Shooting as a Passion or Just to Make Money?

Every now and then I have been hit by ephipanies mainly in regards to photography and of course, more precisely, the whole area of wedding photography. As I sit back and sometime take stock of what I have gone through, I realised that it has only been a little over a year that I picked up my first DSLR and started in this world of shooting and capturing images, or perhaps one might say, painting with light.

My first initial thoughts at that time was that I wanted to shoot awesome and breath taking images such that I can garner praise from around but is that the underlying intent that I was seeking for? Was that the whole truth behind me shooting, trying to gain the acceptance of my peers?

Of course that kept hidden within my subconcious and I furthered my “hobby” by attending workshops, buying more equipment and volunteering my services in order to improve on my portfolio of photos. I guess the big snag now in the area of photography is the term “volunteering” or perhaps “free services”. This is in relation to when a photographer gives out free services in order to practice or perhaps they would like to build their portfolio.

Debates on this topic has been going on everywhere around the world and most professional photographers feel that hobbyists and freelancers who undercharge tend to spoil the market.

I shall leave some of my comments at a later part of this post.

Some excerpts from one of the articles,

Next time you’re in the local hardware store, ask the salesman to give you free tools and tell him in return you will tell all your friends you got your tools from his hardware store.

Or try it at the grocery store. I can see it now, standing at the check at line:

“That we be $102.85, sir.”

“You don’t know me but I will tell everyone I know to shop at Ralph’s if I can just get my groceries for free”.

“Sure Mr. Brown nobody knows about us yet, here’s your food and have a nice day!”

I am sure most professional photographer will think this way and yes, people undercharging will definitely spoil the market out there. With the proliferation of cheap DSLR’s, more and more people are starting to buy them and begin their photography career. The more there are hobbyists out there, the more they want to shoot and that is a good thing! Heck I started just like one of them.

Then comes another problem, well I can’t really say that they are problems but more and more professional photographers out there (especially the wedding photographers), are beginning to see more and more people entering the wedding market. Of course competition is always good for the consumers but is it really true in the case of wedding photographers?

Take this for example, Grant Corban is a famous wedding photographer and he wrote an article in a forum here. Here is part of what he wrote.

I meet a lot of people at weddings who are keen amatuers who may have just bought a DSLR and think a friends wedding is the ideal place to test out their skills. This is prompted because two weeks ago two fools nearly ruined a mutual friends wedding coverage, and when I saw their photos posted on flickr I nearly choked. These guys had, after being told by the couple to stay out of our way, jeopardised our coverage in order to not only shoot but to publish snap shots so bad that if I had shot them I would be selling my camera equipment immediately.

So being on both ends before, I do know that there are some photographers who take situations like this as a part of their job. I mean, you definitely can’t go up to one of the relatives to stop shooting or perhaps (God forbid) that you start scolding them and pushing them away.

Of course after a while it slowly becomes a norm and you tend to get used to situations like these, well, I am to be frank and I take it as another challenge.

A lot of times, questions do pop-up in my head. One of them is that I always wondered if I will ever cover the cost of the money spent on equipment and workshops. The problem is that I keep wanting more lenses but at the same time not caring about the ROI (return on invesment). Until now I have been controlling myself, refraining from buying excessively. That on the other hand has stemmed another thought within me.

Part of my other job is to constantly look out for potential areas of risks and then figure out how to overcome them. The habit of finding ways to overcome obstacles has indeed been mentally implanted in me thanks to my company’s training and all but this lead to me thinking on how to overcome my need for more camera equipment. So out of this scenario, I came up with some ideas such as charging for shoots and finding more paid jobs online.

Slowly this has led to me being in a loop where I shoot for money rather than passion. This really didn’t hit me until I read this awesome article, written by David Ziser.

It’s Friday and a quick check of the calendar reminds you of what you already knew – you have a big wedding on Saturday. How do you react to the calendar reminder – is it just another darn wedding, or is it news that fires you up with the photographic possibilities of the day. Many photographers I meet are pretty excited about being involved in wedding photography. But too many other photographers I have met over the years answer with a negative attitude, and that is just too bad. Too bad for them and too bad for the client who has hired someone who may not put their heart and soul into the job.

What makes a good wedding photographer, or better yet, what makes a complete wedding photographer? What do I mean by complete wedding photographer? I mean a photographer who is involved enthusiastically from the first consultation till final delivery of the product with his/her client. I mean a photographer that’s on top of their form both artistically and creatively. I mean a photographer who understands the craft of the profession as much as the art. I mean a photographer who brings their heartfelt passion to the profession, to the event and to the client – they love what they do.

Read the full article here

This really spoke right straight to me and yes, sometimes I do admit that my attitude determines my altitude no matter where I may be or what I may do.

Now I feel that I have so much more to work on and I got so much more to learn. I can’t wait for my next shoot!

  • Wow thanks for the honest sharing. I do agree that shooting for free does de-value the work that photographers do. When things comes free, people don't treasure it as much somehow. I really like the post by David Ziser about giving your all to your passion. When we start doing things regularly, the tendency is to get jaded and disconnected from the work. In anything we do, really.

    The key is to fan the flame so that we are never burnt out or emotion-less after a while, but constantly seeing every event or wedding as an important, wonderful moment that needs to be cherished.

  • Mark, thanks for the sharing. Agreed with you that no more free stuff. But for the beginer like me, I couldn't charge them high or else I will be getting curse. What should I do? :p

  • HI Ah Chuan,

    Charge them at a rate you feel comfortable with, try not to givefreebies because you are giving your effort as well in taking time off to shoot as well as post process.