You Will Never Be a Professional Photographer

If you're a photographer with thin skin, I would advise against watching Jared Polin's brutally honest breakdown on why you'll "never make it as a photographer." But then again, if you're a photographer with thin skin, you're probably not going to make it as a photographer. Watch the video to hear Polin's five reasons why you won't succeed in the industry,, and continue reading for five of my own.

1. Your Head Isn't In It

If you really want to be a professional photographer, but you're not spending all of your free time investing in "making it," then do you really want to be a professional photographer? You can't talk about how much you want to make it in the industry, then spend all of your time watching Netflix, or reading irrelevant books or web articles. If you're not willing to put in the time and effort to research the industry, advance your knowledge of the craft, or make connections, then being a professional will never happen.

2. You're a Know-It-All

So you think you know it all? If someone even slightly hints at the fact that you don't know everything, you become extremely emotional and aggressive. Do you know how to run a business? Do you know how to manually blend exposures in Photoshop? Do you know the ins-and-outs of seeing in black and white? Do you know how to adequately market your work to your community? Do you know how to capture genuine candid emotions from you clients? I'll put money on the fact that you don't know everything. And if you think you do, you're wrong. Because you don't. Period. Don't worry, neither do I. And neither does Polin. The key to success in any industry is being and remaining humble, as well as being open to new ideas and criticism.

3. You Get Easily Discouraged 

If you've ever had your website or photos critiqued, you know how brutal it can be. In a photography class, I've personally seen a peer cry after their final project was torn apart by the instructor. I personally have been discouraged, rather than inspired, after looking for hours at others' photographs, feeling light years behind. Like I said earlier, if you have thin skin, you're probably not going to make it as a photographer. 

4. You're Impatient

You think success happens overnight, and that a professional career in photography is just going to poof out of thin air and slap you in the face. You're wrong. Being a professional creative takes time and patience. You have to put in the time to see success. You may wait days, months, or even a few years before seeing positive feedback toward your work and seeing money start to flow into your business.

5. You're Not a People Person

Part of being a professional in the industry means networking and getting your name into the world. Social media can only take you so far. Whether it be reaching out to companies for sponsorships, booking clients for your next photoshoot, or setting up an exhibit at your local gallery, you must master the art of effectively talking to other humans. If you can't communicate your ideas, or can't mesh with other professionals in the industry, you likely won't make it very far.  

After I wiped tears from my eyes watching Polin's incredibly blunt video, I realized that's probably exactly what he wanted to happen. But rather than get discouraged, I got out of bed, put on some pants, and started researching useful Photoshop tools and started marketing my work to local businesses.

How will you react?

[via Jared Polin]

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Fun. Good reasons why I am not a professional photographer. I 'made it' as a neuromuscular biochemist, where, on the whole, I would say there's a lot less hustling and lot more learning involved but then again it's a pretty niche profession. That said, I currently have a photography exhibition on public view at Washington University in St. Louis, so maybe I 'made it' as a photographer on some level too. My main maxim is - keep it fun and let what comes come.

Depending on what you consider to be professional, you could be or could not be it. Congratulations on your exhibition!

Tim Behuniak's picture

I agree, and congrats!! That's awesome. I'm sure there are a lot of crossovers in terms of being a professional in any industry.

Studio 403's picture

Of course this video is nothing new to offering age old advise to any profession. Of course all those who “will show you” , if you buy their expensive “how to” videos, those video guys don’t want you to know this, from my perspective. However, if you are like me, I buy these “how to” videos because I like to learn and improve this craft. I am old too, so I don’t have to make it in the photo world. So happy I don’t, Been fighting with myself to become a skilled photographer with the time I do have to practice. I would suggest the photo bubble will burst in about 2 years, when the curve will start to fall, when all the idealistic “wanna be’s”will face the truth of this beloved profession. But bless your trying. As you may not know, 90% of the fish are in 10% of the water. I have become a 100% better in my photograpy, since I started severa l years ago and buying those overpriced videos ( I am a tight wad). I am so trilled when Fstoppers choose’s one my photo for something. At least these guys are looking at our collective photos, YEA for Fstoppers. When the bubble does burst, sales of videos will fall like a rock and sales of photo related “stuff” will fall too. But I am not sure I need or perhaps you too , “you ain’t gonna make it” unless..............., but he got me to reply.....and he promoted himself , good move to his grandisment of what we all know anyway . Keep preaching to the choir.

Rob Mintzes's picture

I must be emotionally dead inside, because there was nothing “brutal” about any of this...

Jonathan Reid's picture

This guy again 🙄. Cant we just ignore him and make him go away?

Yes, you can. There is photo of him on preview.

Jonathan Reid's picture

I would love to, but he is a bit like Adam Scott, he appears everywhere. Take this article with its evocative title for example. I thought it might be interesting until I saw who was giving the message.

