Myths of a Successful Photographer

Myths of a Successful Photographer

When it comes to being a successful professional photographer, there are certainly many misconceptions. Knowing what some of these misconceptions are and how to avoid them can help take your business to the next level.

When a photographer finds a passion for photography and decides that they want to take that passion and make a living out of it, photo enthusiasts can be zealous to start their own business. If a photographer doesn’t have a strong background in business and marketing, the journey to becoming successful can take many detours and ultimately may result in frustration and abandonment. Here are a few common misconceptions about successful photographers and what you can avoid on your road to success.

Myth #1: Successful Photographers Take the Best Photos

As someone who has a passion for taking photos and creating art through photography this first myth is always a little painful for me to consider. The truth is, not all successful photographers take the best photos. Their success comes from their strong business and marketing tactics. I’ve seen time and time again, photographers coming to me to express their frustration with their local photography market and feeling that they take better photos than there more successful competitors. 

Ideally, a successful photographer should be able to conquer both technique and business, but, this isn’t an ideal world. Truthfully, most consumers looking for photos don’t always know the (seemingly subtle) varying nuances that distinguish a picture from being good to excellent. 

Regardless of photography talent, all successful photographers share the trait of being well versed in business and marketing. If you feel that you’re lacking in the areas of business and marketing, this would be a good time to make it an area to improve.

Myth #2: Successful Photographers Appeal to a Wide Audience

When you’re just starting out in professional photography, it may seem counterintuitive to niche down and exclude certain parts of your potential audiences, but this is something successful photographers do well. 

The misconception is that all potential clients are good clients, and the more work, the better. Successful photographers know that to be successful they need to be experts in a particular area and appeal to an audience that requires the type of photography the photographer is offering.

The truth of the matter is, if you’re appealing to all types of varying audiences, there is no way you can be seen as an expert in something. If you’re offering many kinds of photography, and several different specialties, you’re making it impossible for anyone to see you as an expert in any one area.

Find an area of photography that you love, that you’re good at, and stick with it. Successful photographers know their area of expertise and market themselves as such. In return, they receive better clients who value their services more than a general audience.

Myth #3: Owning Expensive Gear and Knowing How to Use It Will Make You Profitable

Owning expensive gear and being great at your craft can go right along with myth #1, thinking that if you’re taking the best photos out of anyone in your local market, you’ll be the most successful.

Photographers can still be successful, even without the best equipment. By focusing your efforts on not only improving your photography but also marketing yourself and educating yourself in the area of business, you’ll start to get clients that will lead to funding better equipment down the line. If you think you need the best equipment to be successful, you’re mistaken. 

If you’re beginning your business and have the opportunity to invest money in your business, try investing a portion into continuing business education in addition to upgrading equipment. After all, great equipment and skill are only beneficial in the professional world if you’re being seen by your ideal audience, and you need the business knowledge and skills to know how to be seen by that perfect audience.

What are other myths regarding being a successful photographer? Let us know in the comments.

Lead image by SplitShire via Pexels.

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7 Comments

If you don't define first what "success" is, all you say is bullshit. Success for a commercial photographer is not the same as success for a fine-art one. Is success being displayed in a prominent gallery ? In a museum ? Winning awards ? Selling a lot of prints ? Books ? Being commissionned in an high-level magazine ? Having more contracts ? Earning more cash ? Being sponsored ? Working while travelling ? Doing major pictures (like Afghan girl by McCurry) ? What is success really ? For whom ?

Your post is just another list of obvious general truths that can never be wrong because they are too vague. I hear this kind of stuff since 2014, always written by people I never heard of, so not that successful it seems.

Yes, as a pro, you need to get a sense of business. But how ? Oops, you didn't cover the specifics.

Great clickbait, though.

Successful Photographer: a person who make their living from photography, who, pays his bills, puts his kids through collage and lives long enough to retire.

Makes enough to pay for crazy parties, drugs and alcohol with friends in their flats, has 3000000 followers on Instagram, dies young and famous in a helicopter crash, leaves $100 000 credit cards debt.

Your definition of success in photography sounds exactly like an accountant job. You dream in $$ too ?

The very definition of straw man. These aren't myths—nobody actually believes any of these. You might as well have swung your sword at the myth that all successful photographers have tight abs, or are vegans, or have hairy palms. I guess that's the trouble with having to spit out content regardless of whether you have anything to say.

Rudy Thompson's picture

I thought it was a really good read. Thank you, I gained some insight.

I would note that how much you specialize depends on your market.
So much is written form the perspective of a photographer living and working in a large urban market where specialization can be more effective.
In more decentralized markets, expertise in a few different areas makes a big difference in the job volume potential.
In my opinion, commercial photography is the most reliable avenue for consistent, sustainable cash flow. The clients are hiring you on competence, reliability and flexibility. More importantly, they are generally more familiar with buying pro photography and will not get into the sort of silly histrionics that bedevil the retail wedding and portrait market.

I have found that a good commercial client will presume your expertise in other areas that may not be your core competency but can be lucrative opportunities. Thus you get more jobs per year from a client that can lead to referrals for other jobs from new clients.
The other plus for me is that I am never bored.