My Photography Journey

My Photography Journey: From Amateur to Hopeful Professional

It has been a long time since I first picked up a camera and it has been quite the journey. From point and shoots to DSLRs and now mirrorless cameras, my passion for photography began in earnest in my university undergraduate days, although I did not realise it at the time. Now I am taking my first steps as a professional photographer and earning money from what once was a hobby. Here is my photography journey so far, from amateur to hopeful professional.

My Photography Journey

The Early Days

Some of the earliest memories of taking photos I have are during a school trip to Portchester Castle with what I believe was a disposable camera. I still have the photo album in the attic which has the pictures in it. I must have been around 9 years old at the time. The pictures might not to a gallery standard, but they are important to me. Digital cameras were only just becoming a thing back then, and I remember growing up as the technology continuously improved.

Move forward a decade to when I started at university and I now had a point and shoot compact digital camera I was incredibly pleased with. I took thousands of pictures during my university days and they were mostly of my drunk friends. Even now, the photo albums remain visible on my Facebook page.

At the time, I do not think I was considering doing anything with my photography. It was not until a year after I finished university and I used some of my first paychecks to buy a DSLR camera. It was a Nikon D3100. An entry-level camera, even for the time, but I am happy I did not spend any more money. My knowledge of photography was, at best, limited and a fancy camera would have been wasted on me.

I did love this camera, however. I used it quite often but primarily at special events, such as festivals and family gatherings. At Christmas in particular, I would be running around the family party to get pictures of people. Eventually, I got a tripod and group shoots became more of a thing. I also fondly remember going to the local Christmas Festival and walking around with my camera to take pictures of all the wondrous things going on.

Unlike now, however, I would not go out to “casually” take photos. And despite having a book giving me the low down on my DSLR and all its capabilities, I would not use the camera enough to retain more than a general understanding of what it could do. I almost lamented this fact, as I did with a lot of things at the time. I felt like I did not progress a lot in this period with my hobbies, or, indeed, my life.

My use of the D3100 camera reached a peak during a 2015 visit to Amsterdam. Some of the pictures I took of the city and my friends are ones that I love and ended up being used in later years on cavasses as gifts to family and friends at Christmas. That Christmas I also got my first subscription to Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

My Photography Journey

By late 2016 my passion for photography was rapidly growing, however, I found my current DSLR to be too big and bulky to carry around with me on a day to day basis. I was often seeing things whilst I was out that I wanted to photograph but the effort of having to carry a large DSLR with me put me off taking it. I decided to upgrade my camera to something more compact but still powerful, and this started my ongoing love affair with Olympus.

The EM10 Days

My Olympus OM-D EM10 Mark III was a fantastic little camera. Not only was it better in every way than my previous D3100, but it was much easier to carry with me and stylish too! I even had a couple of lenses for it which was a first for me. This was the point I decided I wanted to go professional, although I did not know how to accomplish this. What I did realise was before I could go professional, I would have to learn more about photography and my camera.

The first true test of the EM10 came the Summer of 2017 when I went to the French Riviera. Aside from being a glorious location which I thoroughly enjoyed (and had wanted to visit since university), there were many photo opportunities. The lightweight nature of the camera really helped. I could not imagine carrying my older camera around in that heat all day. I got some excellent pictures on this trip and it cemented my love of the EM10.

My Photography Journey

I started to use my camera a lot more at this point. Being able to carry it about much easier – it could comfortably fit into any bag I was carrying – allowed me to increase the amount of time I was getting to shoot. I enjoyed taking the camera with me to many places including country parks, events, and on other international holidays such as Lisbon.

Despite the growth in my usage of my camera and the increase in my skills, I still felt not ready to push forward with anything “professional”. I continued to gift the occasional print or canvas, but my life was mostly occupied in other areas meaning that looking to develop my photography into a money-maker was not a priority.

When it came time to plan my goals for 2020, I know I wanted to make a concerted effort to push my photography further. I committed to going on at least on a monthly trip with my friend with the purpose of capturing great photos. It was going well for the first couple of months, but unfortunately, the year took a bit of a turn when the Coronavirus took hold and lockdown began.

For the first few weeks of lockdown, I am not sure I even touched my camera. But by May I had decided to take it with me on my walks to continue with my goal. As the lockdown eased, I and my friend resumed our photography trips.