Travis Pacheco's picture

Yep. I knew I could never do the marketing and business part of photography so dropped the dream of being a professional years ago. I just enjoy trying to craft good photos and having a creative outlet.

Vincent Alongi's picture

Here's my reaction: I'll take it from someone who's made it in terms of his brand. He's doing something right. I like the 'tell the story' vs 'pushing' point. Let's think about that- photography is an art that captures imagery for people to enjoy at a later time (ignoring the instant gratification of social media). Emotion. So telling the story, connecting emotionally. As a consumer, I get that. As someone who wants to create relationships and a business, that makes a ton of sense. And... good work will get you word of mouth.

How can you throw shade at any of his points- valid across the board. But damn, that fro... lol

Tim Cray's picture

Isn't Jared Polin the same clown that claims a photographer can only produce great photos if you shoot in RAW and not JPEG? Granted, you may not be able to recover all the details in JPEG as you can in RAW, but IF you know how to properly set up your camera settings, then you can produce some stunning JPEG photos. He strikes me as a pompous knucklehead who thinks he knows every thing or what format a photographer should shoot. I'm beginning to wonder if he knows half of what he thinks he knows about photography. Perhaps he should check out Gordon Laing of Camera Labs and his book on shooting photos in JPEG and the results you can obtain straight out of camera.

Chris PLUNKETT's picture

You're officially my new hero Tim.It's nice to find someone else who can see right through him for what he really is.I don't need anyone else to 'approve' of my views about shooting exclusively in JPEGs as he expects everyone to agree with his opinions about always shooting in RAW.
I do also agree that the very best format you can ever use in photography is getting to know your camera and lenses more intimately than is probably legal.

Tim Cray's picture

Thanks, Chris. Another thing I find immature about his videos is that utterly STUPID sniff test. I mean, really? What kind of retard does something that ignorant when reviewing lenses? And he calls himself a "professional" and wants to be taken seriously within the photography community. Yea...right! He should also watch a few videos of Steve Perry at Back Country Gallery. Maybe he'll actually learn how to talk to people.

Tim Behuniak's picture

Hey, Tim. I think the sniff test is a joke of sorts. Again, it's a funny thing he does each time he unboxes, and I think he partly still does it because it's something his viewers enjoy, however stupid you might find it. But please leave the name calling out of it.

Tim Cray's picture

The sniff test may be a joke, but he wastes anywhere from 3-5 minutes on that nonsense. He needs to get rid of that crap and concentrate on the topic. And Tim, not everyone likes it, either.

Tim Behuniak's picture

I can understand your viewpoint. But I also think it's worth noting that Jared Polin has built his brand off of the "I SHOOT RAW" slogan and producing most all of his videos in this shirt. On top of it being something he believes in, it's also a great marketing point.

Tim Cray's picture

Building a brand and shooting in a particular format is one thing. But, attempting to claim that RAW is the only format a photographer can obtain great looking photos is an entirely different story. What really ticks me off about him is the video he made criticizing Tony Northrup on his views regarding RAW and JPEG. If he was such a "professional," he wouldn't have produced that idiotic video. I could go on and nitpick the content of his various videos, but I refuse to waste my breath on a moron.

Tim Behuniak's picture

I agree, you definitely don't need to shoot only in RAW to produce great images. I can't comment about the other video, because I've never seen the one of him criticizing Tony Northrup, but am definitely going to watch it.

Tim Cray's picture

If you're subscribed to his YouTube channel, you'll see it. Besides, Tony Northrup is more popular with viewers than he is since has over 100,000 fewer subscribers than the Northrups.

Rafael Cavalli's picture

Well he told "THE TRUTH". Being a photographer is a lot more than taking pictures with the right expousure. Even professional photographers need to wathc this video and "No one cares about your photography" from Ted Forbes sometimes.

Carl Joyce's picture

Love or hate the guy, he's a good businessman. He has a big following from making films for all ages and levels, good on him for making a decent living out of it!

Anonymous's picture

Going to rock the boat here but Jared is not a great photographer, he's a very skillfull vlogger who ticks all the boxes for what is required to be successful on social media, I'm not being vindictive as I like his videos but off the back of them I was expecting to to see a stunning portfolio of commercial/editorial work on his site which wasn't the case.
I then made a point of trying to check out the portfolios of some of the most popular photography vloggers out there, (I say tried because I couldn't find many), and quickly realised that the same applied to many of these as well. To me it proves the theory that if you've got the gift of good communication combined with an excellent graft for tech & social media you can easily portray yourself as being a great photographer, (it's also worth noting that there are highly skilled photographers who will never make it due to lacking the skills these people have).
Finally I feel it's important to differentiate between the types of vloggers, there's the genuine photographers who've built successful careers and who only discuss things like lighting, composition etc and then there's the gear vloggers which Jared and co fall into, I believe people would learn more and save a great deal of money if the only viewed content from the first type.