A few days ago I read a really interesting article called, “The Peril of Following Your Passion”, by Malcolm Munro. In a nutshell, the article was about the perils of following your dream to become a professional photographer (or any other career path, for that matter). It’s about that ‘leap of faith’ moment, when you decide to quit your day job to pursue your photography passion, full-time.
There’s been lots written over the past year or two about following your photography dream. In particular, David duChemin has written a lot about it. His takehome message is that life is short, so follow your passion. Be willing to take risks. Make it happen now.
I don’t disagree with David’s advice. Life is short. Sadly, there are events in life that remind us starkly of this reality. Do you want to go to your grave having a long list of unfulfilled dreams? Me neither….
However, I think that when we decide to make that career shift, to follow our passion, our dream, to break the chains of that job that is so deeply unsatisfying, well, we just need to be smart about how we do it. I think some of Malcolm’s message is maybe a bit harsh. The image that says, ‘don’t follow your heart’…well, I disagree. I’d tweak that statement and say, be smart about following your heart.
I’m an optimist, but also a realist. However, I’m not a pessimist. I do believe that in the grand scheme of life, we should ultimately follow our hearts. But I think we need the foresight and wisdom to follow in a sustainable way. Would I love to quit my day job to become a full-time wildlife and conservation photographer? You bet! In a heartbeat. That’s nothing against my job or my employer. It’s just that for me, photography is oxygen. I need it. It’s part of who I am. I can’t survive without it. But I also can’t afford to quit my day job to do it full time. So instead, I’m trying to be smart about feeding my passion. I do it part time. I do it in my ‘spare’ time. Is it easy? Nope. Is it challenging? Yup. Does it sometimes cause unhappiness in my family? Yup. It’s hard to balance your own needs with those of your spouse and/or your kids. But bottom line is that you need to feed yourself and your family. You can’t default on your mortgage payments.
So, my opinion about following your passion is by all means, do it! If you don’t, you may regret it. Just find a way to do it that won’t lead you to future of grief. You have a responsibility to yourself and to your family (if you have a spouse and/or kids). But with the internet, there are a ton of ways you can get your photographs ‘out there’. Is it easy? Nope. Does it require a LOT of work? Yup. But that doesn’t mean you don’t do it. You just work your butt off to pursue the things that make you tick. You find a way to make it work. You might not have the fanciest most high tech dSLR. You might not have all the lenses you want. Just find a way to make it work for you. Build your equipment up slowly. Buy good used equipment. That’s what I did initially.There are a number of ways to be smart, creative, and successfully follow your dream. You just might find that you aren’t following that dream the way you thought you would. But that doesn’t make it less wonderful than your grand plan. It just makes it feasible and realistic.
I encourage you to read Malcolm’s article, especially if you’re just starting out in photography or if you’re young and trying to work out your career path. Whatever you do, don’t give up on your passion. Just be smart about how you pursue it. Be a realist. Read Malcolm’s article.
And then draft your plan to pursue your passion…