In Photography Entrepreneurship 101, we have covered how to make money from photography– but we haven’t quite covered should you try to make a full-time living from your photographic passion?
1. “Why?” is always the first question we should ask ourselves
The reason why we should cover this topic:
Before wasting many hours and years of your life before you try to monetize your photography — be really honest with yourself and ask, “Do I really want to monetize my photography, and make it my full-time living?”
Let my use myself as an example.
When I was in college, photography was my passion. However, I didn’t realistically think I could make a living from it. Especially from street photography.
Thus, I took the ‘barbell approach’ from Nassim Taleb — I opted for a secure job (online marketing) and did my photography and blogging on the side. But I still had the dream:
“What if one day I could monetize my passion in street photography, and make a full-time living from it?”
I did some searching around the web, yet couldn’t find any information on the philosophical repercussions of turning your passion into a full-time living.
2. Does turning your passion into your living ruin your passion?
My primary concern:
Would turning my passion of photography into a living cause me to love my passion less?
Or in other words: Would doing photography full-time take the joy out of photography? Would my photography start feeling like a chore and a job, rather than my passion?
To fast-forward about 10 years, I have finally been able to successfully turn my passion (photography, street photography, blogging) into a profitable online/offline business. I have been able to successfully monetize my photography through the following channels:
- Teaching workshops/photography travel experiences (about 80% of my income)
- Through selling products (Henri Neck Strap, Henri Wrist Strap) which was created via HAPTIC INDUSTRIES (the company of Cindy) and selling on Amazon
- Through selling books (STREET NOTES, PHOTO JOURNAL, FILM NOTES, MASTERS)
- Through art prints/portfolios (CITY OF ANGELS, DARK SKIES OVER TOKYO, LAUGHING LADY PRINT)
- Through commercial deals/sponsorships, paid workshops for companies
- Talks and speaking engagements
I can confidently say that turning my passion into my profession hasn’t removed my passion for photography. In-fact, I have probably become more passionate about photography ever-since.
For example, now that I can focus on my photography, writing, research, and studies full-time, I was able to create one of my mini magnum-opuses (Learn From the Masters of Photography). No way in hell could I have found the hours to do countless hours of research, distillation, and writing.
Also I could say that turning my passion into a (profitable) business has helped me become more generous– putting out more than 20+ free ebooks on photography, giving away my presets for free, and giving away all the articles, videos, and information on this blog for free– and keeping it open source.
Of course this is just my personal experience, it will be different for you.
3. Yes, it is possible.
The reason why I am sharing this information with you is the following:
Realize it is possible to monetize your passion and make a full-time living, and also not to lose your passion for your photography.
4. “Selling out”
Now — is monetizing your passion and making a living from it “selling out”? I don’t think so.
To me– “selling out” can and should only be judged by yourself. To me, I will only feel like a “sell out” if I do things that betray my inner-morals and ethics. The only things I ever ended up feeling trapped by was accepting free cameras from camera companies– because I lose my freedom to give my truly truly honest thoughts on a certain camera. Thus I found for myself, sponsorships are self-imposed slavery.
5. Personal motivations
Ultimately, I have also discovered that the things I value the most in my life include:
- Freedom of thought
- Freedom of travel
- Freedom of writing/publishing/sharing what I want, without being censored or prevented by a gatekeeper/editor.
That is pretty much it.
Thus, I have tried to optimize my business to allow me to have the maximum amount of personal freedom, with the minimum amount of personal and business-related obligations. I have HUGE HUGE appreciation for my manger Neil Ta who handles my business engagements, and coordinates my workshop. Also of course massive appreciation for Cindy for starting up HAPTIC INDUSTRIES — selling products online, and also helping me with travels, workshops, and other logistical details– while also empowering me to stay true to my own inner-voice, and staying productive as a writer, photographer, and educator.
Starting my own business, and becoming an entrepreneur has afforded me this freedom.
