10 Signs That You Will NOT Make It As A Successful Photographer

10 Signs That You Will NOT Make It As A Successful Photographer

With a saturated market for photographers, there are so many pitfalls a photographer can plunge into that can prevent them from being successful. Taking a step back to analyzing yourself and your business can be the first step to improve and guarantee chances of success for the future. Here are a number of things to look out for, these things can be what is preventing you from reaching your potential.

1. Mr. Know-It-All

We all come across that guy who is a "know-it-all." If there is one thing I've figured out growing up, it's that you can learn something new from anyone in life. It doesn't matter whether they are younger, not as educated or as intelligent as you. Consistently blowing off other people and their comments will prevent you from being successful. It's key to take every idea, tip or piece of advice someone gives you seriously. Sometimes, it's also advisable to reach out to older, more experienced people in the field you are targeting to seek guidance. 

2. That Negative Guy Who Always Comments (aka The Troll)

This is actually the one thing that inspired me to write this article. This week, I came across a bitter photographer who was trash-talking a fellow extremely talented photographer on her page. The first thought that came to mind was "yup, this fool won't get far in life." Every Facebook photography group has a few of these clowns- the guys who talk more than they show and they always have something negative to comment. Needless to say, people like this will not be successful if they have such an attitude. They aren't pleasant to talk to or deal with. 

3. The Gear-Centric Guy

How can I exclude this topic on such a list? A lot of us are guilty of using gear or lack thereof as an excuse for subpar performance. The truth is, most of us realize that it's not an excuse right away or at some point in our careers. The sooner we come to the realization that gear is only a tool and not the be all and end all of photography, the sooner we work harder to perfect our skill. Unfortunately there are those who never get out of that rut and have their heads wrapped around lacking "the right" gear. Check out - 30 Mind Blowing Images Taken With Entry Level Gear

4. Not Accepting C&C

If you find yourself defending yourself and your photos, you are putting a cap on your photography. Photography is an art and there is no limit to skill level when it comes to art. You will get better by the day. Accept what people have to say with grace and use their critique to improve and grow.  

5. That Cliche Photographer/"Does All Photography"

There are tens of thousands of photographers out there. Don't be another cliche one. To be successful, a photographer must stand out. For example, people are tired of seeing portraits taken on train tracks. Find a setting that is not over used. Furthermore, you must specialize in one or two genres. How many successful photographers do you know who do it all? And trust me chances are you will not be the first person who is an expert in 10 different genres of photography, so pick. 

6. Doesn't "get" Marketing

Five years ago, ignoring Facebook, Instagram and Twitter was doable. Nowadays, even if you're on every social media platform you won't get too far without social skills. Get in tune with the current market, show personality and show off your best work. Fans want to see that there is a human behind the camera and not some robot. Interact with your fans! 

7. Those Who Don't Pursue It As A Hobby 

If you are in photography for the money, you picked the wrong career.  By choosing a genre just for the money you are setting yourself up for destruction. Eventually, you will burn out and without the wild fire and passion inside you, your business will not grow. Do what you love and you will get good at it. You may struggle at first but all it takes is meeting the right person and over night, success will find you. 

8. Choosing Quantity Over Quality

Aim to take just one amazing photo on a shoot and not 20 mediocre ones. With time, the amount of quality images will increase from shoot to shoot. The goal is to show off a portfolio that will blow people's minds. Additionally, your fans don't care to see 15 OK photos from the same shoot, they want to see one amazing photo and variety. Do not flood your page with a new album for each shoot.  

9. Never Responds to Communications

You know that awesome feeling when someone answers your email or text instantly? Be the cause for that awesome feeling for your clients. Treat everyone like that hot girl you're texting who you just met at the bar last night. People hate when it takes someone 24 hours to respond. I'm guilty of this myself and beat myself up all the time for not responding soon enough. 

10. Doesn't Use a Support System

My spurt of growth was the day my wife and I moved in together. She pushes me, supports me and makes me feel better when I am down. She even edits most of my articles and posts on social media. If you have a friend or family member who is discouraging you, cut them loose. A person who truly loves you, pushes you until you are successful. 

