Three Thoughts That Hold You Back as a Photographer

Artists struggle with many emotions throughout their day. One of the most typical emotions is a sense of inadequacy, both in business and creativity. How many times has budget, fear, and challenge stopped you from getting things done? Whatever your excuse is, it’s just that: an excuse. Here are three thoughts that are holding you back as a photographer and how to overcome them.

Thinking That It Takes Money to Make Money

Can you buy a camera without money? Absolutely not. Can you find alternatives to spending several thousand dollars a month on a studio and still make money? Absolutely. I think that photographers limit their potential because they don’t feel they have the necessary means to make it work. Remember that creativity isn’t just limited to photography. Creativity is simply a broad term, used to describe the use of your imagination. People assume that creativity is limited to artistic work, but it’s grander than that.

Creativity allows you to become fluid as a photographer. You have the ability to be extremely adaptable in all situations because you can think outside of the box. If you can’t afford your own studio, find an alternative. Shoot in environments where you’re allowed to work for little to nothing. There are plenty of apps like Breather and LiquidSpace that list spaces that are available for hourly rates. You don’t need to have pay a fixed cost in order to stay in business. Is it convenient for you to have your studio? Absolutely. You don’t have to lug around gear and it’s your own personal space. Is it necessary for everyone? Absolutely not.

The same goes for lenses, cameras, lights, etc. Use what you have to get the job done. Stop letting the fixation of gear acquisition get in the way of making money. I say this to every photographer that wants to make this a full fledged career – you can easily pickup a single speedlight, modifier, and reflector and shoot portraits all day long. Is it fun? Probably not for everyone. Can you sustain in income that way? Absolutely. Stop making excuses and get things done.

Thinking That You Can't Do It

Confession: I had a fear of talking in front of crowds. I still do. It scares the living hell out of me. After a speaking engagement, workshop, or conference, I immediately crawl back into my little hole and avoid social gatherings until I feel comfortable again. I’m what you call an outgoing introvert and therefore, I’m selectively social.

Why should you care? Because for a long time, I didn’t think I could even manage to speak to a crowd of 5 people. By the time I was 23, I was managing and training a group of 30-60 on basic sales tactics. I purposefully forced myself to evolve beyond the basic mindset of, “I can’t do it,” and start thinking “I don’t have an alternative, so I have to.” It’s fight or flight. You adapt to the situation and make it happen.

So here’s an example: You want to be a wedding photographer, but you have a fear of people. How can you possibly rationalize that you’re going to sell anything to anyone if you can’t sit down for a consultation. You’ll have to either learn to control your emotions, or partner with someone who can close the deal for you. Whatever route you choose, find a positive solution and stop thinking you can’t do something. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s about being creative and finding a solution.

You're An Amateur and Therefore You Can't Make Money

So, I’m going to go out and say this openly, just because you’re an amazing photographer doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to success. There are many crappy photographers who are making a lot more money than some of the best photographers on this site. Why? Business acumen. They understand how to run businesses. Remember that, as a photographer, you’re operating a business – a service based business.

As a business owner, you’re in charge of starting the business, accounting, legal compliance, marketing, sales, managing staff, coming up with startup capital, staying motivated, and balancing work and family life… all while trying to minimize risk. If you’re an artist who doesn’t understand that, this is why the sub par photographer with business acumen is out-earning you.

The point of this is, your work doesn’t have to be perfect, but you should be proficient. Being the best doesn’t guarantee that you’ll succeed. Being hungry for work does.

I hope that you guys enjoy the video above. I truly believe everyone is capable of success if they work for it. Being a photographer has been one of the greatest gifts of my life and I love having the ability to share my experiences along the way with each and every one of you.

Jeff Rojas's picture

Jeff Rojas is an American photographer, author and educator based in New York City. His primary body of work includes portrait and fashion photography that has been published in both Elle and Esquire. Jeff also frequents as a photography instructor. His teaching experience includes platforms like CreativeLive, WPPI, the Photo Plus Expo, and APA.

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Okay, point number 3: I am not seeking money through photography. I shoot for myself; this is a creative outlet for me. My vocation is also creative: creating web and software applications. I've been shooting 35mm film since 1980, adding digital in December 2013.
I did place second in a local camera club photography contest; until the final entry, there was a three way tie for first.
A concern of mine is if I go pro, is that I will lose my love of photography and it will become another job. I don't think that will happen since I also happen to enjoy software development; I created an application for my personal use; but I saw the utility of that application and released it for free. It had a limited lifespan of November 2007 through July 2011.

I think that we all have that fear.... but I also think that continually working on personal projects is important for that very reason! :)