I am, actually considered as, being highly successful in my chosen field.
Purely a hobby for me, but I do not feel that it is very expensive. My latest purchase was an FM2n that was around $200. I've bought bulk film and develop it myself. Got my enlarger off Craig's list and almost everything else is DIY. I think I will spend a lot more money on photo paper eventually.. that's probably where my biggest expense will be. Still, including 6 or 7 bulk spools of film and everything else, I don't think I've spent as much as my unmentionable camera cost me, and I've got enough supplies to go for a long time.
Was a pro for 8 years to give it up for a day job. Still love my work and photography is just a hobby. Most of my analog gear is 30 years old and I buy used on eBay and thrift stores. My job supports my hobby. Other than photography, I have few other luxuries. I try to live a simple life. I bike to work, pack my lunch and don't have cable. My other splurge is the occasional overseas trip. Hope to retire in 5-10 years to devote to my hobby full time. I slowly saving up to retire.
My photography is split between business and personal. About 60/40, and the business side is mostly for my use, such as selling something or advertising a service, that one would have to pay others to produce a picture. However, I have occasionally done work for others, mostly other businesses, and did it more for the challenge and enjoyment than the money.
However, it is not how I make my living, nor would I want to make a living at it. I think my contribution to the economy is much greater that way. :)
In any case, I have been fascinated with photography, both picture taking and processing most of my life.
My photography habit is largely financed by photography work (but I have a fulltime bureaucratic job to pay for everything else in life). 90% of photography work is digital, but the 10% where I get to use analogue MF or LF film is certainly not for want of quality. Some people (other than us) are really into these things (tone, colour, je ne c'est quoi, hand-crafted, etc, etc.) The last commercial job I did on MF (6x4.5) Velvia was very nice quality indeed - I don't know that it's always a speed thing with digital either - from my experience a big factor is the stakeholders like to see, and thus have a say in the process, and screen on the back makes that easier. After editing and so on, the turnaround is often the same.
The more I distance myself from the profession of photography, the more I enjoy photography. With that said, my previous work lent itself towards boudoir housewives and professional musicians as clients. If I ever find a way that makes good business sense to marry my love for film photography with an opportunity for a second income, I will take it seriously. But housewives and musicians seldom make for the best clientele so I would focus on other opportunities.
Definitely worth thinking about. I might even start myself so I can give up and save the money!
Recovering wedding photographer ...
.. now strictly a hobby.
(But I'm still very good at it) ;)
What I do is I like to surround myself with others that have the same passion as myself and we split the costs. In some large cities there are communal darkrooms. I let my friends use my darkroom as long as they chip in. For my day job I work at a corporate video studio as a TD, we use digital at work 100% of the time, I'm used to it and it bores the hell out me. Working w/ analog was how I initially learned my trade and still having much to learn I won't be giving it up anytime soon.