Part Time Paradigm

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There are a growing number of photographers choosing to operate on a part time basis

There was a time when the difference between a professional photographer and an amateur was that a professional got paid and an amateur did not. Times have changed and the lines between the two have blurred.┬áProfessional now refers to a quality of work, not whether you get paid. There are many people who generate professional quality photography work, but have a main income from another source. When I was growing up, if you wanted to be considered a professional photographer, then photography had to be your main vocation. Again, times have changed. Today there are many photographers whose main source of income is from non-photography work but their work is of professional standard – I call this the Part Time Paradigm.

I have recently read David Du Chemin’s book – VisionMongers – which addresses the issue of ‘making a life and a living in photography’. It is an excellent book. In the early chapters it considers the issues around whether or not to make photography your primary vocation. He explains that it is not easy to make a living in photography, and gives some great examples of people who are succeeding. This week, I’ve also read a post on The Digital Photography School which considers the benefits of part time photography. Both of these have lead me to today’s post on Beyond Here.


Is the Part Time Paradigm real?

Often people consider how well a photography business is doing by whether the photographer is conducting their photography business full time, or how much work the photographer has, or how many staff the photographer has. I come across this thinking nearly every week, and only in the last year have I realized the power and the benefits of part time business. The Part Time Paradigm is real, and lots of photographers are living it. Maybe you should consider it too.

What does it look like?

Money laundering

The benefits of the part time paradigm are more than financial

Firstly, the photographer has another source of income, normally from a job. This provides them with a steady income and lets them operate their photography business outside of their job commitments. Secondly, there is a range of photography work they can be doing – stock, wedding, family portrait, landscape … the list goes on. Thirdly, whether they are ‘professional’ or not now has a mixed meaning. It could refer to how they conduct their business, or the quality of work they are producing. Importantly, it doesn’t refer to whether they get paid or not, or whether that is the only way they spend their working week.

Why operate like this?

The main reason for operating in the part time paradigm is often overlooked. It is possible to be passionate about photography and have an interest in something else. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Think about it for a moment, a doctor might love photography, and it doesn’t mean they hate being a doctor. Equally a bus driver can love driving buses and love photography. When I boil it down, professions used to define us. This made it hard to change. Today, your profession doesn’t have to define you. You can change. You can be a doctor today and a photographer tomorrow. Or you can be both at the same time.

Interestingly there is still a line of thinking that you can’t be taken seriously unless you are operating as a full time photographer. To me, this is a notion of the past and thousands of photographers are living the part time paradigm. Perhaps a lot more should?

What are the benefits of the part time paradigm?

The benefits of the part time paradigm include:

  • financial stability by having multiple sources of income.
  • you can invest in equipment not promotional material. For full time photographers, it is very hard to justify investing in equipment compared with investing in promotional material to generate more business. In the part time paradigm you don’t have this conflict, you can buy the gear you want.
  • effort can vary. A full time photographer needs work year round and generally won’t go for very long without camera in hand. The part time photographer can vary their work with the season or with their mood. They can dip in and out. Work lots this month, take next month off.
  • you can stay true to your creative vision. Under the part time paradigm you do not have to shoot family portraits on the weekend to keep money coming in. If landscapes at sunrise are your one true love, that’s all you have to shoot in the part time paradigm
  • being able to live a life of variety. It is possible and legitimate to love photography and love something else. It is possible to do both. Shoot weddings all summer, focus on your other interests all winter.

Do you believe you have to operate full time to be a successful photographer? What’s your take on the Part Time Paradigm?

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