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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73 Comments

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Karma Wilson's picture

Great article, and many very true points. Most successful photographers fall prey to different mistakes listed at various times...they just learn from it and move on instead of wallowing. :)

#10, I will admit, is a huge one. A support network is almost essential, and team work makes the job a lot easier, especially somebody willing to do the jobs you just don't have time to do anymore. I don't do photography, but I am immersed in it daily because I am part of a photography team. My job is social media, emailing, assisting, and web design...and the occasional nagging. The photographer is busy enough shooting, editing, learning new methods for both, downloading software, uploading photos, following northern light alerts, and working with clients. :) I know there are one man shows out there that are very successful, but it's hard to imagine! For instance, I have time to sit here on Fstoppers and yammer a lot. The photographer doesn't. lol

As for repeat customers, that's a big one. It can be very telling, and it's important to evaluate what went wrong when a client you did family photos for chooses a different photographer for the next shoot. Just remember, the photos might not be the problem at all.

The only thing I would disagree with is "guy who shoots everything". There are markets out there that literally demand you be able to shoot "everything". Small town markets, for instance, are often desperate for a competent photographer that can be flexible enough to go from a fashion shoot for an advertisement to a campaign event and not skip a beat. These smaller markets are often inundated with "natural light only" types, and a flexible photographer with some good equipment can build a solid reputation pretty quickly. Problem is the markets are still usually too small to support you...ha ha. I would say that this is usually a phase, and eventually the "do it all" photographer will find themselves doing more of one type of photography than anything else. As they do more shoots, their skill and passion will determine their "specialty".

Lucy Yukhan's picture

Amazing article! People need to know what works and what does not!

Don Shader's picture

Perfect, common-sense article. This needs to be reposted from time to time.

Rick Navarro's picture

great article! great read.

Re: #4
Does anyone know a good place in NYC a photographer goes to get critiques? I make my living with video/photography, so not a beginner; but I'm always trying to improve...

Sean Booysen's picture

Thank you Dani!!!! Freaking awesome advice. Made my day.
Keep them coming and keep doing what you do best and that is to inspire other photographers around you!!!!

Hit the nail on the head with this one. I think we've all met the "Gear Guy" and the "Know-It-All". Commonly, they're one and the same! As a gallery owner I'm often approached by younger photographers seeking career advice. Almost without exception, they're surprised when I tell them to study business and marketing. I've long believed that you can be the best photographer in the world but if you don't know how to market yourself and run a business - you'll fail. Great post, as usual!

#8 Tell that to a bride....... : )

Bader Alwazeer's picture

In my country it's very hard to focus on one type of photography, I won't survive. No enough specialized demands.

Rachel Burnett's picture

I fell out of love with photography 8mths ago. I put in a good 8yrs and succeeded on many levels. But trying to conform to everything expected of us had left me bitter. I set about selling off all my studio equipment. I now only have a camera body, 2 lenses and a 5 in 1 reflector. After watching your natural light tutorial, I've become inspired to pick my camera up again. I'm challenging myself to keep it simple. I'm also of the belief that while ever we use social media to promote our work, clients will only expect digital images. As a 47yr old grandmother of two, I am conscious of the fact that this generation will have no physical records to leave for following generations. I am determined to go 'old school' and only offer printed portraits for the family home. And do it without the use of FB.
I think also to become a successful photographer, you need to
"Fake it, till you make it....." And that's not meant with any disrespect, it's a general observation.
And for those that didn't notice. On the end of the list, Dani posted a list of noteworthy photographers who helped compile the list.

Bill Peppas's picture

All good and valid points Dani!

Thanks Dani. As a fresh hobbyist looking at going professional in the future, this has opened my eyes to many areas I have to work on.

Each of your articles has always had something new for me to learn. So grateful.

I usually never go through the trouble of registering for sites in order to comment, but for this article I did! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. I just started sharing my work online and from the few weeks I have spent building my presence, I can say the tips you have shared here are spot on. Thrilled to be a part of the community. Thank you, again!