6. Being self-employed is better for myself
Now, I can certainly say (for myself) that it is far better to be a self-employed entrepreneur than having a 9-5 office job. I hated the following about my old job:
- Having to always go to work, every day, at the same time
- Not being able to leave work once I finished my work
- Not having the freedom to just take time off, and travel whenever I wanted to
- Having to answer hundreds of emails, instead of writing, researching, and just walking around
- Not having the opportunity to share my knowledge and information with others (me, being a lowly entry-level position, I was never invited to meetings to share my thoughts/opinions)
Benefits of self-employment
Now the biggest benefits of being self-employed include:
- Going to sleep and waking up whenever I feel like it, without the agency of an alarm clock
- Not feeling pressured to have to respond to an email within an hour (like my old job)
- Getting off the corporate ‘rat race’/treadmill — not valuing my self-esteem based on my title (I was a ‘manager’, but I wanted to become a ‘director’ in my title, to feel more self-important)
- Not having to play office-politics
- Being able to speak my mind and voice, without the fear of getting fired
7. Monetizing your passion won’t solve all your life problems
Now of course, being self-employed ain’t all rainbows and angel whispers. I still suffer from:
- Anxiety about personal finances, that one day I will go broke, become homeless, and die on the streets, and have Cindy leave me because I become a financial failure
- Motivation: At times my motivation waxes and wanes– some days I feel more inspired and motivated, other days I feel lost, overcome with ennui, and a general depressive-lethargy at times.
- Self-Questioning about my value towards myself and society: Not sure whether I’m using my talents, time, and skills to the fullest ability– to help empower society and others.
Why I am grateful I monetized my passion in photography
Thus, it has seemed for me — true happiness has been a bit of the following:
- Self-liberation from office job
- Moderate income to sustain my coffee intake, and pay for my eggs
- Having freedom of speech/thought/expression
- Helping empower others
- Finding inspiration in ideas, that give me motivation to create new things (whether articles, books, videos, etc).
8. Ultimately what is my life purpose?
As of right now, I think it is:
To discover truth(s) about life, art, and the world– and to share these secrets with others.
Thus, I spend a lot of time reading philosophy, reflecting on my personal life experiences, and also making art (through photography, poetry, film, etc). Ultimately, I am like a honey bee– I exist for the sake of the hive and the collective, not for myself. And like any good honeybee– I collect a lot of pollen to make my honey, but I want to share my honey with my hive.
Conclusion: Never lose faith in yourself.
If you want to learn how to monetize your photography and make a living from it, I encourage you to read my distilled primer: “MODERN PHOTOGRAPHER“, or check out my free Photography Entrepreneurship 101 series.
Also make sure to subscribe to my newsletter to stay updated when a Photography Entrepreneurship Seminar comes to your neighborhood.
Ultimately, it is possible to monetize your passion and make a living from it. It does require insane work ethic, a dash of luck, and the right opportunities and timing. I am still discovering what works for me, and hope to continue to share these secrets with you.
MODERN PHOTOGRAPHER: Marketing, Branding, Entrepreneurship Principles For Success
MODERN PHOTOGRAPHER is your new philosophical and practical primer to succeed as a modern photographer in today’s digital world.
How to Monetize Your Photography
- 10 Practical Photography Monetization Strategies: Pricing, Google SEO, & Entrepreneurship
- How to Make Money From Street Photography
Why Become a Photography Entrepeneur?
Take control of your own photographic destiny:
THE MODERN PHOTOGRAPHER
- CREATIVE CAPITALISM
- How to Monetize Your Photography
- 5 Practical Photography Career Tips and Advice
- 10x Thinking
- How to Hustle as a Photographer
- How to Become Your Own Master Marketer
- The ‘T’ Technique of Success
- Go Ahead and Sell Out
- What is Your Unique Voice?
- Why You Must Self-Promote Yourself
- What is Your Unique Angle as a Photographer?
- Photography Content Marketing 101
- Why You Must Become Your Own Publisher
- The Art of Cross-Pollination in Photography
Photography Entrepreneurship Articles
- Why You Shouldn’t Trust Your Pictures to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Flickr
- How to Make Money From Your Photography
- Photography SEO and Blogging: How to Become Number One on Google
- Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation
- Now is the Best Time to Be a Photographer
- What Is The Value of a Picture?
- Your Photographic Labor is Not Free
PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS 101
- Chapter 1. How to Make a Photography Blog
- Chapter 2. How to Price Yourself
- Chapter 3. How to Find Your Market
- Chapter 4. Why Teach Workshops?
- Chapter 5. How to Build Trust
- Chapter 6. How to Market Yourself
- Chapter 7: Why Should Someone Attend Your Workshop?
KEYS TO SUCCESS
- Why You Must Be a “Personality” in Order to Succeed
- THRIVE OR DIE.
