Five Reasons Not To Take Up Photography

Lean In (White Tree No. 5)

Considering taking up photography?  Here’s five reasons not to do so:

  1. It will never make you rich.  Among the arts, it’s probably fair to say that photography is among the least remunerative.  Other artists at the top of their professions – think actors, musicians, painters, novelists, etc. – are quite well compensated.  Admittedly, I don’t know for sure, but my guess is that even the most successful of fine art photographers probably are able to support themselves at no more than a comfortable middle-class living solely by making photographic art.  More typically, most fine art photographers that I’ve observed have to supplement their incomes by teaching workshops, writing for publications, doing commercial work, etc.  It’s very difficult to earn a living exclusively as a fine art photographer.
  2. It will never make you famous.  Can you name a famous actor?  Musician, painter, novelist?  Odds are you can name several.  Now try and name a famous contemporary fine art photographer.  Those interested enough to be reading this blog might be able to do so, but I doubt that anyone who doesn’t have an active interest in photography could easily do so.
  3. It will cost you a lot of money.  Photographic gear is expensive.  Cameras, lenses, tripods, backpacks, filters, and so on will cost you thousands of dollars.  And by the way, don’t think that digital is cheaper than film.  Not only do you have to invest in quality equipment – a decent computer, monitor, printer, photo editing software, etc. – but the rate at which digital goes obsolete is obscenely fast, meaning you’ll be buying new computers, monitors, printers, and software every few years.  And yes, this point hurts twice as much given point 1, above.
  4. You won’t get much respect from the arts community.  Though photography has gained a sort of pro forma acceptance in the arts community over the last few decades, there’s still a great divide between, for example, painters, sculptors, and other visual media on one side, and photographers on the other.  Go to most contemporary galleries of fine art, and you will see painting, sculpture, and other visual media mingling freely, but rarely will you see photography represented in the same proportion.  Granted, there are exceptions here and there, but by and large they simply serve to prove the otherwise widespread applicability of the rule.
  5. You won’t get much respect from the general public.  Okay, some people will respect you as an artist, but most people won’t.  The average person, not knowing much about photography, generally conflates photographic artistry with expensive equipment.  They think anyone can produce stunning images by buying an expensive camera and pointing it at something.  This is obviously not the case, but good luck trying to persuade people to change their opinion on this.

Does this sound kind of bleak?  Well, there is some good news.  If you read, understand, and really internalize these points, and still want to pursue photography, then I think your odds of being successful at it are quite good.  This is because you’ll be practicing photography for any number of good reasons – you enjoy it, it makes you happy, etc.  I finished the image in this post, “Lean In (White Tree No. 5)” within about the last week or so, roughly seven years after I started practicing photography.  Since reasons 1-5 above fell away quite some time ago, I’m happy to report that I’m really still in this game simply because I love doing it.


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