Best piece of advice about being a photographer?

A few months ago, NPAC (the News Photographers Association of Canada) featured me, here. An interview with some front pages like this:

Special to the Oakville Beaver/Michael Willems

But one question I was asked stuck with me. They asked for advice about being a photographer.

To me that is a metaphor for “doing with your life what you want to do with it”. So when I addressed a University of Toronto ball last night as keynote speaker, this is one of the things that came to my mind. Do what you want: try to find a way even when it is difficult.

This is the answer I gave NPAC:

I could sound cliché and say; “Don’t”, or “keep your day job”. But in fact it is the opposite: “go for it” was much better advice. When I went full time into photography I went down in income by, oh, 85%. But I went up in life enjoyment by about 500%. And although I now work 7 days a week (I shoot, and then evenings and weekends I teach, both at Henry’s and at my own outfit,, where I train pros), at least I can sleep in every day – I get up at 8-8:30 am. When we say things like “don’t”, we need to keep all aspects of the decision in mind. Not just money.

0 thoughts on “Best piece of advice about being a photographer?

  1. Well Michael, yet another inspirational statement. I’m currently reading ‘Your Money: The Missing Manual” from O’Reilly, and it says something quite similar. The money is only a small influence on happiness. Emotional capital is what really pays off; doing what you love, and loving what you do.

    I’m not quite willing to jump without a net, but the net is almost in place. It’s great to hear about people who have successfully taken that leap of faith.

  2. I agree with that manual statement. Getting up at 9am, making your own decisions, being creative: all important and all worth money.

    Yes, a safety net is important also, which is why we have careers in stages. If we are lucky we get three stages:

    1. Make money
    2. Get power
    3. Do what you want

    So on to stage three..!

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