For Love Or Money, Why Do You Make Photographs?

(Also for the weekly photo challenge: Indulge.  As in, indulge my passion for photography and the outdoors)

A Passion Is Born.

About four years ago I picked up a camera for the first time. Well, not really the first time, I had dabbled in the past but nothing serious. Something was different this time though. Almost immediately I realized I loved the act of making a photograph.

It all started innocently enough. I had an interest in astronomy at that time and thought how cool it would be to take a photograph of some of what I saw through my telescope. I was also an avid hunter and “this would make an amazing picture” was so common a thought as I wandered the forests early in the morning that looking back, I’m a bit surprised I didn’t pick up a camera sooner. Once I started taking my camera with me instead of my gun I was hooked, and I haven’t looked back. Never did get around to shooting through my telescope though.

Show Me The Money.

Initially, a lot of my photography was just plain crap. There, I said it out loud. Take a look at the early stuff on Flickr, and I’m sure you will agree. But after a while I noticed my images were getting better. And others did too.  After being told countless times that “your pictures are good enough to sell,” and a few first place finishes in local photo contests, I finally made the effort to do just that.

I’m not sure I would like to make photography my full-time profession, but the idea of selling a few photos to offset the cost of new gear is very appealing. Especially to my wife!

Over the last two years I have been putting more of a serious effort in getting my name and images into the public eye than I ever thought I would. A websitefacebook fan page, and this blog. Me? I don’t think so. But here I am. All in an effort to get my name out there and sell photographs.

 Cape Neddick aka "Nubble" Light. York, MaineCommon Loon with wings spread after dive.

(my three top sellers)

The Ultimate Compliment. 

Someone actually paying their hard-earned money for one of my photographs(see my 3 top sellers above) is to me, the greatest compliment. In this tough economy no one “needs” a new photograph for their wall. So when someone pays for one of mine, I am so honored I can’t put it into words. But making a sale is not what inspires me to pick up my camera.

The Ultimate Reward.

Thinking about my photography recently, it occurred to me that image sales plays almost no part in what motivates me to head out with my camera. I would still be out there making photographs if I never sold another print. I was always creative in school, pretty much living in the art room and always drawing something. I was good at it too. Imagine my surprise when, after a lot of years not drawing anything, I felt I needed that creative outlet again, and the realization that drawing is a use-it-or-lose-it talent (and I had lost it) hit me like a freight train. Fortunately my camera has replaced pencil and paper, and photography has filled that creative need I’d been ignoring for far too long.

With photography, the creative juices are once again flowing full force. The pure and simple enjoyment I feel while out making photographs, coupled with the sense of satisfaction I get when viewing the finished photograph, is what gets me up at insanely early hours for sunrise, and has me knee-deep in mud to photograph a wild orchid.

Do I want to sell photographs? Of course. Will I give up the camera if I never sell another one? Not on your life! What I see on my computer, and hanging on my walls is really all the reward I need from my photography. The money from a sale is just the icing on the cake.

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31 thoughts on “For Love Or Money, Why Do You Make Photographs?

  1. Beautiful shots, interesting story ( it’s great you are not hunting with a gun anymore…). You are absolutelly right, money is not everything in life! And…LONG LIVE CREATIVITY! 🙂

  2. I don’t sell photographs, so what fascinates me about taking them? I think it’s something to do with actually capturing a moment – that seconds later will change forever. Sun on a water droplet, or a wood-mouse on my windowsill. Even with static things like an old door there’s that moment when the light glancing on it, or a shadow cast on it is unique, or eye-catching. And also, I suppose for me, photographs evoke emotions and trigger my imagination.

    • I think the art of seeing is the difference between good photographers and great photographers. If there is one thing that I still have a tough time with it is “seeing” the photograph amongst the clutter. Picking the photograph out of the grand vista before me it not something that comes naturally to me at all. My “seeing” ability is definitely a work in progress.

