I wouldn't even call myself an amateur. I mostly take color snapshots; my memories.
As for money; I buy film as funds allow, and most of my darkroom equipment is second-hand. I always have a few rolls around the house.
I tried to estimate what film and processing/printing (both at home and from a lab) as well as chemicals and used darkroom equipment have cost me in the past 10 years. I don't think it is near the cost of a good (but not top-of-the-line) _full-frame_ DSLR; and this is not including the requisite computer software and hardware to equal a cheap darkroom setup for my admitted snap-shot-centric photography.
If I extrapolate back through my entire life, compared to today, film & processing was cheaper and digital (once it surfaced) was more expensive. Considering I'd be on a second DSLR if I'd went that route (you know, upgrades, etc.), I think my film habit still works out cheaper.
When I was younger, I worked in photographic related jobs (colour printer, black and white darkroom technician, camera store salesman) and had a small part-time photography business doing weddings, portraits and some commercial work.
I spent a fair amount of time around a number of full time professional photographers (mostly small studios that did a lot of wedding and portrait work). Based on my observations there, I decided not to pursue that as a career. It was my sense that the most financially successful professional photographers (within that genre) were successful because of their sales abilities first, their business acumen second, and finally their photographic skills, enthusiasm and talent (a somewhat distant third).
I decided at that time to preserve my joy in photography by looking elsewhere for a career.
Since then, I have at various times sold some work, but not a lot.
Photography is a hobby that I devote appropriate amounts of money to. I don't see that changing, although I'm still trying to figure out a good way to stretch my budget this month to buy that 16x20 easel that bjsmith7474 has for sale in the classifieds;)
37 years as a pro studio/outdoors family portrait photographer. 30 years analog, now digital.
Hobby. But, more than that, I think of it as therapy. I was a very serious and dedicated smoker for about 23 years. That was my hobby. When looking for a way to stop, I (finally) realized that I couldn't afford to buy cigarettes if all that money was wrapped up in photography, an old hobby revisited. Within a short time I was so absorbed in the photography hobby, I couldn't find the time to even "think" about smoking. That was some 9 years ago . . . Cold turkey, over night. Within a couple of weeks of replacing cigarettes with photography, I was completely cured. No more coughing and hacking, and my sense of smell and taste all returned within a year or so. Things I have learned from this . . . 1. Money can be found, but there will probably be a trade-off. 2. Smoking is not an addiction, it's just a habit. If you want to quit, then change your habit to something that is more interesting (and safer). 3. Now, I have this stupid habit of taking a camera everywhere I go . . .
Once you have the equipment and if you can avoid GAS (big if) then the costs are manageable if it's a hobby. Cut back when it's a bad month, shoot more when it's a good month.
I worked professionally producing landscape and scenic images from 1994 to 2010,, but my skills in photography started in 1977. Now semi-retired, producing prints for my own pleasure and possible sale through the hybrid process (previously it was 100% Ilfochrome Classic). As a business, the analogue photography model is dead. Competition, particularly from digital "professionals" is your greatest threat: it's speed and quality appeals to the masses. Ensuring there is money coming through the door immediately something is sold (and not writing an invoice and hoping for the best) is an essential discipline for survival. The arrangement I had was that if a purchase was confirmed, a 20% deposit was required and the balance paid within 21 days, and in 90% of cases it was.
All this put food on the table, fed the dog, put petrol in the car and allowed me to actively travel locally, interstate and overseas.
Photography is expensive, any which way you look at it. Equipment, studio space, exhibition/gallery space, rent, electricity, water, gas... everything has to come out of what you are selling, or some other peripheral income, such as an Arts Council grant (in Australia). There are plenty of professionals in Australia doing it tough because digital has made it so much more difficult to be the leader of the pack; if you're only analogue, it will be impossible to be "different", "better" or more "desirable". And the biggest, boldest, baddest, wings-n-things DLSR, or any other camera, is not the answer. To get ahead now you need business acumen and the ability to reach out and touch people with your work, to network and blend in, and have people coming back. Corporate, advertising, weddings, stock and the like are sure-fire winners, but your work must be of stellar quality and will never hook people if it is analogue. The world wants their photographs now, not in three hours after a darkroom soiree.
I am more financially successful keeping it a hobby and doing my other job to make money. Keeps photography fun too.
since about 1988...