I’m sharing this post today after receiving an email from a girl who wants to turn her photography hobby into a career. She wants to embark on a photography career and is unsure how she can turn her hobby into something more. So before I answer her question, let me paint you a word picture…

Photography hobby into a career

New Year = Newcomer Photographers

This time of year is notorious for the deluge of New Year Newcomer Photographers (NYNP for short) eager to take their shiny, new & expensive camera gear (thanks to Santa) out into the world and begin creating the artwork they’ve imagined in their mind’s eye for so long. Their new equipment now gives them a means of self-expression and once they master their f-stop, shutter speed and all the other technicalities, they eagerly snap away at every family gathering, sunset and any other opportunity they get.

Family/Friend Freebie Photography

Then a family friend asks them to specifically take some snaps at their upcoming kiddie’s party and the newbie obliges, because they’re honoured to have been recognised as a ‘photographer’ and they show up on the day with just as much zest  to capture the hoards of eardrum piercing noise monsters. The NYNP is extremely trigger happy because they don’t want to miss a thing and after 2 hours, they head home to sort through the 3000 images they’ve created. It takes them 3 weeks to eventually sort and edit the images, which they hand over to the eagerly awaiting family who are kind and complimentary saying that you should really do photography professionally.

Deciding to Take Photography from Hobby Level to Professional Level

So then the NYNP heads home and announces that he/she is going to start doing photography professionally which is met with a mix of enthusiastic encouragement from supporters and disdainful opinions from ‘realists’ saying that it’ll never work, the market’s too saturated. This leaves the poor New Year Newcomer Photographer wondering whether they should even bother trying to make a career out of photography or whether they should just accept it as a hobby to be enjoyed in their spare time.

I’m sharing this not to berate the NYNP, but to paint a picture that most professional photographers can relate to in one way or another. At some point in the early stages of the photography endeavor, every photographer has asked themselves whether they should go professional or not, and the truth is, you don’t really know what it’ll be like until you’re in it.

Question: “I’m told photography is more of a hobby than a career. What is your opinion on that and how did you get where you are now?”

So, here’s the original email I received…

Hi Abigail

Just want to start off by saying i love your work. I follow you on twitter and you’re such an inspiration and love your sense of humor.  I’m about to embark on a photography career but I’m standing in a two way street. I love taking pictures and my favourite part is the editing, even though I’m not perfect yet, but I’m told photography is more of a hobby than a career. What is your opinion on that and how did you get where you are now, qualifications etc…

Kind regards

And here’s what I sent to Tarryn in response…

I would obviously say that you CAN make a living from photography because, well, I do.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s really hard work, and I’m no where near the level of wealth and expertise that I want to be. But I’m able to pay my bills and I get great joy from doing what I do.

I think the biggest decision about choosing to enter the photography industry is to decide on your strategy. What are you going to focus on? Who are you targeting? And how can you improve your offering to meet both your own and your client’s needs.

Basically you need to do a business plan and map this all out so you’ve got a clear picture before you start. I can highly recommend Michael Port’s book – Book Yourself Solid.

In honesty, I’ve never done a full business plan myself, and that’s why I feel it’s taken me so long to establish myself. You need that clarity so you don’t waste time on things that aren’t contributing to your end goal, like I have over the years.

You need to hone your craft, but you also need to know how to run your business. Two very different tasks that require very different skill sets. So I would encourage you to upskill yourself on the technical side of photography and creating images, while at the same time, upskilling yourself on the business side so you’re well educated on things like marketing, pricing, products, etc.

There are so many resources available online, both paid and free. A quick Google or Youtube search will certainly give you a great start. Two of my favourite online resources, where I’ve personally spent a lot of time (and money) are Creativelive.com and udemy.com. Go check them out. I promise you’ll walk away feeling more empowered, skilled and clear about how you should proceed with your new chosen path. I hope this helps.

Thanks for a great question Tarryn, which has resulted in this blog post, which I hope helps other new photographers.

Send me your questions

Now I want to hear from others! If you’re starting out in professional photography, or even if you’ve decided to keep it a hobby that you use to create art for your own enjoyment, hit me up with a question. If I can help, if I have an opinion or advice, I’ll be happy to share.
Either write in the comments below, or submit your questions on my Ask Abby page.
Photography advice, opinion