This is a question I have been wrestling with for the past few years and to this date I believe I am on the right track..Well at least I can say that now cause who knows what will change tomorrow. I wanted to blog this subject because I cannot believe that I am the only one that has gone through this. In fact I know I am not the only one because there are number of books out there on how to choose your path and become pro. I know because I have one of the many books. In trying to dispense some advice I will try to interject some of what I have learned so far.
The moment we decided to become a photographer was the very minute we were caught up in the beauty of a print another photographer created. I remember when I saw the print that Ansel Adams created of El Capitan I was hooked. I continued to study other photographer like Edward Weston , Dorothy Lange and Arnold Newman and inevitably tried to emulate their style. I took classes at high school, read books and learned what I could about the photographic process.
I eventually went to college and was determined not to “sell out” and go commercial. I wanted to be a true artist photograph the landscape and sell my work to all my followers. What I failed to realize is the fact by selling my prints I would be commercial there fore “selling out.” The second thing is the size of my college bill that I had to pay back. So far “selling out” was something I needed to do. So after graduation I took a job with a portrait studio in the mall. For the record, you had to learn the 5 sellable poses before you could shoot a paying customer. There were a few people that were not able to complete this task and was out the door. I learned my craft well and had developed a healthy customer base. I enjoyed what I did and learned a lot, but the hours killed me.
While working at a graphics job I really tried to gather a following to build a business. This was not easy but I did well the first year and the second was as good but after that it did not go well. I started to lose my interest and eventually I gave up all together. The industry changed, I changed and I was not keeping up. I even put the camera aside altogether. It wasn’t until a year or so passed by before I picked it up again, going back to what inspired me, landscapes.
This is my point. We all start off shooting everything we can but later we think we must start shooting something that will make money. Most of the time that is portraits and not all of us belong in that group. We pick a spot because it pays but it eventually burns us out and makes us quit. Sometimes we never go back and it should not be that way.
If you are reading this and are lost on your photographic path just remember this; whatever got you hooked on photography, whatever brings you the passion of photography, and the reactions you get from your peers on your work you should follow it. If your gut feeling is that you should be a landscape photographer, or portrait and your peers back you then do it. Learn everything you can form books, mentors, and other photographers. This will be the path that will bring you the most joy in photography, not the one that you think you have to do. I thought I had to be a portrait photographer to make money, but I don’t.