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Go Amateur

This is a chapter from the book A Lesser Photographer.

“100% of humans should practice an art. Probably 0% should try to make money off it.” — Austin Kleon

Photography is one of the most popular hobbies on the planet, but you’d never know it from most photography content. It’s treated as a profession, where the goal is making money, buying more expensive gear, or getting prints into galleries around the world. You’re being enticed to “go pro,” but that’s just not realistic for the vast majority of photographers. In reality, most photographers could benefit from going amateur.

At the time of this book’s publication, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated the median pay for a professional photographer at $34,070.00 per year with an estimated 6% decline in jobs over the next 10 years. Most of those who choose to make a living with photography do not make much of a living.

New photographers are dipping their toes in the professional market all the time, making photography a commodity in areas of the market where creativity has been neglected. Some veterans have stepped up their game in response, most have not. The result is less opportunity for average photographers.

I’m not here to discourage you. No doubt, some of you are professionals already, and some of you have made a few bucks here and there.

But the vast majority of you are not professionals and never will be. Many publications and professionals teaching on the side are hoping you never realize that. Most are pushing a content drug on you. The goal is to treat you as a professional, tempt you to buy like one, and keep you coming back for more. This robs you of time and resources better spent on making the pictures you love.

On your deathbed, will you regret not having made a few extra bucks on your photography? It’s more likely you will regret not creating more art.

Stop buying into the assumption that your goal is to make money from photography. Your goal is to create photographs that you love.

For a professional photographer, the photograph is a product. For an amateur photographer, the photograph is a byproduct of a life well lived.

Concentrate on making your images remarkable, instead of marketable. If you photograph what you love to photograph, without regard for money, you’ll create better images, which could lead to the possibility of money. Just don’t count on the money.