5 signs you know you’ve been a professional photographer too long.

I’ve been a professional photographer for quite a while now, and whilst I love my job, it has it’s moments.  Here are 5 signs to watch for if you think you might have been shooting for too long.

When your accessories cost more than most people’s cameras.

I have tripods worth hundreds of pounds, and the total value of my cases alone comes to something like 2.5 grand. Looking at my insurance schedule, and the cost of non-camera kit far outweighs the value of my cameras and lenses.  The sad truth is I barely even notice, as I’ve wasted so much money buying cheaper options which then break, that I’m totally adjusted to the notion of spending a LOT of money on what is basically a suitcase, a padded bag, or 3 sticks of carbon fibre!

Equipment Shelves, full of professional camera kit
Lots and lots of black bags.

When you no longer care if you’ve been published or not, just about when you’ll be paid.

Don’t get me wrong, I still like to see my work in print, particularly when it’s used well, and I love it when clients forward me copies of the finished job. However, I usually have no idea when stuff has been published, as I don’t buy every copy of every magazine I work for, and not everyone forwards them on. Given that the first time I was published was way back in 1993, and the first time in a national mag was 20 years ago, the novelty has slightly worn off! On the flipside, I know straight away when someone owes me money!

Having so much kit that it takes 15 minutes to load the car.

Just this morning I had a (very) early start. Up and down 2 flights of stairs with a full load, 4 times, whilst trying not to make any noise and disturb the neighbours isn’t great fun. After moving here 9 years ago, several of my neighbours were convinced I was taking regular holidays, as why else would I be loading the car to capacity every time I went anywhere? Repeat this procedure before and after every job, and the novelty of having lots of kit soon wears off.

Car Boot, full of professional camera kit
Looks like a lot of kit, but this is only about 2/3 of what I travelled with on today’s shoot.

When you can’t follow the plot of a film because you’re too busy working how they lit it/shot it.

I’m not fun to watch films with, but I can be relied upon to tell you who the DoP was on most features. All part of essential visual research, but can lead to me not keeping up with what’s actually happening in the story.

You go on holiday and don’t take a camera.

People I’m away with express surprise that I’m not carrying 2 bodies and 7 lenses, and I grow tired of explaining that it’s not much fun doing that when I’m supposed to be taking time off. If I opt to take a camera on a trip or holiday I’ll take the smallest I can get away with, and it must be able to fit in my pocket. It’s currently a very old Lumix LX-3, although I’m desperately waiting for the Nikon DL to actually be in stock, as it looks bloody marvellous. On recent trips I’ve actually taken to using my smartphone – a Sony – as it’s a decent camera as long as you don’t look too closely at the images.

Black Water
Taken on my Xperia Z3 – I can no longer be bothered to carry professional kit up mountains (unless someone’s paying me to!)

Is all this a bit cynical?  Defintely.  Jaded and tired?  Possibly.  I see it as a measure of how differently professionals and amateurs view the world.  When photography becomes your living, your view of it simply changes, which is no bad thing, and probably an inevitable part of doing it almost every day.  Still, I do enjoy jobs that require very little kit!

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