Why I Quit Photography

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be something special. I wanted to work in entertainment or be the wife of some super powerful mogul. I always saw myself as the behind-the-scenes type. I love to sing but have a horrible voice. I draw but never think it’s good enough. I create. Photography was a perfect fit for me.

You see, with photography, you can make anything what you want it to be. You can manipulate photos to be the ideal. It’s a very technical field. I’m good with technical. I’m good with numbers and ratios and scenarios that can be repeated. I’m good with creativity and coming up with ideas and executing them. Photography felt right.

But then it became a burden. It was no longer about the ART but about the DOLLAR. It was no longer about the FUN but about the CONNECTIONS. And by connections I don’t mean the connections with my clients. Nope. I mean connections with the right people.

But I know people. Or knew people. Or thought I had the right connections. But I don’t. Or I didn’t. Or I misread the situation. Relationships were always important to me and I thought I fostered those relationships. Apparently what I was fostering was false hope lifting THEM up while suffering myself thinking they’d remember me when the time came. Don’t get me wrong – I never go into a relationship friendship thinking about what I can get out of it. I truly value friendships. But I do know my worth. FINALLY. I know my worth. I know that I am good at what I do. Hell. I’m great at what I do. I am loyal to the bone. But people don’t see you when you’re quiet and reserved. They don’t remember you when the time comes to call on someone to help. They forget the encouragement and support you gave them.

Photography became something I dreaded. I stopped taking my camera with me places for fear that someone would ask me to take a picture for them. “Do you know how much I charge for this?” I’d say to myself. That wasn’t me. I always wanted to be successful but I started my business knowing that some people would never be able to afford the luxury that is photography. I didn’t want to be that person that was unreachable.

I quit photography because I was tired of playing the game.

Then I found photography again. This time, for me. I’m a memory maker. That’s what I am. That’s what has always been important to me. Now I’m a photographer for myself. I photograph what I want. I photograph MY life. I’ve never felt freer. So what if that magazine doesn’t want me. So what if that group doesn’t think I’m the right fit. So what if my loyalty and talent mean nothing. So what.

Love always, Monica

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91 comments

  1. What a fantastic experience. The good and the bad create character and strength. What an inspirational and encouraging blog! I LOVE it!

  2. This makes me happy and sad. Happy for you that you are happy, and sad for clients that will miss out on your personality and talent. I hope one day, if it’s best for you, that you will find that balance. Where the people (connections) don’t matter AND you can make that money honey. You are seriously just so very good. Until then, if that happens, I wish you nothing but happy days. Enjoy those moments you are capturing for YOU! 🙂

    1. I’ll always love photography. I take clients here and there but I’m not worried about all of the “politics” of photography anymore. I love making memories and helping others. That part will never change. 😉

    1. Yes!!! We all have our struggles and revelations. Now is the time to live the life we want and value the things that are important.

  3. You managed to express what unfortunately many of us deal with. Ugh!! Thank you sharing. It’s somehow comforting to know you’re not alone in an experience. And if you can find your truth and make it work, I can to. Thanks again!!

  4. Amen girl!!! Love the way you think! you are awesome in so many ways Mon! Keep up the good work 🙂 xo

  5. You’re such an amazing person.

    I am so happy for you and the happiness you’ve found!

    I also understand and feel deep my heart how you’ve come to this place. ❤️

  6. This is so wonderful, I mean it brought me to tears! I really couldn’t have said it better myself… I’m on my own journey with my photography and that’s because I’m tired of being taken advantage of! I’m so happy for you that you found your path again! You go girl!

  7. I was just thinking about this today actually. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what was bothering me about my photography business…but you hit the nail on the head. I’m tired of explaining my worth and I’m tired of my family recommending me to their cheap acquaintances. I’m also tired of the trial and error with me coming out on the losing end. And I know if I keep going down this path I’ll go broke or lose my mind trying to play the game. Pardon me, I haven’t had a chance to peruse your site yet; I found a link through a friend on FB. But, I’m sure your work is great (from all the comments). I just wish that’s all it took to make money-to be great at what you do. There’s SOOOO much more to it. In some ways you have to become another person. Sorry to rant on your page! LOL! It just hit so close to home. The question for me now is where do I go from here? Maybe I’ll go read all of your posts and see what you’ve done. lol

    1. Finding myself has been a journey. My goal this year has been to really think about my life and what I want out of it. It’s about more than to money to me at this point. I’ve made the money and I’ve not made the money. I’ve been on both sides. I feel like I lost myself along the way. Now I’m excited to be the artist I know I am. 😉

  8. Thank you so much for this. You penned exactly what I’ve been feeling. In fact, I decided to dive into something new – architecture and real estate photography. My husband is an architect and my dad-in-law owns a construction company. They suggested this before but I was hesitant because I loved and still do portrait photography. But like you, it soon became a burden trying to prove my worth. But I’m excited now because I’m going to learn a new skill and believe me, it’s not that simple taking pictures of a building and its interior. I am also hoping that by working with business owners that they will not expect free services but on an agreed upon and fair price. Thank you for this post. It made me feel I’m not alone and that my new direction is a good choice.

