Photography as a Profession or Passion / Profession Photography vs Amateur Photography

In our SIA Facebook group, we have a lot of discussions on various topics. This is a copy of a discussion started by Preetam Gandhi. A lot of interesting points came up.
I thought of making a post here for the benefit of all. Hope it will be of help.

Let me start with a quote –
What advice would you give young photographers?
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. Larry Towell, for instance, was not a “professional” photographer until he was already a “famous” photographer. 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’s Magnum Portfolio

Some useful links –

How to Become a Professional Photographer
Thoughts on Amateur and Professional Photography
How do I get published in National Geographic?


Hello everyone,
I have been contemplating a thought since I went with the group for Holi shoot. I thoroughly enjoyed it, one of my best holi it was, i got some good pictures and also
tried my best to send them to people who were clicked. But now what? I mean, is this how every trip should end or am I missing anything? Photography is my hobby,
turning into passion gradually but how do I make it sustainable? How do I pay for the next big lens that I need? How do I pay for the next picturesque tour where I want to go? How do I ensure that these pictures don’t just rot in my hard disk? I feel the need to have guidance/lectures/experience sharing on this topic?
Note: I am completely aware of my amateur capabilities as photographer. I am not saying that now I am an expert and I want to reap dividends from it. I am just saying that what is the way to have a sustainable continuous learning in photography.
Like ·
Robin Kumar and Saket Chintala like this.

Saurabh Chatterjee Well, Preetam, if you love someone or something, you should not expect money in return. Believe me, when money comes in, the fun goes. There are so
many people who i know who loved photography taking pictures with all their creative freedom but now, after getting lured to money, they are just making money doing wedding shoots like robots, repeating the same thing again and again. Its absolutely okay if that is what you like to do.  But, most of them have almost forgot the reason why they started taking pictures, now what they know money and only money. Of course, to finance your gear, you can start doing weddings, thats the easiest way of making money from photography but don’t start doing it forgetting what you like to click. That’s the reason, I keep myself away from too many commercial shoots.
1 hr · Like · 6

Preetam Gandhi I completely agree with you Saurabh, and my intention is not to expect money. I have two main questions:
1. Where should the pictures that I take end up being? in my hard disk only or should be shared with larger audience. What is the way to approach this question?

2. How do I sustain this passion, since it is a costly passion that we all will agree? Is there a way we can make this passion self sustainable without forgetting the art behind it? How do you do it? Is it possible for you to share it with us in a detailed session?
1 hr · Like · 1

Saurabh Chatterjee Well, to be very straight, my pictures are more for myself and my family and friends. One out of 1000 might make it to a magazine for which I get paid Rs.500/- to 1000/-(all mags including NGC or LP pays that) I know some well-to do people having their own exhibition at their own expense (about 1 lakh) to get appreciation and some coverage.
Well, once you have already invested, there is no expense, why are you saying its costly? Unless you have the craze of getting the best bodies and the best lenses. Compare with the films days.
I know so many people with very less income who have done so many compromises to keep it going. If you meet some photographers from Kolkata, you will realise. You are at a much better position, you are blessed
You have invested in a car, do you expect it to make money for you? Its your necessity. The camera is the same for me.

1 hr · Like · 2

Saurabh Chatterjee Photography without art is lifeless, robots will probably do the same job i guess.
1 hr · Like · 5

Saurabh Chatterjee On the lighter side, they say, the best way you can make money from your camera is to sell it.
1 hr · Like · 4

Preetam Gandhi Haha
1 hr · Like

Preetam Gandhi The discussion is warming up now. I will again say that my intention is not to make money out of my passion. After all this passion has given me opportunity to capture countless memories of my kids.
1 hr · Like · 1

Preetam Gandhi Why do I say it is costly? Just an e.g., In the morning I saw a post at HWS about photo tours to some jungles within india. Who wouldn’t like to go there? But the fees of these tours is so much that you have to think multiple times before agreeing for them. Moreover, every tour require specific gears for
fulfilling the objective. I understand that I can satisfy my passion without even going to these tours.
1 hr · Like

Preetam Gandhi You are saying that once we have made an investment its not costly? The word investment itself is a financial jargon, whenever you do investment,
returns are expected. In photography, best returns are memories and the art that you learn. I completely agree with it. But every art should be able to survive itself.
1 hr · Like

Preetam Gandhi Above all, my other question is still unanswered, how should I approach to make sure that my pictures don’t just end up in my hard drive and reach to their meaningful destination.
59 mins · Like

Saroja Sanjivi Preetam there is more than one way to anything that we put our will into. So why feel restricted.
53 mins · Like

