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Our equipment list Canon 5D Mark II Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L Canon 50mm f/1.4 Canon 85mm f/1.8 Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro Canon Speedlight 580EX PocketWizard Plus II Post processing Adobe Lightroom 3 Adobe Photoshop CS5 I get the sense that this question comes most often from those who think that there’s something […]

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  • Alisa - I’ve always wondered what your equipment consisted of. It’s sort of exciting to know :0) I’m a fan of your work so I guess it’s just a normal curiosity? Besides, true fans know that it’s your talent that lies behind the photos, it’s not the camera. Though I must admit, I’m a little excited about this list because you’re a Canon user and you use the same equipment I use :0) Bit childish but hey, it makes my day lol.ReplyCancel

The following is catered towards wedding photography, mainly because of all the photography industries out there, it’s most feasible to make a living shooting weddings. There are definitely those who are financially successful doing commercial, fine art, or landscape work. But the truth is, they are few and far between. In addition, I will be […]

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  • Sophia Q. - Thanks for this blogpost. I’ll send it to everyone that has asked me “you spent HOW MUCH on wedding photography?!?” and then looks as me skeptically.ReplyCancel

  • Tweets that mention FAQ: What should I do to become a full-time photographer? (or, “10 reasons NOT to become a professional photographer”) » Junshien Weddings & Portraits -- Topsy.com - […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Junshien Lau, Joanne Namocatcat. Joanne Namocatcat said: RT @junshien: FAQ: How can I become a professional photographer? (This is a MUST READ.) http://bit.ly/27rWW9 […]ReplyCancel

  • JulieLim - Junshien, thanks for this post… I’m not even close to shooting a wedding yet and I am so scared especially after reading the list BUT if I really want to make it to the top I cannot let anything stop me. Same goes for other wedding photographers who are trying to make it out there.ReplyCancel

  • Chris Chen - great post my friend…..clients don’t know how much time we spent on post processing their images. They think it’s a 8-10 hour gig.ReplyCancel

  • Ian - Well said… These are definitely all the things I thought about and it’s good seeing it from you as somewhat of a reality check.

    ***You get to pay for your own equipment!*** <== NOT fun.



  • saphoto - this is all 110% true.ReplyCancel

  • hien ngo - thanks for the great words Junshien!ReplyCancel

  • donald lee - great post.ReplyCancel

  • Quincy - dude! So So So So So VERY True! great words!ReplyCancel

  • uberVU - social comments - Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by junshien: FAQ: How can I become a professional photographer? (This is a MUST READ.) http://bit.ly/27rWW9ReplyCancel

  • Ingrid Joy - Amen to that!ReplyCancel

  • Sean - Man, number 8 hits so many artistic industries hard. Your post rings so true, and it’s painful.

    To play the Devil’s Advocate though, number 2 is a little misleading. The person working at Starbucks is an employee, while a photographer is a small business owner. As with any business owner, the photographer’s job is to claim as little as possible for income tax (which is most likely how the Bureau of Labor Statistics gets its information). Associated business costs can be written off of revenue, and many businesses are “inventive” in their accounting. Businesses also pay less tax than regular workers.

    On a different topic, when are you going to take a vacation and visit us up here in the Great White North?ReplyCancel

  • saphoto - and weekend warriors bring down the market price of quality wedding photography national average hahaReplyCancel

  • leland wong - I’m looking for a job.ReplyCancel

  • Kevin Isabeth - While this post is scary and probably very true, it hasn’t put me off wanting to be a pro photographer. Thanks for the facts of life chat.ReplyCancel

  • Faizal - yes. spot on! i never thought about all these before.
    great post!ReplyCancel

  • Kim Nodurft - Wow! I just had this very conversation with a wonderful girlfriend I did a wedding with this weekend. I felt like I was bursting her bubble. But I love her and don’t want to see her suffer. But she’ll be walking away from a very lucrative career that anyone would envy in this economy. One other thing people need to consider before jumping into weddings, there’s nothing more difficult to shoot (if you’re doing a good job). Just because you love photography and bought a bottom of the line camera in the “Pro” level ie. Rebel or D90, doesn’t make you capable of taking on the low lighting conditions for a wedding. You need YEARS of excellent shooting before walking into a wedding.ReplyCancel

  • Tammy - Pretty much why I say “no” when people ask if I plan on doing full-time! That, plus I’m not really a small business person, especially if it takes up weekend time. :PReplyCancel

  • Paul D - Okay. This list is somewhat of a reality check but I think it is misleading. Many of the points directly have to do with business choices. (1 through 7 and 10). Most photographer’s fail for the same reasons that most small businesses fail – lack of planning. A good business plan will actually force you to ask yourself all of the pertinent questions and come up with answers. (health insurance, equipment costs, rate, etc.)