    1. Would you believe that I actually went to school for architecture? That’s where my love for photography sort of invigorated…lol. This sounds amazing!

  9. People Liking or Viewing My Photography. Is More Important To Me. Than The Money. Besides,I Haven’t Made A Dime,On It Yet!! Because,For One;I Get No Support From Anyone In My Family. And That’s How,You Get A Business Started. So,I Heard??

    1. I’ve actually been pretty successful in the business side but I lost myself along the way. The truth is that some of us are in this because we truly love art and photography. That’s me. I want that to remain me. When your family doesn’t support your dream or your work, find other people who will. I’ve made some amazing friends in this industry and in the art community. It pays to reach out. 😉

  10. Monica your story feels way too familiar. I went through the same thing. I actually gave birth once again to my photography for me and started working on personal projects, which I love. Not to mention that everyone with a camera became a photographer and the quality of photographs have declined and engagements are way too overboard. Just my personal feelings about it. I wish you all the best!

    1. Personal projects have been amazing for me. I’ve really started doing a lot of self portraits as well. I hate to have my picture taken but that’s a whole other blog post. 😉

  11. Totally feel you on this. I’ve pulled back from a lot of people due to thinking they were my friends, and they were not at all. It was making me bitchy and that’s not me. This reminds me of the craft industry so much, I totally feel this post. Well we don’t speak that much, but know that I consider you a genuine friend, and that’s rare in my life. Always TRULY here for you.

  12. You go girl! I love the beauty that creative folks make…keep doing what you love! And relationships rock, glad you are honoring the relationship with yourself.

  13. I’m feeling so proud of you right now, this industry is so over-saturated it’s ridiculous but hey, guess what, I’m not in Business so do I care? No. I can choose who, what and where I decide to shoot. I am disabled due to a stroke so can’t get around very well but photography for me is an outlet for my creativity and the technical side keeps my brain working well. Life is not about facebook likes, life is for living and being free to freeze beautiful moments in time without the worry of a Business is far more rewarding.

  14. Wow! That was so great to read! It was like you were writing some of my thoughts and struggles.
    Thanks for sharing and being brave enough to put it out there!

  15. You wonderful, wonderful, honest woman! Thank you so much for wording this in such a perfect way. I can relate on so many levels and though I’m currently in a stage where my camera doesn’t come with me places anymore and I’ve lost so much of the joy that came from it, I’m still on the journey and a part of me loves it and yearns for what it used to be. This was a remarkable post and you voiced what I think many other photographers feel. Thank you!

  16. I am SO feeling you on this!!! In the middle of rebranding and discovering these same sentiments……thank you for sharing. As a loner myself, I have to draw on courage daily to put my truth out there…..you are a great example to follow!

  17. Thank you…I needed this exactly at this moment. I officially “launched” in January and it’s so easy to look to the right and left to see what others are doing and think about what I am not doing. Instead of being inspired, I have found myself envying what others have instead of looking at all that I have. That stifles growth, creativity, and the ability to genuinely connect with clients. Good blog to help me while I “get my mind right” and honestly assess why I do what I do. Thanks again!

    1. Creatives are often hardest on themselves. We tend to compare ourselves to others in the field. It will rob you. Stay strong and concentrate on growing.

  18. I’ve always loved photography. I love the emotion it can entice. I am a hobbyist, I know how to use my camera. When people tell me I need to start a business THIS is exactly why I don’t. I never want it to a burden. It’s my outlet when I’m sad or stressed. It’s my thing, that I guard and treasure as mine.
    🙂
    Love your blog btw!

    1. Thank you and yes! There are many that make this a business and continue to love it. There are also those that struggle with this. In the end, you’ll know what feels right for you.

  19. Sasha Holloway said you were amazing. She was right. Thank you for saying the right thing at the right time. I needed this more than I knew. I will be following this blog for sure!