My Photography Journey

The Start of the EM1 Days and Going Professional

I put off trying to sell my prints for a long time because I was worried about what people might think of them. Despite praise from others, I had my doubts. I knew I had to take the leap, however, and made the decision to start selling my prints. That being said, I could immediately start selling them. One thing I was sure of, I knew I needed a plan.

I did my research and after a few weeks had a decent plan of action moving forward. I had investigated how I wanted to sell the prints, what platforms to use, if I would need to register as self-employed, and all manner of things that come with the creation of a small business.

One thing I knew I wanted to do was upgrade my camera to a professional level one. I was not sure about this at first, as it was a considerable financial outlay. But, I surmised, even if I were unsuccessful at selling prints and what followed, I would still enjoy the act of photography and that meant I should get the camera.

I decided to stick with a brand I knew and opted for the Olympus OM-D EM1 Mark II camera. Whilst the Mark III is out and (technically at least) a better camera body, Olympus had a special offer on to get a free lens if you brought the Mark II. I could not pass up a free £1099 lens, especially considering the benefits of a second lens for my hopeful photography career.

Aside from a few hiccups in the camera when I first got it – which you can read about in my Instagram Story Highlights – I have to say I am really enjoying the EM1. I am looking forward to getting out with it a lot more and getting some amazing shots.

With a new camera in tow, it was time to launch my new print shop alongside my revamped website. To much thunderous support (from my sister who was incredibly happy for me) my print shop opened on Saturday 7th November 2020.

This year has not been good in so many ways, but I am hoping this can mark a changing point in the year.

I will not stop at just a print shop, of course. I also want to expand into other areas of photography, doing work professionally in some capacity. Going forward, I want to experiment with my portrait photography. I also want to expand my reach on social media which is going well at the moment.

My Photography Journey

I did want to talk about how to know you are ready to go professional in this post, but I think it has already reached a decent length. This is something I will be talking about when to know you are ready to go professional, and what my next steps in photography journey will be, in my next photography blog post. I am hoping to do monthly posts on photography, so watch this space!

In the meantime, thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this insight into my photography life thus far. Leave a like if you did, and please comment below if you have any thoughts or want to share your own journey in photography!

Michael is Amazing
Michael is Amazing

When does a hobby become something more?

When does a hobby become something more? A look at trying to become a professional photographer

There are some lucky people out there. Lucky people who have a day job which is something they truly enjoy and fulfils them. For the rest of us, that is but a dream. I think most of us have had thoughts about turning a hobby into a stream of income. Perhaps even had lofty goals of this income replacing our day jobs. To be able to do something that we wake up excited to do every day would be bliss. But at what point does a hobby become something more? Here is a look at my thoughts about this and trying to become a professional photographer.

I believe that almost any hobby can be turned into something to make money. Whether it can be enough to support you solely can vary greatly depending on the hobby – and how good you are at it. There are ways to make money with almost any hobby or activity. On a very basic level, you can talk or write about the hobby and generate money from advertisements on a blog or service like YouTube. You can also get sponsorship for posts or videos this way, or use affiliate links for a small kickback. Starting a revenue stream this way is very popular at the moment!

Doing the hobby itself to create income is another option. If you are a great painter of miniature models you could consider doing commission work or entering competitions with prizes. If you enjoy dress making it might be worthwhile selling some of the dresses you make. Graphic designers can create bespoke logos and other graphics for people. For almost any hobby I can think of it would be possible to monetize it somehow. If you have a hobby you make money from, why not share it below in the comments section?

For the past few months, I have had the desire to take my photography further. I want to be able to make money from what I enjoy doing, and perhaps at some point in the future even have it replace my job.

There is a lot I still have to learn, however.

I have been putting together a list of things I will need to move forward with my plan. At the top of the list, as I would imagine would be at the top of any similar list, is doing more of the hobby. Taking more pictures. I can have all of the fancy websites, invoicing systems, and contract templates I like. Without the ability to take good photographs they will be useless. Without a stunning portfolio and the ability to draw potential clients in, I don’t have a business.

But that is not a problem. That is because this is a hobby first, and taking pictures is what I enjoy.

When does a hobby become something more?

Developing your hobby

Recently I have been trying new ideas and having a go at different types of photography. Specifically, I have been focusing on city photography over the past few months and I have been quite happy with the results. I have also been looking at black and white photography. You can see some of these photographs as the accompanying images to this post.