    What is completely absent from this is the freedom and joy that comes from doing what you love. “Working” 80 hours a week is nothing if you love what you’re doing.

    I am looking forward to reading the real answer.ReplyCancel

  • Kenneth - Great thought-provoking list! Does #9 mean that there’s still hope out there of making it as an average, mediocre photographer? (Okay, okay, stop throwing the tomatoes!)ReplyCancel

  • KS - As someone who is a “weekend warrior,” this is an enlightening post, although I have a few things to add:

    1. Everyone starts off doing $2-3K weddings. But, people get what they pay for. Better photographers will charge more for their skill, and although not everyone can tell the difference between a decent photographer versus an artist, there are always people willing to pay for better photography.

    2. Photography is eReplyCancel

  • KS - As a “weekend warrior” myself, this is an enlightening post, although I have a few things to add:

    1. Everyone starts off doing $2-3K weddings. But you get what you pay for. Better photographers will charge more. It’s plain economics. And although not everyone can tell the difference between a decent photographer and an artist, some people can. There will always be a market for the talented. And I would venture to guess that pro photographers *prefer* the discerning bride that can tell the difference between average and great.

    2. Yes, photography *is* expensive, which is why people start off as weekend warriors. I bet most/many photographers started out that way. These people (including me) get the experience they need under their belts until they have the skill that justifies leaving their day jobs to become full time pros.

    3. Long hours: Do they matter if you love what you’re doing and find passion/purpose in it? I’ve always believed that if you land a job that you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.ReplyCancel

  • Raymond Chou - Well said Junshien. I can attest to a majority of your points. Tis true tis pity.ReplyCancel

  • Article Disappearance? - […] This Was on the DPS twitter. Is this what you were looking for? __________________ JRG1979 Sites:flickr Gear: Nikon D90, Nikon 18-135 mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S Nikkor Lens, Nikon 50 mm f/1.8D Nikkor AF Lens, Nikon SB-600 AF Speedlight Flash (Its OK to edit and re-post my pictures on DPS) […]ReplyCancel

  • Mike - Great job with writing this. It spells out the unspoken truths very well.ReplyCancel

  • Karl Johnston - well that was fucking depressing.

    though sadly true

    I think I must be the only pro photographer out there trying to become a weekend warrior. To be quite honest I would love to be full time, and I am currently..but to face reality I would rather do what I love, enrich peoples’ lives through my photography and work a different job, with more protection, benefits, more insurance, more satisfaction and possibly a consistent income.

    I love running businesses, building them…but there’s only so much you can do to be different and now even the best photographers, the most reputed photographers, the best image creators on our planet…aren’t really professional photographers (they’re WWs)

    And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    But man, is it really damned difficult being an artist in this day and age.

    And there’s also nothing wrong with that.

    Though, who says you can’t do both? The average person changes career paths 7 times in their lifetime..why do you have to stay a pro photographer or an accountant or an astronaut or a pole dancer or whatever? I’ve changed career paths twice, nearly changing it for a third time in the past 10 years.

    I’ll still continue doing what I love, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to just stick to that and that alone…like was said in #1: “You are the human resources, IT, admin, marketing, sales, and accounting departments all wrapped up in one.”

    One thing I’ll say..running my own business as a pro photographer has taught me more about life, business, myself and other people than any other job I’ve ever had working for someone else in a job I didn’t believe in or want to do. I’ll still continue doing what I do, and in the meantime if something better comes along..well I’ll go do that for a bit, so should all of you..what’s tying you to doing one profession ? Branch out, evolve, adapt..that’s business after all.ReplyCancel

  • anastasia - i’m using this as a reference. this is a good post and thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Peter G. - Very accurate. Very realistic. Very honest. Great post!ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - Very well said Junshien ! I think I’ll just refer to your post whenver someone ask me that same question.ReplyCancel

  • Eric Farewell - Ahhh yes, I’ll be sending lots of people to this link in the future… THANK you for taking the time to write all the stuff I’ve had to repeat over the years.ReplyCancel

  • Weekend Links | iffles.com - […] a professional photographer, and I always respond with an emphatic “no”. This list of 10 reasons NOT to become a professional photographer touch upon some of my reasons why (via […]ReplyCancel

