For a while there, all I wanted was to be a professional photographer. I attended workshops, experimented with stuff from Strobist, took some classes, shot a couple weddings, spent a fortune on gear, and thought what I wanted was to be a wedding photographer. All I saw were dollar signs thinking it was a quick way to earn some additional income on the weekends. I even had the audacity to print up some business cards.
I went to a OneLight workshop here in Los Angeles hosted by Zack Arias. He and I met in the kitchen before the workshop started and he asked me what I liked to shoot. I sat there kind of stumped for half a second and explained that I liked to shoot weddings, portraits, etc.. He said, “A little bit of everything?” I could tell by the look in his eyes that I lacked at that particular moment in time what it was going to take to be a pro. Sure, I understood the concepts we were covering better than some of the other people in the workshop (some people were really struggling with calculating equivalent exposures, the inverse square law and things of that sort), but my understanding of the fundamentals of photography doesn’t matter at all to someone who is comparing two portfolios side by side when mine has inferior work in it.
The past year has been humbling. I’ve replied to hundreds of wedding photographer want ads on craigslist thinking that I would be able to scoop up some jobs here and there. I only got one reply and I wasn’t really willing to drive 8+ hours out to Arizona for the job. I know why I only got the single response. There was always that nagging feeling in the back of my head that said that my work really wasn’t as good as I thought it was. I finally had to accept it. I still reply to the craigslist ads from time to time, but I don’t expect a response like I used to.
I spent so much energy focusing on being the professional that I neglected the mastery of the craft and finding my voice. I’m not saying I have it mastered, because I struggle each and every time I pick up my camera…but I learn something new each and every time I pick up that camera and I think I’m getting better.
I still have no idea what I want to shoot if I were able to shoot professionally and make a living of it. I think I’m good at what I do for a day job and it pays well, so for now I’m content with just being a Linux ops guy/php and perl hacker/wanna be photographer. Since I’m somewhat content now with where I’m at, it has relieved a great deal of stress from me. I know it’s ok to fail as long as I learn something in the process.
I’m working on developing my compositions as I feel that is one area where I could really improve. I’m also trying more types of photography to see if I can’t manage to find my niche. I’m trying to get better about having my work printed and displayed. I’m working harder to learn the capabilities and limitations of the equipment I own and trying not to envy gear I don’t own and can’t currently afford.
I guess what this all boils down to is that I don’t really consider myself to be a professional at this point in time. I’m not actively trying to bring in business, but I won’t turn it away if it happens to show up. I’m putting in my 10,000 hours to become a little bit better photographer each day than I was the previous day, and try to have some fun in the process. If at the end of 10,000 hours I still haven’t made it professionally, then I hope to at least have some interesting art up on the walls at my house and some skills I can share with my children.