Would You Do Photography Full-Time if Money Were No Object?

Here’s a thought-provoking video making the rounds online — one that you might want to watch if you love photography and have been thinking hard about your career path. It’s based on a lecture given decades ago by philosopher Alan Watts, who poses the question, “What would you like to do if money were no object?”

What makes you itch? What sort of a situation would you like? […] It’s so amazing that as a result of our kind of educational system, crowds of students say, “Well, we’d like to be painters, we’d like to be poets, we’d like to be writers, but as everybody knows, you can’t earn any money that way.”

[…] if you do really like what you’re doing — it doesn’t matter what it is — you can eventually become a master of it. It’s the only way to be a master of something, to be really with it […] And then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is.

Just substitute “photographer” to that list and you’ll get the advice that people often tell aspiring photographers.

Watts brings up an interesting Catch-22: if people stay at a job because they think they’re not good enough at what they want to do, they might never master what they want to do enough to leave their job. He’s saying the way to break the cycle is to simply take the plunge.

  • Caleb Sommerville

    As The Joker says, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”

  • jdm8

    You do have to make a sacrifice somewhere. You do need to make time to get good at something. If you can’t make time after work or on the weekends, then you’re stuck with making time by quitting the job or just never doing it.

  • therover413

    That kinda just made my heart break, it is such a terrible truth.

  • therover413

    So true, lost interest in so many hobbies this way, now with a neborn I have zero time.

  • Titus-Armand

    The narration doesn’t fit the music and neither of those two fit the visuals.

  • Kim

    I already do, but, its not full time and money is an object…. Sadly. :(

  • Nikola Milasevic

    I would. 100%. Unfortunately, money is THE object…however, I often wonder, why people with a lot of money usually only do drugs and not-say-photography?

  • kim

    my fave iswhen people who u already are doing favors for take advantage of ur efforts and want and expect more, and more, then u end up jaded. Its just another scenario where you stop doing what you love because folks around you cant take no for an answer. Its cost me more than just a great deal of money.

  • jdm8

    It’s pretty tough, but I personally would put a dollar value on the work. It really is work to take & process photos, and anyone that doesn’t recognize that don’t really need photos. It’s kind of like people inviting themselves over and expecting to be fed, even if they’re your family, that’s rude on their part, not yours.

  • jan

    You can still improve on your baby portrait skills with a newborn even with very little time, and believe me after a while more time will slowly come back. Besides that spending time with a newborn is time well spend.

  • Jose Pablo Chavez Vega

    listen to ideas… music is iirelevant…

  • Titus-Armand

    I can’t, it’s distracting. Besides, I read this lecture years ago, so I’ll skip subjecting myself to this “artful” presentation.

  • Kyle Adam Thompson

    I’m a biology major at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and I love photography. I shoot a small number of weddings and have a good stash of gear, but i’m pressing on towards a degree and then graduate school for a health profession… but I always dream of a life as a full time photographer.

  • therover413

    True, all of it Thank you

  • Samcornwell

    I urge anybody who reads this to watch the documentary Bill Cunningham New York.

  • Fred Nerks

    Money is definitely an object, but if it wasn’t, I would not get into photography as a business, even though I love it as art. I’d buy an RV and tour the country, taking thousands of photos. A combination of my hobby plus seeing the sights would be my ideal life. Who needs a career when they’re loaded with cash? I’d post my photos on a hosting site such as FineArt America, and if anyone wanted to buy them, they could.

  • Andrew Doran

    If you substitute “Photographer” this film becomes very ironic, as it seems almost certain (by the feeble attempt at a generic credit at the end) that all of the imagery used was taken without permission, affecting the artists ability to make a living doing what they love.

  • Kirk Sides

    Money is a issue and I still do photography full-time as a staff photographer for Houston Community Newspapers. I love it! #kirksidesHCNphotos

  • Sum_it

    I’ve always loved photography and it will continue to be a part of my life. Unfortunately, that is all it will be: a part of my life; not a significant part.

    Many of you readers may bash me for saying this because money is so intimately involved with the career, but I’d like to be a physician. Yes there is money in it, but when you factor in stuff like length/cost of education, rigor, delayed gratification, malpractice premiums there really isn’t much left. But, at the end of the day, what is left is the satisfaction of potentially saving a life. For many people, that’s not enough. For me, its all that matters.

    Do what gives YOU meaning and purpose in life.

  • chphotovideo

    You’re following the right track Kyle. I feel I can honestly say your kind will be the end of photographers. Not saying that harshly, but truthfully. I finished a BFA in Photography and work as much as I can in that world. The sad truth is I can’t compete with the rest of the community who are 9-5rs at their regular job they went to school for and shoot weekends. The weekend warriors who love photography can shoot pictures ‘good enough’ for 95%. It’s forcing us who can continually create good images on command to seek out that 5% thats left where we can actually make a check. My advice, chase your biology degree, make a steady paycheck…. and please keep this convo in mind the next time someone asks you to shoot a weekend project for a measly $100.

  • Max

    Maybe you chose the wrong vocation.. perhaps photography is not your thing but something else entirely?

  • Jay m88

    If the whole world followed this thought process there would be no trash collector,sewer line cleaners, and no peep show booth cleaners.

  • Trey Mortensen

    I’m currently in school to do bio mechanical engineering (orthopedic research), but I also have a photography business which helps pay for things. I hope to always have photography on the side, but I also hope that I can one day design implants/braces for people who are hurt. I have two motivations and I’m trying to do both right now. Money is just a nice benefit to satisfaction.

  • vv

    On 30 of november i am quiting my everyday job to take up photography full is not important…hapiness is…chase your dreams…we only live once…

  • glen

    I would photograph aircraft and would travel the world to do it museums, air shows ,air bases and airports

  • Dean Forbes

    Dream on and get back to work!

  • Albert McCracken

    Ok, that just great. The video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by TimeLapseHD. How ironic don’t you think…..

  • Friday Wedding Photography

    Lame sauce. Video down