It May Be Time to Give Up Photography If…

Every year, it seems to get harder and harder to make a living as a photographer. And yet every year, more and more people purchase DSLRs with the intention of doing just that.

So I figured it might be helpful to provide a reality check for those who are wondering when the big money is going to start rolling in.

Here are 25 clues it’s time to give up on your photography career:

  1. You still can’t get a picture accepted by iStockphoto after maxing out your credit cards on gear.
  2. Your contest entry in the “feline” category, captured during a thrilling photo safari on the plains of the Serengeti, loses out to a picture of a cat napping on a sofa.
  3. When your studio is burglarized, all your photo gear is taken along with the picture frames and mattes — but your photos are mysteriously left behind.
  4. Upon hearing you’re covering the local beauty pageant, the suddenly camera-shy contestants scramble to revoke their model releases.
  5. Your photos always run big in publications — not because they’re great images, but because the editor needs a long caption to explain what the picture is about.
  6. Brides gladly pay extra to remove your watermark from their pictures.
  7. When you travel abroad with your camera, street urchins pay you to not take their pictures.
  8. After scanning your portfolio, the organizers of the workshop you want to attend inform you they are fully booked — even though the venue is the Rose Bowl.
  9. Your unretouched images are frequently featured at
  10. A memory card of 64GB is not enough when you’re shooting jpegs for an hour-long assignment.
  11. Facebook doesn’t use your uploaded images, even though your privacy settings are set for everyone to view.
  12. A kid with a cellphone nails a picture of the Loch Ness Monster while you stand there chimping by the lake.
  13. Despite shelling out big bucks for the latest vibration reduction or image stabilization lenses, your pictures are still fuzzy when you shoot in broad daylight on program mode.
  14. You’re not sure if it’s possible to disable autofocus, red eye reduction, auto white balance and program and still take a picture.
  15. You think “depth of field” refers to the depth the local humane society requires you to bury your pet.
  16. You spend thousands of dollars attending workshops to master a certain effect, only to find out there is now a Photoshop filter or plug-in that achieves that same look.
  17. Every time you get a color space mismatch warning in Photoshop, you think it’s asking you to change your clothes.
  18. You don’t realize you can almost fake the bokeh of a lens using Photoshop’s Gaussian blur filter.
  19. Adobe relents and gives you a full refund — on the condition that its tech support staff never has to deal with you again.
  20. Your competition does better with a chroma key backdrop than you can with lighting gear and models on location.
  21. Whenever you order 20 x 30 prints from the local photo finishing lab, they call you because they assume there’s been a mistake.
  22. Your spam filter captures more solicitations for photography workshops than Viagra prescriptions.
  23. Your spouse books another photographer to do her portrait — and it’s not a boudoir session intended as a gift.
  24. The biggest fan of your online portfolio, who is currently incarcerated, obsesses over your geotags.
  25. Clients ask you if facial-recognition software is included with the package they bought — and they’re not being sarcastic.

37 Responses to “It May Be Time to Give Up Photography If…”

  1. jajajaja
    its the most funny article I read leatly..very contemporary!!

  2. Photoshop? Memory cards? Lenses??? damn I knew I was missing something, no wonder my pictures are s***e! Hahaha really funny article :o)

  3. Haha that's excellent! Thanks!

  4. rofl! So funny!!!

  5. ...why are those other comments laughing? i just gave away all my gear cuz of number 13

  6. "chimping by the lake" Awesome!
    #26 You don't know what chimping is!

    This illustrates a great point that creativity is more than buying the right gear. Photoshop doesn't make you a photographer/graphic designer any more than buying a wrench makes you a plumber. I see people buying DSLRs and calling themselves photographers too. It's sad.

  7. I wonder if I should still call myself a photographer since I went digital. I take a good photo but fail miserably with the computer. It's a love-hate relationship. I love the technology and what you can do in Photoshop but I'm not sure I'll ever be proficient enough to keep up. I'm the sad one who shells out the big bucks for a computer & software she can't work. I'm not giving up, though. Do you think there's a whole community of us old photographer-tech wanna be's?

