The Dangers of Hustle Culture in Photography

Self improvement, hustle, and gurus have been around for some time now. However, until recently, they hadn't fully infiltrated the photography industry, but that seems to have now changed.

In the last year, I have started to notice more and more adverts telling me how if I work hard and follow X number of marketing fundamental rules that I will have a six-figure income from my photography business. Sounds great, doesn't it?

However, it isn't that simple, and I have yet to find anyone who makes these claims and has a successful photography business outside of selling other people a dream. Add into this the new hustle culture where everyone is working 24/7, and you end up with a lot of people wanting to be professional photographers who are heading in entirely the wrong direction. I myself have fallen victim to the hype videos and ideology of being busy, but it really didn't help me at all. 

In this video, I give my opinion on hustle culture and what I believe to be a conducive work ethos and lifestyle to put yourself in a position to become a better photographer and therefore have a more successful business. I also go over how I changed the way I work, moved away from the hustle culture, and actually started achieving more.

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Ryan Cooper's picture

"Don't read books about people telling you how to do things, read books about people doing things"

Sir, this is one of the best pieces of advice I've seen in year. Major cheers, well done.

Scott Choucino's picture

I wish I could remember who said it to me. I think it was a teacher at uni, but can't be sure.

Scott Choucino's picture

best thing to do is to dress who you are. Clients don't want pretence, they just want someone genuine who will get the job done.

Scott Choucino's picture

That’s pretty much how photographers dress. They would be more concerned if I turned up in a suit

Scott Choucino's picture

Ah will this depends on the part you are trying to look. Wedding work is very different. But for commercial work wear what you like.

Dave F's picture

1000% yes, all of it. I don't understand why more people don't get this, but self-help enthusiasts are primarily about helping themselves, not others (and perpetuating the idea that their existence is necessary). I mean, it's in the name, just not in the way you're being lead to believe. Even worse are the people who buy into it so hard that they think the way to be successful is to also go out and "help people" by talking about doing things rather than actually doing them.

I think this sort of pyramid scheme is extremely prevalent in the photography industry too, and by photography industry I mean the companies that sell gear. Tons of them have their own "educational" channels that look like they're being run by people who just graduated from working behind the counter, not by people who were out there shooting world-class ad campaigns. It's gotten to the point where it seems like they've created an entirely independent industry of "professional photographers" who have no portfolios to speak of but exist just to create more education (and talk up gear in the process). It's become a black hole for higher education... everybody is stuck learning from other amateurs because it's the amateurs who are pushing education the hardest.

The analogy I like to use is a student tutor. If you're having trouble with some basic math in primary/elementary school, sure, you can go to the kid a few grades higher than you for help. But at a certain point, if you want to work for NASA, you want to learn from people who could (or do) work for NASA, not the guy who stopped learning beyond basic Algebra. Unfortunately the camera industry is full of people who (figuratively) didn't advance beyond basic Algebra but are trying to teach like they did. I've lost count of how many articles and videos I've seen from people who talk about how beautiful their light is and how marvelous their process is and these are all the things to keep an eye out for... and then their image is garbage.

Find good photographers and bookmark their websites; that's where the best work is. If you set that as your standard, you'll quickly find that a large portion of the education out there isn't capable of teaching you how to achieve those results, because the teachers aren't capable of achieving those results themselves.

Scott Choucino's picture

Yeah these companies who train self help tutors are really strange. People needing help training people who need help to train those who need help.

I tend to trawl the top agencies pages and see who they rep and then start browsing from there.

JetCity Ninja's picture

They're not training tutors. They're training sales people, just like any other multi-level marketing scheme. Not a pyramid scheme, of course; let's call them "triangle schemes." An aspiring self-help guru pays to attend a self-help guru's seminar and buys their books. This gives them the tools they need to create their own seminars, videos and books... eventually, you buy in and then start selling your own "keys to success."

"Hustle culture" is just the new term for "self help." Check out my youtube where I help people identify these fake gurus and I'll give you 10 ways that actually work. (Just kidding)

peter matthews's picture

Fully agree, and you're alluding to many of the articles on FS..There are guys on here who claim to be 'Super busy successful yet they are posting 4 'how to' videos a day? There used to be a saying 'those that can Do , and those that cant teach' a little unfair perhaps but I think the sentiment still resonates.