I just read another article about how to become a successful photographer and again I am sadly disappointed. Every time I read one of these articles that talk about tripe things, such as, make a great portfolio, build a website and print business cards. These are things that you need to know as a photographer just like breathing and as I read more of these types of articles I’ve come to the conclusion that there needs to be a new list of 10 ways not to become a successful photographer. This is a list of some of the things I see and hear about that will guarantee your failure as a professional photographer.
10. Fear of Technology and Change
The ongoing digital steamroller that has been a predominant part of photography for the past eight years has made our jobs easier and harder at the same time. The change that digital photography has brought to our profession has become such an integral part of the business that if you have not embraced it you will be or have been rolled over by it. I have seen great photographers that have left the industry because they have not embraced the technology and others that still don’t want to accept it because it is so demanding and are they comfortable in their old ways.
9. Engange In Image Overload
With the digital age we now have a new disease called the “Flickr syndrome.” This has been brought about because instead of having only 36 frames of film to shoot we now have 32 GB cards that hold hundreds of images and people want to show every single one of them. I have written about how often I visit a photographers website and see pages and pages of their images and most of them are just fillers. Instead of putting up their best 20 to 25 images, they feel the need to show all their work and in the process dilute their photography and also their ability to get more work.
8. Photograph For Other People Only
As an assistant I worked with other photographers where photography has just become their job. They didn’t enjoy taking photographs anymore, they were just there to photograph for other people instead of themselves. Because they felt this way, their creativity, images and their businesses suffered. If you are not trying new techniques, going to training or even photographing for yourself you can guarantee that your work is becoming stale. With the photography schools producing more young photographers and with the digital age having competition from mamarazzi’s, if you don’t keep your creative edge you won’t be around for long.
7. Valuing Gear More Than On Your Work
I get asked by students all the time, should I buy a better camera or what would be the best lens to buy, and if I hear that question one more time I think I’ll scream. My answer to students when asked this question is “it doesn’t matter just get out and shoot.” It doesn’t matter if you have the best Nikon or Canon; what does matter is your creativity behind the camera. The personal creative choices that we make behind the camera are what make us successful and profitable, not the type of equipment that we use. The unique vision, abilities and outlook that we bring is our true value to our clients, the gear just helps us produce technically perfect images for them.
6. Play the Victim
Self-pity is easily one of the most destructive and addictive emotions we feel when times are tough. I speak with photographers that have put themselves in bad situations before they even speak to a client. They don’t believe their work is good enough and slash their bids before even talking to a client out of fear of rejection. The fact is, being negative is easy and addictive; it is harder to be positive and proactive during tough times. Clients may say no to you, but if you don’t ask I can guarantee they will never say yes.
5. Don’t Share Your knowledge, Or Learn From Others
I have found a great amount of joy and success from sharing my knowledge with students and other photographers. I have also discovered in sharing that knowledge I have become a better photographer and in most cases learned as much as I had taught. We as professional photographers help our selves by sharing our experiences and knowledge with others as it betters our industry as a whole. When we enter competitions we improve our understanding of our own work and the view others have of our photography, with that knowleadge we can better ourselves.
4. Undervalue Yourself
Undervaluing yourself seems to be a chronic issue plaguing the photographic industry. I often hear photographers complaining how they have taken a job for less than they would have or have dropped their rates just to get a job so that it “pays the bills.” This type of behavior is detrimental to the photography industry. If you don’t believe there is a value to your work how can you expect a client to perceive a value of your photography? Your abilities, knowledge, energy and being able to produce quality work and deliver it to a client consistently all give value to you and your photography.
3. Ignore the Business Side
It’s easy to start a photography business, but it’s very difficult to grow it, keep the doors open and make it profitable. As photographers, we have a unique business; we are both artists and business people. If one is neglected the whole business fails. There are plenty of resources for the business side of our industry; just take a look at the PPA website and you will see courses for studio management, planning and financing for photographers. Make sure your studio is legal by using a support team with a good accountant and lawyer, and there is also mentoring by your local Small Business Association or Chamber of Commerce.
2. Become Complacent
As a young person I heard the saying “once you stop growing you start dying.” This can be true for you personally and for your business. Once you stop learning or pushing yourself outside the box you stop growing as a person and a photographer. Give yourself assignments that push you beyond what you’re normally comfortable doing, both in photography and in life. You may find out you’ve just made both a lot more interesting.
1. Be A Big Fat Jerk
Don’t be a big fat jerk, even if your work is the best around. People like to work with people they enjoy being around. Being a jerk may satisfy your ego but it won’t make you successful in the end. This is a life lesson: help others and others will help you and you can make your small part of the world a better place.