*Update* 11. Not Getting Repeat Customers

If you are not getting repeat customer there is one of two things wrong. Lacking quality or service. Figure out which of the two it may be and fix it. 

This list was put together with the help from the following photographers: Patrick Hall, Michael Woloszynowicz, Lisa Holloway, Clay Cook, Ett Venter, Lori Patrick, Hudi Greenberger, Shua Klien, Zach Sutton and Jaron Schneider

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Previous comments
Dani Diamond's picture

We're all guilty of something in this list.

Justin Haugen's picture

Not me. I know it all....DOH

Chip Kalback's picture

12. Fear !

Cris Magsino's picture

spot on. Great article :)

Michael Alfaro's picture

Good post (: I need to figure out why I'm not getting repeated customers haha

cory Lum's picture

Dani. what are your credentials for posting this ? i don't disagree w/ all your points but seriously, many readers of this post are wondering about where u're coming from ? who / what determines whether a photographer makes it or not ? i've been in the biz for almost 30 years... i don't think i've made it even though i have bylines... i'm a survivor from the film paradigm. trying to survive in the 21st century. google me. be humble. peace. c DAni, why not focus on the positive notes about what makes a successful photographer ? like tenacity , the ability to not take 'no ' as an answer. never give up. strive to better your images. et al. come on. if you are true to your creative spirit, a spiritual awakening is in order ! WAKE UP DANI ! PS> please post your best shot you have created ! for all to see and comment on ... ! i'll post one too. too many times too much bullshit !

Dani Diamond's picture

Seems like the title hit a soft spot. Sorry Cory didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I'm just a small guy here trying to inspire others. I am in no way a judge, deciding who made it and failed. The title was simply click bait. The more extreme it is the more likely you'd click on it to read. I don't recall the article saying YOU FAILED. It just gives a list of tips.

With all those spelling and grammer issues in your comment you instantly lost my respect. The last thing I'll do is waste my time and Google your name. For someone at 30 years and older there's no excuse to write like a second grader. Chances are your work will be as amateur as your comment.

Thanks to the new community based website you can click on anyones name and look through their work.

Jessi Raymond's picture

Guess you didn't look at Dani's work before opening your mouth...
He's also Fstoppers current top writer.

Were you drunk when you wrote this? Or would you rather just whip out the tape measure? This isn't a competition.

There is no goal to reach that determines success, it comes in measures. But the things listed will prevent you from achieving even a basic level of success. There are dozens of articles on this site that outline things you can do to be successful. In the business world, and business is my area of expertise, it is often easier to day "don't do this" than to outline the thousands of things they should. Sometimes you need a concise say it like it is instead of cheerleaders. If someone is tenacious and driven enough, they are not bothered by it.

You seem rather bitter and you may want to focus on your own negativity before jumping down someone else's throat.

Implying people who make lists are pleasant to talk to or deal with

Anonymous's picture

hahahaha! i see a lot of these on Fstoppers facebook page, even saw a couple of profiles leaving the group because of others/non constructive CC's
anyways good article :)

Savi You's picture

My market wants quantity over quality. It's really tough to convince your clients that 1 amazing image is worth paying twice as much as 10 mediocre photos.

I hear you. I used to have this problem, as well— clients who can't seem to get past the idea of buying a product rather than a service.

If you are not physically limited by your market, I would suggest expanding or changing it. I was located in a small, very conservative, working class town where I was not close enough to another market and could not relocate. The market was fine during the film years, then the whole business changed including the clients. I was still making a living, but became very unhappy with it.

Hopefully, you aren't so limited.

Savi You's picture

By conforming to the market, I feel like I'm just competing on price and I'm back in the rat race with the other mom-togs and GWACs in my market.

It's true. And if you don't conform.... it turns into what feels like an uphill battle. In the end, I felt like I was at war with my clients, like I was always fighting with them to be something they were not. I also discovered that once I quit the business after so many years of giving in to client demands and trying to please them, I had no idea what MY taste was any longer.

I'm not trying to convince anyone else to quit and become a hobbyist again, but I'm loving it. It's great to look at my photos and like them without concern over whether they will sell, who will like them, or what kind of customer they might attract.

Super article Dani, the reason I dropped Flickr was because of the weekend warrior comments.

