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Photographers: Why You Don’t Deserve Success
There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not trying to better myself as a
photographer. Hours of time a day, weeks of time a month and years upon years
of time, money, and energy are spent managing my business, educating myself
on photography, and establishing myself in this industry. Many of you reading are
probably doing the same, but you don’t deserve success.
In 2016, things move quickly - almost too quickly. Data, news, and social media
are quite literally instant, and that be can be harmful. Breaking news, for
example, is often speculative, rather than factually accurate. So what does this
have to do with success as a photographer? In our industry, clients want their
pictures yesterday. Files are digital and therefore can be uploaded to the web
and delivered quickly. Here’s why that can be a problem:
When you work in an industry of instant gratification, the pressure of ‘NOW’ is
often a damaging one. Rather than take the appropriate time needed to properly
edit, keyword, optimize, archive and upload your photos, you’re racing to
appease a client who you shouldn’t be working for to begin with. Your
photography is your product, and that product has value. As a professional you
shouldn’t be offering just any product, you should be offering your very best
product. It’s a fruitless goal to achieve when you value quantity over quality.
To be clear: I’m not suggesting that you should be dragging your feet. Quite the
opposite. Professionals in any industry know how to be efficient at their jobs to
produce quality results – that’s why they’re called professionals. But when your
values are focused more on the expeditious distribution of photography rather
than the quality of the photography you are producing, they are undoubtedly
going to lack professionalism. Success is not earned when you are force fed a
client’s unreasonable timetable, and you fail when you accept a project under
You think you might deserve success from all of the hard work that you do, and
as a self-employed photographer you do a lot – every day. Even so, you don’t
deserve success. Simply that you do voluminous work, or that the work you do is
hard for you, doesn’t translate into success. Maybe building your Wordpress
template for your website took you several hours to research and implement –
that doesn’t mean that you deserve to be recognized for it, or that you deserve
Recognize that you do quality work often and be content with that knowledge. I
can promise from experience that it is a better philosophy to adopt than believing
that you somehow deserve to be successful.
Egos and Attitude
Photographer’s are artists, and artists can be stupid as sh*t. Painted with a broad
brush, they are some of most self-centered and self-absorbed people to ever
work with in business. Many of them have absolutely no business sense or
customer service knowledge, but they’re great at beating their chest when one of
the thousands of pictures they’ve taken is in someway recognized on a social
media platform. That’s great. How again does that contribute to your business
model? Oh yes: “exposure” – whatever the ---- that means. Tell me how all of that
exposure is going to help pay your mortgage in the comments section below.
Stepping down off my soap box.. Just because you have talent doesn’t mean you
deserve success. You have to be nice to people. You have to be kind to them.
Client retention or new client acquisition requires people interested in working
with you, and you’re selling yourself as much as your photography when you do a
job. Dress for the occasion, and don’t just be on time. Be early. Say thank you
and be attentive, do your best and always be professional – even when you don’t
get your way.
Ultimately the status of success is subjective to you. Many people choose to
measure their success by the amount of money they have, and it’s easy to
understand why. Money is fungible. Facebook ‘likes’ and Twitter followers not so
much. Perhaps those things are good at measuring your self-worth on social
media platforms, and for those purposes – yes; the more likes and followers you
have, the better you might feel. It could suggest that what you say has value, at
least to the audience following you. But if you can’t transform that audience into a
consistently reliable client base, then what does it matter. After all, a business
exists to be profitable – and profit is measured by money.
So for as hard as you work in this highly completive market to manage your
social media accounts and blog, shoot, caption, edit, manage your business, your
websites, and the products you offer - while simultaneously tailoring your
customer service skills while one of your hundreds of thousands of images
eventually appearing at some premier-level status on any given social media or
photo-sharing platform.. What is it worth in the end? Success isn’t ‘deserved’
because you do these things. Success might be a result of accomplishing these
tasks well, but you certainly don’t deserve it. Food for thought.
Thanks for reading. If you have questions or comments about the content of this
article just leave them for me in the comments section below. As always, feel free
to contact me on Twitter @stephenmasker or on Instagram at MaskerPhoto.