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Wednesday
May292013

How To Succeed in Photography and Anything Else In Life

Photography is often the step-child of artistic professions, the stripper on the pole of life. It can be the most beautiful thing in the world, but if the dancer isn't willing to learn, it's simply painful to watch.

For myself, it all started with good intention. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined actually making a living at it (not pole-dancing, that's for an entirely different blog). I just liked clicking that button, winding that film, smelling those chemicals (digital really ruined that for me), and watching something evolve from nothing. I didn't ask for much. Until one day someone said to me, you could make a living doing this.

Our friends and family love us, they want us to succeed, and they are the first to tell a little white lie to make us feel good about our passion. They might even tell us our work is brilliant! This may be hard to hear, it’s difficult to even type, because it’s a lesson I had to learn in the beginning and wish I’d had someone to tell me otherwise. The truth is, I did certain types of photography well in the beginning, but nothing I did was was brilliant. The first thing to do when becoming a photographer? Get away from your family and get new friends. Too hard, I know. So here is what I did:

When I first started shooting professionally, my friends had given me a little too much positive feedback. Although appreciated, it worked against me. The problem was, I was only showing my work to friends, and not to seasoned professionals from whom I could learn. I was not very good. Yes I had instinct, but technically I was worlds away from being as good as my friends said I was. I was blind to the reality of the work I had in front of me. It wasn’t until one of my dearest friends, who happened to work in the entertainment industry, sat me down after a headshot shoot of hundreds of images, picked out two and she said, “these are acceptable, one of them is good, but where is the brilliance?” This was extremely difficult to hear. I believe a glass of wine followed as I wallowed in the criticism. It was a wake-up call. If I wanted to not only be successful, but respected as well, I needed to step it up. Every single image I posted to my site had to be pretty darned close to perfection in all of its potential or I shouldn’t put it up at all. So, there began my quest for artistic vision. What was going to make me stand out from the rest?

Are you different?

In order to have a photography business that constantly moves forward, accumulates income, and enhances your quality of life, you need to absolutely accept that photography is not simply a hobby any longer. It must be the primary focus above anything else in your life except for family. All day, every day, every waking moment should find you curious about the world in which you live and how you can capture those moments in a unique way. You need to not only think, but live outside the box of normalcy. When others are going to lunch, you are developing your website, your blog, watching Photoshop tutorials, creating your own actions, learning Lightroom, playing in Bridge, mastering images, shooting friends for free, marketing complimentary services to elementary schools, shooting your children's teachers' families as holiday gifts for all they do. When you have done these things a hundred times, do them again, like a mantra. Your life is about creating imagery, figuring out the market you wish to target, discovering what you are truly gifted at whether it's studio photography, portrait, weddings, editorial. This, by the way can take years to sort out. The only way to truly know where your gift lies, is to do any and every job that comes along whether it seems interesting or not. Say yes to all and work your tail off to do it right. Keep your pricing reasonable, and as soon as you have that "Ahah" moment, of where you know you really are that good, that's when you focus on a field, put on your seatbelt, and get ready for a wild ride. They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a star at anything. With that in mind, don't look at this as a sprint. You are in the marathon of your creative psyche and this is a journey which will hopefully last a lifetime (or until your back goes out) Pace yourself, but understand that no-matter how much you love photography, there is somebody around the corner who loves it more, who is fresher and more willing to pay their dues.

The greatest gift you can give yourself, is to find a mentor. Locate a successful photographer through a friend in your area. Most people can offer a personal referral to someone they know who has made a go of their photography business. If they seem successful, there are various reasons why, but one of the most common threads is they have learned the art of the edit, the market, and customer service. They have learned the practice of sorting through images after a shoot and listening to their gut reaction as to whether an image is good or not, and what stirred them upon viewing it. They have learned through the reactions of other professionals what is truly a brilliant image, and what is a smart image to post as it will provide revenue (as these can be two completely different things).

The bottom line is, whether or not you will be successful in any field, is solely up to you and your actions. If you keep moving forward, if people continue to be attracted to your work, if you open yourself to the mentorships of those who have gone before, and have the willingness to embrace your flaws and give them the ultimate extreme makeover, you can become the person who actually makes a living by simply doing what they love.

My camera sits on my dresser. Dust settles on her lens. I remember my beaten, toughened, sore, achy knuckles and how my thumb was chronically blackened from its body. My skin was callused like a dancer's foot. My hands still show the years of labor it took to make something special happen. My career will always be one of the proudest accomplishments of my life. As I pursuit writing to fill my heart, I realize the momentum must be the same. The momentum must never cease in order to grow in this field. And who knows, maybe on some level I can look back in the future, and see something special that happened all over again.

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Reader Comments (2)

Great article

July 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAdi

Thank you so much!

July 16, 2013 | Registered CommenterFried Nerves and Jam

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