Mokhtar Chahine's picture

Great article, number 5 (genres) is something i do and to be honest and i take pride in that just because working with different genres allows me to see more and trouble shoot faster incase i run into any problems during a photoshoot. Working with interior helps me during my on location portrait photoshoot. working with nature allows me to see the distracting details during portraits. I can go on and on. I do see where you are coming from but you have to keep in mind that "making it as a photographer" differs from place to place...country to country. I believe every photographer should also take into consideration what sort of expectations the culture has rather than taking notes and going by them blindly. you gotta study the market !

Anonymous's picture

Great article. Good guidelines/suggestions for success.

Casey Braunger's picture

Honestly, one of the biggest motivators you mentioned is meeting the right person. If you know you are good, keep working at it, show off your best work, are nice to work with...and meet that ONE right person. Your career will explode. Thanks for the article!

'Success' is a subjective term. True and unqualified success is happiness. Any other form of success requires qualification.

gabe s's picture

For number 11, how would you get repeat wedding customers? I could see several different areas where getting repeat customers might be difficult, I would add on, getting customers referred to you as well.

Kyle Marko's picture

I agree with every word but some could say that using the social media's don't really improve on anything, because you see. Marketing is a big issue now a days, you could be the greatest photographer and have the best images with amazing quality and composition, but if you can't market yourself or sell yourself your going to lose out to someone who can and has half the talent you do. The one thing to keep in mind is MARKETING!! even if this means going out and talking to random people or going door to door introducing yourself. you must learn to talk to strangers, so you can sell yourself. this industry in my opinion cause I'm aloud a opinion is losing in the way of face to face communication and people won't buy from you if they don't trust you. so yes approach this as a hobby but still bring a business side to it. also everybody loves confidence. :)

Mario Gonzalez's picture

Epic tam, awesome article as always Dani, seems like some one got but hurt. I must be the gear guy sold my D90 to buy a D7100 and then got the D800E could probably still be doing what i do now with my d90.

Michael Bonocore's picture

"Choosing Quantity Over Quality" I have seen this first hand recently on some photo shoots I worked on with Benjamin Von Wong. His shoots are extravagant and complicated. In one shoot in a forest, I watched him set up 4 different shots. Each set up took 2-3 hours, and the shooting time was no more than 10 minutes per. And, he will only ever release ONE photo per scene, even if he got 10 good ones. And while he admits he takes mediocre photos too, those will never see the light of day.

Federico Guendel's picture

Totally agree with Dani and you, Michael. It sounds similar to when I do makeup/beauty work, but not as elaborate as VW. He's on his own level of awesome. With my shoots, each 'change' takes around an hour (I make sure I have everything ready and set up while waiting...because there is quite a bit of waiting) and the actual shooting time for that MU change is around 10min. Then the process repeats :P And usually the shoot produces 1-2 per change. I feel like I'm OCD when I do these shoots :P

Michael Johnson's picture

Dani, as always I love hearing your advice. Your articles are some of my favorites to read for their down-to-earth insight. Your articles come across like you're hanging out sharing a coffee and just giving honest advice on things. Thank you for your great articles and images, they're always a pleasure.

Nino Batista's picture

#12. You're not Dani Diamond.


I am the Troll, yes I post here sometimes positive sometimes negative. I find this post pretty useless and when I see that in the comments that the author uses the words "click bait" I know that this is just putting out a mediocre article for clicks and money. I choose to remain anonymous for the fact that I know what I say though true seems unpopular in the group hug that is stoppers. I'm the guy that has put in the years as an assistant to some great photographers and shoot what I love for great clients, I'm not gear centric, barely own any but rent what I need for every job. I'm also the little devil on your shoulder. Do I need social media, not really I built a network in the real world where a print portfolio gets you jobs.
I will never treat this as a hobby thats why I go fishing.
The does all photography thing make a little sense until you are around a great photographer and when asked to do a quick still life during a fashion shoot just shoots the most inspiring photo ever. I don't know why I am so compelled to comment on these posts...

Federico Guendel's picture

I hear you on number 9, man. And number 6 is my achilles heel, mostly because I'm slightly reserved and have some introvert traits... which serves as a big challenge. Awesome post, man, thanks.

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