Don’t worry about “going pro”

I often get lots of questions from students and sometimes others about wanting to “go pro”. In other words – quit the day job and dive into a career as a professional photographer.

For most people I think this is the wrong question at the wrong time. While its okay to dream of one day making your living as a professional, it more important to pay close attention to and really hone your own craft. Most of the people who ask me this don’t know what niche they want to go for or even have a portfolio that’s solid enough.

Think of it this way – look at the careers of anyone successful in any profession. In photography this could be Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Annie Liebovitz, Steve McCurry – anyone. Or take a musician like Andres Segovia, Miles Davis or Jimi Hendrix. Did any of these visionaries decide one day to “go pro” and then start learning their craft? No – their careers came as an extension to the talent they already were able to produce.

This may seem obvious, but its surprising how many people have this in the wrong order. Like I said though, its okay to dream about this. Its okay to even start planning for it. Just make sure you’ve got the goods to back it up if you expect any success.

I think another reason its important not to get too caught up in the idea of making your living is this: Photography is really hard to make money with. Sure you can sustain gigs from here and there, but the hard part is when you try to make your business more successful. For most there is a pretty harsh salary cap. If you really want to do this, you must love being a photographer first. Its the only thing that’s going to get you through the tough times of trying to be a “pro”. I guarantee you every name I mentioned above had a period of struggle despite their fame. The survived because they had a passion first.

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