What I miss most from being an amateur photographer

I've decided a long time ago to make a career in photography. While it's been great, there is one thing I miss most from being an amateur photographer.

What I enjoy most is watching my kids play legos and cars, it makes me happy, but it also reminds me of a time that was where all that mattered was play. Even if as an adult I still can have fun and play, the subconscious monster is such that I don't think that stuff like bills and obligations completely gets removed for a purely innocent play. Call me romantic or whatever, I long for that innocence to be regained.


Likewise for photography. As a professional what I miss most from being an amateur is simply the innocence of it all. The only thing that was in my mind as an amateur (besides what's my next camera?) was how do I improve my images? All my efforts could be concentrated on that one task, because where focus goes, energy flows. That is not the case for being a pro, shooting and improving is only one part of the equation.


Picture with me two streams of water one hits one turbine, the other hits 5 smaller ones. Each smaller turbines receive less water than the one who has all the water for itself. Where amateurs can focus on simply bettering and enjoying themselves, as a pro I do not have this luxury. My focus has to be not only on myself as a photographer but also on making sure there is food on the table.


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Here's a few of the questions I ask myself everyday: What is my next article going to be about? Where's my next client? Can I call XXX to see if they need services? What marketing am I going to do? How much do I have to shoot to make this month work? Whom do I need to reach out to for networking? Did I finish editing the previous job? Which images should I upload to market to customers? The pro focus is on much more than just making images, hence the innocence of the amateur is lost.


Most of the pros I know, photography is just a job so there is no personal work involved and there's nothing wrong with that. But since I am also very serious about my own personal work, I am for sure making things harder for myself, but it's something I must do. I believed as a pro I would spend my time just shooting images but that's only probably the last thing on the list and I spend very little time actually shooting. As an amateur there is no content to produce, no marketing plans to write, no networking to do, etc.


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I'm not saying not to become a pro or anything, or even to start a pity party, I'm super grateful about what I do and will never stop and I think it's great. But still, I think there IS value in just keeping things at amateur level. Sure in theory one can keep things separate, be a pro sometimes and an amateur other times. But in practice, at least for me, it's a wrestling match.


When I shoot professional, there is a drive to perform, it's good because I want a happy client. But what troubles me is sometimes I still feel some sense of that pressure in my personal work. Say I am in the streets, I shoot images for myself but there's also that drive to perform because I know I want to illustrate my articles (like this one) with my images and not take the lazy way out and use other people's images.


So yes even when I do personal work it sometimes feels like work a bit. It bothers me. On a personal level, after making an image I am totally fine leaving the image as is, never seeing it, never processing it, just knowing that I made it and I have it makes me happy. But on another, more professional level, I know that I will have to process it and publish it in order to be seen.


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I just don't want that thought in my head “I can use this here for the blog or magazine!”, “That can go a nice stock image” to even come when I am shooting personally because it makes me feel that the audience has been on my shoulder while I was shooting when all I wanted to is to shoot for myself. There's nothing wrong for shooting for an audience or anything, it all boils down to your intentions, and my intentions when it comes to my personal images is for them to be an accurate representation of the heart unencumbered by anything.


So I want my images to comes from my inner being and not because of some external pressure to perform. I'm seriously afraid of that and being a pro making personal work makes it ambiguous for me because the lines between pro and amateur are blurred.


I might be overthinking it, I might be making personal work and just using those for professional purposes (I hope it is), but whatever the case I miss the innocence of being an amateur, where such questions of intent didn't even enter the mind. What do you think about my struggles? Do you share them or have some of your own? Hit the reply button below and let me know!


Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.


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11 thoughts on “What I miss most from being an amateur photographer”

  1. My Grandpa was a professional photographer and never shot for pleasure. He never shot landscapes, street or anything other than shots for work or snapshots. I don’t know if this was because photography was just a job to him and he didn’t really enjoy it!

  2. Very much enjoyed your article. I am a retired professional portrait photographer. Now i shoot strictly for fun and the enjoyment of photography now returns without the pressure to make a living and pleasing every client. I began my career some 50+ years ago and turned my hobby into a profession soon afterwards. Pressure is now off and i’m having a ball. Keep up your excellent work. I plan to subscribe to your magazine probably today. Very uplifting.


  3. Olivier, you and Dan are doing a fine job – and on so many levels. Don’t beat yourself up about it., I’m no pro, and a very amateur ‘amateur’ so the questions, do you have to split your creative personality between the two functions. Surely all works of art are produced to by published ie for an audience and not for oneself? For an image to be created only for one’s own viewing ( or even no viewing) seems like still birth. We add our creative interpretations to a creation that’s already out there – there’s nothing private about creation. I suppose your issue is summed up in your feeling that. there is an “audience on your shoulder”. That’s just another apparition of’duality’ and that’s baggage that’s not at all helpful. Just carry on interpreting what your eyes see in your unique way. You have 5822 fans and 5309 members. Those figures alone should tell you, you’re getting it right so far.

      1. I’m so sorry for underestimating the figures. But doesn’t that just emphasise my point? (I took the figures from a banner at the side of your page)
        You were a student, now you are a teacher.

  4. I appreciate this article very much as it helped jar some feelings I’ve been having of my own. I’m struggling with separating shooting for me and an audience. I primarily intend to shoot for myself…but then that thought creeps in like “oooh, this would be awesome for this client or that client”. In fact, this conflict has prevented me from completing (hell, even starting) a few personal projects because what happens is, I dissect them and repurpose them for “the audience”. I need to not do that anymore. I will keep this article with me as a reminder to shoot for myself :).

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