  3. great story, I feel the same way Jeff, I too love taking photograph and making my own photo’s from my mind as well, like you, I am not in it for the money, its the passion I have for it and to see what I can create from it, I have sold lots of my work and 9 times out of 10 its because of word of mouth or someone has seen my work on someones wall, its also a great feeling when you can touch someone inside because of something I have shot or something I have created, its also awesome to know my photos are on the walls of others in 9 states in this country and to hear what the buyer says why they want your photo’s. I have been called an artist by many, but I say its a hobby for me and when I see other photographers photos, like yours, I call you, the artist, great job my friend.

  4. Hey Jeff,

    Great post and great story. I feel the same way about making photographs, it would certainly be great to one day get to the point where someone actually wants to buy one of my photographs, but I don’t really NEED that to happen; I’d still love photography anyways. When I was younger, I too had a telescope and wanted to take pictures of what I saw. I even tried once by simply holding a camera to the eyepiece and snapping away haha; I’m sure you know that didn’t work but what can I say, I was young and hopeful. Compared to you, my photographs are what you say your early ones are: just crap! But hey, I’ve only been at it about 1 year and I too have seen (and been told about) improvements. No matter what I’m not giving up, thats for sure.

    I love your forest stream photograph! Its obvious why that is a top-seller. And who in New England doesn’t have a photograph of a lighthouse hanging on the wall somewhere in there house? Haha, good idea.

    Thanks for sharing your story. Talk to you soon I’m sure,
    Nate

  5. Jeff, what a great post. And you know, the wordpress daily challenge just came through. The theme? Indulge. I think your post is perfect for it as it is–you indulge in your passion! Great job, I’m really impressed with your photography and your focus…

    Ha ha, sorry, bad photographer joke there. 🙂

    Have a great weekend!

  6. Great images Jeff. When you have a passion for photography, it makes all the difference.
    I also believe it is all about conveying the emotion you feel, when you make the image.

  7. It’s all love, baby! I would like to sell some of my work (especially with unemployment from my last job running out in a few weeks) and I was hoping that making my blog would give me the confidence to sell my work by myself. I was thinking of offering photography services to friends to build a portfolio and I need to upgrade my equipment and learn more about printing methods and costs. Now, the immediate goal is to find a part-time job that will allow me to expand my online presence while continuing to capture the world around me. Thank you for this thought-provoking post. It made me realize how much I’m learning by taking millions of photos and making connections with other artists. Your wisdom is valuable as I’m always looking for tips on how to make money from art without sacrificing my vision and integrity. Great post!

    • I agree, it’s the creativity first, then when someone offers to pay for an image it’s a whole new ball game. But for me it still goes back to the creativity, sale or no sale.

      I have been wanting to try metal, in fact I sent one as a gift to my sister-in-law, but I have yet to actually see any of my work on metal. As much as I love metallic paper though I bet metal is spectacular!

  8. Jeff, keep at it. My story is similar to yours. Bought a camera to go on a safari two years ago and can’t keep it out of my hands. I just sold my first print!! A framed one I had on display. She just e-mailed me about the purchase. Woo-hoo! It will happen to you, too.

    Cheers!

    ~Anne

    • I’ve been fortunate enough to sell several, it’s just not what keeps me going. Congrats on the sale too! The feeling that you get when someone is willing to pay for one of your photographs is pretty great isn’t it. Just like getting a verbal compliment, I can’t see ever getting tired of that feeling either.

  9. Thank you for stopping by my blog. I enjoyed reading this interesting post and all the comments. I love your photo of the loon 🙂

    • The only birds I actively pursue are loons, and if I didn’t live on a lake with at least one nesting pair every year, I’m not sure I would go after them. But birds in general are kind of fun to shoot.

  10. By the way, you might check into zazzle.com for selling your work. I had a zazzle site a couple of years ago that was pulling in about $200 a month. Then my employee left and I just haven’t had the time to do everything that I want to do. But I know it can be done.

    • Thanks for the tip Russel. I’ll check it out. I’d be happy with regular sales of $50 a month to help feed the hobby. A couple hundred bucks a month would be even better!

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