Advice for Every Photographer (as Far as Your Headlights Can See)

The voyage we opted to take is exactly that, an adventurous voyage and not a straight, smooth road to success. Remember that when you doubt yourself and question your potential. Unlike most occupations, the artist has no roadmap for their success. We’re not handed a list of classes to take in a preferred order created by the educational institute.

In most cases, you show up, take notes, memorize, take a test, and move on to the next class. Repeat this enough times and success is pretty much in your favor as a teacher, engineer, accountant, etc. Add to that a pension, healthcare, regulated hours, and a decent wage guaranteed every couple of weeks. Maybe you did study photography in school, but the odds of finding the same path of stability as the others are not good.

We signed up for a different path, and depending on your personality, this is either liberating or downright dreadful. It is certainly exhausting at the least. My intention is not to discredit the hard work of others but to highlight the resilience of the artist. The photographer is allowed to have doubts, fears, and to think you’re the only one going through trying times. You’re also permitted to stop and feel sorry for yourself, but only momentarily. I don’t understand why that part isn’t mentioned as often? That’s the key: honoring what you’re feeling and going through. But giving up is not an option for you or me. 

If there’s one story I share with friends and family, peers and, even those that never asked for advice, it is this one. Years ago, I heard the analogy of the headlights, and it resonated with me. I suppose that I was following my instincts and believing in the process long before I even knew what it was or the value it added to my photography career.I did not know why some things happened, like how I ended up in peculiar situations like being in Madonna's office, but I knew to make the most of it. I knew it was part of a greater voyage and I needed to adjust along the way if I was to survive.

Many photographers ask me when they should launch their photography website or make business cards. They want to know when are they able to approach clients or sell themselves as a particular type of photographer. Some wait for the perfect set of images before they market themselves or to have enough gear before they attempt to familiarize themselves with a new style. Guess what? You’ll never get there! You will never be good enough. Watch the video to see what I mean and how that's a fantastic thing!

The true art is not only the final photograph but the process that got you there and created the artist. The photographer you wish to become is a product of the road traveled and how you react to "setbacks." Art is in the process also, and I urge you to take it easy on yourself! Start that project, launch the website, refer to yourself as a professional photographer, ask for your rate, learn a new lighting setup, ask that model to shoot, etc. Just start. You owe it to your talent, your dreams, and to those waiting on beautiful pictures from you.

Allow yourself to enjoy the good times but also suffer the bad. Allow yourself to understand the big picture, but focus on the immediate future. Finally, failure is a part of the voyage and it happens to all of us at all levels, whether we are honest enough to admit it or not. 

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