First you need to establish your goals. Does income from photography matter to you? If not, then join the millions of other people with the same avocation.

For perspective, the dictionary defines an avocation as a hobby or minor occupation. A vocation is defined as a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation. Photography invariably begins as an avocation.

After about five years of photographing regularly, you may think that now’s a good time to turn an avocation into a vocation – in other words – deciding to pursue a disciplined pursuit on a daily basis with the possibility of mastering a craft and being paid well for your work.

Most of those who reach this threshold will have created enough images in that time period to feel pretty good about their work. That’s natural.

Next, for those who have enough self-esteem (and savings), there may come a time when considering the idea of taking such a huge leap of faith and quitting your day job to pursue your dream job somehow seems prudent. Sorry, cell phone photos won’t cut it any more.

Those who seriously contemplate this idea, will eventually be compelled to ask the real question: “What is fair compensation for my photographic contribution to a real client.” Don’t be surprised if the responses from those initial inquiries are less than what you expected. After all, you are still learning on the job.

After a few more years of knocking on the door, those with an actual knack for photography will recognize that just having a gift, something unique and of value, may not be enough. The approach of turning a hobby into a real business, with all that entails, will require meeting other demands that will increase exponentially with your success.

Please be prepared. If you decide to actually make the leap to being a full-time professional, you will now have to perform 100%, on demand, every time, time after time, and constantly exceed your client’s expectations.

Are you willing to sacrifice what most people believe is a reliable income for something else? Do you always feel the desire to push the envelope until you create an image you are really proud of? The resilient ones will eventually attract the attention of clients who value greatness. That could take another five to ten years. If it happens, then welcome to the club.

For some, the transition will include no more delivering pizza and moving out of your mother’s basement. Most fortunately, along the way, you will become as good as you once thought you were.

In the end, the only way you will become even better, is to be humble, insatiably curious and constantly have the desire to develop the gifts you have.

BIG PHOTO TIPS: If an experienced photographer, who is doing the work you would like to do, agrees to meet with you for coffee or a drink….

Go. Do not talk. Just listen.

Most of all, avoid doing anything during the meeting that might blow this opportunity. You might even learn something.