Why I’ve no ambition to be a professional photographer
This is something I hear often; amateur photographers who would love nothing more than to take photographs for a living. Me, I’ve no ambition ever to earn my living from photography. Don’t get me wrong, I like to sell the odd print; I’ve got my own website for just that purpose. I’ve licensed a few images and while it’s always welcome, I’ve no intention of ever treading on the toes of the actual pro’s out there, of which there are many.
Let me explain further.
Firstly, photography is my hobby. I love it. I can be found out and about in Edinburgh most days, usually after work looking for something new or trying to improve a shot I’ve already done. It gets me out and about and I get a huge amount personal satisfaction from it.
So what’s the problem? Why wouldn’t you want to earn a living from something you love doing? Well, I’ve been there and done that already. Many years ago, when the internet was but a young upstart I got an interest in web design, it was so long ago I can remember upgrading to IE3. I loved it, every day I taught myself more and more, built websites on subjects I enjoyed and while I never had an ounce of formal training in it, with a graphic design background I thought I was quite good at it.
Well, I must have been as I went for a job as a graphic designer with a tour operator and ended up building their first e-commerce websites. Fast forward 12 years and I’m still building websites for a living, although I’m now a Web Development Manager rather than just a web designer. This hobby became a job and do you know what? I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a rusty fork than sit building a website after I finish work now.
I build, plan, test, manage, design, eat, breath and shit websites it all day, 5 or more days a week, it’s not fun anymore, it’s a job. Once you cross that line and you depend on it for a living, the initial fun and freedom get replaced with restrictions, deadlines and reams and reams of paperwork and regulations to deal with, in short, it’s not fun, it’s serious, it has to be, it’s how I exist and I don’t ever want photography to go that way.
There’s another reason too. When I first got serious about photography I specialised in motor sports, especially stage rallying. I started off with a bridge camera and finally progressed to a Nikon D70. I got quite good at it even though I do say so myself.
At the same time I had a website I had built dedicated to rallying which was doing rather nicely, it was at one point the 5th highest traffic motor sports website in the UK. This gave me a huge audience for my work and I sold a fair amount of photographs. I was published regularly in the motor sport press and had progressed to the point of gaining press access at events and even being the ONLY website accredited for the Rally GB one year.
However, this brought with it a sinister side of the industry.
Now, my images were typically different from what some of the seasoned pro’s used to do. They went out, usually to a slow corner and made sure they got a least one shot of every car, always the same stuff, high shutter speed and boring shots. I tried to be different and it must have worked, I maybe didn’t get usable images of every car on every event but I got 90% of them and they sold well.
Then it started. I found myself banned from some single venue events where the rights of the official photographer were being protected. Even just as a rally fan with no camera I was banned from entering some events. I also found press officers had been spoken to and some events pulled my legitimate press access. It even went as far as threats of physical violence.
While this never stopped me doing what I done, it made life difficult. Now, as a professional web developer I’ve never once, had a go at anyone who builds websites for fun, I’m more often supportive and ready to offer advice. So why did these professional photographers feel the need to remove me from their little clique? Maybe it’s just the motor sports industry but it left a very sour taste for me.
At one time I had fully planned to make the leap to a professional rally photographer but after this experience I slowly drifted away from the sport and so did a lot of talented amateurs like me who were trying to build up to the point of taking the chance of turning pro. Sad but true but the sport was the worse off for it as it ended up dominated by the same few names taking the same crap images event after event.
So, there you go. A bit rambling perhaps but that’s my reasons for never wanting to be anything more than a keen amateur. Photography for me is all about fun and I’d like it to stay that way.