IN FOCUS: My Journey into Professional Photography

I realize this is a lengthy post, so I completely understand if you move on after reading the first few paragraphs.  But, I do hope you’ll give it a chance because I believe there are so many people out there with this dream and your participation may be exactly what they need.  In fact, it may be exactly what I need!

IN FOCUS: My Journey into Professional Photography – Introduction

Several months ago I published a post about dreaming.  You may want to read “I Have a Dream” part 1 and part 2.  Over the past eight months, professional photography has become my dream.  And whether I succeed or fail, neither will be as difficult to endure as having never tried!

There are many sources available that offer a variety of information to those who may have aspirations of becoming a professional photographer.  Some are helpful – most are not.  But this series of blog posts will be different from all of those, in that it will chronicle my step-by-step journey into the professional photography market.  My goal is to share the victories and the disappointments, the good and the bad, the successes and the failures, what works and what does not.  Literally everything I do will be recorded for your comment and evaluation.  By inviting you to participate, my hope is that your comments will offer insight and encouragement thus becoming a vital part of this journey.  I intend to be completely open with my goals, my plans, my strategies, and my progress.  Everything will be documented.  My reason for doing this?  It’s to offer hope to anyone with a dream!

Now, let me preface this series of blog posts with these comments:

  • If you happen to be a professional photographer – this series is for you because you can be the sounding board of sensibility that cries out when I venture too far from reality.
  • If you’re interested in becoming more serious about your photography, even venturing into the professional world along the way – this series will encourage you to do that.
  • If you have absolutely no interest in becoming a professional photographer, but enjoy photography and consider it an important part of your life – this series is for you because it will provide the information needed to improve your skills and expand your horizons.
  • If you have no interest in photography but you do occasionally grab a camera with the idea of snapping a few pictures, and you primarily enjoy this site and share your comments because of the images posted here – this series is for you because various images will constantly be used to demonstrate a point of focus.

In May of 2010, a journey began – my journey.  And in eight very short months, it’s already been a time of great challenge and reward.  But, I sense the greatest challenges still lie ahead.  Knowing that, creates a growing excitement within my very being!  But, that excitement brings with it a strange accompanying anxiety.

One of the anxieties that seems to repeatedly haunt me is the fact that I’m not young!  Yes!  There, I’ve said it!  I’m…not…young!!  The thought of starting a journey at this particular stage in my life, at times, seems like a foolish dream – or the dream of a fool, I’m not sure which.  At any rate, this anxiety causes me to sometimes internalize any aspirations about photography becoming anything more than an enthusiastic hobby.  There is a certain reluctance if not an outright refusal to share this dream that is growing within me.  Because of this anxiety, this post is a monumental step for me!  I sometimes fear what those closest to me might think?

But, if they’re my closest friends and family, won’t they eventually if not immediately share in my dream and support me along the way?  Time will tell.  However I would advise you in this way: Before you ever share a dream of this magnitude I would strongly suggest having any and all doubts settled in your own heart first, and a plan of action (even if that plan is in its infancy stage) already in place.  That way when you share your dream with those who are closest to you, they too, can share in the excitement of that dream and stand with you through all the ups and downs along the way.

On a side note: To be perfectly clear, I’m not old either!  I want to make sure everyone understands that.  I’m not young!  But, I’m not old either!  I’m somewhere in-between.

One of the books I’ve been reading and re-reading this year is a book by Julia Cameron entitled The Complete Artist’s Way. It’s actually a compilation of her three works, The Artist’s Way, Walking in this World, and Finding Water. In this book, Julia makes a statement that caused me to completely adjust my thinking to recognize the potential of “NOW!”  She explains that when she teaches her artistic concepts, there is always someone who voices an intense defensive hostility by asking, “Do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to be a professional photographer?”  To which she always replies, “Yes…the same age you will be if you don’t!”  To me, that’s a profound statement that allows me to dream anything at any age!

