Professional photographer and YouTuber Sean Tucker recently released a video that covers one of the most common (and tricky) questions that enthusiast photographers ask: “should I go pro?” In other words: should I take this thing that I’m passionate about, and turn it into my profession?
As usual, Tucker tackles this subject with candor and honesty, using his own experience “going pro” as a reference point and explaining what it’s really like to turn photography from your hobby into your day job.
“I’m gonna tell you my story about how I became a professional photographer and what that looked like in reality, the nuts and bolts of the day-to-day, so you can get a realistic picture of what you might experience if you choose to go professional,” explains Tucker. “And hopefully, in hearing that story, you can make a more informed decision for yourself.”
As he tells his story, Tucker users his experience to touch on many of the typical anxieties aspiring pros will feel, share a few words about expectation vs reality, and give a sense of some of the opportunities that he was able to take advantage of both in-house at various companies, and as a freelancer. But the most valuable bit probably starts around the 10:11 mark when Tucker describes the day-to-day of being a working pro.
One of the rose-colored misconceptions to which many enthusiasts fall prey is the idea that 90% of their job will be creatively fulfilling; but as any working pro will tell you, this isn’t always the case. It certainly wasn’t for Tucker:
“The honest truth is, as honestly as I can give it to you, is that it was often not very creatively fulfilling to work as a photographer,” says Tucker. “Even the camera, when I was holding it in my hand, I stopped being excited about it and it become just another tool in my head. I looked at it the same way a plumber looks at his plunger.”
Of course, the point of the video isn’t to dissuade anybody from turning their passion into their profession. It’s not even a “warning.” It’s a benevolent reality check. A bit of honest advice from someone who isn’t trying to sell you a “how to become a professional photographer” business course, and therefore has no reason to mislead you about how long it might take or what the day-in day-out might look like if you pursue what he defines as “occupational” photography.
Tucker covers the cons as well as the pros, and even offers some advice on how to keep the passion alive if you wind up working on a “visual production line” the way he did for many years. In a follow-up, he promises to get into some of the business minutia about finding clients, marketing yourself, etc. but this video—and its message—ought to be a pre-requisite for anybody who is thinking of taking their photography from hobby to day job.