  20. I appreciate the honesty. Running any type of business teaches us many things about ourselves. When a young person asks me questions about getting into photography I let them know NOT to go to college for photography but instead to get a business degree. Running a business is so much more than the technical and creative aspects of being an amazing photographer. I live in Cincinnati and there is a program through a non profit called Artworks that puts artists through business training. It helps them to write a business and marketing plan etc. They understand that this is where talented artists struggle.
    Despite my business background I’ve learned quite a bit myself and some of those lessons have come from amazing clients. I do a lot of media and one of the things I’ve learned from my fave media client is to only shoot what I LOVE. They assign you to stories or people that they know that you LOVE. It brings the work to life not only for my photos but also for the reporters. They are the same way with the writers.
    And I agree – if something becomes burdensome and is no longer a passion then it’s just time to step away because your work suffers – your business suffers – everything suffers. I went through that too. It became about finding my niche. Now I only work with people who are excited and passionate to work with me. If you are shopping for a photog then I’m definitely NOT your girl. I turn people away often and also fired my largest commercial client. I provide a certain style and a certain expertise and people know me for that. It’s been a long time in the making and it has been many difficult and brutal lessons including learning to deal with being a woman and what that means in a patriarchal society and business climate. I would think that being a black woman that also has an impact whether we want to be honest about it here or not.
    Keep on following your bliss . . .

    1. That’s exactly it. Some people are just about the money. I get that completely. That’s just not me. I’m smart. I can do anything to make money. I’m an artist, though, and want to continue to be an artist.

  21. I feel the same way. At first I wanted to do what everyone else was doing. Then I started dreading doing shoots. But now I only take photos for me, my family, or very close friends that can’t afford a professional photographer. I do what I want, when I want, it doesn’t matter if other don’t like my work, as long as I like it. I don’t sell my my work, it’s all for me..

  22. Fantastic article!! This is something I have been going through and your words put it in to words that I could not find! Thank you! And good luck on your journey back to doing what you love!

  23. Success comes from finding the alignment of what you love, with who values what you create, and doing it in a way that honors your talent and soul. If you’ve found that now through all that you’ve been through, I applaud you. If you need more help… I’m here for you, and I’ve been in your footsteps before and found a way to honor myself and my clients. Here’s my post on my 10 year journey in photography…. (so far)… http://anneruthmann.blogspot.com/2014/06/my-evolution-as-professional.html

  24. Did you know that we were neighbors?… I am right were you are….or were? It’s a dark lonely place filled with imaginary pictures of what should be. .. it’s definitely a journey. …glad you found yourself and got out. …hope I’m right behind you. …

  25. I hear you and know whereof you speak! I have always refused to turn professional and make my living at my photography. I think of myself as the family archiver and I include friends in it. People keep telling me I should “do this for a living”. No way! If I did that, I wouldn’t be able to turn down people I didn’t want to deal with. I would have to deal with cheapskates who want my services but don’t want to pay a fair price. Lastly, I want it be be something I do because I love it. I’m afraid that if I had to get up and go to a business everyday, work set hours and worry about the million and one details involved in a successful business, it might not be fun anymore. Photography is big business now. We have dozens even in our small town and surrounding area. A lot of them charge less than a really good photographer, but their product is disappointing to say the least. I’m happy with my “hobby”. If I stay up to the see hours editing, it’s because I want too not because someone is bugging me to finish their photos. Sometimes I allow people to reimburse me for supplies like ink and paper or gas for travel, but most of the time I don’t even do that. I do it because I love it and if too much time elapses between shoots I begin to feel withdrawals pangs. I’m constantly trying to learn new things and there is nothing so interesting as reading a photography book or magazine. It’s my life’s blood!

  26. A good friend of mine just shared this blog post with me. After 15 years of running a very successful photography business, I’m stepping out. Terrified to leave, equally terrified to stay. After a 2 year battle with anxiety and depression I’m “weeding my garden”. Shooting slows down for me significantly from December-April (I live in Michigan need I say More) and shoots are only here and there. Mostly newborns and a few infants/toddlers or the random portrait session. In an attempt to avoid some “dark days” I took a job doing graphic design, the job offer came to me out of the blue and it seemed an answer to prayer. There is nothing wrong with my business and I’ve actually had really great clients and I’m very proud of my work. I have my own unique look (I’m professionally trained in photography self taught in business). I shot and developed my own film back in the day, I understated light ratios to get perfect lighting, I use photoshop to clean and a little correct. I shoot even shoot JPEG. Because I’m proud that I’m good enough to achieve it in camera and not the computer. I’m in my early 40’s. I’ve photographed over 300 wedding and my schedule books up solid every year… But I’m exhausted. Like you I never take my camera anywhere. It’s not about the money, it’s become work… And never having a freaking day off. I have a beautiful studio but my office is in my home. I have 4 kids and I depend on them to take photos with their iPhones or with a random camera I keep on the counter in case we are ever having a Kodak moment. That’s the problem… I don’t RECOGNIZE Kodak moments anymore!! I’m burned out. It’s that time of the year when my phone is now ringing. I love the freedom of my new job. I go to work and then I come home. Can you believe it?!? And then I do whatever I want all evening long. No more 3 Saturday’s a month shooting. No more working editing all day and then heading out at night shooting 3 nights a week. The hard part is having the balls to say it out loud. I’m looking at it as a hiatus… That’s what I’m telling them. But in 2 weeks I will move out of my 4,000 sq ft studio and move 15 years worth of accumulated props, backgrounds etc into a storage unit. I will shoot photos this year for my family and closest friends. I have a few high end clients that I still don’t know what to do with… Saying out loud that I’m stepping out is painful, the idea of not telling them at the risk I’ll end up doing both is excruciating.
    For the new people going into photography I always offer this peice of advice…. Perfect your talent BEFORE you start a business. Understand how to create the same look with your camera and lighting over and over and over BEFORE you expect to get paid for it. You believe that by offering less expensive prices in exchange for mediocre work you’ll get more clients and chances are you are shooting yourself in the foot. I made about $5,000 off of new photographers last year. Your clients came scrambling to me after they got their proofs back from you. All with the same story “well we went to him/her because they charged a lot less and we thought we’d give it a try”. The thing about theses clients is that they usually end up ordering about 25% more than my average client because they are so thrilled with what I’ve done for them compared to what the other photographer did that they cough up more cash…. And they tell their friend “we went to him or her and it was terrible so then we went the professional route and it was amazing”. Put yourself in the amazing seat. Perfect your talent, expect to work for free and when you’ve got it you’ll know because you’ll be fighting them off and I can stop leaving open appointments in my book for the people who need “re-takes”. You can do it!!

