I love not being a career photographer. Ever since I gave up using photography as my main source of income I have been a much happier person.
These days I work long hours at a local non-profit, working mostly with youth and teens, encouraging them to live healthy lifestyles, make good decisions, get involved in athletics and fitness, and give back to the community. I love going to work every day, and the community and environment where I work is vibrant and engaging and both challenges and supports me. I have an amazing team of people to collaborate with on projects and assist me in accomplishing my goals. I believe in my organization, the work we are doing, and how we are connected with our members and community. It’s awesome and so different from photography.
Of course I still love photography, and I don’t mind supplementing my salary with occasional print or stock sales, assignments or projects that excite me, or leading a workshop or doing a presentation for a non-profit or local camera club. I really do enjoy that work and if people seek me out and I have the time and energy to invest in a photography gig here and there, I’m happy to do it. But mostly, I’m just doing my non-photography thing every day and enjoying it, and when I do end up with a camera in hand, I don’t have to be a professional. It’s pretty cool.
There are a lot of cool things about being an amateur photographer, and to me, they outweigh the cool things about being a pro. Here are my top four:
1) I get to shoot what I want, when I want, because I want to. I can be very selective or not at all – it’s my choice! In the ongoing battle I have with editing my tens of thousands of cataloged images I realized that so many of my “meh” photos are a result of feeling pressure to shoot, whether because I was scouting for a workshop or on assignment or just because I invested time and money in a “photo” trip and wanted to take images even when the conditions were horrible. Now I photograph when I’m inspired, and I don’t feel bad about not shooting if I don’t want to. The result is a lot less photos, but a lot less garbage photos too. I also find that I spend more time experimenting with new subjects. For a while, I concentrated my photography mostly on nature and wildlife, and while this is still my main focus and passion, I’ve gone on to shooting some sports and portraits at work and bought a lens that will be good for photographing food for my food blog (I’m way into fitness and healthy eating). The coolest part is that I can use my time to learn, experiment, fail, etc. and there is no pressure to produce anything most of the time I shoot. I love that!
2) I can pick and choose what projects I take on. This fall, I am leading a fall foliage workshop for the Appalachian Mountain Club. I’m really excited about it because the workshop is going to take place in the White Mountains, a place I absolutely love, and because I’m doing it through the AMC, which is a fantastic non-profit organization based in the northeast that provides a great service combining education, recreation, and conservation relating to the environment and the northeast Appalachian Mountain states. AMC people tend to be a lot like me – fun down-to-earth outdoor lovers who appreciate nature and the environment. On an AMC workshop, I’m less likely to have a participant that is ignorant about the environment, wilderness ethics like LNT, or has no appreciation or understanding of the subject. Some people love having clients who shell out big bucks for a luxury photo vacation in an exotic destination, but that’s not really my style. I like teaching hard working people and sharing with them my love for close-to-home locations that I feel a deep connection to. I feel more comfortable in more humble accommodations and around clientele whose lifestyles and values more closely resemble mine. If you are interested in joining me for the Fall Foliage workshop, spaces are still available!
3) I spend WAY less time behind the computer and way less time doing business stuff. I don’t need to market myself because my photography related income is irrelevant, so when I do get behind a computer for photography, it’s mostly for editing and processing photos and then sharing them for fun. I don’t need to be strategic about when or where I share my images, and don’t need to spend time coddling other photographers, reevaluating my marketing strategies, and nitpicking my bills. For example, I had been posting an “Image of the Month” each month along with a coupon discount code, but saw no extra traffic to my website or increased print sales because of it, so I stopped doing it. It was taking up my time and became a chore rather than being fun. I’m just not going to worry whether I’m blogging regularly enough or not – I’d rather post less content and have it be meaningful and fun for me to do. There is no need for my site to be recent or relevant if I’m not relying on sales from it. I can organize my time as I see fit, and that includes not being behind the computer all day!
4) VACATION! For someone who has traveled as much as I have, I have taken very few vacations in my lifetime. Almost all of my traveling has had to do with photography, school, or work, and one of these days I’m planning to take a vacation that is really just for me. I’m very excited for that.
Being an amateur (or semi-pro or part-time pro) rocks!
PS: I haven’t been shooting very much because I have been CRAZY busy with my real job, but I did get the chance to edit this super cool image from Acadia. I recently ordered a 9×2 foot triptych of this to put in the living room of my new house (which is another thing that has been keeping me busy). “Fade to Blue” has been added to my site. I also did a little website reorganizing, changing up the layout a bit. I like it better and hope you do too!