Feeling Empowered as a Photographer without Going “Pro”

This entry is a guest post by Lou Noble, editor-in-chief of The Photographic Journal, and an active Flickr member for fifteen years. You can follow his work here.

Friends and family told you your photos were excellent. They asked if you had considered doing it as a job. You got a lot of “likes” online. Your current job isn’t nearly as exciting as the idea of taking pictures of famous people and places. You love taking pictures.

Becoming a professional, you think: maybe there will be money! And travel! But there’s also invoicing to worry about, and taxes, and worrying about changes in trends, and bills, PR, search engine optimization—the list is endless.

What if you could take pictures and not have to worry about any of that? Because YOU CAN. You can enjoy taking pictures, making art, engaging in the act of creation, as something totally separate from work, separate from stress, maybe even separate from other people, if that’s your thing. Photography is and can continue to be your solace from the working world. A place you are free to make what you want, at your own pace.

You love taking pictures… think about how lucky that is, how so many people don’t have something like that. The notion that we have to turn every skill and talent into something that generates revenue… I’ll tell ya, it ignores a crucial aspect to healthy living: joy. Pure, unencumbered joy.


Not everything has to be a job. Not everything has to result in getting paid. Most of my favorite things do not give me money.

Think of the sunsets you’ve photographed. The thrill you’ve gotten, when a shot turned out just right. The communities you’ve become a part of through photography. Think back to those moments that were the result of you engaging with (and creating) art.

Those moments were you touching the sublime. You don’t need to be a professional for those moments. You don’t need to be getting paid for those moments. What we photographers do, what we make, it exists separate from commerce. It’s an escape. It’s catharsis, creation. Collaboration. It is art for art’s sake.

There is a time and a place for Working. I have a job, I like it, I don’t at all mind doing it…but I don’t want my whole life to be Work. Hobbies, art, these are spaces reserved for freedom from Work. Reserved for joy.

So when someone asks me if I want to do this professionally, or if I want to make money at this…I ask them: isn’t joy enough? Because deep down, I understand that photography is not about me making money. It’s not about me traveling, meeting celebrities. It’s about experiencing joy. Don’t need to file a tax return to feel joy. Just have to pick up a camera and shoot.

But I’d like to know what you think! Head over to this thread, share your experiences with “going pro”! Was it all you’d dreamed? Maybe you had the chance and declined…let us know why! Even better, maybe this is all just a bunch of balderdash to you…go yell at me!

Posted By
Lou Noble

Saves lives. Takes pictures.
Set medic, Local 80.
Editor-In-Chief of The Photographic Journal (@tpj).
Los Angeles (Forever).