Dreambee: Do not quit nursing. Or if you do, select a reasonable back up that can make you money. (I studied photography in college, and have been paid for my work/had shows in major cities, I have never made a full-time living or even close to it, and I don’t know anyone who has. My friends have gone to MassArt, Museum School, Pratt, Parsons, SVA, Rochester, and Cooper Union).
If you are serious, I recommend that you begin by doing it part time, as a side job. This is how almost all freelancers start out. Most weddings are on weekends, and I’m sure most family photos are on weekends too, so it should be doable.
The market is tough, but you want to do family portrait/event stuff, which fortunately there is at least a demand for.
You need to start by either:
1.Taking a reputable photography class. (You must be comfortable with lighting kits, composition, and be a photoshop whiz). You can learn photoshop on Lynda.com, be prepared to spend hours doing so.
2. Get an apprenticeship/ part time job. You need to be an (unpaid) apprentice for a professional photographer. You will be carrying gear, setting up lights, backing up data, and organizing files. If you live in a major city your odds of getting such an unpaid internship without being in an art school are very slim.
3. If you want to go this route (it’s not the best photography, but it’s a living) you could try to work at a mall type portrait place. The composition is usually boring, and the lighting is tacky, but it will give you good experience on doing a fast turnaround and working with customers. It will also give you an idea of the business.
4. Learn the business. Being a freelance photographer is being a business owner. You need to learn quickbooks, learn about invoicing, learn about marketing, learn about contracts.
5. Reach out to a working photographer in your area. Ask if they will give you their honest opinion on your portrait work. Non-photographers may have a good eye for fashion or interior decorating, that doesn’t mean they know anything about photos. Finding an unbiased professional is vital.
Best of luck. If you want to post photos here I can give you at least a semi-professional’s opinion. Only if you want an honest opinion, just thought I’d offer 😉