Why does photography feel so good?

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on May 27, 2015

in This is Life

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Do you ever secretly realize that photography lets you feel like a kid again?

One of the most important conversations happening in the world today is between small groups of friends and peers who realize that what they’re doing isn’t what they have to do – and often far from what they were meant to do.

How many people do you know who went to school and now work in a career because it’s what they were told they should do?

By their parents, by their school, by their guidance counselor, by a magazine article.

As often, where we are is not by design but by default – our 9-5 job came about through a series of accidents and circumstances.

Even when we got those first tugs from our soul that said, “Hey, I don’t think this is what you really want…”, through practicality or perceived necessity we stamped out those feelings and went on about the business of life.

It’s not your fault.

Our parents grew up in the industrial age, when consistent work was good work, being a company man meant regular raises and financial comfort, and retirement behind a white picket fence was the life goal.

Our education system was built to feed the industrial machine with somewhat well-rounded, rule-abiding, predictable human resources.

Our colleges were fashioned to turn predictable generalists into needed specialists – as in what the markets needed us to be, not what we as individuals needed to become.

There are countless exceptions – but the system is what it is.

And thanks to the explosion of social media, the failings of the system are better recognized than ever before: the conversations that used to be had over backyard fences and in fraternity meetings are now broadcast to a world of listeners, likers, and sharers.

While many who preach against this system make bold recommendations to quit your job now and not suffer another day as a cog in the corporate machine… I won’t do that.

That fire is powerful.

The fire of indignance, outrage, umbrage at a life seemingly hoodwinked and wasted in the pursuit of making the rich richer – that fire can burn out of control.

It can consume you – and those you love.

It did me. For years.

Reading books like The 4 Hour Work Week and No More Mondays took the wool off my eyes, let me see clearly that the soulless feeling I had about my day job was warranted, that it wasn’t my fault, and that I’d been duped into believing my life wasn’t mine to design.

I learned of lifestyle design, of location freedom, of life hacking.

Of dreams and vocations and callings.

And in my immaturity, my rage burned out of control – my outrage and discontent became a fit-throwing tantrum of emotions instead of powerful energy to fuel a better life.

Sure, I’d wasted years in a corporation believing that if I worked hard and did a good job I’d have job security and growing prosperity.

But after the realization of this falsehood, I wasted even more years in a state of anger and discontent as I mouthed off to coworkers and my spouse and raged endlessly inside about the injustice of it all.

I went from blisslessly ignorant to blindly enraged – what I learned, my immature self couldn’t handle.

It wasn’t until I was introduced to zen practice, to internal control, to ‘mind like water,’ to meditation, to stoicism, to Walden Pond, to practices of contentedness and satisfaction and gratitude, that I was able to turn the raging fire of my dismay into a powerful engine of purpose.

I learned how to make my day job work for me as hard as I worked for my day job.

And I learned how to make my day job serve and empower my dreams.

All this to say:

That camera in your hands…

The art you create with it…

The feeling of play, of discovery, of creativity, of anticipation, of excitement…

Of showing and telling, of sharing… “Look what I did!”

They are feelings you likely have rarely felt since childhood.

Feelings you may have been so disconnected from for so long as an adult that you don’t even remember them.

They are childlike.

And they are wonderful.

In a life where so much feels wrong, feels like it isn’t what it could or should be – those playful feelings are an elixir for your soul.

It’s why photography feels so good.

And why the dream of doing photography professionally is so powerful.

Wherever you are in your journey up the mountain to success, take pause and take heart: where you are is where you are supposed to be, there is no better day than today to take action and honor your dream, and you will look back on your choice to become a working artist as a turning point in your life when you took back the reigns after so many years, and made the brave decision to live by design and not by default.

Next Steps

  • Pick up your camera, and put down your responsibility, expectations, anger, and control. Go make photographs. Have fun again.
  • Brainstorm session: get out your pen and paper. Daydream five years down the road with me: if you could design your life, what does your ideal day look like? What does your work life look like? What does your family life look like? What do you wake up happy about, and excited about?
  • My writing at PartTimePhoto.com exists to serve your needs as an amateur photographer making the transition to paid professional. I appreciate and welcome your readership, and invite you to subscribe to my e-mail newsletter at the top of any page of this site.
  • What’s the biggest struggle holding you back right now? E-mail me your answer (yes, right now!), and let’s make a breakthrough today.
  • If anything in this post has spoken to and inspired you, please comment below, drop me an e-mail, or call or text me at 830-688-1564 and let me know. I’d love to hear how you use these ideas to better your part time photography business!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry May 29, 2015 at 10:57 am

Once again, you have provided great insight and a wonderful synopsis of the feelings shared by so many aspiring entrepreneurs. Thank you for your helpful series for staring a photography business as well as your blog.


Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor June 2, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Thank you so much for your kind words and readership Larry!

One of the biggest challenges startup photographers face is that vacuum of open discussion – why do I feel this way? Am I the only one? Is there something wrong with me?

I hope PTP helps to fill that vacuum with encouragement, sharing, and truth!

What’s your photography story Larry? Where are you in your journey?

Thank you again for your comment and readership. Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!


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