How Photographers Become Successful

How Photographers Become Successful

In a genre composed of so many different disciplines, there are a couple truths that cross all boundaries.

What’s your dream?  Do you want to be a world-famous photographer, traveling the globe to photograph celebrities in exotic locations? Do you want to start a local photo business shooting weddings, providing couples with lasting memories, and providing your family with a comfortable life? Are you more in the moving picture business? Do you see you images at 24 frames per second on the silver screen? Being used to sell a product in a short 30-second spot? Whatever your goals, whatever your battlefield, one universal adage will always hold true. You have to start somewhere.

Borrowing from the words of Les Brown: “You don’t have to be great to get started. But you do have to get started to be great.”

So many of us sit back waiting for our chance to shine, as if success were a sudden occurrence accompanied by a slow clap as we walk slow motion into the frame. We look up to our idols and often make the mistake of thinking that they were somehow born onto the mountaintop. We assume that they were somehow plucked from obscurity shortly after leaving the womb. Destined for greatness. Granted all the right tools at birth that they simply needed to activate to achieve success.

We see that success clearly from the outside, yet maintain our blinders when it comes to the hard work that put them there in the first place or the even harder work required to keep them there. We recognize their position and assume that they are there and we are not due to some cosmic plan. They had more luck. They were gifted certain advantages. Maybe we even flatter our own humility by openly admitting that they simply have more talent.

Those things could all be true. Then again, they could also not be. It’s one question that doesn’t merit the time to ponder. Trying to credit or blame someone for circumstances beyond their control is a fool’s errand.

You’d be better off taking a moment to consider a far more direct question. What steps can I take today that will help me to get better? If you’re aspiring to a specific aesthetic, maybe you start placing calls to set up a test shoot to try and figure out how to achieve it. If you’ve already achieved the photographic style you desire, but still find your business not quite thriving to the level of your potential, perhaps today is the day to review your business plan. Perhaps today is the day to try a more direct approach and cold-call some prospective clients. Or maybe take the afternoon to design a better promo.  

Or, you find yourself like so many aspiring artists around the world, stuck in a life that doesn’t suit you, mired in self-imposed normality and wanting to break free, yet not knowing how. While there is no one clear path to artistic success, one thing is clear. Whatever your path, you’re going to need to walk it one step at a time. Take that first step today. Take another tomorrow. You never know where you’ll be able to go.

Christopher Malcolm's picture

Christopher Malcolm is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle, fitness, and advertising photographer, director, and cinematographer shooting for clients such as Nike, lululemon, ASICS, and Verizon.

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Good article; and it fits nicely into the growing master narrative of 'hard work is the ONLY thing that matters.

However, I'm sorry to do this.





a style or category of art, music, or literature.

In other words, landscape is a genre; portraiture is a genre; automotive is a genre; etc.

I'm also thinking (but uncertain, and happy for input) that photography is the discipline.





a branch of knowledge, typically one studied in higher education.

I feel like this article is very hard to read.

The title is clickbaity and is only slightly related to the content. Should've been more thorough with examples on how photographer can actually become successful

I have had many small successes. I have my prints on walls around the world and Government buildings here, plus a few magazines and even part of a TV show. I still have to work a full time job, and raise a family. When things were beginning to pop, I held back and recently closed my website. The reason is mainly the time it would take to go further, as I have more of a responsibility to my family.
My youngest will be out of high school in a couple years, I can then retire and try a go at this on a full time basis. I became a photographer just 5 years ago. And I figure between now and if I decided to go full time with this, I can still practice, read, learn. I love photography and have a passion for it. It is not that I do not want to be successful at it, I do. But, I would rather take my time.

Thank you for a nice article. I appreciate the simple yet important advice.