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FAQ: What should I do to become a full-time photographer? (or, “10 reasons NOT to become a professional photographer”)

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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February 24, 2014 - 1:46 am

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January 23, 2011 - 7:49 am

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.

November 11, 2010 - 1:37 am

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!

October 18, 2010 - 2:14 pm

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 […]

May 9, 2010 - 10:46 pm

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.

April 6, 2010 - 12:58 pm

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

April 5, 2010 - 12:35 am

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.

January 8, 2010 - 12:11 pm

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. […]

November 8, 2009 - 12:21 pm

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

November 3, 2009 - 5:26 am

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

November 3, 2009 - 5:23 am

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.

November 3, 2009 - 4:50 am

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..

November 2, 2009 - 1:47 pm

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

November 1, 2009 - 4:54 pm

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 […]

November 1, 2009 - 4:05 pm

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.

November 1, 2009 - 12:10 am

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

October 30, 2009 - 6:20 pm

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

October 29, 2009 - 11:01 am

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

October 28, 2009 - 1:46 am

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.

October 27, 2009 - 8:21 pm

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

October 27, 2009 - 5:13 pm

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) […]

October 27, 2009 - 1:58 pm

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

October 27, 2009 - 10:56 am

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.

October 27, 2009 - 10:46 am

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 e

October 27, 2009 - 10:44 am

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!)

October 27, 2009 - 9:47 am

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.

October 27, 2009 - 8:25 am

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. :P

October 27, 2009 - 8:21 am

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.

October 27, 2009 - 5:50 am

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

October 27, 2009 - 3:34 am

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.

October 27, 2009 - 2:05 am

leland wong - I’m looking for a job.

October 27, 2009 - 1:43 am

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

October 26, 2009 - 11:32 pm

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?

October 26, 2009 - 9:33 pm

Ingrid Joy - Amen to that!

October 26, 2009 - 5:55 pm

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/27rWW9

October 26, 2009 - 5:50 pm

Life On The Edges - Great post!

October 26, 2009 - 3:20 pm

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

October 26, 2009 - 2:55 pm

donald lee - great post.

October 26, 2009 - 2:02 pm

hien ngo - thanks for the great words Junshien!

October 26, 2009 - 1:36 pm

saphoto - this is all 110% true.

October 26, 2009 - 1:19 pm

saphoto - WORD! U PAINTED THE PICTURE BEAUTIFULLY JUNSHIEN. =) GREAT POST AND GREAT WORDS.

October 26, 2009 - 1:18 pm

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.

-ian

October 26, 2009 - 1:13 pm

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.

October 26, 2009 - 12:30 pm

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.

October 26, 2009 - 12:19 pm

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 […]

October 26, 2009 - 10:37 am

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.

Merced bridal session photography | Jeanny and Phil

Jeanny and Phil have been with me ever since the beginning. And by “beginning,” I really do mean beginning. Many years back, when social blogging site Xanga was alive and kicking, Jeanny and I knew each other because we were among a group of what some have coined “Xanga celebrities.” She was still in nursing […]

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January 19, 2010 - 3:41 pm

Santa Cruz wedding photographer | Santa Cruz Boardwalk | Cocoanut Grove | Jeanny and Phil » San Francisco Bay Area Wedding Photographer - […] know the difference Auto and Program modes on my camera. (You can read the rest of the story here.) So as you can imagine, it is quite awesome to be able to actually shoot their wedding! Not only […]

August 19, 2009 - 11:27 pm

Vivian - Beautiful work Junshien, your photos are breathless! I still remembering seeing this couple’s shot from way back when! Always amazing to know how far God has brought you in this journey! :)

August 14, 2009 - 11:56 am

cindy | hopparazzi - Junshien, what a great story! And nice pictures! With all that cloud cover, it almost looked like you were going to have a repeat of your first shoot. :)

August 14, 2009 - 2:37 am

Junshien - @Holly: Thank you so much for your kind words, and for the support throughout the years! When I see one of your comments, I still think of your xanga background with the (Japanese?) red-hair girl looking upwards. :)
have a lovely Friday!

@Jeanny: For reals! Xanga has done wonders connecting so many of us. And ooops! PA, not nurse!

@Ted, Soapie, Steve: Haha thanks

@Cheri: Thank you so much for your kind words. Glad my photography has been a blessing.

August 13, 2009 - 8:37 am

Cheri De Haro - Junshien, I LOVE the way you shared your story. Biotech hhhhmmmm….funny to go and be gifted in completely an opposite area….art! AND you also have a gift for storytelling. Maybe soon you will also be writing photography books. A collection from blogging!!!!!! I love how you affectionately call SR…”The Scott”. LOL…It is nice to wake up in the morning and smile and laugh :P Thanks!
P.S. I love the “squishy face” and the image when they are running…of course they are smiling and having fun! Great job!!!

August 13, 2009 - 2:59 am

stahl - I can’t believe 2006 was so far away, as I think on it now. Wow. Congrats on the winning pic! I loved that photoshoot, and many of them since and prior. This photoshoot here shows how you really have grown, and *shock*, still have room to grow. Do you yet look forward to the day where you take the “fake” engagement and real engagement pictures of their KIDS? hehe. Love the purple petticoat underneath, and I can only imagine how the drop cloth you put between her dress and that rusty shanty stuff looked afterward.

August 12, 2009 - 8:47 pm

jeanny - You posted our pictures! woohooooo… i am thankful to xanga for connecting me with wonderful people, especially phil and you, our amazing photog =) Thank you for our slideshow, I really like it, we’ll show it at the wedding. Next step, publication!

BTW – Not nursing school! Physician assistant =)

August 12, 2009 - 6:17 pm

Ted Nghiem - oh snap I meant bridal session! I guess the story on the engagement got stuck in my head! See how awesome that story lead in was?

August 12, 2009 - 6:15 pm

Ted Nghiem - Junshien, this is a great story lead in to an awesome eSession!

August 12, 2009 - 1:58 pm

soapie - oops.. not the last 2 fotos but the last 2 fotos in the set of “dilapidated shed” fotos.

August 12, 2009 - 1:57 pm

saphoto - loads of amazing shots here bro. =)

August 12, 2009 - 1:56 pm

soapie - did you say that she is a nurse and she’s from TX? cooooll….. =)

i like the last 2 fotos the most- their clothing is so paradoxical to the background yet it works out nicely. they look so happy. =)

August 12, 2009 - 10:16 am

anastasia - aaww, i think you have a fan for life. :)

Free wallpaper! | When reality is better than our dreams …

It’s another Wallpaper Friday! Here’s one more for your desktop. Enjoy! Select your screen resolution: 1024×768    1152×864    1280×800    1280×1024    1440×900    1680×1050 “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” Dr Seuss

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