Although rare, we all have the thought of quitting photography at one point or another. Despite being young, I have been told to quit several times already, all before even starting. In this article, I want to highlight some valuable reasons why and when you should consider quitting photography.
Knowing When to Quit
I am a big fan of quitting. At the same time, I am also a fan of giving everything my best shot. With this duality in mind, I try to keep a healthy balance between knowing when to continue pushing and when to call it quits and move on. This applies to both private and business decisions. Just like you should know when to quit on your partner, you should know when to quit a profession. It is never an easy decision, and it will absolutely have an initially negative effect on you, but in the long term, you will end up feeling better and more energetic in your new venture.
Photography is great, and I encourage most people to give it their best shot in almost every case. I have gone through living on baked beans and bread for some time in order to become a photographer. I can’t say it is over either, as I continue living in my studio, which is negatively impacting my mental health. That said, a studio is one of the best investments I have made so far. It is located in the heart of the city, has great daylight, and is super comfortable to shoot in. All of that equates to a pretty penny, but it isn’t a baked beans and bread situation anymore. It would be much more economical to follow a different route and have better living standards than what I have now, however, that would mean quitting one of the greatest things in life: photography. So far, so good, I am not planning to quit. However, here are some instances when you might:
Is It a Burden?
Burden over passion If you are a professional creative, you will know for sure that it's not all sunshine and rainbows. There’s a lot to being a profitable image creator, and sometimes it means having to suck up to people above you as well as do as you’re told. This is normal, especially when the industry is notorious for treating beginners like garbage. However, there’s a limit to everything. If you’re feeling like your photography is more of a burden and there is no enjoyment, you should consider calling it quits. Before doing that, though, try different gear, genres, and subjects. Another great way to break out of this is to travel. I am a big believer in traveling for inspiration and working abroad. For some, it might mean going to a different state or city, for others hopping on a Ryanair flight and flying to Stockholm. I am the latter, as there are certain cities such as Stockholm that refresh my creativity and make me inspired and ready to take on new challenges. Just by changing the environment around you, even for a few days, you can easily get new inspiration. However, if that doesn’t work, and the mere thought of being behind the camera frustrates and burdens you, maybe it's time to quit.
Speaking of burden, I want to highlight the importance of your art not being a burden to the people closest to you. I am fortunate enough to be relatively young and yet not have a partner or children. However, it is almost painful to see people burdening their whole families and taking from them to pursue a rather selfish purpose of achieving their individual goals. If photography directly burdens your family and relatives, especially financially, I suggest putting it off for a while. That said, I suggest disregarding the usual naysayers. Coming from a fairly strict and traditional middle-class family, there was and still is quite a disbelief that this can work. So I had to make it work and push to book paying gigs as early as 16.
Is It A Competition, And Are You the Bad Guy On The Internet?
Another reason for quitting or at least putting photography off for a while is if you find yourself competing and constantly comparing your work with other photographers. On the surface, this might seem like something natural and normal, but it really isn't. And while every photographer did or does this to some degree, it can become an unhealthy downward spiral quickly. With the rise of social media and Facebook critique groups in particular, I find that there are some photographers who only comment on others’ work while offering no substantial feedback or commentary. Some of the people whom I coached in the past have complained about this problem, and my advice was to either quit Facebook groups or leave photography for good.
The Pressure Is On, Don’t Crumble Under It
The pressure is on, and there has never been such a high volume of excellent work produced and shown. Comparing yourself to someone who has done photography for a decade is easy because they are seen as the pro who achieved the goals you want to achieve. However, setting yourself unrealistic expectations and then trying to imitate them with the wrong parameters in mind is simply impossible. Copying work is not a problem if it helps you learn; it only becomes a problem when it turns into an unhealthy battle between creatives to get the next best client. This is toxic not only for you but also for other creatives, and it has no place in this industry. If you’re the person who is gaslighting, excessively criticizing, or being overly negative towards people such as yourself, I suggest you leave for a while and come back with more constructivism in mind. At the end of the day, it is impossible to rank creatives, as each and every one of us has a unique style and vision. There is no 10-step method to becoming a great photographer; everyone must follow their own unique path.
Quitting photography is a personal decision that only you can make. It is an incredibly fun and rewarding career, and despite all the hardships, I see it paying off every day. However, if you’re in financial trouble, have poor mental health, and have unhealthy competition with others, perhaps consider quitting.
I will finish off with one of the best pieces of advice I ever got: don’t go into debt over gear. It’s a fast track to ticking the “financial hardship” box and quitting for good. At the time of writing, I declined a very attractive deal on a piece of gear that I really want but really can’t afford.
What are your thoughts on quitting? Are you a quitter or do you stay until the last moment? Let us know in the comments below!
Behind the scenes by Brandon Sandén.