How To Become A Professional Photographer. Now.

I see more and more magazine articles and blog posts where disillusioned photographers advise aspiring young passionate artists not to enter this career.

A few weeks ago, for example, I picked up a popular photography magazine and was left depressed because just about every article talked about photography being a dying profession and the inadequacy of it to pay bills.


The feature article of the magazine in question had an interview with an industry hotshot, and her golden piece of advice in that article was not to consider photography as a full-time career, but to limit it to “weekend-warrior” type of gig.


I’m all up for having realistic expectations, and yes, I realise the digital technology coupled with the Internet have changed the photographic industry forever while devaluing and commoditising the photograph itself.

But I can’t help not wonder that this world is also full of relatively new and yet hugely professional photographers whose phones never stop ringing, are fully booked months (or years) in advance and are creating magnificent work?

Is it possible that they know something that the rest don’t?
Could it be that it’s because they’re too busy creating great work that they don’t have time to complain?

And is it possible that it’s the disillusioned photographers who somehow missed the mark are now the unofficial voice of the photography industry, busy writing with a strong hint of complaint and frustration, blaming their lack of success on the photography industry, the Internet, the Google, the Facebook, the sub $2000 full-frame consumer cameras…

They are blaming and complaining instead of than taking a long and hard look at their own operation, realising that something about their operation is not working, identifying what that is, fixing it and experiencing success?

To answer that question I think we need to step back and look at this situation from a wider perspective.

family photography boy girl

The view which points the finger at changing times of photography industry is too narrow, and omits important detail.
It’s true that the photography industry is undergoing a shift which is putting some people out of business.

But we need to take a step back and recognise that this shift is just an extension of a worldwide change of how business is done in 2012. And that, in turn, is an extension of which way we as a society and a world are headed.

At this level, if I was to point to one thing, I’d say that we are moving away from a world in which starting a business was driven primarily by motivations like paying the bills, status, recognition and freedom from not having a boss tell you what to do.

Those were the motivations (and I realise I’m painting with a broad brush here, but necessarily so to illustrate the point) of the previous generation. For them, business was primarily a means of supporting themselves and being better than the other guy.
More and more we see a shift away from that.

Today, more and more people are asking themselves – how can I start a business which is also my passion? How can I create work that matters? How can I express what truly matters to me through my business?

People are thinking less about how they can get more customers, more leads, more revenue, more links, more traffic and more free time.

Instead, they’re wondering more and more about how they can provide more and more value.

And the big technology giants like Google and Apple which were started by people who were thinking on that level decades ago, are facilitating this shift by creating products and services which reward activity that is driven by a desire to give, rather than take.

This is not a social change; it’s a reflection of overall consciousness of humanity as a whole.

We care less about getting richer/buying something/beating the other guy/proving something to make ourselves happy. And we care more about doing work which matters and which makes another happy.
And that’s a beautiful thing.

girl portrait face smile

But while this shift is under way, like during any other turbulent time, people are left confused, sometimes disillusioned, asking questions.
The old rules no longer apply. The new rules have not been created yet.

What are you going to do about it? Are you going to see this as a crisis? The end? Are you going to quit and go work part-time?
Or are you going to embrace this as an opportunity? Are you going to be one of those who write the new rule book?

If you’re not seeing the success you desire, it’s because your photography business is not marching in step with the changes around you.

When you woke up this morning, did you jump out of bed thinking about how you can use your talents and gifts to make a difference around you?
Or did you wonder about how you can get more traffic?

I assert that you’re trying to play by the old rules and employ old methods of doing business in a new world. And they’re not working.
But that’s great news.

Because even though the finger is now pointing back at you, you now have power to create a new kind of business. One which delivers real value in this world, not in a world which you wish it was.

So, what are you going to create? What are you going to offer to someone, now?

family portrait three

By Steven M

Steven McConnell is a professional photographer based in Sydney, Australia. He currently specialises in family photography and is passionate about creating photographs which tell real stories and businesses which deliver real value. You can connect with him on Google+


  1. Thank you very much for this post. It has given me food for thought. I by no means am a professional photographer, but I’ve loved photography ever since I was a child and for the past couple of years I’ve had some ideas mulling around in my mind that I haven’t made materialize because of the intense work schedule that I keep. Or at least that’s the excuse I’ve always used.

    Your words have inspired me to take action and make my ideas and dreams real. Thank you again for this fine post.

  2. Hey Steven! thanks a lot for the post! professional cameras have really become “too affordable” lately.. but owning one does not mean your pictures are actually worth something. You can buy yourself a fancy guitar, but that doesn’t make you Jimi Hendrix.. right? 🙂

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