5 Points to Consider About Photography as a Business vs. Passion
Hobbies and passions are wonderful and necessary to have. I have many of them myself including Jiu-Jitsu, racing cars, instructing high-performance driving, cycling, and even cooking. The thing is, if I take any of those hobbies and turn them into a profession and have to rely on them to pay the bills, they’re going to quickly lose a lot of what it is about them that I love and the stress will become more of a burden rather than something I do to simply enjoy my time.
For those of you on the fence between pursuing photography as a hobby or a profession, I’m going to break it down into five different and important points of comparison to consider and think about before making that decision.
Video: Photography as a Business vs. Passion
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We recently launched a new podcast called Think Stupid Simple and it’s a place for me to chat with experienced guests from all walks of life looking to uncover stupid simple truths that we can apply to our businesses, relationships, creativity, and of course, photography. I want to take the opportunity to elaborate on some of the concepts we’ve discussed in the podcast and bring them to you in photography form to help answer a very common question: “Should I go into business as a photographer or simply keep photography my passion?”
Point #1: Process vs. Efficiency
A hobby can be all about the process, meaning, you can take as much time while shooting as you like, you can take all the time in the world to conceptualize, and you’re in no real rush to edit. Everything is left up to you and it can become quite meditative. However, the moment you start working for a client, you have to incorporate efficiency into the equation and it takes an equal seat next to the artistic process and in some cases, wins out and takes priority. Process and creating a good product is important, but efficiency is equally as important and it’s important that you take that into account when deciding whether you want to pursue photography or any of your other hobbies as a profession.
Point #2: Expression vs. Formula
If you approach photography as a hobby, then it can only be about your creative expression, meaning, you have full control over what you shoot and the means you take to do so. It’s your own vision all the way to the end. However, if you’re approaching photography as a business, having some formula is important. That’s not to say that creative expression isn’t involved in any way, but the best and most successful businesses incorporate routines and formulaic approaches to their products and as a customer, you know what to expect from those businesses, whether they are selling a service or a product.
In photography, we see the photographers develop styles and clients hire them expecting to see results within that very style they have seen and come to know them for, so, if ultimately, it’s artistic expression and variety that matters to you, then creating a business out of photography will be very difficult because there just aren’t that many clients that are going to write you a check with absolutely free reign to create whatever it is you want to create. This is why many professional photographers turn to personal work to bring back that creative expression and their ability to shoot whatever they want to shoot with control over their vision from start to finish and it’s something I do as well.
Point #3: Self vs. Client
When photography is a business, you are serving a client. When photography is a hobby, you serve yourself and whatever makes you happy. That distinction is important because photography is clearly a client-serving field and too often, I hear photographers complain about what their clients wanted and some even express that they just can’t wait for the day they never have to photograph weddings again or how they’re so tired of working with difficult clients. It blows my mind because they chose a field that is inherently client-oriented, so if you’re approaching photography as a business, you have to appreciate the fact that you are in a client-serving industry. You have to love your clients because they’re the ones paying the bills at the end of the day.
Related Reading: How to Book More Photography Clients – Free Training!
Point #4: Freedom vs. Schedule
This one is pretty easy to understand. With photography as a hobby, you get to choose when you go out and shoot. If you don’t feel like shooting, well, you don’t have to, but as a business, you’re contracted to do a job and that means, whether rain or shine, you’re going to have to figure out a way to deliver professional images and the product that you were hired for. For me, this means that there are often times that I’m out shooting when I just don’t feel all that creative but I still have to find a way to get back to that place where I can create the product I’m known for. When pursuing photography as a profession, you are expected to deliver no matter what.
Point #5: Photography vs. The Business of Photography
This one is arguably the most important piece. You have to understand that photography and the business of photography are two entirely different things. See, photography as a hobby is fun; it’s enjoyable when you go out and you have the freedom and flexibility to choose when you do it and don’t do it. With photography as a business, however, the actual shooting portion becomes a small piece of your day-to-day responsibilities. Truth is, the business side of photography which includes marketing, finding clients, selling to those clients, delivering contracts, doing taxes, administrative functions, hiring, and management will take about 80% of your time and the actual shooting part, the creative aspect, is going to be only about 20% of your time at best.
It’s important to be aware that what you’ll be taking on as a business will be far more than simply taking photographs. With a business, your time will be divided as roughly 80% business tasks and 20% photography versus just photographing as a hobby or passion where you can devote 100% of your time to photography, being creative, and nothing else.
These are the five things I would consider before stepping into photography as a business or simply keeping it as your hobby or your passion. If you know somebody that’s thinking about making that leap, please send them this video. It’s going to dramatically help them understand exactly what kind of decision they’re making and what world they’re stepping into. Those expectations matter a lot if you’re planning on sticking with it and seeing it through to the end.
I hope this was helpful and if you guys enjoyed this video, we have an entire Business Training System that will get you up and running from learning all about the camera and how it works to operating a successful studio. All the info is there so be sure to check that out and in the meantime, be sure to visit and subscribe to the AdoramaTV channel to catch our next episode of Master Your Craft and catch up on all the episodes to date on our playlist!