Are you “passionate” about photography?

The trouble with working in a craft that seems glamorous is that every dreamer with a DSLR wants your job. Ask them why and the answer will invariably be that they are “passionate about photography”. Apart from the fact that they have obviously never been taught about hyperbole at school, most of them will throw common-sense to the winds to get work. They will abandon rationality, a not uncommon characteristic of the passionate, and work for nothing in order to be able to indulge this “passion”. This syndrome was never better illustrated than in this bitingly funny scene from the 1960’s cult classic, Putney Swope:



Filed under Opinion, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls

5 responses to “Are you “passionate” about photography?

  1. Hi Rob,

    the link does not work for me, so I can’t watch the clip, but I believe passion is essential for our profession. I include commitment and professionalism with that as well.

    Passion is the urge to want to take photos, good photos that show understanding of light and composition. It is also about never leaving home without a camera, because the next great shot might just be down the road.

    I have two friends who are photographers. One has got much more gear than I do, but hardly ever takes photos, the other one claims that all he wants to do is take pictures on film, but he too rarely seriously goes out to take pictures.

    For me that indicates the passion is lacking for both of them.

    If I don’t have assignments I go out and shoot stock or just do street photography. I want to take photos because people and photography are my passion!

    Roel Loopers

  2. I don’t disagree, Roel…but as a professional I find that those who are blinded by their self-described “passion” lose their ability to negotiate professionally. Like new lovers, they abandon reason, and will like Mark Focus, agree to shoot for nothing, because, “they need the ‘work'”.

    Right now I am probably as well-equipped to shoot pictures as I’ve ever been in my half century as a photographer. You’ll know from our long lunches in beautiful Fremantle, I carry a camera with me everywhere and I shoot pictures every day. I enjoy my profession and will probably go to my grave with finger poised over the shutter button, but I am always suspicious of those who use the word “passion”. In most instances it is either hyperbole, or short-lived. Passion burns out quickly…but love sustains and grows.

  3. I am a scorpion and passion is our love and love is our passion, Rob. We never run out of it.

    But I do agree that my love/passion for photography has grown the better I get at it and the older I get. I probably shot less pics for myself 20 years ago and mainly only took photos on assignments. that has changed and I like it that way.

    A day without taking photos is almost as bad as a day without a good glass or two of red!


  4. Great article, and it hit me right to the core. I think I’m one of those you say has passion for photography and would almost be willing to do a photography job if I think it’s worth it. I didn’t think it would be a bad thing, but now I might have to reconsider. How would you distinguish between a temporary passion for photography or a long-term love of it?

    • Thanks Danny. In this age of hype where “awesome” simply means “moderately impressive”, I think the word “passion” has lost i’s meaning. That doesn’t mean that it can’t still be used, but ask most “passionate” photographers whether they carry a camera with them at all times (and I don’t mean the one in their phone) and I think you’ll find the answer is “no”.

      I could probably be accused of a love of my craft, or at very least a strong enthusiasm. After all it has sustained me for nearly fifty years. I carry a camera with me everywhere. But this enthusiasm never gets in the way of the pragmatic reality, that if I am asked to photograph something or someone, as a professional I make sure that the return I get is commensurate with my skill and effort…and that is being well aware that whatever I charge, 50% of that will be absorbed in operating costs; overheads. The “passionate photographer” deludes themselves into thinking that they have no overheads, and therefore can work for small change or the price of a case of beer. They are wrong…and I won’t go into detail here as to why.

      I think the difference between temporary passion and long term love of the craft is pretty easy to discern: do you have a camera with you at all times, rain, hail or shine? Do you think pictures 24 hours a day? Do your cameras ever gather dust? Do you practice the craft all the time? Are you interested in pictures, or just in the newest equipment or gadgets? Can you name 20, 30, 50 influential photographers of the last 100 years? Do you recognise their work? Can you operate your camera as easily as you breathe, or drive a car? Do you walk into a room and know what the exposure will be for a given ISO? Do you practice this? Do your eyes constantly frame the world around you? Are you always aware of the light and what it is offering? Answer yes to all of these and I’ll grant you may be “passionate” about photography.

      I’ve often likened photography to music. If you were to buy a guitar and not learn the scales and how to play it, yet insisted in inflicting your “music” on everyone you met, it would not be long before you were told to F*** off, or were even subjected to physical assault if you didn’t stop. Yet thousands of camera owners think this approach to photography is perfectly legitimate. I saw a T-shirt the other day that said: “You are not a photographer, you just own a camera!” Good photography takes hard work. The kind of hard work that hurts. God, I sound almost passionate:-)

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