Shooting entirely for fun with no one but yourself to please, creates a wonderful freedom.
That’s what I’ve been consciously doing the past 18 months. A couple of years ago I started skateboarding. You probably know that.
Skateboarding goes in hand with skateboarding photography. When I’m skateboarding I’m also shooting skateboarding just for fun!
My spirit had been slowly crushed over the years by too much photography work I didn’t really want to do, or that wasn’t very creative. Yes, it paid the bills. But now I’m doing what I love, AND it’s paying the bills too.
The creative crush is one of the reasons I tell most people NOT to become a photographer.
Turning pro can take the joy out of it. Just because you have top-end camera gear and can take a professional looking photograph, doesn’t mean you should quit your day job.
- It’s not for everyone
- There’s a lot of pressure
- There’s lots of competition – and anyone with a camera is your competition
- You need to be better at sales and marketing than you are at photography
- And you need to find your niche
My friend Santisouk is an exceptional bird and nature photographer. She’s written for this blog before. She works full time. She takes lots of photography and art courses, and then goes on epic photo adventures — just for fun. Photography is one of her many joys. She’s living her dream!
Marketers tell you to niche down — to define your target market really tightly. They tell you not to do all kinds of photography (or whatever work you’re in). Just pick a narrow range and get really good at it.
I have a friend in construction. I met her at our women’s skateboarding club. She’s good at building anything, and super creative, but she’s an expert at bathrooms and decks. And a journey (wo)man tile setter. Guess who is doing her environmental portraits for her website?
She’s cool and fun. And she loves my skateboarding photos. Of course I want to shoot her photos! She’s the kind of client I want.
I don’t think we trust that target market stuff enough, so we do all things for anyone. And often it’s just for the money. That’s the kind of stuff that sucks the fun out of it.
We need to survive. But we also need to be happy. To grow. To change. To develop new skills. Doing what you love most helps you grow and push the limits of that niche and opens doors. You’ll be known as the photographer that does _____ really well.
Opportunities that have arisen since I started concentrating on personal skateboarding photography:
- Being the photographer for 100% Skate Club – the best volunteer job ever
- Getting published in three print magazines in the past year – Here is the latest in Avenue Calgary
- Developing and teaching the What Flamingo Women’s skateboarding photography workshop
- Interviewed by CBC radio (Canada’s National TV and radio network) twice
- Being asked to be part of a TV documentary
- Getting photo jobs from people in my skateboarding club
For the commercial side of my photography business, I’ve kept all my favourite clients, and passed the clients that aren’t a perfect fit to other photographers, and also my photo course graduates. If I get asked to do a shoot it has to fit into the very interesting or super fun categories. If it doesn’t, I graciously decline. There are lots of photographers out there willing to do the work.
So what’s the moral of the story?
Do what you love. Really do it. Start a long-term personal photography project. Dig deep. 10,000 photos deep. Hone your technical and creative skills. Don’t give up. And maybe think twice (or three or four times) before deciding to turn pro. That takes more than camera gear!