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The intersection of hobby and business

I’ve written before about the damaging BS around the phrase “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life,” and I still think it’s harmful.

But I was thinking of it in a different context based on how I spent part of my weekend.

See, I love taking pictures. I inherited that love from my dad, who once won a photography contest where the prize was an all-expenses paid family trip through parts of British Columbia and Alberta.

Unlike my dad, though, I don’t often know what I’m doing.

I mean, I have a nice camera (the word nice doesn’t even come close to describing my full-frame Canon 6D, but alas, I am only proficient in English), and I have taken enough photography courses to know how to take a good picture on “M” mode, but aside from that, I know very little.

I don’t even know what ISO means except that you put it down low when you’re outside on a sunny day and you put it up higher when it’s dark.

But, because I always have my camera with me (or at least as close to always as I can with my babies being this small) and I have a good eye for what makes a picture interesting, I take some pretty good pictures.

Which leads sometimes to people reaching out and asking if I’ll take their pictures for different events.

And I always say yes.

I took pictures when one of my sister’s best friends got engaged, then married.

I took pictures for the first Lola retreat. The first Statement event.

I took pictures when my friend had her baby. Then I took pictures when I had a baby.

Last weekend, I took pictures for my friend’s holiday cards.

I always enjoy taking pictures for people, and to this day, I have kept my picture taking firmly in the hobby category of my life.

I mean, I’ve done pictures for trade, sure. You want me to take pictures of your event? Neat, I won’t have to pay to go!

Or, the wedding. I’d like to take pictures but I need this one off-camera not-a-flash light. Oh, you bought it? Neat!

So, when I came home energized on Saturday night in a way I haven’t been in a long time, I felt like it was a good idea to reflect.

“I think I love taking pictures so much because it’s a hobby for me,” I said to Brent. “I still have the enthusiasm of an amateur, so when I get a shot that looks amazing I get a thrill.”

My friend’s family is comfortable with me — all the kids know me, so we didn’t have any awkward beginning — and we had a good time, finding a really beautiful spot to take pictures near the zoo.

So I took almost 200 pictures in a little less than an hour, and we all left that spot feeling great.

Photographer = editor

Traditional entrepreneur logic would read that story and say, “great! You should definitely make a business out of that!”

But let’s be real about what photography is: editing. For every hour you spend taking pictures, you spend about an hour editing.

Which I’m sure one can outsource, but not until they can show someone else what to keep and how to crop images to match their style.

One of the best pieces of advice I got in those entry-level photography classes was that if you want people to think you’re an excellent photographer, only share the truly excellent photos.

Cull everything else. Get rid of the mediocre.

Pressure reduces love

There’s a marked difference between the kind of people who ask me to take pictures and the kind of people who hire someone very expensive to do the same.

It’s a matter of fun. As an enthusiastic amateur, I’m around fun people all the time.

Now, again, the high-end photographer can do the same.

But the path between enthusiastic amateur and a designer photographer isn’t full of fun people all the time.

Plus, there’s significant pressure in getting just the right shot on someone’s special day.

Especially if they’ve paid you to capture every moment.

So working with stressed out people who are worried I’m not going to get it right means spending hours with people who aren’t having fun. Then more hours culling and editing. Only to stress and fret about whether the client is happy.

That doesn’t sound like fun.

In fact, the only thing that does sound fun about turning my photography habit into an income stream is the dorky deduction side. See, if I add photography as an income stream, I can depreciate my toys on my business taxes.

Not only that, I can use my business credit card to buy more photography toys.

That’s not enough of a plus to outweigh the significant minuses associated with leveling up my photography and charging a premium for it.

Ultimately, you have to decide whether you want to monetize the things that light you up

Remember the “thought leader list” exercise? Where you were supposed to set a timer for ten minutes, then write down all the things you know how to do better than most?

Bring that back out, and really scrutinize it.

What would you be comfortable turning into a business?

For me, business coaching, design, branding, writing copy, helping people make more money in their businesses… those are the things I am happy to charge for.

Taking and editing photos, though, stay firmly planted on the hobby side of my life.

Because hobbies are meant to bring joy and a deeper understanding of the world around us.

And some hobbies can be monetized, but just because they can doesn’t mean they should.

Note: I did take this featured image but I generally do not take my own photos for blog posts. Unsplash is far easier.

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