I am a marketing executive and an on and off photo hobbyist since my teens (a long time ago in a galaxy not far away – I started to shoot on a Nikon FM when it was new!). I have recently embarked on a journey to take my photography to the next level and lay the ground work for doing it professionally as part of next phase of life between the corporate world and retirement (whatever that means these days).
My initial goal is to get my quality to a point that I can begin selling prints with the hope that the income will help pay for the hobby. Your book and videos on printing and matting have been a great help and inspiration. Thank you!
As I look to the business side of photography, I see you and other landscape and nature photographers do far more than just sell fine art images. You lead workshops (classroom and field), promote photo related products, write and sell books, host and produce video shows and podcasts, etc. Can you give me an idea of the breakdown percentage-wise of time spent and income derived in the various dimensions of your work?
Thanks for the feedback and kind words – really appreciate it.
Your questions are difficult to answer in an email or blog post, and in all honesty more a function of the paths that a person chooses to follow – that’s not always applicable to others in similar situations. Case in point, I read laboriously about the career paths of the photographers I admired and yet realized that I not only needed to find my own way but would have no choice because a creative life is one you make yourself. Sure there are some common paths, such as the ones you mentioned, but nonetheless they can not be followed simply as a matter of course, but rather because they call to you.
Teaching workshops is not a way to supplement income, as least not if you put the interests of your students ahead of yours. You teach because you care, and you put your heart and soul into the work. I’ve heard too many horror stories from students where an instructor spent more time photographing for himself rather than helping the students become better photographers.
Likewise, selling prints is an increasingly difficult path to sustainable income – some would say impossible. Only you can decide otherwise, but that would require a commitment that only you can make – because it’s what you must do.
Do what you love because it makes you happy, not because it will generate income after retirement. I would do everything I do for free because it is rewarding and meaningful to me. My advice is to do the same. Income will become much easier when that happens.
Now as to specifics – these are all estimates that change from year to year: 50% workshops / 25% environmental work / 12.5% fine art prints / 12.5% ebooks. Each and every part I love and enjoy. As to how much I earn, that’s relative isn’t it. I value experiences and quality time over material possessions, as well as provide for my family. I’ve sacrificed many things, but what I’ve gained is the ability to live a creative life that never feels like work. That means I’ve had to think hard about how I define success for myself. You must decide what success means for you. But I struggle like everyone else, and sometimes it gets really hard.
I also don’t take my work that seriously. There are far more important things in my life like health and family.
Hope that helps, and I don’t want to sound negative – my intent is to get away from the mindset I see more and more in the industry that undervalues personal creativity and maybe inspire you to consider a different perspective – one based on meaning and creative growth.
For a great new book that explores these ideas better than I can, check out “The Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert – highly recommended.