When I began this journey, some of you indicated you were excited about coming along.  I’m not sure how serious you were when you said those words.  But if you’re still interested, you better hang on because we’re getting ready to shift into high gear!  So, whether you’re a professional photographer with all the latest gear or an amateur enthusiast armed only with a point and shoot camera, jump on board and let’s see where this train will take us!  If you’re young, old, or like me – somewhere in between, put down your morning coffee and grab something to take some notes because this is about to get good!  If you have aspirations of becoming a professional photographer (even though no one may be aware of those dreams) or if you have for even one fleeting moment wondered if you could ever sell one of your images or have one of your prints included in a gallery exhibit, dust off your zoom lens because we’re going to glance into the future and discover the possibilities!

When I talk to people about their life, I always ask these questions, “Where do you see yourself in one year?”  And, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”  Those two questions usually give me the insight needed to evaluate their vision and motivation.  Believe me without vision and motivation, in five years you’ll likely be somewhere close to where you are right now.  And that’s the issue for me.  I don’t want to still be dreaming about becoming a professional photographer five years from now.  In five years, I would much rather be dreaming about where I’ll be opening my second gallery!  For a certainty, I don’t want to be in the same place I am today, five years from now!

Take a look at the image below.  Tell me what you see.


In many ways, I feel this young person heading into a foggy ocean with no way of seeing any further than the steps directly ahead of him at this very moment, accurately depicts my feelings as I begin this journey unable to see beyond the few steps I’m taking today.

Just as you would think it folly to grab your camera, point at your subject, and shoot; so to is life when you move through each day by simply getting out of bed, going through the motions, and going to bed that night only to get up and do it all over again the next day.  Even though we refer to them as “point and shoot” cameras, in reality we actually point, FOCUS, and then shoot if we really want to extract a usable image.  Life can be similar in that we need to develop a focal point that commands our attention and directs our days.

Let me share with you some of the questions I’ve been asking myself lately:

  • Is my work good enough to compete at the professional level?
  • Am I good enough to start charging for my work?
  • Do I have what it takes?
  • Am I good enough to start investing in equipment and classes?
  • Do I have “it?”

Obviously what I’m really asking is, “Should I take the risk of investing myself emotionally and financially in becoming a photographer?  Will I be able to make a living?”

I had to come to the realization that I’m the only person who knows the answers to those questions.  And if those questions sound familiar to you because you’ve asked them repeatedly as well, then recognize that the tools for success lie within you and me – concealed from even the closest observer.  Because of that, only you and I can determine the answers to those important questions.

So, what should I do today?  The first step you must take is to begin to discover that focal point for your life.  And whether it’s photography or something completely different, embrace it and pursue it with an undeniable passion.

Are there any hopeful professionals out there?  Are there any “Dreamers” reading this post right now?  Let me encourage you to join me on this journey.  From the legalities of a small business, to the painstaking efforts of securing a professional printer and framer, to the complex task of obtaining gallery space, and everything in-between, you can walk with me as I follow the strategic plan I’ve developed for this dream.  Will you share your thoughts, or maybe even your dreams by adding your comments to this discussion?  Believe me, you will only find support from myself and the readers of this blog!

Note: IN FOCUS: The Journey Into Professional Photography will be a twice monthly feature here at Photographyfree4all.

All contents of this blog are owned by Photographyfree4all and protected by the copyright laws of the state of California.  Any reproduction without the express written permission of this site is strictly prohibited.

If you would like to use some of this information for your blog, please contact me to work out those details.  As a subscriber to Photographyfree4all, I’m sure arrangements can be made to accommodate your request.

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~ by photographyfree4all on January 26, 2011.

28 Responses to “IN FOCUS: My Journey into Professional Photography”

  1. I believe you have what it takes to go pro!

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  2. This was a great post. It’s hard to start over in the second half of your life–but it doesn’t have to be. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Many thanks, Barb! I know I may say this often, but I really do appreciate your comments! I believe they will not only encourage me (which they always do) but they might go a long way in helping a reader as well! Thank you for always sharing!

