Friday, April 28, 2017

Why I Quit Professional Photography

OK, this might surprise many of you - though I have mentioned it a couple of times in online discussions with friends and (now former) colleagues. But I decided to write a full post about it with the aim - as always - to perhaps help others.
So yes, some time ago I quit professional photography.
Or, let me put this in its proper context:
Some time ago, I decided I've had enough of professional photography.

Remember an older article of mine, where I gave you the concrete steps you need to tackle on your way to professional photography? My last piece of advice was: Think of, recognize, and act upon the signs that tell you to give up.

The self-imposed signs I had set for myself from day 1 were:
a) if it started costing me money instead of bringing any
b) if I started becoming miserable doing it.

Taking photos for Chthonic was the highlight of my
professional photography endeavor.

The first condition had not been met yet when I decided to stop, but I think it was on its way - people nowadays, when DSLRs are ubiquitous, are under the impression they don't need to spend any money for professional photography.

"Uncle Joe or aunt Jill will take the wedding photos", you know how it goes. Furthermore, there is a bunch of people who suddenly think their D500 and their 70-200 f/2.8 automatically make them a pro photographer. This has the result of even more money required for self-promotion by genuine professionals - it's an investment, because in the long run people will realize they're getting more out of you compared to "uncle Joe", but I never was a person who liked getting into debt, speculating about the future.

Still, that wasn't the main reason I decided to quit.

I remember having a very powerful "OK, I'm done" moment while I was... watching a movie. It was Boyhood, and for those of you who might have seen it, there is a scene near the end where the main character, as a teenager, spends some time in a dark room, developing a film. His photography teacher gives him a sermon about getting along with the program, doing the things he's supposed to do, like everyone else. The boy turns and looks at the man, and you could just feel the subtle but very intense feeling of loathing, his despise toward mediocrity.

It affected me greatly. Leaving the cinema, I had already decided that I'd had enough. To be fair, there was also an additional reason that, in a peculiar dance of synchronicity, had occurred a couple of days earlier.

I had gone to a client's house - a young woman who wanted portrait pictures for her website (I think she was an interior designer, or something like that). Like usually, I set up my equipment, and we began taking the shots. Her husband was there, giving advice all the time, making my blood boil, but other than that it went OK. As I was packing, she asked to see some of the photos. I never allowed clients to see the shots on the camera, telling them (which is the truth) that they're not developed yet. I did the same this time.

Well, the woman started leering and being annoying, mumbling about being a paying customer, and stuff like that. I tried to explain - my patience rapidly depleting - that it was like with film: I needed to go home first, edit the photos, then I would send them ASAP. Next comment: "Why do you need to edit them, am I that ugly you need to photoshop me?"

Perhaps subconsciously already approaching the "I'm done" moment, I just said "no, of course not" with an exaggerated smile, then left soon after. I worked without eating for the next few hours, just to get done with that nightmare. I emailed her the photos, and she said she didn't like them. Her posture wasn't good, she said, and she looked too serious. Then she began being obnoxious, saying that if I had let her see them right there, we could've taken more photos and none of this would've happened.

Something broke inside me already then (but wouldn't detach until I saw the movie). I got paid, but as I noticed later she never used the photos on her website. I asked myself how much more mediocrity and stupidity I could take, and the answer was pretty straightforward: not much.

This happened quite some time ago, and as you have noticed it hasn't stopped me from writing articles here, sharing my knowledge and opinions with all of you. I have sold most of my equipment - I've kept only a D3200, the 18-105, and the venerable SB-800, but I'm considering giving up on them as well, see if I can take pictures with just my mobile. I'm still buying all kinds of lenses, with the sole purpose of reviewing them then selling them forward.

Frankly, I don't know for how much longer I'll keep writing on this website. Perhaps I'll keep doing it respecting the same two principles I did for taking photos professionally: a) for as long as I don't need to spend any money for it; b) for as long as I enjoy it.

And the latter, in particular, is arguably a good way to go through life in general.

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