    Monica – thank you for this incredible post and I wish you the very best as you continue on your journey. I look forward to the day when the camera is again in my hand and it feels good. Cheers to finding wellness for us both, sister! XO!

    Terri Gillis

    1. Thank you for your comment. I’ve definitely learned that we’re never alone in our issues. You can be new or experienced and still feel the same frustrations.

  27. I have done this several times over the last 10 years. In fact, I almost always refuse to bring my camera to family and friend functions unless it is my idea. I’ve lost friends over this, and my family is not always happy when I don’t show up with my camera. But photography is fun money for me right now. It’s not my full time job. Therefore there is no reason as to why I should have my camera on me 24/7. About 2 years ago I took a total break from photography. packed the gear up and put it away for about 10 months. Best thing I could have done. Loved this post! Sometimes it’s hard to stand up for yourself to yourself…not sure that made sense…but to me that’s what you did.

  28. I totally could have written this! I left my business almost two years go, for the same reasons. I’m discovering photography for the art and freedom of creating something that it started as.

    I also read your social media post while I was here today and I think we might be heart sisters! 🙂 I’m loyal to a fault and discovered a few months ago someone unfriended me, it has bothered me WAY more than it should have! So glad I read this!!

  29. Thank you for your post. I think this is why I’ve never made the leap from hobbyist to professional. Photography as a business, which by the way I am not qualified to do anyway, seems like a rabbit hole I could get lost inside. So I’ll stick to photographing my family for the sake of documenting our lives. After all, that’s why a picked up a camera in the first place.

  30. Ah…what an interesting take on this. I actually want to get into photography, but from what you’ve described here it sounds a lot like blogging! I got into blogging for me but wanted to make a profit from it if I could. Then it become more about the wrong kind of stuff rather than quality writing and keeping up with the original reason I started my blog!! I definitely get where you’re coming from and every now and then I have to remind myself why I started blogging!!

  31. *sigh* The life of a creative. I’m glad you found a way to make it work for you! It’s hard out here, but knowing your value, even when others are blind to it, is what keeps us going. I just started taking photography classes and I love it for some of the same reasons you found you loved it. Not sure where I’m going to go with it yet, but reading your experience has been helpful. Thanks for sharing! #BLMgirl

  32. Wow this was so powerful and sooo my life! I’m a helper…I’m happy to do it, but time and time again the favor is not returned. It stinks. But you have to remember to stay true to yourself and not let that change your heart. Thanks for this post!

  33. I read and watched your video on why you quit photography. I was most interested in hearing your thoughts about being naive about friendships with other photographers and the business/photography community. I, like, you believed when I got serious about photography, specifically, documentary photography, I would get better and learn from some of the best photographers in NYC–the capital of photography. At first, I was welcomed as this new upcoming photographer and believed it could only get better. Dead wrong. The better I became, the more I was being shunned. I realized that jealousy was something I was not prepared. I thought, wrongly, that photographers were a group of individuals with a shared mission and was all in it together. So, I, like you, almost quit but instead decided to stop trying to make these photographers my friend and just said good bye. There is other things I like to write about here but I rather send it to you in a personal email. Loved your rant. Oh, over the past 7 years, my project is documenting african american life in the rapidly gentrification of my beloved Harlem community. The black is almost all being washed out.

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