Go Pro? Maybe What You Need is to Go Amateur


Photography is one of the most popular hobbies on the planet, but you’d never know it by reading most photography blogs, podcasts, books, and tutorials. It’s treated as a profession, where the goal is making money, buying more expensive gear or getting your prints into galleries around the world. You’re being enticed to “Go Pro,” and that’s just not realistic for the vast majority of photographers. Most photographers could benefit from going amateur.

100% of humans should practice an art. Probably 0% should try to make money off it. —Austin Kleon

At the time of this post, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated the median pay for a professional photographer at $28,490.00 per year. Most of those who choose to make a living with photography do not make much of a living.

New photographers are dipping their toes into the professional market all the time, making photography a commodity in areas of the market where creativity has been neglected. And while some veterans have stepped up their game in response, most have not. The result is less opportunity for average photographers.

I’m not here to discourage you. No doubt that some of you are professionals already, and some of you have made a few bucks here and there.

But the vast majority of you are not professionals and never will be. Many publications, especially blogs, are hoping you never realize that. Most are pushing a content drug on you. The goal is to treat you as a professional, tempt you to buy like one and keep you coming back for more. This robs you of time and resources better spent on making the pictures you love.

On your deathbed, will you regret not having made a few extra bucks on your photography? It’s more likely you will regret not creating more art.

Stop buying into the assumption that your goal is to make money from photography. Your goal is to create photographs that you love.

Concentrate on making your images remarkable, instead of marketable. If you photograph what you love to photograph, without regard for money, you’ll create better images, which could lead to the possibility of money. Just don’t count on the money.

Make your images remarkable instead of marketable.

About the author: CJ Chilvers is the writer behind the blog A Lesser Photographer and the author of the Craft & Vision book, A Lesser Photographer. This post was adapted from a chapter found in that book.

Image credits: Header photograph by 55Laney69