- Impatience is a Virtue
- Create Your Own Category
- HOW TO DREAM BIG.
- Will Not or Cannot?
- Why Not?
- How to Think BIG
- How to Stay Ahead of the Curve
- How to Invest in Yourself
- The Two Camera Rule
- MEANINGFUL DIFFERENTIATION
- Advice For College Students
- How to Thrive in Uncertain Times
- CANNIBALIZE YOURSELF.
- DO AND GROW RICH
- Does Fear of Punishment Hold You Back?
- HOW TO GET MORE FOLLOWERS
- How to Innovate
- How to Build Your Own Empire
- YOU ARE ENTITLED TO HARD WORK.
- PICK YOURSELF.
- OWN YOUR PLATFORM
- 10 KEYS TO SUCCESS
Table of Contents
Learn how to make a living from your passion:
- Preface. BRAVE NEW WORLD OF PHOTOGRAPHY
- Chapter 1. How to Create Value
- Chapter 2. ZEN CAPITALISM
- Chapter 3. Scarcity
- Chapter 4. How to Brand Yourself
- Chapter 5. How to Build a True Following
- Chapter 6. The Blueprint to Success in Photography
- Chapter 7. HOW TO BE BOLD
- Chapter 8. How to Sell Out
- Chapter 9. GO AGAINST THE GRAIN
- Chapter 10. EXTREME ABUNDANCE
- Chapter 11. Photography Experience Economy
- Chapter 12. Why You Should Make Money for Your Photography
- Chapter 13. How to Become a Famous Photographer
Photography Business 101
How to Make Money with Photography
- How to Charge More Money in Your Photography
- Why You Should Not Pursue Photography as Career
- Can Photography Make You Rich?
- How I Earn $200,000+ a Year From Photography
- How to earn $10,000 a month as a photographer
- Why you must be an expensive photographer
Photography Marketing 101
- Why Have More Followers?
- Why You Should Do Photography Work For Free
- How I Became an Internet Famous Photographer
- Photography Blogging Ideas
- Why You Should Promote Your Own Name
- How to Build a Following
- How to Stand Out as a Photographer.
- HOW TO GO VIRAL AS A PHOTOGRAPHER.
- How to Master Marketing
- How to Sell Yourself
How to Hustle.
- Entrepreneurial Advice to My 18 Year Old Self
- How to Become Insanely Productive.
- 5 Lessons From Hesiod on Hustling
- It is Better to Beg For Forgiveness Than Ask For Permission
- The Free Way to Become Rich
- JUST DO IT.
- 7 Steps: How to Make a Living From Your Passion
- How to Do What You Love for a Living
- How to Create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
- How to Fail Big
- How to Invest in Yourself
- How to Be Bold in Photography and Life
- Mission: Cover Your Rent and Food
- 1,000 True Fans
- The “10x Principle”: The Only Difference Between “Success” and “Failure”
- Make More Value Not Money
- We Live in a Photo Utopia
How to be a Full-time Photographer
- How to Make a Living From Photography
- The 3 Principles of Making Money With Photography
- Advice for Aspiring Full-Time Photographers
- Don’t Go Into Debt For Your Photography
- How to Brand Yourself as a Photographer
- Trust: The Most Important Thing You Need to Succeed as a Photographer
- How to become rich from photography blogging
- How to Make a Living with Blogging
- 50 Blogging Tips For Beginners
- How to Start Your Own Photography Blog
- A Photographer’s Guide to SEO, Blogging, and Social Media
How to Teach Photography
- How to Become a Photography Teacher
- How to Teach a Street Photography Class
- Why I Teach Street Photography Workshops
- Why I Deleted My Instagram
- The Social Media Blackbook for Photographers
- Why Do You Need More Likes or Followers?
- Instagram is Going to Be the Next Facebook
- Don’t Trust “Free” Photography Social Networks
How to Save Money
Unleash your creative potential:
- April 10-11th, 2021: BOSTON / Discover Your Unique Voice in Photography Workshop [Register Intent Here]
- May 1-2nd, 2021: CHICAGO / Street Photography Composition Masterclass [Register Intent Here]
- May 22-22nd, 2021: NEW YORK CITY / STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MASTERCLASS by ERIC KIM [Register Intent Here]
Be notified of when new workshops are live here.