“A hobby isn’t really a hobby; it’s what makes you happy. [What matters is] looking into how you can offer or share that.”
Adrian Agulto had these words to say when asked about turning a passion into a business venture. He certainly knows his stuff – after years of developing a passion for food photography, he finally decided to turn the pastime into a business, and is now the proud founder and president of I Shoot Food Manila.
After graduating in Fine Arts from UST in 2006, Adrian worked as a Creative Director at Cravings Group of Restaurants, a job which he enjoyed and excelled at for eight years. In the latter part of his career at Cravings, he developed an interest in photography. After a little experimenting with his camera, various online tutorials and much self-study, Adrian refined his photography skills not to earn but just to learn.
“I didn’t identify it as [my passion] at first; its just like a hobby that I like to do,” he shares, stating that he wasn’t planning to turn the craft into a long-time career. Neither did he plan to start a photography business, but after eight years at Cravings, he began to aspire for something more.
He started off slow, developing the brand and doing his marketing on social media, building up a portfolio, and finding contacts in the industry. He gained traction after some restaurants took up on his proposals to shoot their products, and eventually realized he could offer food photography services. From then on, I Shoot Food has been his full-time passion as well as his bread and butter.
Admittedly, photography itself isn’t automatically profitable because, as Adrian points out, a lot of people take photographs. But what makes I Shoot Food a worthwhile business is its specialization. Because it specifically caters to what a certain market needs, the business is steadily on its way to becoming a household name. He shares, “[Photography] could generate profit if you focus on what you like – you know what to offer, you know your expertise – because photography is a really large field.”
At the same time, there will probably always be a market for food photos. When asked about why he chose to shoot food, he shared that besides being a necessity, it brings people together and should be celebrated.
“If it’s being done properly or carefully […] it should be presented to the world because it deserves some kind of moment to capture the greatness of the food. Also,” he adds with a laugh, “once you eat, it’s gone.”
So what’s great about turning your hobby into a business? For Adrian, it comes right down to having passion for what you do.
“You’ll get paid for your hobby,” he says happily. “As they say, as long as you’re happy with your work, whether you’re employed or not, it will just look like you’re playing around. So what more if you’re doing your actual hobby?”
If there are any downsides to this, they’re challenges rather than obstacles. Adrian admits that because so many people take photos nowadays, there is much competition – and in the end, it comes down to your skill versus that of others’, all of whom probably have the same passion for the craft. He adds that the skill isn’t really measurable as well, seeing as photography is a form of art. He acknowledges that there are some slow times when your style doesn’t match certain clients’ needs, but generally there are no downsides to doing what you really love.
So what’s the name of the game when it comes to turning your passion into a business? Adrian sums it up perfectly: “What makes you happy, whatever hobby or skill it is, make sure you’re using it correctly, sharing it correctly. Use it as a tool to build your name. As long as you have good intentions, you work well, give 100% in what you do and make sure your output is 100%, people will acknowledge your work. It will stand out.”
On the other hand, if you’re concerned about your pastime being too fun to be profitable, know that in this age of possibilities, you can earn a living from just about anything. According to Adrian, the key thing to remember is to, “Find the benefit of your hobby for others – for people to benefit from your hobby. That’s the key. It’s not going to be a business if people don’t benefit from it.”
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