Plenty of people want to take their photography to the next level and make their hobby a career. Conversely I think there is a lot to be said for keeping photography as a hobby.
Everyone wants to make a living with their passion. But what happens when that passion become a daily grind to putting food on the table and roof over a head.
Personally I like keeping photography as a hobby as there is no pressure to meet the expectation of anyone but myself.
Sounds like a cop-out, right? Sure it would be great to get paid to do what I love. But I don’t thrive in competing with everyone else wanting to be a professional photographer.
I take plenty of photographs and post them to the various social media outlets. I get my share of accolade and critiques. But nobody has ever asked to purchase a print or have me come over and take portraits of their family.
Do I put myself out there? Not really. I certainly don’t market myself.
I just really like keeping photography as a hobby without worrying about the professional stresses of the art.
Photography is Time and Money
The difference between being a professional and hobbyist is time and money.
A living is made from being a professional. If you don’t have a client or product to sell then you aren’t making money. Having to satisfy a client is top priority or you won’t get referrals or repeat business. What they want is what you provide. Their time is spent at their job taking photos.
A hobbyist does not make a living from their photography. The satisfaction they get from taking photos is learning something new and sharing their passion with friends, family and social media. A hobbyist might aspire to one day get paid to take photographs but for the time being they pursue their hobby for fun.
The majority of a hobbyists time might be spent at their regular work or pursuing other hobby’s but they likely aren’t spending every waking hour taking photos and editing for clients like a professional would be.
The time a hobby can give to photography is in the pursuit of a passion or pleasure. A professional may love their job and claim it to be their passion but the number priority is to make money.
Time is money for the professional.
Time is pleasure for the hobbyist.
I did a search online to see what people say about photography as a hobby. Most of the responses came from pro photographers trying to promote their services and/or brand. They are still on the clock.
I didn’t see too many responses from hobbyists explaining why they like photography as a hobby.
In one of the photography forums someone asked “how do I start photography as a hobby?”
The next 27 responses were long-winded SEO content with links and technical explanations. I don’t know if the answers were what was expected. Everybody said “the camera you have is the best camera.” Some went off on gear tangents or technical explanations.
I think the person asking the question wanted someone to give him a photography as a hobby camera loot-box and show him the start line.
Photography as a Hobby is About Curiosity
Starting a hobby like photography requires curiosity and experimentation.
If I was starting out I would take my smartphone out of my back pocket, put it in camera mode and start taking photos. I would quickly discover what I liked to take photos of. Flowers, birds, cars, motion, clouds, black and white, etc.
If I figured out that flowers was my thing then I would investigate a camera and a lens capable of shooting macro shots.
If shooting photos of birds was my jam then I would look for cameras and long lenses for that activity.
I personally don’t care about smartphone photography but today, that device is the best way to begin a photography journey. That is what I’d tell that dude. Use your smartphone to figure out what kind of photography you like. As you progress you will discover limitations to taking those photos. Then buy your gear. Take classes.
That’s how I would start photography as a hobby.
An Expensive Hobby
Photography can be an insanely expensive hobby. As a casual observer of the industry it is quite amusing to watch the G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome) wafting off the participants of photography.
Seems everyday there is a new blog post from the favorite photography blogs indicating someone going from DSLR to mirrorless camera. Looking at various forums and people are talking about how they have to have the next upgrade.
I don’t care what the pros do. Supposedly they are making a living at this gig and can spend their money on equipment as they see fit.
The trouble is it filters down to hobbyists who think they need the latest lens or body release. Maybe they believe that new gear will make them better photographers. It never works out that way.
But for most photography applications that $400 camera and kit lens is going to take just as good a photograph of your kid or landscape as the 6D Mark 2. Nobody is going to know the difference in the photos. Maybe a magazine editor will.
If you aren’t enjoying taking photographs with a $400 kit lens camera then you aren’t going to enjoy it any more with a $3,200 mirrorless rig.
As a hobbyist you can enjoy photography just for the sake of taking a cool photo. You might want the latest tech but you don’t need the latest tech to be successful or entertained.
A pro will likely have to have the $10,000 lighting set-up coupled with a $2,000 lens attached to a $5,000 body. Getting paid $10,000 for the daily gig buys that privilege. It also buys the stress of having to have all that equipment and satisfying the client.
The joy of photography as a hobby means a simple and cheap setup for the joy of learning lighting.