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The One Reason You Should Not Give Up Photography

The One Reason You Should Not Give Up Photography

The time has finally come. Leading to this moment, you sat in the hot sun for hours, waiting for the grazing of the bird’s toe on the water, creating mesmerizing concentric circles, and boom: you got it!

Or perhaps you set up an expertly crafted four-strobe lighting, and after repetitively throwing kombucha left and right, you nailed your splash shot (then mopped all night). Maybe you worked for weeks on a mood board, pulling the latest trends in fashion, coordinating with other vendors, and using your new optical spot, you created a resplendent fashion shot. You edited it in Lightroom, then in Photoshop, and now the time has finally arrived: you get to share your masterpiece with the world. And then...

“Did I forget my hashtags? Nope, they’re there.”

Meanwhile, a reel of an 18-year-old doing bicep curls gets its 763rd like and 26th comment.

You wait until the next day and check your insights.

“It only showed it to 374 people of my 7k followers?!”

It is so easy to get discouraged as a photographer, especially if you’re the kind of photographer who is not into reels, social media trends, or taking videos of yourself sipping lattes and doing an orchestrated song and dance to the latest popular audio clip.

If you are one of the photographers who hopes that people will love and engage with your work because it shows a high level of skill, patience, ingenuity, and crushes the checkpoints of  “seven elements of art,” you may often find yourself discouraged. You may feel like no one cares about your brilliant shots, and they just want you to shake around brainlessly in your studio to the latest trending audio.

There are several reasons that can leave you feeling disheartened as a photographer. One of them is having to deal with clients who always try to negotiate for the lowest possible price while demanding the most amount of work from you. This constant devaluation of your work can leave you feeling frustrated and demotivated. Another source of disappointment for photographers is submitting their landscape images to magazines, only to receive no response at all. While rejection can be tough, being completely ignored can be even more defeating. With all of these challenges, it's no surprise that photographers feel tempted to throw in the towel. 

But this is why you don’t give up: because you’re an artist. You continue to make art because you are an artist. You don’t make art because people give you a three-centimeter pixelated heart on a cell phone. You make art because you are art — an art maker. You don’t make art because you want people to stroke your ego; you make art because you have something in you that you want to express visually. You don’t make art because people validate the art. You make art because you have ideas, curiosities, and visual explorations inside of you that need to come out. You make art because it makes you happy to make art. Period. You make art for the sake of making art. The way to not quit at making art is to remember why you make art.

A candid of me (@sportsphotographermiami) on the job. 

We can get fall into discouragement when we lose our why. It's important, when battling defeat, to come back to that earlier version of yourself. The one that launched you to become a creator. The one that existed before you started building your website, making your YouTube channels, sending your work to publications, and posting it on Instagram. Come back to the person that loved creating photos for the joy of expressing your unique interpretation of whatever is behind your lens. Try to detach yourself from everything else that comes with the business of being a photographer, and come back over and over to the love of expressing your unique vision. 

Let me leave you with this closing quote. I have shared it before, but it’s so fitting in this instance. It’s a Michelle remix of an Andy Warhol quote and it has kept me many times from throwing in the towel in the illiterate Insta art world:

Make art, and while everyone is deciding whether they like it or not, make more art.

I’m wishing everyone a week of making art: for the pleasure, purpose, and end aim of making art.

In banner, left to right: 

@ludmillo_pierre@beautymarkdebbie@epicactionimagery@lightnlense@germainephoto@afcasallas35@sflphoto_comPete Coco.

Michelle VanTine's picture

Michelle creates scroll-stopping images for amazing brands and amazing people. She works with businesses, public figures, sports & products. Titled “Top Sports Photographers in Miami” in 2019 (#5) and 2020 (#4), she was the only female on the list both years. Follow the fun on IG @michellevantinephotography @sportsphotographermiami

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I'm not sure how to start so I'll just jump in and edit later.

You tie photography to likes, commercial success and, ultimately, art. While there's nothing wrong with any of these ideas, and each constitutes primary motivation for one segment or another, I would submit a far simpler reason to continue photography: you enjoy it.

Likes are fleeting and have nothing to do with your photos, merely reflecting the varying tastes of the viewers. Commercial success is similar, but even more constrained by trends and the whims of an art director or editor. You're not an artist. You don't create art. Full stop! You have something to say and you say it. Your audience may be emotionally affected by it, elevating your image to art, but you are powerless to intentionally create art and, as such, cannot consistently replicate the process and, thus, not an artist. There simply is no such thing.

If you enjoy photography, you shouldn't give it up. Period.

Well... I can't find anything to edit, not that it wasn't all BS.

Yes, thats exactly what i wrote! I hope.you made it to the end of the article. I couldn't agree more with your summary.

I read the entire article. In fairness, your thesis was rather disjointed, at times appearing to address all photographers and then, only professional photographers. I could have addressed each point individually, but, trying to unify the reason (singular) people shouldn't give up photography, admitted that varying segments might have their own reasons. Maybe I took the title too seriously. Do Fstoppers authors write their own or does an editor?

I get hardly any likes on my Instagram channel and that is, I assume, down to hardly anyone seeing my photographs (Instagram's algorithm) in the first place, let alone actually liking them. I don't know how to get more people to see my photographs and increase my presence. To be honest, I much prefer going out and taking photos instead of concerning myself with likes on Instagram and that's my primary reason not to give up.

Yes. Thats priecisely it. Coming back to the love of the artform and not getting lost in all the pressures, especially we as commercial photographers, have.

Do you use hashtags when you post? That is one of the keys to getting people to see your work.

yes abosolutely

Yes I use hashtags and still get very few likes. It’s also down to Instagram’s annoying algorithm and how many people it shows my photographs to. I really am not bothered about the number of likes though and I find obsessing over likes very tedious. Likes aren’t an indication of my ability as a photographer anyway.

It's a question as old as humanity.

But one very specific, current frustration: the way Facebook killed organic reach, changing the rules and throwing years of audience-building over the side.

I know. I get veey frustrated because ive never used any growth gimmicks, purchased follwers and the like. I only have 7k followers but all of them are real people that indicated that they wanted to see my work. So why is Instagram only ahowing it to 300 of them? Alternatively, i want to see the work of everyone i follow but it doesnt show me 2/3 of it. Its illogical to me

Almost no one, not even your followers, will see posts on your "artist" page unless you pay to boost them.

And invitiations to "like" a page do nothing - I wonder if people even see them.

Thanks for this. I can see from some comments that you can't even express an opinion without somebody being critical. i guess that makes some people feel superior. I think what you said was precisely what I feel - I am an artist, whether I'm appreciated or not. Thank you

Yes, unfortunately those who comment are often critiques. Being a writer requires the same skills as being an artist :) Thank you for your comment