Do it because you love it

After being a fine arts photographer for over 30 years I think I’ve learned a few things and one of them is this quote:

“Do what you love and the money will follow.” – Marsha Sinetar

…is bullshit.

Am I being harsh? Probably, but I wouldn’t tell you anything I wouldn’t (and often do) tell my own kids. Life can be harsh and there isn’t enough time to follow really bad advice. No offense Confucius but your advice isn’t much better.

“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” -Confucius.

I’ve been following my passion, my bliss, my photographic muse for over 30 years and I can tell you that success, financial or otherwise is fleeting and probably more of a mirage than a reality. Sure I’ve sold prints, I’ve had gallery shows, my work has been in magazines and my images have graced the covers of books; by todays standards I’m a success.

To summarize… I’ve done what I’ve loved, I’ve experienced success and the money has NOT followed. If I added up all the money I’ve spent on photography and balanced it against all the money I’ve earned – well I’m pretty sure I know which one would be larger.

Why do I continue to be a photographer of toys and other subjects? Because its fun; because it feels good; because it enriches my life in ways that I can’t explain but I know are there; because life is too short to fixate on money and the ‘stuff’ it can buy. In short, because I love it.

I’ve never reached the heights of success that many of my contemporaries have and that’s ok with me. I’ve seen first hand what happens when you find monetary success from your passion… it changes everything! As soon as you attach money to your passion, it no longer becomes your passion, it becomes your job. You’re suddenly put in a position of having to produce at a certain level, in a certain way to keep your customers happy and the money coming in. You don’t take chances anymore because you can’t. Your customers want to buy ‘the same, but different’ which can be a difficult task for many. With financial success you suddenly find yourself in a box of your own making with no way out. For me that’s too high of a price to pay.

If you have dreams of making money off of your toy photography I hope you won’t be discouraged by this post and that you will continue to create and share your work. I want you to take toy photographs because they make you smile; because it’s a fun hobby, because it’s a great way to tell stories, because it satisfies your inner creative drive, because you meet interesting people. I hope you will continue to take toy photographs for any number of reasons, but don’t take them because you want to make money. There are easier and much more profitable ways to make money to support that toy habit than trying to sell your photography.

Be a toy photographer because its fun… because you love it. :)

I will leave you with one last quote from Mike Rowe, host of the TV show Dirty Jobs.

“Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you.”

~ xxSJC

Why are you a toy photographer? 


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Annbrett_wilsonReiterliedfubiken/Stefan.KAnn Van Breemen Recent comment authors
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Well said and a very good reminder!


Shelly, thank you for this excellent article! I agree with most of it. I say most because I do believe there are too many folks that think if a job is fun then they aren’t working. I have experienced this in the professional field of engineering. I worked as a mechanical designer and CAD Technician for many years and worked in many different environments and focuses. I found the engineering side of things was quite drab and boring 90% of the time. Most engineers time was spent writing specification manuals and other sleepy tasks. I realized that as a designer… Read more »


Oh, look at that… IT’S YOUR ‘WHY’ POST! :()

Ryan gomez
Ryan gomez

Such a great article. I can relate to this very much. Toy photography is my stress reliever. There is no money in figure photography only an abundance of self fulfillment and enrichment. I am proud and happy to have discovered toy photography and have met good people in social medias such as yourself and the rest of the OG’s in Instagram where I started and continue to grow as an artists. Thank you Shelly for this great read and I hope this find its way to new and aspiring artists, may they stay the course and love what they do.


Thank you for this thoughtful post. When I was a magazine editor, a job that I loved about two-thirds of the time, I still dreamed of becoming a novelist full-time. Then I was laid off a year after my debut novel did quite well, and for a moment that dream seemed attainable, but a couple of bad choices that I made for the money have left me as disillusioned as the photographers who’ve made similar choices. I also discovered that I’m not cut out for the corporate world, which restricts how far I can go in my field.

Ann Van Breemen
Ann Van Breemen

I do Lego photography for the sheer fun of it and the challenge of telling a different story with every image. I’ve only been doing it for a few months but I love it. Making money from it? Nuh. Would be nice but it never actually crossed my mind. It makes me smile and sometimes I even make other people smile. That’s my pay off and it’s priceless.


Thank you for this post cos’ this is why I do Toyphotography, to have fun
I work as a warehouse worker and it is boring as Sithspit to be honest but it brings money.
Creating these photos is fun, it is my escape from the boring work. That and capture macro makes me feel good. I’m not that good in other forms of photography so I don’t see a way to make money plus there is sooo many others already. So I capture for myself :)
And thanks for mention Mike Rowe, loved his show “Diry work”

Maëlick (aka Reiterlied)

I can only agree with you and disagree with the two quotes. I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to study what I love so I could have a job that don’t really look like one. I’m sure it seems to many people like a fairy tale and that I have some kind of dream job, but it quickly turned out that it’s not. Living from something that is fun also means a lot of pressure that are not bearable in the long term. As a consequence I lost the passion I had had for more than 10 years. I… Read more »


Timely! :D


What a wonderful article, Shelly! I really enjoyed it!