Saurabh Chatterjee Do exhibitions, gift it to people who love them, donate it in orphanages, that will give you happiness but you will end up spending more. If you want them to be published in magazines, put them in flickr with proper tagging, if you are lucky,  a publisher might pick it up.
I would suggest dont expect a lot, you will end up getting disappointed. There are some people I know who have left photography because of getting frustrated having high expectations. I personally have been shooting just for myself without any expecting anything in return for the last decade and half

50 mins · Like · 2

Preetam Gandhi Saroja Sanjivi, I am not feeling restricted. I have started this discussion to find out these ways only. I knew that this post could invite contrasting opinions. But I have habit of asking some unpleasant and inflammatory questions since my school days:).
47 mins · Unlike · 1

Preetam Gandhi Thanks Saurabh Chatterjee, I liked the idea of gifting it to people and orphanages. I will definitely ponder over it for my holi pictures.
46 mins · Like

Pushkar Pradhan follow the Guru – Sauabh Chatterjee
45 mins · Like

Saroja Sanjivi I met a newly wed couple on my triund trail last year. I volunteered to take some pictures of them, took their email id and shared. Although through email I could sense the joy with which the person responded on receiving the pics. By no means I would rate my pics exceptional but yes there was a lot of emotion which went into them. Totally worth the experience.
16 mins · Unlike · 4

Preetam Gandhi Certainly Saroja Sanjivi. I did the same for an elderly couple once. I printed pictures for them and went to their house to give them in person.
13 mins · Like · 1

Goutham Gunny What i can say after reading this conversation is keep all this comments in a blog and share it. This will be very useful to the amature photographers.
Saurabh Chatterjee Preetam Gandhi
4 mins · Unlike · 1

Saurabh Chatterjee Goutham, will try to put it in a blog.
Just now · Like

Pushkar Pradhan I believe Photography is an Art (as Saurabh rightly said). There are multiple ways this can be monetized. When you decide to make a profession in this field, then there are multiple ways in which this can be achieved. If you just observe what Saurabh has been doing, you will learn a lot. He has made his passion his
profession and loads of ideas of how to make it a successful one.
March 17 at 3:05pm · Like · 1

Goutham Gunny What i say is listen to ur heart not to ur mind. If u listen to ur mind u can be a good human but if u listen to ur heart u can make a beautiful life. If ur really passionate on photography work on that and once u feel ur confidence on that u can choose photography as ur carrier.
March 17 at 3:10pm · Like

Goutham Gunny These 11 People Who Quit Their Jobs To Do Something Amazing

Their stories will inspire you to take the plunge.
March 17 at 3:11pm · Like · 3 · Remove Preview

Goutham Gunny This is called passion plz go through it. my number is 8. Urs?
March 17 at 3:12pm · Like

Saurabh Chatterjee The other side of the coin is – just passion will not help, you need something to survive and sustain and you will have to find it for yourself.
March 17 at 3:25pm · Like

Goutham Gunny Ya saurabh true
March 17 at 3:26pm · Like

Saurabh Chatterjee I personally would not have taken the risk if my wife would not have agreed to support me.
March 17 at 3:27pm · Like · 3

Preetam Gandhi None of my photos have invited so many comments as this post did. I believe I should stick to what I do best: Raising controversies and putting people in uncomfortable situations
March 17 at 3:30pm · Like · 3

Goutham Gunny Ur so lucky Saurabh Chatterjee
March 17 at 3:32pm · Like

Robin Panigrahi This is why SIA is awesome!
March 17 at 3:32pm · Like · 2

Goutham Gunny Preetam Gandhi nw everyone can identify u
March 17 at 3:34pm · Edited · Like

Preetam Gandhi Coming back to the topic – Almost everyone including me here agrees that passion and art are the drivers. I have also seen some of you commenting that there are ways to monetize it (apart from wedding photographer). You are saying me to follow Saurabh about the ways to make it sustainable.
However, I have not yet heard about any of these ways in the comments.
I have reached until here following Saurabh only. One of the ways in which he sustains it is by connecting his passion of making every camera holder a good photographer with the trainings that he conducts. I want to know about other ways too not just from him but others too to sustain it.
March 17 at 3:36pm · Like · 2

Preetam Gandhi Goutham Gunny- Saurabh Chatterjee is lucky because he is married or because his wife supports him
March 17 at 3:38pm · Like · 1

Goutham Gunny For that only i said he is lucky.
March 17 at 3:39pm · Like

Saurabh Chatterjee Yes, I am for sure, and I keep repeating it to bring more luck.
March 17 at 3:44pm · Like · 1

Saurabh Chatterjee Talking about full time photography, here is the dark side… I can so well relate to them.

