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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The difference between amateur and professional travel photography

This is my father-in-law. He's a spritely mid-70's, loves his mountains and his photography. Needless to say we get on like a house on fire. I was chatting to him on the phone last night as we wanted to let him know we'd be coming up to visit soon, which he was obviously pretty pleased about. Sapporo is our second home really, and I just adore the nature of Hokkaido.

Anyway Dad suggested that we take a trip to a small town in the middle of the island which has a small waterfall and take some photographs together. And I hate to admit it but my first thought was 'will the pictures sell?'. And there in a nutshell is the difference between a professional travel photographer and an amateur.

Whereas when I was an amateur I would just photograph everything and anything that struck my fancy willy nilly, I now find myself being a lot more selective with my time and subject matter. At the end of the day my images need to feed my family and so I have to think about the commercial return on investment. Sounds like a horrible way to think about a holiday doesn't it?

But there it is - if you decide to go pro then travel is no longer a holiday. It's work. Just like showing up to the office every day from 9 to 5. Yes it can be a lot more fun, yes it's probably a hell of a lot more rewarding spiritually. But it is still work.

If there's anything I really can't stand it's a non-professional attitude in those photographers purporting to be professional. Make a decision. You are either in business or you're not. You can't pretend to be one or the other.

Either go pro and wholeheartedly and enthusiastically embrace a life where travel and having new experiences becomes your vocation, but accept the limitations that this brings (ie you have to choose your destinations and subjects based on what will sell). Or if that sounds terrible then stick to being an amateur. You'll get to holiday where you want, photograph what you want and not give any of it a second thought. It's all about you, and worrying about whether the pictures will sell or not is irrelevant. That's how I spent the majority of my 20's and I loved every minute of it!

Oh, and what did I tell me father-in-law? Sounds great, let's go. After all, I'll be on holiday! Even for us workaholics the occasional travel jaunt can be non-work related after all.

Oh and if you'd like to see some more images and see why I love this part of the world just pop on over to the website to see some Sapporo pictures.

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