The Key to Becoming a Great Photographer Is Patience

The Key to Becoming a Great Photographer Is Patience

Nothing happens overnight, and this is especially true when it comes to photography. Photography is a craft that takes years to master, which is one reason why there are few people that become successful. So many people pick up a camera and expect their careers to take off the next day, which isn’t realistic. In order to become great, you must first become patient. Don’t compete against the clock, success will happen in its own time. Slow and steady wins the race. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are feeling impatient with your work.

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be

Let’s face it, everyone starts somewhere, and no one is good to begin with. I think everyone has experienced a period of frustration, knowing you can do better but your work isn’t up to the standard that you want it to be. As the famous Ira Glass quote goes: “For the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.” Lack of patience is one reason why many photographers quit early on in their careers; A lot of people don’t understand that it takes time to develop your style and technique, as well as build a brand. They might burn out because they have expected too much to happen in the first few years of their careers. One way to avoid this is by trying not to put yourself under a time limit. Instead, make small steps to improve your work. Think of small changes you can make or little things you can learn to make your next shoot better. Review each shoot and make note of one thing you could do better in your next shoot.

Also try taking a look back at your first photoshoot or images that you took at the start of this year. You might be surprised at how much your work has grown and how quickly a couple of years have gone by.

Here is a quick example of me tracking my own progress. The image on the left was the first shoot I did with a model that wasn't a family member or friend, back in 2014. The image on the right is a shot from one of my most recent shoots with an actress. I cringed a lot when I looked back on my work from years ago, and I’m sure in a few years time I will look back on the work I’m doing now and cringe too. But it is all part of the process and without taking plenty of bad images, I never would have been able to learn and develop the techniques that I use today.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Have you ever found yourself scrolling through Instagram looking at an amazing photographers work, then you look at your own work and suddenly feel inadequate? As hard as it might be, try not to compare your work to that of other photographers. How can you compare your work to someone if you don’t know what they have been through in order to get to that point? Social media can be deceiving this way. We only ever post our best images, and you don’t get to see all of the failed shoots that led them to that amazing shot or the years of hard work that went into being able to pull off that beautiful lighting. Don’t compare your chapter one to someone else’s chapter 10.

The rise of the Instagram/celebrity photographer has also disheartened a lot of people, making them feel that they should be experiencing overnight success like Brooklyn Beckham or Kendall Jenner. This is not true. Overnight success is very rare and isn’t something I would recommend striving for. My best advice would be to ignore what everyone else is doing, instead just focus on your own achievements. 

Have Faith in the Process

Accept that you aren’t going to become great overnight. Time is part of the process. Becoming a successful photographer isn’t a race, it's a marathon. You need to have patience and embrace the fact that it is going to take years before you become any good. I read this quote the other day that I really related to: “Do anything thing eight hours a day, seven days a week, year after year, and you’re bound to become good at it. Work. Your. Ass. Off. The rewards will flow.” This is such great advice. As long as you keep the ball rolling and continue to put effort into your work, you will become great. Success shouldn’t have a time limit, so don’t give it one.

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20 Comments

Agreed! Thank you for this. :)

Marissa Alden's picture

Thank you for reading :)

David Hynes's picture

Great read :)

Marissa Alden's picture

Thank you! :)

Jeremie Montessuis's picture

Good Advice, thank you.

Muhammad Akram Octaviori's picture

thank you, very helpfull :)

sapto agusworo's picture

it's very usefull advices for Us, thanks bro

Marissa Alden's picture

Thank you, I'm glad you found it useful :)

Piotr Maksymowicz's picture

Great read! Thank you!:)

William Mann's picture

perfectly said!

Marissa Alden's picture

Thank you :)

Anonymous's picture

Much Agreed. I have felt the urge many times to give up due to the frustration of not getting the look I wanted. It is very true that you come into this thinking you will shoot what you want and it will turn out the way your favorite photographers work does. For me that was - Is not the case. I've learned along the way that you have to be patient and work on the craft itself. The small steps advice is spot on Thank you. Today I needed to read this.

If you can. Please stop in and take a look at my work https:/prosevisual.com

Marissa Alden's picture

Thanks Jacob! I think everyone goes through it. Just had a quick look at your website and your work looks great, keep doing what you're doing :)

Jeena Paradies's picture

I don't really agree with the "Don't compare yourself to others" rule, I like to do that to be able to see how far I already got, isn't that what all the websites like http://gurushots.com/ are for?

Marissa Alden's picture

That's a great point. "Don't compare yourself to others" is advice I would give to someone who is new to photography, or someone who is feeling disheartened about their work. It's all about what works for you personally and what makes you feel motivated. I think comparing yourself to see how much you have grown is great :)

Nice article. But I think you disrespect your own work. Personally, I find the image from 2014 much more engaging with its harsh lighting and busy-ness and distraction and the imperfect makeup on the models face as well as her attitude and the sense of movement in the shot...It seems more real. The more recent shot, for me, is rather ho-hum, having seen a million over-processed ones just like it, and the model is no more than a mannequin. Thanks for the oportunity to post an opinion.

I agree that the image from 2014 is "more real" in a sense that it is a CAPTURED image. A real life moment where the skill of the photographer is measured in two things: 1: Pushing the button on the decisive moment when the girl is moving around kind of randomly (the model nor the photographer had probably any clue of what to do), and 2: have showed up at the right time and place (the hardest skill to master as a moment-photographer). Even though it might sound disparaged, these two skills are absolutely very hard to master, and takes many years of practice to be really good at.

The second image from 2017 shows a totally different kind of work where the craftmanship is focused on preparations to CREATE an image. The pre-requisites are totally different in all aspects. There is of course also a decisive moment but this is just a tiny, tiny piece of the whole puzzle where preparations is both key and king. Preparations of Creating an image.

It's like comparing a Michael Moore documentary to a Hollywood blockbuster movie. Two totally different ways of using the medium. They aren't comparable.

And my guess is that the photographer actually wanted that "created image" look from the beginning, and have step by step got closer over the years by taking control of more and more details in advance. Colors, make-up, model, posing, retouch and so on. All the preparations, all that carefulness, the social position to be selected as a photographer for this actress doesn't happen over night and so on.

So, for me, this is a good example of a photographer that have put all her effort into developing right skills to get closer to what she wants and likes.

And, Melissa, I am sorry that I talk about you in Third person. I just got into that momentum. Hard to stop when sucking at english :).

Ty Poland's picture

Good article Marissa. All very true!

Marissa Alden's picture

Thanks Ty :)

stanley Desbas's picture

Great advice