There’s a big difference between doing anything as a hobby and doing it as a career. That applies to a lot of activities but particularly to photography.
Not only do you have to take amazing photos, the kind of pictures that make people go, “Wow!” but you have to be good at business, understand contracts and be willing to go to incredible lengths for photos.
Anyone who thinks making a living as a photographer is easy is most likely a hobbyist dreaming of going pro or in another line of work.
Just in my own experience I have been punched, elbowed, tripped, jostled and spit on and those are just the ones I can attribute to other photographers. I’ve been threatened with arrest, more than once, teargassed even though it was aimed in another direction, camped in the pouring rain, had frozen feet from standing in ice cold mountain streams, been lost in the wilderness, pitched around in a helicopter, gotten food poisoning, been air sick and so seasick I had to alternate between throwing up and taking pictures. I could have easily ended up at the bottom of a cliff buried under a backpack full of camera gear on several occasions. Yet, compared to these guys working for National Geographic, I’ve had it easy.
If that isn’t bad enough, you’re also dealing with a business climate of continuously diminishing opportunities and constant pressure from low-price competitors. Very few organizations are hiring photographers and the few that are have a massive amount of talent to choose from.
Many companies that were traditional sources of contracts for photographers are now buying their photography from stock photo and microstock photography agencies. Even those agencies are being challenged by services like TwitPics, which reserves the right to sell images without compensation.
And, through all that, you still have to take pictures, even when you don’t feel like it.
I’m not trying to rain on any dreams of becoming a photographer, just trying to inject some reality into the dream. You’re not going to get there with a Nikon and a kit lens and it’s going to be a constant fight to make ends meet.
On the other hand, when it all does come together and you get one of those photos that changes the world, all the struggle seems worthwhile.