There are many photographers who make images hoping that they will get a lot of attention, acclaim, and “likes” on social media.
But that is the wrong approach; you need to first start off by shooting for yourself. Shoot as if you will never show your photos to anybody. This will make your images much more authentic and personal.
Even if you become a world-famous photographer, realize that fame and fortune are fleeting. You might be famous for a day, but the next day you will be forgotten. Sooner or later, you will be ignored. Even the greatest photographers of history have faded into obscurity, or have faced financial difficulties.
The chief reason to continue to photograph? Because you need to. Your soul requires it. If you go without shooting, you feel like you are dying inside. You should focus on shooting for self-fulfillment and self-gratification, rather than shooting for others. If nobody ever saw the images that you made, would you still shoot them?
”Photograph because you love doing it, because you absolutely have to do it, because the chief reward is going to be the process of doing it. Other rewards — recognition, financial remuneration come to so few and are so fleeting. And even if you are somewhat successful, there will almost inevitably be stretches of time when you will be ignored, have little income, or often both. Certainly there are many other easier ways to make a living in this society. Take photography on as a passion, not a career.” – Alex Webb
Many photographers pick up a camera as a hobby and because they love it. But then the idea of becoming a “professional” can taint their vision. Start off by taking photos for yourself; photos you care about. Then let everything follow.
Nowadays I hear a lot of photographers rushing to become “professional.” They go out and buy tons of expensive professional gear, and hope to make a living doing wedding or commercial photography. Then once they get a few clients, they realize that they actually don’t like shooting professionally. They also soon lose their zest and passion for shooting, because it becomes more of a job than a passion.
Realize that you don’t need to be a “professional” to be a good photographer. There are many benefits of being an amateur; you can shoot exactly what you want, without any expectations from others or clients.
In some regards, there are a lot of downsides to being a “professional.” You become a slave to others, because you need to make photos you don’t care about just to pay the rent. Much better to have a 9-5 job to pay the bills, and utilize all of your free time to do the photography that really sets your heart on fire.
Christopher Anderson gives practical advice in terms of starting off by making photos that you enjoy, and perhaps professional photography will follow. But it is a process you shouldn’t force. Don’t be in a rush. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t happen, that is fine too: ”Forget about the profession of being a photographer. First be a photographer and maybe the profession will come after. Don’t be in a rush to make pay your rent with your camera. Jimi Hendrix didn’t decide on the career of professional musician before he learned to play guitar. No, he loved music and and created something beautiful and that THEN became a profession. Make the pictures you feel compelled to make and perhaps that will lead to a career. But if you try to make the career first, you will just make shitty pictures that you don’t care about.” – Christopher Anderson.
If you have the talent to make great images, people will soon take notice of you by the quality of the images you make. This is a better route than trying to make photos that will please others: Only shoot photos what you feel like shooting, rather than what you think others will find interesting. The best innovations often come from ignoring everybody else, and going opposite from the crowd, as Richard Kalvar explains:
”I think that I do what I feel like doing, which may not follow contemporary fashions but which comes spontaneously from the heart, the guts and the brain. To me, that’s what counts.“ – Richard Kalvar
Don’t follow the crowd; follow your own heart and intuition. Only shoot for yourself.