Welcome to the dark side: 7 things they don’t tell you about entrepreneurship -…
March 17 at 3:45pm · Edited · Like · 2 · Remove Preview

Shubhra Jeet Ghosh Preetam Gandhi I think I understand your basic question is to be able to make some money so that you are able to sustain a hobby. Well I have the following suggestions

1.You have to first reach a level where your pictures/knowledge of photography can actually start earning money.
2. Until then you have to sustain from your present means. Whatever it takes- undergo training, buy equipment, go for tours etc etc.
3. When you feel you are able to sustain your monetary needs
from photography that means you have become a professional.
4. I have met a No of professional photographers like Saurabh Chatterjee who have undergone this transition. So you then do something you enjoy and also earn good money; albeit you are ready to spend that extra time.
5. There are actually good opportunities available to earn small time money especially in wedding shoots and event shoots once you attain a certain degree of expertise.
6. Some time back I had mooted the idea of starting a studio with some of our SIA friends owned and managed exclusively on sharing basis by us. We invest in some basic equipment, start a small commercial
venture and use it for covering events. I did not receive any responses. That offer is always open.
March 17 at 4:17pm · Edited · Like · 4

Mayur Chandranee Well according to me, getting into photography on a full time basis is a very tedious task for an amateur.
Today people take photographers for granted.
They just feel that u just need a camera to click the pictures.
So if you are really passionate about photography then i would suggest to continue with a job which can provide financial stability and continue following ur passion
on weekends which is what i have been doing and which is the reason how i got to know abt SIA Photography.
Getting into full time photography without any financial backup is risky.
March 17 at 4:49pm · Unlike · 4

Preetam Gandhi Exactly Mayur Chandranee, that’s what has been happening with me for last couple of weeks. I took pictures of holi in my colony and shared it with
residents. Now they want me to volunteer for marathon, mata ki chowki, yoga sessions and what not. But only volunteer, no assignments please
March 17 at 4:54pm · Like

Saurabh Chatterjee Mayur, not just risky, you will be shooting more like a robot, mostly things that you dont like to shoot
March 17 at 4:56pm · Like · 2

Mayur Chandranee Saurabh Sir: Yeah. So finally i have learned to say NO.
In my company everyone wants me to cover the events for them and just not tht they want the pics as soon as the event is done.
Now that i have started saying NO they have realized how difficult itis to get the photography done for an event and have realized that the pics that the so called professional photographers (for whom they are ready to pay) provide them are not to the level which we amateurs provide them. So one thing i have learnt its better to say NO sometimes so that people realize ur importance and value ur work..
March 17 at 5:01pm · Unlike · 1

Sourabh Bhattacharya In my opinion, if you are passionate enough, whatever genre you choose, you will love it. I agree with Saurabh that you will be like a Robot. But at the end of the day, its our passion and thats what we do. When you are an amateur photographer,there are lot of ways to monetize your pictures, Flickr, iStock images etc.( however if you r lucky enough ).

But when you are learning, keep learning and do not think of money. Because once we give priority to money over passion, it wont be your passion any more. So i think give some more time, save some money to get new lenses and when you have enough, you can leave Jobs and do whatever your passion ask you to do.
March 18 at 12:40am · Edited · Like

Sourabh Bhattacharya For Saurabh Chatterjee, its just not luck, its his dedication, efforts, never give up attitude and most importantly his passion took him to where he is. Luck is definetly a factor, but it may not work all the time.
March 18 at 12:11am · Like

Preetam Gandhi Thank you everyone for your suggestions and guidance. As said earlier, this post was meant to raise some uncomfortable yet necessary questions. Opinions may differ but discussion is always the way to success. I hope all of us can find our way to success and more importantly satisfaction. Good night to all of you.
March 18 at 1:37am · Like

Saurabh Chatterjee
How “Doing What You Love” Can Be A Realistic Career Option

Here’s a quote from a recent article I read titled “‘Do…
March 18 at 7:29am · Like · Remove Preview

Saurabh Chatterjee The word “passion” is far overused in today’s common conversation. You hear people say, “I’m incredibly passionate about rock music,” when what they really mean is, “I, like, really, really like this one band I saw in concert last week.”
Passion is not just a love for something, it’s an obsession: an obsession capable of motivating people to practice a specific skill for a ridiculous amount of time.
All those things that people list off to you as examples of things they are “passionate” about but could never get paid for – they’re probably right!
But those aren’t passions; they’re just stuff they like… as a hobby. And yes, if photography is your dream job but you dedicate the same amount of time to it as you
would to any other hobby, you absolutely won’t be able to find anyone willing to pay you for it.


Some Helpful Reads-

How “Doing What You Love” Can Be A Realistic Career Option

Thoughts on ‘Amateur’ and ‘Professional’ Photography

Go Pro? Maybe What You Need is to Go Amateur

How “Doing What You Love” Can Be A Realistic Career Option

6 Things to Consider Before Becoming a Professional Photographer

How “Doing What You Love” Can Be A Realistic Career Option

Saurabh Chatterjee is a travel photographer and a photography trainer. He strives to ‘make every camera-owner a great photographer through his Photography workshops and Photo Tours and Photowalks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *