From Amateur Photographer to Professional – From Love to Profit is Not Guaranteed

amateur-professionalFive years ago I returned to the world of photography after a 20 year absence. Then I was a ‘struggling-professional’ photographer.  I gave a face to the following type jokes: Question – What’s the difference between a professional photographer and a McDonald’s family-pack happy meal? Answer – The happy meal can feed a family of four.

I started in photography for the love of it. Eventually, I decided that all I had to do to become a professional photographer was to pass out my business cards and wait for the telephone to ring. I confused my love of photography with success as a ‘professional photographer.’

For me, being a ‘professional photographer’ dampened all of the joy that photography had given me over the years. I took on jobs that weren’t challenging or profitable. I didn’t take the time to figure out what type of photography offered the most profit for the effort, resources and time investment. I didn’t pay attention to where my best potential customers were or how to ‘overdeliver’ on my services to them. Although I went about operating my ‘professional photography’ business with all the best of intentions, plans, enthusiasm, and commitment, I had doomed myself to predictable failure. Of course, I recognized this ‘after’ I ran out of money, enthusiasm and hope. Hindsight is often 20/20.

Now I have returned and my excitement and enthusiasm is even more intense than twenty years ago. The world of photography is exploding in growth and changing almost just as fast. Since I am older now, I should be more mature and better able to make well thought-out and researched business decisions.

The greatest aspect of current photography, for me, is technology. I prefer digital over film. Digital allows me to shoot and practice more than I could with film. Also, I can manipulate the photo to get the best image possible. Technology helps me to find information to help me make business decisions. Technology now helps me to target my potential customers and market specifically to them. Its not a hit and miss marketing exercise.

I found photography books that helped me to focus on a profitable photography niche. Prior to finding the books I had absolutely no concept of what a photography niche was or how important it is to being a successful photographer. There are many very good books about successful photography business. For me, one of the best (after my 20 year absence) was “The Business of Studio Photography” by Edward R. Lilley. His book kept me from repeating my costly mistakes of the past.

Twenty years ago I had never heard of stock photography. Now, stock photography is where I put most of my scheduled time when I am shooting for business purposes (versus shooting for my love of photography). There are a lot of books about stock photography. “Sell and Re-Sell Your Photos” and “” both by Rohn Engh, have been two of the best investments that I have ever made. I have a clearer understanding of the business of stock photography and where I fit. Stock photography is experiencing a great deal of change. Some long time stock photographers simply don’t like what is happening. Other long time stock photographers welcome the changes and adjust accordingly. Since I am relatively new to stock photography, the changes have little meaning or consequences to me. Author Michal Heron’s books “How to Shoot Stock Photos That Sell” and “Pricing Photography” were very valuable in broadening my understanding of the stock photography business. The latter book also offers pricing information for assignment photography.

One of the best aspects of the current photography world is technology. I enjoy showing my work. Photography websites allows me to show my work, to supplement my advertising/marketing and to sell my work. I had established a number of photography websites before I found one of the greatest internet ‘freebies’ for photographers. A site called gives fully operational photography websites for free! That’s right free! The free photography website has no advertising or popups! They give you a fully operational photography website for three months for free and they hope you like their service so well that you will become a paid subscriber. This free photography website is more functional than the photography websites that I pay for. The fully functional photography website that is offered by is flexible for whatever your photography niche may be, from amateur photographer to professional photographer.

“The Photographer’s Guide to Setting Up a Website” by Martyn Moore, is a great resource to assist you in understanding how to set up a photography website. The book offers free resources for photographers such as a free web site, free photography website templates, etc. The book has an accompanying website which contributes to the value of this particular resource.

It feels good to be back in the world of photography. Initially, I was overwhelmed. With the assistance of all the available information on the internet I was able to learn the current business of photography and to share it with others. For sure, the world of photography is massive and growing. I take the time to get all the information necessary to make the best business decisions. I have reversed my business success record. I actually make money in the photography business. Being back makes me a few bucks and allows me to get paid to do what I love – photography.

About the Author
Kalem Aquil is the owner of a website that offers information and resources to assist all level of photographers find customers and market their photography as well as themselves as photographers.

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