Westminster fountain at sunset

by Jorge Córdoba

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I love photography.
I love capturing beautiful images and preserving precious memories.
I believe that I have a gift for this - one which I have worked hard to hone and grow over recent years.

I am wondering about trying to earn some of my income from my photography.
However, I find the thought very scary: surely I can't be good enough? Yet I think that I can consistently get results as good as most of what I find online.

How can I tell if I'm good enough?

Am I even asking the right question?

What questions should I be asking myself?

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1  
Do ever really know until you try it? –  Johan Karlsson Jan 18 '12 at 15:29
    
When you know that you're ready to run a business. –  jon2512chua May 23 at 7:45

5 Answers 5

up vote 25 down vote accepted

My tips:

  • Don't assume you're good because friends and family say your are.
  • Don't start with weddings. Wait until you've done a few simpler things first (christenings / babies etc). You may be a great photographer when snapping flowers but how are your people skills / planning skills etc.?
  • Try to sell some stock photos or prints in a market.
  • Go for it! Just don't quit your job until you have run out of weekends and are turning down bookings ;)

Good luck!

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Thanks for a pithy answer. :) –  AJ Finch Jul 16 '10 at 15:40
8  
+1, also to add: it's less with your skills as a photographer, and more about your business skills. –  Alan Jul 16 '10 at 20:18

This is a pretty complicated question, with a number of answers. First of all, I think you should be at the point where you are already making money from hobby photography - either through small product shoots, architectural stuff from craigslist, shooting friends small weddings, etc.

Second, if you already have a job, and you are looking to replace it, then its pretty easy - do you know that you could be making more money with photography, but your job is in the way? Can you project your income from photography, plus the additional benefit of doing something you like, putting you past the income of your current job? If so, its time to think about it.

Third, have you subjected your work to a series of peer reviews? This may be the most important step, in my opinion. Make sure that you have a good resource of pro photogs, and see what they think about your work. Take their advice and improve certain aspects that they recommend. Keep in mind that while a number of people out there shoot as wedding photographers, baby photographers, and class photographers, they probably wouldn't really fit into the skill level of a true "professional". I guess what I mean to say is that you can make money, or you can make money and take good shots.

Of course this is all said by a photog thats made less than a total of $1k!

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1  
+1 on peer reviews ... and don't get upset if someone doesn't like a picture. –  david Jul 16 '10 at 19:58

Don't do it.

The photography business is insanely competitive and it's extremely difficult to make a living. The hours are very long and the pay is bad.

  • Laurence Kim, a pro wedding photographer, on the necessary gear ($4k recommended minimum): http://laurencekimblog.com/index.php?link=140
  • Ken Rockwell on going pro: http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/go-pro.htm (Note that Rockwell is frequently insane, so use caution in reading his work.) The key quote is:

    If you want to photograph professionally you'll make less money, have to shoot the boring stuff in crappy locations for which you're hired, shoot it the way the client wants, and probably have to shoot everything as if it's some big emergency every time. You'll probably only be able to afford beat up old gear that's "good enough."

    Making a buck in photography is a lot tougher than keeping a real job. The photo jobs and locations that pay the most are the most boring. Think you're going to have people hiring you as a travel photographer? Guess again.

On evaluating your own work:

  • Be able to explain why your good photos are good. If you can't do this, you won't be able to consistently replicate high quality, which is essential for a pro.
  • +1 on peer reviews. You need to have good people who are willing to be brutally honest, and you need to listen to them.
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+1 (more if I could) for first linking to KRock, then mentioning his insanity :D –  Alan Jul 16 '10 at 20:15
    
Define 'boring'. Actually, I like boring - i like knowing I'm making money that my competition is passing up. (disclaimer: I'm thinking of other things, not photography.) –  DarenW Feb 9 '11 at 0:05
    
Another one; professional photographer Kirk Tuck on the future of photography as a business proposition — Is the age of "professional photographer" over? –  mattdm Jan 18 '12 at 16:16
1  
It's tough out there but "can't win, why try?" cannot be the right answer either. –  Steve Ross Jan 20 '12 at 0:02
    
Well, if you can't win, why try? At best, you'll just waste your time. But the larger point is, going pro is so difficult that if one is uncertain about it, then it's pretty likely to be a bad idea. One must be exceedingly driven and passionate in order to succeed. –  Reid Jan 27 '12 at 22:59

I am not a pro ... and I suspect I never will become one.

The main reason is: I really enjoy taking photos ... but I don't enjoy HAVING to take photos.

I learned this when I was taking photography classes at a local botanical garden. When I was just taking pictures of flowers, I loved it. But when I had to take pictures of flowers for the class, it turned into a chore.

My point in this answer ... be sure you even want to consider turning pro ... because when it's a job, it might not be as much fun.

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7  
Turning pro ruined my favorite hobby. It was nearly a decade before I could stand to look at a camera after I decided it wasn't for me. –  user2719 Dec 19 '10 at 17:09
    
I agree 100% with this warning. –  BBischof Mar 22 '11 at 5:31

Depending on what it is you shoot, you can just publish your photographs or offer them for for sale and see what happens.

If your interest is fine art photography, that is easily accomplished - even at no cost to you and you wouldn't need to leave your main job either. (Artflakes is one option)

If you want to become a photojournalist that obviously becomes more difficult because it demands your availability at any time. Event photography also requires a lot more of your time. A recommendation I have seen for people who want to start shooting weddings is to see if they can be a second shooter for an established wedding photographer - which will also give you some leeway for error if it comes to the worst.

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