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  4. I’ve had this post in my que for several weeks knowing I wanted to share me experience in an effort to be an encouragement to someone who may read it. In fact, I hope it may be the encouragement someone may need to follow their dream! Heather, I always appreciate your input!! I mean that! Your comments are never taken lightly because I know you don’t write them lightly. I hope you’ll continue to contribute as we move down this path. Great comment, Heather! Thank you so much!

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  5. I wish you well. I did the same many years ago and if it was not for the sickness that invaded me in the last 10 years nothing would have stopped me. The books written by Julia Cameron have been a mainstay since the early 90’s. A great help to anyone.

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  6. 🙂 Im going through this exact scenario myself 🙂 Great to meet someone else who is. I personally just quit my Career of twenty years with out a plan!! lol Im going to be working at an organic farm, working on my gardening skills, and offering cooking lessons with the food i gather, and as a side project photography . Between Food, Farming, and Photos … one will stick and work 🙂 I hope !! lol

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  7. Thank you for these encouraging words, Francis! I’m so sorry to hear of your illness that deterred your dream. I hope you’ll come along. I could really use your input along the way! I’m so glad you stopped by and shared this comment.

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  8. Best wishes in following your dream, Steve. A similar dream floats about in the back of my mind, but I know I don’t have the ambition or available funds to try to make a go of it, so for me, photography will remain an enthusiastic hobby. I’d truly love to be a wedding photographer (and maybe do a few other types of shots on the side) but I know I could never wish to have the type of equipment that would be good enough to preserve someone’s wedding memories for a lifetime. I will enjoy following your journey.

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  9. I can see where you’re going with this, and all I can say is, you have our encouragement and support! I am one of those people who are “comfortable” in their photography, I am enjoying the journey wherever it takes me, I am trying not to plan it too much, nor direct it, just learn whatever comes and try my best to produce something that I am pleased with 🙂 Good Luck, Bon Voyage!

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  10. Thank you for this great post. I will probably have to come back and read it again. And maybe again. 🙂

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  11. This is great to know, Rich! I’ll be sharing my business plan along with my projected calendar very soon. I hope you’ll join in the discussion along the way! Great to meet you! Thanks for stopping by.

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  12. Thank you, Karen. Never say never, though. The one thing that I’ve tried to do for the past 8 months, is to meet people who have succeeded in what I’m dreaming of doing. To that end, I started a blog and have met some absolutely wonderful people – like yourself! I’ve also met and begun to build a professional relationship with 3 photographers who currently operate their own gallery. I talk to them. I pick their brains. I run my ideas past them. I learn their techniques. I usually stop by their galleries weekly. I’ve also met 2 photographers who are more into photographic journalism. But, I still learn from them – especially about equipment. One of my goals this year is to apprentice a wedding. That will take some time to build a relationship that allows me to do that. I would also like to apprentice a portrait photographer this year. But I think what I would really like to do is apprentice a landscape photographer – that’s where my heart is. I may not be able to do all three, but I’m going to try for one! I joined a photography club. I have taken classes. I found a great little camera shop that rents whatever equipment I don’t have – like Canon “L” lenses! This guy rents them for almost nothing! I’m building a relationship with him, too. I know it may not be something you can do right away, but think about the steps you may be able to take right now to be even one step closer to your dream. And, in the meantime – carry your camera everywhere and keep shooting! 🙂 Karen, the first step was to share your dream!! Way to go!! 🙂

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  13. What a great “send off” Michael! Thank you! This has definitely been a venue of encouragement for me – and others, too! And, you’re such an important part of that, Michael! I look forward to our future discussions as I move down this path! Thank you for always jumping in – it’s been a tremendous help!

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  14. I will probably join you in reading it often, Robin! I’m sure I will need the challenge it provides on some of those days of photography slumps! It great to know that you and others are always here, helping and encouraging with your comments and discussion. Thank you, Robin! Here we go! 🙂

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  15. Going through the same thing myself, thanks!

