I had a friendly conversation with someone recently who is unhappy with their current career situation and wanted some advice/guidance in terms of photography and the rewards and challenges involved. To be honest, I have these types of conversations quite frequently, and questions about making a living as a photographer rank at the top of the most requested information – well maybe after “what kind of camera do you use.” These questions are all valid, and I’m constantly learning more and more as I grow as a photographer.
One of the common pieces of advice I hear often from seasoned professionals is “don’t quit your day job” if you have thoughts about becoming a pro. I understand the underlying reason for this response, yet I have always felt it is a negative and fear based position that I’ve never agreed with. Who am I to tell anyone what they can or can’t do, or for that matter place a limit on their determination? Is this perhaps a sign of insecurity, after all they themselves had to make the very same decision at some point in their lives.
It reminds me of my ankle injury three years ago when I had 5 screws and a metal plate inserted to get me back to “normal”. From the day I broke it, I was determined to recover and return to the very physical activities I was so accustomed to doing. When my doctor finally told me to start walking again, I was anxious to start therapy, but he recommended I wait a month before my first visit to the rehab center. I couldn’t wait, yet to my utter dismay, on the first visit the physical therapist proceeded to explain the limitations I would face because of the injury and hardware now in my ankle.
To this day, I will never forget how I felt on the drive home, and I decided right then only I would decide my limitations. I’m a pretty humble person, but how could someone tell me what I was or was not capable of doing? I had just finished reading “It’s Not About The Bike” by Lance Armstrong, and we all know what he went on to achieve after being given a death sentence with massive cancer. I was inspired and motivated, and started my own intense therapy regiment of daily yoga, weight training, and hiking which lasted almost a year. Today, I am 95% of where I was before the injury, and the last 5% I make up by being wiser and smarter about the types of physical activities I’m willing to engage in. Experience and wisdom do come with age!
“Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm” – Winston Churchill
My core belief is only you can determine what you are capable of, and no one can or should tell you otherwise. IF you have the dogged determination and stamina, then yes you can become a professional in whatever field you choose, including photography. Will it be difficult and challenging? I can tell you it is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do. But so what – I am having a blast and I am doing what I love. I wake up every morning at 5AM eager and excited about the day ahead, and if you are not clear and focused mentally, then you will find it exceedingly difficult to succeed no matter what your goals are.
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 3000 games…I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan
Am I afraid or worried that others will crowd this extremely competitive field? Not at all – I work day and night at creating my own path and no one can be me – just as I can not be anyone else. You will know if and when it is the right time to quit your day job, but if it is, then don’t look back, and never listen to the voice of fear – it’s never helped me achieve anything.