  • Tracy G - They are charging even less out here…I am such an idiot…lol.
    ah so.ReplyCancel

  • Budianto Chen - True, but I’ll take that risk, let’s see next year which path that I’ll stand on. Thanks for the post..ReplyCancel

  • KarmaGarda - Nice post, found it a very interesting read. I agree with all your points accept one. You’re post title is invalid. It should read:

    “10 reasons NOT to become a professional WEDDING photographer”

    seeing as that was the only area you dealt with! Apart from that, about time someone said it.ReplyCancel

  • KarmaGarda - Sorry about the typos! Also, I should clarify, maybe it should be titled “event photographer” as opposed to just “wedding”ReplyCancel

  • Les liens de la semaine #8 at Event-pics Blog - […] 10 raisons pour ne pas devenir photographe professionnel […]ReplyCancel

  • Best of 2009: Fashion shoots and blog posts recap » San Francisco Bay Area Wedding Photographer - […] “10 reasons NOT to become a professional photographer” Unquestionably THE most explosive post of this blog. This article has been read by almost 4000 people, and has raised a few firestorms around the web. See what the fuss is about. […]ReplyCancel

  • Procks - |
    KarmaGarda – Nice post, found it a very interesting read. I agree with all your points accept one. You’re post title is invalid.
    It should read:
    “10 reasons NOT to become a professional WEDDING photographer”

    I totally agree with this reply.
    The article mostly covers about the Wedding Photography.
    And another major fact is that more than half of the wedding photographers are Amature-photographers who like to call themselves as Pro-photographers.
    There are many successful wedding photographers as well. Why dont we take those references.
    And about competition, It’s every where so thinking about working in a non-competitive environment, I guess wont be practical.
    I’d love to work 60-80 hrs a week on what I enjoy than
    to suffer from 42 hrs/week which i dont enjoy.ReplyCancel

  • Arielle - Soooo well said! You know how to put in word clearly, reality.ReplyCancel

  • Cristiano - Man! What a sobering list! I think I’ll keep my photography to a hobby. ^^

    I work as a pastor and I think I’ll one day make a top ten list for becoming a pastor! I think it’s sorely needed.ReplyCancel

  • Tweets that mention FAQ: What should I do to become a full-time photographer? (or, “10 reasons NOT to become a professional photographer”) » Junshien International Photographers | San Francisco Bay Area Wedding Photography -- Topsy.com - […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Christina Chen, Ryan Chua. Ryan Chua said: Another MUST READ for aspiring wedding photographers out there! This one is by pro wedding photographer Junshien… http://fb.me/LDFkIq4l […]ReplyCancel

  • orange county photography - NUTS!I did a really long reply to your post but my internet crapped out and I lost it all! Oh well, just wanted to say that it was a great post! Nicely done!ReplyCancel

  • Robin - Hardcore and sobering. I’ve said that I have no idea where my photography will take me but all I know is I want to keep learning.ReplyCancel

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Answer There was once a shoot-out between a group of professional photographers. Among them was Yervant, one of the world’s top wedding photographers. Unfortuantely for him, he did not bring his camera and had to borrow an old Rebel from a friend. He picked it up, took a look at it, and said, “Good camera.” […]

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  • Timmy - Thank you Junshien for paving the way for me. It has changed my life. And yes a camera is just a tool. I love your work. Keep it up!ReplyCancel

  • Wm Eric - So right on Junshien. Sure we need to have the equipment to bring forth our vision and if the equipment is what is limiting you, then you must also make that investment at some point but as you said the knowledge is the power. I had someone ask me about what would be the best thing to do if they really wanted to get serious. I recommended a workshop. Their reply was “Oh, that would be nice but for the price I could get a nicer camera.” My thought “Yeah, so you can take nicer bad pictures.”ReplyCancel

  • Shang - Totally agree. I clunked around for a while with a mid-range Nikon and felt really self-conscious when rich guests showed up with their D300/D700/D3s and whatnot, but I only upgraded once i had the money AND I felt technically limited by the camera. Love this post!ReplyCancel

  • Kat Forsyth - Thanks so much for this! I’ve seen some very average stuff out there that I know was taken with top of the range equipment, while a photographer I know shoots beautiful stuff with her 400D – hardly top line, but she knows how to get the best results!ReplyCancel

  • Dot - Thanks for this post! I’ve actually been contemplating a DSLR the past few months and keep getting sucked into wanting to get the latest and greatest! Are there any photography workshops that you would recommend for beginners? And I do mean BEGINNER. I’m not looking to become a professional. I just want to capture better our travels and do some of that gorgeous scenery justice! =)ReplyCancel