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  16. Go for It, Steve!! I have been hearing/seeing the rumble of this in all of your blogs. So I’m not surprised to hear you say this.I think you will do well and you’ll enjoy the journey. I’ll be following you here on your blog and wishing you well.

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  17. Here’s what I see in the picture. I see someone rushing out to do something they love knowing full well of the obstacles that lay in his path….yet he goes anyway. Love and dedication!! I am not old nor am I young either and I have just started out. It’s the experience that counts for me. I love photography so no matter whether I go pro one day or I stay an enthusiastic hobbyist, I’m soaking up everything I can and from every source that I can.

    I wish you well on your journey!!]

    Mike

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  18. If you get this twice I apologize. My computer absolutely freaked when I hit the post comment button. So I’m gonna try and duplicate what I had written to begin with. CRAP!!

    What I see in your picture is a person who is rushing out to do what it is he loves doing; knowing full well the obstacles that lay in his path. Love and dedication are what it’s about.

    I have watched your blog for sometime and I really like your work. You have a great eye and a knack for really capturing the mood of what you see. I am not old nor am I young either. Photography is something that I just recently started getting serious about and I am in love with it. I can’t say whether or not I would ever seek out “professional” status or if I am going to maintain the “enthusiastic amateur” label. I know that because I love doing it, I will find happiness in either direction. There’s no better place to be than that.

    I wish you well in your quest and I will be following along with you on your journey.

    Mike

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  19. That’s great to hear, Derrick! I look forward to the many discussions we’ll have this year as we see where this path leads! Jump in with your comments anytime! I’m glad to have the company.

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  20. You’re comments are always very encouraging, Miss betty! Thanks for the vote of confidence. Here we go! 🙂

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  21. Great comment, Mike! It very much mirrors the way I think and feel. This is bound to be an incredible journey! Thanks for lending your support! I do the same for you!

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  22. This was an even better comment than your first, which is why I posted both of them This one is a little more detailed. That’s quite an effort you made just to encourage me with your comment – I really appreciate that! Great job, Mike!

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  23. One thing that is definitely a plus. You have the desire. I think your work is good and saleable. Now you have to make a decision as what type of photography you want to go into. Will it be portraits, weddings, pet photography? Maybe you want to work for a newspaper or magazine. Or like me, just free-lance. It will be difficult until you decide the didrection to go. After you decide that, then focus on what you will need to do to make that happen. It will be difficult. But it will be fun. All the best to you. I’ll be watching.

    Bob

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  24. I do have a very strong desire, Bob! And, I have a desire to help anyone I can along the way! You’re right about the “type” of photography I need to choose – and, I’m working on that. I believe I have a plan, but need to research a little before revealing it. It will no doubt appear in a future post! Thanks for all of your support, Bob! I really mean that, too!! 🙂

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  25. […] purpose of the posts found in this category is to allow each of you an opportunity to experience first hand my journey […]

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  26. I’m baaack! Of course, you knew that you would hear from me sooner or later. Steve, if I may repeat myself, yes, you are good enough to be selling your work. In fact, you should already be selling it. I mentioned before, get yourself a good Epson wide printer. Print some photos, mount them on some foamboard, and/or mat them. Take them to an arts/crafts show near you and collect the raves, reviews, and oh yes, the MONEY. You have to start NOW and get your feet wet.

    That’s how I made my first sale. I set up a card table at an art show like I described above. It was a weekend show. I only had 21 prints with me. I didn’t know better. But the 2nd day I sold my first print for 30.00. What a rush!! Wow!! That got me started. It is a learning curve, Steve. Now if I do a show like that, I can sell 1,000.00 per weekend.

    So, just do it!!

    Bob

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  27. Oh, one more thing. You don’t need L lenses to get the job done. I’ve been doing this, (selling my work) for 20 years. I just got my first L series lenses about three years ago.

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  28. Do you know any photographers in NC?

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