Shooting for fun or money


For this first of two holiday weeks for the eyar, the blog will be turning to more of an esoteric theme.  Tips, tricks, tutorials, and the like are all fine and dandy, but this week I’d like to pose a question fo whether we are shooting for fun or money!

While clearly we all start in the craft because we love it as a form of expression.  We are captivated by capturing the moment, painting a scene with light and color.  if we learn the craft well enough, and our eye gets discerning enough, others may ask us to take pictures for them!  Or even better, ask if they can have a copy of something we’ve already done.  Praise is a wonderful ego boost and source of flattery, and while we all may mask it with self-deprecating remarks, humor, or coyness – no one likes the compliment better than someone who wants to pay them for their work!

“Getting paid to do something you love” is an oft-quoted sentiment, as is the idea that “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”.  But, truth be told, if you make your living in photography, there is going to be a certain amount of pressure to perform – or produce results.  And the minute to take something you love and try to earn a living at it – the pressures of running the business side will reduce the passion you have for the subject.  It’s the nature of the beast.  You have to eat.  You have to have shelter.  If you can’t afford those two necessities, how much will you really “love” working as a professional photograper?

The shot today is a perfect example…I absolutely love this shot:


From a critique perspective, this is a horrible shot.  The angle is all wonky, the horizon isn’t straight, there is really no subject, and I probably butchered the saturation in post production.  But, for me…when I was canoeing with my family this last summer, we were cooling off in Raquette Lake, and I was sipping a lukewarm beer.  My brother and brother-in-law were to my left and right…the nephews were out galavanting around being pirates or whatever young kids pretend on trips like this.  We were cut off from the world (well, not really, but as close as one can get since there was no cell reception, and only a 9-5 Park Ranger available to sell you firewood at $5 a bundle)., and this shot reminds me of that day.  I loved that day, and for that reason, I love this shot!

This shot will never sell though – for no one else except those on this trip, this shot is meaningless until now.  I cannot make anything off of this picture.  Yet I feature it today on the blog because I took this shot for fun…

The comparison shot I am about to show you actually sold for me on iStock.  Now granted, it’s not like I’ve made a ton of money off of it (it only sold once or twice), but it actually sold!

Brick Worker

I was on a photo walk, scouting out areas for the South Carolina Photography Guild (now defunct),  and the shadow of the guy on the crane, along with the wet bricks from where he was repairing and cleaning the masonry work just stuck out for a reason.  I took it from a few angles and this one was the best of the 3 or 4.  In the end, it was kind of a boring shot, but it was pretty tack sharp, and when I opened my first iStock account ages ago, figured it’d be a good sample to submit to show I had enough of a grip to consider stock work.  The image was approved, along with 4 or 5 others, and my istock account was opened.  Within a few days, there was a sale on this shot.  Do I like it?  Not really.  It’s probably on some construction workers website, or someone wanted it for a church bulletin, or a school project or other long-since completed project.  It doesn’t really inspire me though.

Which image brought me more satisfaction?  Which one brought you more?  Would you pay huge amounts of money for either shot?  Probably not.  I wouldn’t either.  Thus, this is the dilemma we face.

It’s no secret that most photographers don’t make huge amounts of money.  Yet, somehow the ability to say that “I am a professional photographer” is something said often with a sense of pride.  Is it because you know the crap out of pixels, shutters, and apertures?  Or is it because you made 50.1% of your revenue from photography last year?  Or is it because you love to hear the sound of the click?  Last but not least, could it be the excitement at seeing something you made come out beautifully on either a printed tangible piece of paper or in a web page…saying “this is my artistic vision that I want to share with you”.  Why do you take pictures?  What motivates you?