Amateur or professional?

There were many blogs on Dreamstime dealing with the big leap. The leap which aspiring photographers should take to become more focused, more serious, more invested and turn from a hobby microstocker to a professional one.

Do you have what it takes? asks one of them. Maybe I do maybe I don’t. But today I want to build the case for staying amateur.

The web opened new possibilities of expression, artistic or other, to a large class of people. Essentially everybody with an internet connection can turn from a passive consumer to an active contributor. All the forums and blogs, most of the articles that appear in electronic news accept reader comments and allow the reader to express their opinion, add their 2 cents to the subject discussed.

I am an avid reader of Slate Magazine, which is dealing with news and politics. The best part of it is the reader comments section which many times is more interesting more entertaining than the articles themselves. Many people become addicted and publish quite a lot of comments, some of them thousand words long, and if the allocated space is not enough they reply to their own comment to be able to finish their thing. One can see that many of these people are well educated, have strong and sometimes very interesting opinions and also know how to express them in writing. I am sure each one was at one point entertaining the idea of becoming a journalist. See where I am getting to?

Would you recommend to any of these to leave their day job (many no doubt professors or finance professionals) and try turning their evening hobby into a new career? Even if a few would make it, I don’t think this would be a good advice in general.

Now back to photography.

Amateur photographers exist I believe since the pinhole camera was invented. But they were a pathetic bunch of people. They spent many hours perfecting their technique, spent lots of money on equipment and materials and what was the reward? Boxes upon boxes, albums full of prints that eventually lose their color.

I have quite a few. When we open them once in a while we just look for people, kids, family, never for any of the things I believed then were supposedly “artistic”. In the best case one could be part of a photo club that would organize exhibits once or twice a year in a community center. All the friends and relatives get invited. Some indeed show up and smile at you condescendingly.

All this changed with the digital photography the Internet and microstock.

The whole world is the stage. Billions of people can look at your work in this huge electronic exhibition room. One does not need to invite people, Dreamstime does this for you. With all the computerized data handling it is profitable for microstock companies to deal with amateurs, people who want to contribute are able to contribute and feel rewarded when somebody pays money for their art.

Dreamstime would not be what it is, with the diversity it has, with almost 7 million photos on line if there were not the amateurs. Today Dreamstime has almost a hundred thousand contributors. How many contributors would there be if all of them would need to make the big leap?

My life changed since I started with microstock. I always liked photography. But before finding microstock, I was lacking motivation in going forward, become more selective and more critical of my own work. Now there is a numerical equivalence of one’s art and skill. One can measure it by the amount of downloads.

Before microstock there were stock companies that asked much more for a photo. Microstock is slowly crowding them out of most markets. Microstock companies ask a lot less for each photo and they pay a lot less their contributors. All this is possible because most of the contributors can afford to accept less. They are amateurs. Even if some people can make enough money to be able to leave their day job this is not the typical case. Microstock photography could not exist without the amateurs. Let them live side by side with the few that can take the leap.

Photo credits: Diego Vito Cervo, Gavril Margittai, Gvictoria.

Your article must be written in English

June 24, 2014


ho-ho! Your article is much longer and deeper! I suppose to share my ideas on this matters sharing them in several separate articles. I'm lucky to meet you and to read your article!

April 23, 2012


I always wondered how many upload 10 images or so and then are never heard from again.

December 13, 2010


Good article. Each camera will think that someone need? It really is very beautiful.

December 11, 2010


Yes microstock is the incentive to improve.......... rejections are painful.......... so there is a certain degree of pressure on contributors to up their game. Unless someone buys you've no idea if the quality of your work is commercial. So well written and well argued. There is another point that as time goes by it is becoming harder to meet the standard required which must be better than pre-existing images already uploaded onto DT. David.

December 07, 2010


Interesting blog,congratulations :)

November 18, 2010


Lovely words!

November 17, 2010


Nice point of view - I enjoyed very much reading your blog.

November 17, 2010


Great article! Thanks for this one!

November 17, 2010


VERY interesting article. Thanks for sharing. Much needed encouragement for all of us pro-ams or is that am-pros? Meaning professional-amateurs or amateur-professionals

November 17, 2010


Yes I guess you're right... Great blog.

November 17, 2010


thanks for sharing.

November 17, 2010


great article! well said - thanks for sharing :)

November 17, 2010


Excellent article and good point about the dangers of making your hobby into "work". Stay free and creative ... (*shutters and takes another photo of stock tomatoes*) :-P

November 17, 2010


Good luck!

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