About Passion and How it Doesn’t Pay the Bills as a Photographer

Passion for a photographer comes in two different flavors.

Let me tell you a little bit about passion and what I’ve learned about it. Nowadays, everyone has a passion for something: every entrepreneurial story begins because of passion and every photographer turns their hobby into a business because of passion. Passion is fine: there’s nothing wrong with being passionate about what we don But passion didn’t land astronauts on the moon, the Berlin Wall didn’t fall because of passion, and definitely, passion doesn’t pay the bills when you’re trying to make a living as a full-time photographer – enthusiasm, commitment, and discipline do.

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Yes, passion can be the starting point. It can give you that explosion of ideas to start something big, but it doesn’t actually make things happen. Let’s take hobbyists, for example. We get into photography to find a pastime, then learn how cool photography actually is and hear people tell us how awesome our pictures are. Then all of a sudden we are a passionate photographer wanting to make it big time and earn a living capturing those decisive moments no one else seems to be aware of. Then as a professional photographer, we realise that passion is just the leap of faith into something really big to explore. In fact, the passion for photography that leads so many of us to turn a hobby into a business is usually put to a test when we have to face the ups and downs of running a business. Then we learn that passion is a bitch!

It took me several attempts to fully understand this until I read an article (or a chapter of a book) by author and business speaker David Hieatt. He describes passion in two separate types. The first one is hot passion which I see as that burning passion of loving photography and just wanting to take pictures all the time. I think we are born with hot passion and it defines our personality. For example in my case, I love Formula 1 and at some point all I wanted to do was motorsport photography. It’s the same with music. I love thrash and death metal and would love to travel the world seeing my favorite bands playing, and take pictures of it. But the truth is that no matter how much I love these things, I’m not good at photographing them. So no matter how passionate I am, they will remain a pastime.

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Then there’s cold passion which is a more intellectual passion that is detached from emotions. We learn the most once we realise that being passionate about something doesn’t necessarily makes us good at it. I learned that cold passion is the love of running a business, putting the time and effort to learn marketing, accounting, networking and all sorts of non-photographic skills for the benefit of booking clients and securing contracts.

How does one keep both passions alive? Do photography you love for a living, do photography you love in your spare time, but don’t make the same photography on each end. It will drive you mad!

Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve seen it so many times: passionate photographers wanting to turn their hobby into a business and quitting shortly after. Hot passion dies out so quickly when we don’t get the feedback we want to hear. Cold passion will tell you why you’re not getting that feedback. I remember applying for a membership with an agency and going through their different assessment stages. At one point they said they knew I could take commercially good photographs but were not sure I knew how to run my business. It hurt hearing that of course but it opened my eyes to set my emotions aside and learn how to be a professional.

Photography is a very beautiful form of art. The business of photography is just business.

Be sure to check out Xavier’s website too!