  8. This list is straight from my life!! Add to it that why is when I see the Loch Ness Monster giving a piggy-back to Elvis, Mark Bolan and the Yeti I don't have my camera!!!!

    Time to become a monk and make some mead!!!!!

  9. ... anyone wanna buy a Lock Ness photo??.. 8^)

  10. Haha, great list. #27 when the number of websites about photography you visit is higher than the number of photos you take 😉

  11. my sides are splitting! and sadly true on many accounts. but then again on those days I am not all there I have been known to pull up the camera to check my meter settings and realize I forgot to turn it on. I call it lost in the moment! but on a serious note I have to admit it is frustrating when someone contacts you because they "LOVE" your work but then have their BFF do the shoot for free. The biggest problem that I see in photography, due to the digital influx, is the accessibility of hardware and software that can cover a lack of talent or experience. And then because everyone thinks they can take a great photo cause mom said so that they are somehow qualified technically and artistically cause they bought that new fancy schmancy camera and the new photoshop. It is tiring at times explaining why you use a professional verses uncle bob. They think that their bud can "emulate" your work. So I guess we all just have to try harder and scream louder.

  12. I will add my list.

    Government providing stimulus money used to paint bridges and providing new light poles instead of using money for commercial projects.

    A magazine offering $50 per photo for an interiors image.

    Photography students not understanding the local job market.

    Architectural firms on the cheap sending architects to photograph completed projects instead of using professional photographers.

    The last time an engineer purchased photography was for a wedding.

  13. That's funny stuff! I intend to look around your site some more as I am actually attempting to become a professional photographer. Hoping you might have some helpful info!

  14. #22 made me laugh out loud!

  15. LOL Well it's a good thing we can laugh about it.

    Jerry had a couple good ones too!

    How about -Local Chamber of Commerce sourcing images from Flickr for $0. When you're a member!!

    What the....

  16. It all seems funny, but we have to be serious about this. My photography is my business, having to pay my bills depends on it. A new business module has to be created. If you are going to charge a client a fee for you work, you should be certified. Anyone can get a business license, but are they really qualified for the job? Just my two cents worth!

  17. Peter, you made your point. Does anybody want to buy a very used DSLR? I'll go back to my old job, being a bar tender and try to get my old habit back of drinking and smoking to much.

  18. lizzieb, i am with you. I started taking pics BD (before digital). And while there are many things I enjoy about digital photography - as opposed to using film and all that entails - I am not a fan of sitting on my computer tweaking photographs.

  19. Thanks for the feedback everyone.

    @Jerome van Passel, at least your old bartending job pays and you get tips. My current position, being Mr. Mom, means I'm always on the clock. Hang on to the camera and stay strong.

    By the way if anyone is interested,
    #1 is true by the way. I tried submitting some pictures to iStock and they rejected my images, not once, but at least 3 times. Something about the images having too much artifacts--the digital kind.

    @Jacobite, when that mead is ready to drink, let me know.

  20. Loved it. Especially #9.

  21. #26 When socializing, your wife takes another drink and cries when she explains what her husband does for a living!

  22. Peter, thanks for making my day. I actually know about 20 people who fit into these categories.....

  23. #22 is my fave.

    @lizzieb I'm with you on that one.

    Thanks Pete for the funny article.

  24. I shot for a newspaper for seven years before deciding the company I worked for was never going to pay me a living wage (never made more than $8 an hour, but anyway.) One of the last photography assignments I had at the paper was a local high school basketball. I've been shooting these games or years and my images became part of my reputation as a photographer. A lot of newspaper readers were buying the images and a lot of people knew who I was. I would walk into a game, pick one of my favorite spots on the floor to shoot and have at it. This game however, had SIX other photographers... Two of them high school students. They were all over the place, a few of them were using flashes (a big no-no under sectional rules.)
    Thankfully, they didn't take the spots I usually use for shooting basketball but it bothered me that they were there, that there were so many, and none of them had any kind of credentials.

