It's a question i've asked myself many times over the last few years. I thought it was about mastery of the fundamentals - speed, f-stop, iso, but I soon realised that was just the technical version of "rtfm" - once i'd mastered the fundamentals, they seemed to disappear from my concerns.
Then I switched to the "I guess I need better equipment" mode of thought - where the quest for Full Frame, and Quality Glass was my holy grail. Now I find myself with all the lenses I need, a quality tripod, and a study backpack.
I've switched from Canon to Nikon in my journey so far - it was really easy - it just took a couple of days to get past my finger's muscle memory, and now going back feels weird (but I know that would only last a couple of days...)
I've climbed mountains. Photography has now led me to the top of most mountains in Canberra - I've only a couple of lesser mounts to climb. I've been snowed on, i've been burnt by the Sun. I've stayed up all night to watch meteors and the stars, and chased down the elusive Aurora Australis.
I've volunteered to take photos for dear friends who were getting married. That was the scariest gig i've had so far. I only had one camera... I did my second friend's wedding with two cameras - lesson learnt.
I've volunteered (or just turned up with my gear and taken photos) to help charities, comedy festivals, music festivals, multicultural and fringe festivals - all of these gigs have made me a better photographer, and were done for the love of sharing a beautiful moment through photography.
I've given free photos to local newspapers and been featured on national TV weather reports, I've helped other people launch their own businesses or causes. It's exposed me to so many lovely people that I can only feel that photography has changed my life for the better.
I've taken hundred of thousands of photos - there's a few that are really good, and I can see my progression over time.
I haven't made a single bit of profit out of photography - if you count profit in dollars.
But, the truth is, i'm a terrible businessman.
Over the last Christmas holidays I tried my first week-long gig as an official event photographer. The festival started with two inches of rain in 30 minutes, and ended with a firestorm - over the week I walked 125 kilometres, slept only 24 hours (because we processed the day's photos at the end of each night's entertainment), and took several thousand photos.
On the first day of the festival it was realised that there weren't enough news stories going onto Social Media - so the other Official photographer and I were asked to shoot and edit continuously so that the insatiable need of Social could be met. There were other photographers, but they were the sort that came with their camera just to get a free ticket - then disappeared for the week only to send in ten pictures a month later...
We worked hard - way too hard. But we knew we were saving the festival from financial ruin - the continuous stream of focussed relevant content was winning the internet, and ticket sales were increasing to record numbers. So we kept it up for the whole week. Over NYE we didn't sleep for a couple of days - there was too much to be done - our rosters were full of gigs we needed to shoot. It was a dream gig. But it was hard. Way too hard. Lazier people who worked there zipped past us on golf carts, never offering a lift, as we lugged giant backpacks full of equipment.
It broke our bodies and minds as the week progressed.
But we got it done. I was extremely happy with the photos I'd provided -with many being used throughout the festival.
But the thing is, the thing that tells me i'm a terrible businessman...
I got paid ZERO. nada. It cost me thousands actually...
I was promised i'd be paid - and that recognition of my effort in the success of the festival would be forthcoming. But it seems to have been a while now, and they don't reply to facebook messages or emails. I didn't have a contract in writing - I trusted where i shouldn't have. I own that...
Embarrassingly, they did share my photos to thank me, but posted them on the other photographers album and called me his assistant. That wasn't thanks, especially as everyone I knew saw that post, and could only think I was a complete liar...
So now I'm over being a paid photographer. I will work for the love of it, and on personal projects that I will share with everyone.
I'm a photographer. I take photos. But i'm not doing it for a job.
Stay tuned - i'll be back with something beautiful.