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Is Becoming a Photographer Really Worth It?

By on Apr 5, 2017 in Photography, Theory Thursday | 6 comments

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Recently, I saw a friend post about whether “it” is really worth it. This passion that we all have, this “thing” that we pour our hearts and souls into that may or may not yield something in return. My response was more or less like the typical “it’s the journey, not the destination” type answer. However there is a little more to it than that. This is what I want to explore today because it is something that I think so many of us creatives deal with. We struggle with finding the meaning in our work, expressing ourselves and not to mention trying to find a way to make a living from it.

Going Nowhere is Still Going Somewhere

One of the points that was brought up was the fact that you’ve invested so much time into learning and honing your craft and for what? It goes nowhere. One of the points that I countered with is that simply by learning and doing something, you are moving forward. See the thing is that too many people sit around do nothing. By pushing yourself forward with anything you are bound to get “somewhere” and that is the main thing. With photography it is sometimes hard to actually feel like you are going places when you see so many people start up and then in a year they are famous or running workshops or whatever. They move so fast forward that it feels like you are moving backwards. The thing is that each day that you seek to improve yourself you do actually get somewhere.

I often get caught up in what other photographers are doing. I think how much of a failure I am because when I try to do certain things, they are complete and utter flops. I forget that sometimes I have had my successes and that there will be more to come. If I stop, nothing will come. So that is basically why I keep plugging away. A couple of weeks ago I was staying for free in a luxury hotel  overlooking the ocean in a room that would have cost a considerable chunk of my paycheck as a teacher. I got there because of my passion and my determination for improving my photography.

If You Feel Like You Are Going Nowhere, Turn Around

Often in our pursuit to be the best we forget how far we’ve come. We get put off by fauxtographers when they brag about their accomplishments and yet forget that we’ve had some too. I remember reading somewhere that you should keep a folder full of your published works and awards to remind yourself when you feel down. This may seem narcissistic but it does help. When the douchebag fauxtographer brags about a photo in a magazine and for some reason it pisses you off (it shouldn’t) click through that folder and remember that you’ve been published too.

Looking deeper, we often try and measure ourselves with our accomplishments. However, I am here to tell you that it is not the accomplishments or the accolades that  are worth it. It is the people that you meet along the way that really make “it” worthwhile. Some of the best people that I have ever known I have met through photography. Not to mention some of the best experiences that I can remember have been with a camera in hand.

It’s Not What You’ve done, But Who You’ve Done It With

That title came sort of wrong but you’ll get what I mean in a sec. When my best friend Dave Harvey passed away suddenly it ripped a hole inside of me. I lost that connection and that one person that truly understood me. That connection was solidified through photography in many ways. He taught me so much and when we’d go out it was like time stopped. A magazine article or an award can’t replicate that kind of experience.

Over the years I realized that I still have so many people that “get it” and by that I mean you can spend an entire morning clicking away and saying pretty much nothing. I have had the pleasure of getting to know some pretty amazing people through photography. People that in some cases are getting pretty well known  for their photographic talents. Again, these experiences are what make “it” so much better. Sure, having an article published in a magazine validates what you are doing in some cases but having awesome people in your life is  much better.


So to answer the question above, is it worth it? Yes, it is. Photography can help you on so many levels. If you are feeling stuck my advice to you is to keep on doing what you are doing. I write articles that nobody reads, I make pictures that nobody sees, I make videos that nobody watches and I organize events that nobody goes to. However, I have to keep doing what I am doing because that is my passion. It is what keeps me alive and keeps me going. To be honest, I couldn’t think of my life without photography. It may seem worthless at times but you just have to turn around and look at all that you’ve done.

Also, this doesn’t just apply to photography. I have recently received my masters in education and I couldn’t be farther from finding a job in Canada. That feeling of “was it all worth it?” stings when I start trying to find a job that will bring me back home. Realizing that despite all the money and time that I have put into studying and getting good grades, nobody wants to hire a 39-year-old English teacher with a camera and that hurts. However, the more I produce and the more I improve, that will get me where I want to go. If I quit, life just stays the same or gets worse. So I will leave you with the words of the legendary Eric Thomas.

“Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute or an hour or a day or even a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit however, it will last forever. The most important thing is this; to be able at any moment to sacrifice what you are for what you will become” ~ Eric Thomas

6 Comments

  1. Jason this might be my favourite article of yours. You touch on so many important issues. No matter who we are, we’ve all been there but sometimes we keep up the wall, afraid to be vulnerable. I need to work on my collection of publications and awards but I do have a growing file of accolades and that is such a pick-me-up when I need it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jason Teale

      April 6, 2017

      Post a Reply

      Thanks Greg. I keep a copy of the National Geographic book that I was published in, just behind my computer. I don’t need to open it up and drool over my shot but it is just there in the background telling me that I’ve come along way from the days of wandering Ulsan with a point and shoot camera. I appreciate the comments too. Hope to meet up again soon.

      • LaSheryl

        April 6, 2017

        Post a Reply

        As a teacher, who is a budding photographer, this article resonates deeply with me. Keep doing what you love and everything will fall into place.

  2. I loved this article too. So much of it resonates with me. I’ve spent a fortune and put a frightening number of hours into photography, during the last 2 years. but haven’t had that much in the way of reward. Had one photo published in 10 Magazine, licenced an image to a teaching recruiter in Korea for 500,000 won and sold about 4 prints. However this is so much better than nothing at all and it has to mean I’m moving in the right direction. Also It’s looking like I’ll be having my first exhibition in Jinju in May which is really exciting. The problem I have as a photographer, is my mood swings. I consider my self bipolar in a photography sense. I can wake up one morning, thinking I’m actually a decent photographer and might get a decent second income out of it, in time. I can wake up the next morning thinking my photography completely sucks, my images are bland, processed badly and I’m completely wasting my time even thinking about getting some kind of Korea out of it. Luckily I get those feelings less than the former, but it doesn’t take much to have my confidence battered. Having said all that I do it all because I love photography, both shooting and post processing. What I often do to see where I’m currently at, is take a raw image I processed a year or 2 ago, then process it again with new techniques I’ve learnt. When I’ve finished, I open the previous edit and look at them side by side. I usually see a huge difference, for the better. Then I realise I am making progress and realise I’m moving along quite nicely. Being a photographer is most definitely a rollercoaster ride, but it’s all most definitely worth it. In fact I can’t ever imagine my life without it.

    • Jason Teale

      April 6, 2017

      Post a Reply

      I am totally the same way as you can gather from this and the other articles. I must say that the support via comments and whatnot is what also keeps me going. Knowing that there are people out there that read this blog really makes me happy. Thanks for the support Steve!

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