    Yes, DSLRs are in a range now where just about anyone can get one. I see a lot of Canon's out there (I shoot Nikon) and while I used to see cameras just in the stands, now I'm seeing them on the sidelines and I can find their work on photo sharing sites.

    Occasionally some one will get a good frame, it's a matter of probability. You shoot enough you'll get a good image here and there and memory cards (and their prices) make it easy to shoot thousands of frames in a 90 minute game.

    I don't shoot on probability.

    The biggest difficulty as a professional seems to be overcoming the prevalence of cheaper alternatives to my services. Yes, you can buy a $300 digital camera from a box store and shoot your friend's wedding then upload the photos to a commercial photo sharing site where you can order prints. I tried one of these sites once to see what the quality was like. It was a quick turnaround, but I can print better images on my Epson.

  25. That's why I gave up shooting for over 25 years. People were approaching me to shoot elaborate weddings for a price that wouldn't net a weekend stay at a hotel. And yes, I've been shooting stock and assignment photography for the same amount of years. I can't believe how they lowered their standards of photography. I tried i stock and Fotolia with both rejecting my images, but yet, I have licensed those same images to high end clients. It's getting to a point were anyone using digital cameras are getting jobs that at one time were filled by professionals.

  26. love #23 lmao great list !

    Tony ;~)

  27. anybody with a kit lens dslr thinks they can get a picture. that's the new standard. people looking at my junk vacation shots think i'm great... i wasn't even trying, just recording. i let them look at my gallery and they say "oh you must have a very good camera!" i give up i don't shoot for competition anymore, just my own prints now.

  28. Funny piece. If you're interested in see how famous photographers light their images, check out:

    It may be a reason not to quit 🙂

  29. This article is:
    So funny
    So true!
    Sooo sad.

    Some great ones, and I'm sure many of us that do this fulltime for a living can add many, many others. But thanks for the morning laugh!

  30. This is laugh out loud funny, it got me from the first bar. Ive thought about alot of them and almost gave in, but if its a passion you got to hang in there, even if it hurts when you laugh

  31. @Carl - "anybody with a kit lens dslr thinks they can get a picture." You're half right. But the truth is, it does not always require more than a dslr & kit lens to "get the picture." Focusing on the rules and honing good technique will get you much farther than just believing the hype and buying a $2000 camera.

    My aunt purchased a Canon EOS 50D and hasn't done anything with it in a whole year besides laugh about how she still doesn't know how to use it. Those are the kinds of people you should be annoyed at. Someone like myself, I simply can't afford more than an entry-level - but I love what I do and my photos reflect that.

  32. ha ha ha

  33. I resemble those remarks! I've been shooting, "professionally," for a year and haven't been paid yet for anything. Only have a 35% acceptance on istock. Can't even get a $200.00 backyard wedding gig. No one wants their portraits done. Casting calls on MM are a nightmare-and so are a lot of the models. Can't win a contest to save my life. Not selling a thing on Zazzle. People don't even steal my stuff online.

    I was a whole lot happier for all those years with a point-n-shoot and no pressure. At least I had no expectations.

  34. I've definitely seen some of the same photographers at work as you have. Especially the ones who turn their cameras into machine guns to spray shots all over and hope for something amazing to happen across their sensor.

    These crack me up - great article.

  35. A few of these made me laugh out loud, so thanks for that!

  36. #19 -- BWHAHAAaaHahah

  37. The implication is that if you are technically and artistically inept you should give it up because you won't ever get work? I wish that were true.

    What about when you get your exhibitions widely discussed in the media and produce generally acknowledged beautiful work but cannot make a living because you can't sell. I've seen photographers whose work would meet the criteria in the above post make a lot of money from a gullible public who cannot tell the difference between a good and bad image but if the guy drives up in the right car and spins the right spiel, they're buying.

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