    • Junshien - @Dot: Sorry for the late response! Hmm… off the top of my head, I can’t think of any workshops aimed at beginners. Maybe check your local camera shop, because some of them occasionally host workshops at their store, sometimes free, sometimes for a small fee. Also, remember that beginner workshop I held earlier this year? If you can get at least 4 people together, I can hold another one and cater it towards the needs of the attendees. :)ReplyCancel

  • Gerald Ho - It sure does help! Thanks….:DReplyCancel

  • Ellis - As an experiment, I was shooting with a Hasselblad H3D last week. Was it any better than my Nikon D200? It has the capability of capturing technically better image files, sure. But, the camera itself won’t make fantastic photographs, the photographer does. In any case, I always tell people the best thing they can do is upgrade the nut behind the viewfinder. Oh, and the Hasselblad is a porky slow camera. Slow AF, slow fps, slow workflow. It’s a *nice* camera, but is a difficult tool to work with, especially for wedding photographers.ReplyCancel

  • "FAQ: Which camera should I buy?" | Raymond Chou's Photoblog - […] are scratching your head about which camera to buy, I had recently come across a very well-written article from a very talented wedding photographer and acquaintance of mine based out of San Fransisco. I […]ReplyCancel

  • Ted - Great post, Junshien! I take offense to you referencing the 5D mk II. haha!

    btw, a hassalblad is really great for studio work. MF cameras, used right, give awesome and breathtaking results. But you don’t see action/sports/photojournalists using them often because of its responsiveness.ReplyCancel

  • Ted - But really, I think it is both the person and the camera, not really either or. The camera and tools will set the parameters of what you can do, within its own limitations, but it is up to the person to actually actualize what the camera can do. So for a pro, sure he/she can do without, but many times he/she needs a better equipped camera to get closer to the vision he/she envisions.ReplyCancel

  • Tammy - THANK YOU for writing this! I agree 100%. I was actually peeved when some “photographer” told my friend that her budget wasn’t enough (it was more than the cost of my own start up) and should increase it by however many times. To be honest, I thought that was a snarky thing to say …ReplyCancel

  • Matthew Saville - I take it one step further and tell amateurs that, if they REALLY don’t ever see themselves needing to upgrade to a $3000+ camera body, they can actually do well by staying AWAY from Canon and Nikon. Why? Because all the other companies are putting features into their beginner / amateur cameras that they know Canon and Nikon will never be able to. Pentax’ entry level cameras are weather-sealed and have pro-level cross-type AF points, if you’re an adventure, wildlife, backpacker-type photographer who needs that. Olympus’ also offers a killer system for those adventure-y types who want as light a system as possible. And Sony, along with the others, offer certain things that Canon and Nikon may NEVER adopt, like in-camera stabilization.

    Something to consider. I only ever advise that people consider buying a Canon / Nikon entry level camera if they really are into certain kinds of photography, such as low-light or portrait photography. Because feature-wise, really the only reason to buy a Canon / Nikon beginner camera is so that you’ve got the professional system to grow into. Otherwise, the D-Rebel and Nikon beginner lineups are kinda limited feature-wise…

    But hey, that’s just the ramblings of a know-it-all camera geek! Don’t listen to me! (But you gotta also promise not to listen to any dumb sales pitches from anybody else!)


  • Heather - wow! this is SO true and so encouraging! I too have been sometimes ashamed of having “lower quality gear”…but, i couldn’t agree with your statements more and it REALLY makes me want to keep going and becoming more proficient and actually much more worthy of having a nicer camera when I can afford to upgrade. anyway, this is just inspiring and I thank you. BTW, Kim Nodurft is my teacher and she says “hi!”.ReplyCancel

    • Junshien - @Heather: Thanks for your comment. And hi back to you and Kim! :)ReplyCancel

  • FAQ: What equipment do you use? » Junshien San Francisco Wedding Photography - […] one of those people, this list is unfortunately useless to you. Instead, let me direct you to this other post and the corresponding comments; it will be much more helpful in leading you where you want to […]ReplyCancel

  • Tweets that mention FAQ: What kind of camera should I buy? » San Francisco Bay Area Wedding Photographer -- Topsy.com - […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Heather M. Smith. Heather M. Smith said: timeless advice from a photog i admire….gotta keep reminding myself. http://tinyurl.com/ybjvmdq […]ReplyCancel

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