I want to move on to trying out portrait photography next. I’ve had a little success with this in the past, and want to experiment and learn more about this form of photography. I have already begun asking friends to strike a pose for me, and hopefully will have some lovely results soon!

Developing your hobby is key to making an income from it, and this process should never stop. There are always new things to learn and new techniques to experiment with. Even if you decide not to adopt these ways of working going forward, the experience they give can be invaluable to you and your audience.

Chances are that you will consume some content from other people who are making money from the same hobby as you want to. Whether that be a blog like this one or a YouTube channel, you will get the opportunity to learn from their experiences. Whatever that post or video talks about, you might go on to try and thus giving you another – perhaps unique – perspective on it. Share that perspective with the world!

Not only will sharing what you learn to help other aspiring hobbyists (whether they seek to make a profit or not), but will show to the world that you are serious about refining your craft. This can have huge benefits, not least of which is attracting potential clients!

When does a hobby become something more?

Consistency and Set Backs

It is cliché and often repeated, but, indeed, you can only develop your craft, build a brand and a following, and start to create an income from your hobby with consistency. Consistency is the key to success and often one of the hardest parts of, well, basically anything.

Being consistent means that people know what to expect from you. They will enjoy seeing your regular posts, and they will know what service to expect from you when making a purchase. Only focusing on trying to turn your hobby into a moneymaker for a few days each month will never work.

This is a huge reason why some people will not succeed in their plans. They will suffer burnout from trying to do too much at once, or they will get distracted by something else. If this happens to you, the important thing is to remember that setbacks happen. You just need to make sure you get back to it as soon as you can. You certainly should not feel that all is lost just because it has been a few weeks since you last updated your Instagram account, or made a sale, or made any hobby progress. Do not forget to make use of hobby projects to keep you engaged in the process. They still work even when you are trying to make money!

I have certainly struggled with consistency with just about all of my hobbies over my life. And even now, knowing that I want to move forward with my photography, I sometimes struggle to find the motivation to remain consistent. It is natural, however, to sometimes falter and I know I have what it takes to make the dream a reality.

When does a hobby become something more?

Make a Plan

If I can give you one tip, it is to make a plan. With a plan and vision, you’ll be able to clearly set down the path to turning your hobby into something more, something you can make some money from. The focus you gain from a good list is enough to keep you consistent and prevent distractions and burnouts!

A key reason to make a plan is to ensure you do not forget to do anything at the start of your enterprise. If you will be making money, there are all sorts of legal things to consider. Even when creating a website, there is much to be done. Missing any part of these could cause problems further down the line.

A good plan will be created over time, as you research more about your hobby and how you could make money from it. I have been looking in to become a professional photographer for a few weeks now. I have a list which is continuing to grow as I work on some things and discover other areas which need attention.

I would certainly advise, however, that you should not procrastinate by doing nonstop research! You must, as some point, start the business! And start to make money from your hobby.

Even once you have gotten underway, you can still implement to-do lists. They could be incredibly useful in some situations. For photographers, for example, you might have a list of shots you should take for each session. Maybe a list of things to do before or after taking the photos. These don’t need to be one-time activities but things you do every time. This list will continue to grow as you learn more and more about your hobby and refine your craft. And as you do, your potential to earn will increase.

When does a hobby become something more?

Turning your hobby into something more where you can generate a little bit (or a lot) of money from it is certainly something I would advise everyone to try at some point in their life. You don’t necessarily need to invest huge amounts of time into it, just so long as you do consistently work on it. A little each week is all you need to get started.

Over time, by sticking with it, you will find it easier to devote more time to the hobby and the business side of it as your reach grows and sales increase.

You will also be able to learn so much from the experience. Whether that be about running a small business, new ways to experience your hobby, or meeting new people. There are so many opportunities that open themselves up to you when you invest some time in something you love.

Even if you aren’t concerned about making money from the hobby, there is still a lot of growth to be had by pushing the boundaries of your hobby and exporting it to other people in some way and fashion.

There is a lot to gain by working on your hobby to turn it into a small business, regardless of whether that means leaving your current job or not. Particularly in these uncertain economic times, having another stream of income is not a bad thing.

Let me know in the comments below if you have any experience of turning your hobby into a small or large business, successful or not. Don’t forget to like and share this post with your friends too, to ignite the spark of hobby growth in them too!

Michael is Amazing
Michael is Amazing