, but unfortunately, I simply cannot. Turning this question into a simple “yes” or “no” eliminates a lot of the nuance of the conversation and takes away many things that I would suggest anyone looking at going down this career path be aware of.

All this to say, yes, it does feel like work, but also no, it doesn’t. Allow me to explain. In short, I love what I do. That’s why I do it. But there have been countless nights where I’ve doubted whether I’ve made the right decision. There are more times than I care to mention where I’ve considered dropping it all, getting a typical 9-5, and living out that life. There are even times when I don’t enjoy it. Whether it be a long, hard day, a difficult client, a slow month, or anything in between, these things seem to happen to just about any artist I’ve talked to. So, at the very least, I’m not alone? 

Allow me to explain why it does and doesn’t feel like work.

Yes, It Does

I often will always be working. Whether planning shoots, editing, file organizing, admin, pitching, outreach, shooting, I’m always doing something. Beyond that, 2020 showed me that I need more streams of income to add to my business to allow not only for flexibility but also security. So, I also have those that I will put some work into, and then they also help fuel my overarching photo business and vice versa.

At the end of the day, as a photographer, I am running a business and need to treat it as such. This means that it will feel like work. And sometimes, even when I’m burnt out, when I don’t feel like shooting, when I don’t feel like performing, I still have to because that’s what is required of me and my business.

And it isn’t always easy. There are months that you feel on top of the world, and there are moments where you wonder if you’ll ever work again. Over time, the highs and lows begin to even out mentally as you realize it’s the natural ebb and flow of things, and the best you can do is adapt and keep going.

But there’s more beyond the doom and gloom of things, so don’t fret too much.

No, It Doesn’t

I always come back to taking photos, to creating. It’s something even if I tried that I can’t really get away from. Now sure, I could have a regular job and take photos simply as a hobby, but here’s the thing… I don’t want to.

At the end of the day, I get paid to take photos. For my creativity. For my vision. People have trusted me with a camera to meet their needs and fulfill their requests, briefs, etc. And that, for me, is the coolest thing. It’s an art form that allows me to not only capture beauty but also create it. To share my perspective, and to create something from nothing. At the end of the day, I’m not saving lives; I’m creating cool things with cool people, and that excites me. It also eliminates a certain amount of stress from things. Everything can be on fire, but you can go “wait, we’re just taking photos. It’s not that deep,” and take a breath and carry on. I have immense respect for those who are actually saving lives, and ultimately, I try to be humble enough to know that my work isn’t necessarily life or death.

Beyond everything, I also get to collaborate with incredibly talented people with what they do. And being surrounded by a creative, collaborative environment, and focusing on a vision together, that lights my soul on fire. Ultimately, even if someone wasn’t paying me to create what I do, I would still do it anyways because I enjoy it that much.

I suppose that last statement is really what it comes down to. Would you be shooting if no one paid you to? Now, monetary gain is also a great motivator, but in my experience, not having it be the only motivator is critical. Because if you’re only in it for the money, it makes sticking with the journey a lot harder. A lot. And I would argue there are many better-paying professions with less specialization, but if you love it, if it sets your soul on fire, then maybe it is worth considering.

On the note of treating photography like a business, you have to be driven. Really driven. Because that will push you through those moments of doubt. Now, there is an exception to this, which is if you just want to take photos and be less of an independent entity, then becoming a staff photographer may be more up your alley, as you’ll have more stability, more predictability, and you’ll generally shoot a similar thing day-to-day. For me, I like the change, I like the different environments and challenges, but I also realize that the sense of uncertainty isn’t for everyone. For some, it brings anxiety; for others, it can light a fire under you. I think a level of self-awareness around what you want from photography will help you discover what direction you want to go with it. If you want the stability and the predictability, perhaps the staff route is something worth pursuing. If you like the challenge, and you want to work for yourself, then maybe the freelance world is worth it. And if this article has you reconsidering, and you just want to shoot what you want, when you want, without expectations of clients, etc., then maybe it’s worth it to keep the practice as a hobby. There is nothing wrong at all with that. I know for some, it keeps the love of the craft alive where otherwise, they may learn to resent their camera.

So, ultimately ask yourself what you want from photography. I did, and even with the ups and downs, I can confidently say, for me, it’s worth it.

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