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?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Do ever really know until you try it? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 15:29
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ When you know that you're ready to run a business. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 23, 2014 at 7:45

6 Answers 6


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!

  • 10
    \$\begingroup\$ +1, also to add: it's less with your skills as a photographer, and more about your business skills. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alan
    Commented Jul 16, 2010 at 20:18

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.

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Commented Dec 19, 2010 at 17:09
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I agree 100% with this warning. \$\endgroup\$
    – BBischof
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 5:31

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.
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 (more if I could) for first linking to KRock, then mentioning his insanity :D \$\endgroup\$
    – Alan
    Commented Jul 16, 2010 at 20:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ 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.) \$\endgroup\$
    – DarenW
    Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 0:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another one; professional photographer Kirk Tuck on the future of photography as a business proposition — Is the age of "professional photographer" over? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 16:16
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It's tough out there but "can't win, why try?" cannot be the right answer either. \$\endgroup\$
    – Steve Ross
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 0:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – Reid
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 22:59

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!

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 on peer reviews ... and don't get upset if someone doesn't like a picture. \$\endgroup\$
    – David G
    Commented Jul 16, 2010 at 19:58

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.


Photography, as a career path, does not lend well to being an employee of some larger company. If you're going to do photography as an employee, you're typically either going to be doing simple, repetitive stuff like school photos with very little room for creativity; or highly specialized work such as sports photography or photojournalism for a company like the AP or The New York Times where it's practically impossible to get hired without extensive prior experience.

This means that for most professional photographers, the only viable approach is through starting their own business. In order to do this, you need to be able to sell your photography as a product and service. Operating a business means you need to put much more work into actually generating a profit, including marketing and customer service. In many cases, the actual picture-taking will be secondary to managing the business itself. The market is exceptionally saturated and competitive, and it's difficult to price your services high enough to make a healthy profit after accounting for the cost of very expensive professional-grade cameras, lenses, and other equipment.

All told, you probably do not want to go pro.


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