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.