Photo Industry Leaders Answer 'At What Point Did You Feel Like a Success?'

Photo Industry Leaders Answer 'At What Point Did You Feel Like a Success?'

Success is something that we all strive for no matter what we are doing. Everyone wants to feel like they are doing well in their work and that they are accomplishing something. The advantage with this is that the line is constantly moving. Once you reach a goal, there is a bigger and greater goal to start reaching for. This causes us to continuously move forward, but because of this, our definition of success is always changing. I asked a handful of industry leaders, “At what point did you feel like a success?” Their answers are something we could all learn from.

Fer Juaristi

I struggle to feel successful; for me it’s having enough ‘good’ couples per year. The ones that really hire you because of your art and give you freedom to create and time to risk on the important things. Success is having enough time to spend with my family and travel in the low season, feeling blessed feels more accurate. I hope I can do this for the next 10 years or more, that is when I will feel successful.

© Fer Juaristi - Website - Instagram

Sue L Bryce

So many milestones. Receiving money for my portraits and not feeling bad or guilty or having that impostor syndrome feeling. Then when clients start coming back year after year, the honor you feel is overwhelming. The moment when you are getting an average sale that is sustaining you and staff was a big one. Surviving a global financial crisis and then watching business build up again, knowing if I can sustain myself through this time I can survive. Not letting the fear rule, but taking action and saving my money. Going past the feeling that this is a job, to this is my career, to this is my purpose, because the energy you put into your work changes significantly. That's success to me. Not awards or recognition, but sustainability, feeling I am enough, I am a business owner, I am a portrait photographer.

© Sue L Bryce - Website - Instagram

Sam Hurd

Success is totally relative. I had people congratulate me for ‘succeeding’ after many milestones in my career. Like when I was able to quit my day job to continue photography full-time, and after I made portraits with George Clooney. I've got to admit that I've never felt successful though. If I did, I think I’d pack up and move onto another craft. You have to keep the creative fire burning inside of you and the urge to want to do better than you've ever done before. I can't think of a faster way to douse that fire than by celebrating your achievements as something you've succeeded at — or mastered completely. The success I ever truly feel as a photographer is when I'm out making pictures. Little mini-successes when I find really inspiring light, or I make my clients laugh at just the right time. I often feel accomplished, but only because I'm often working hard. I'm always chasing even better light, and better moments, and better ideas. For me, I suppose success will always follow one step behind all of those priorities.

© Sam Hurd - WebsiteInstagram

Jeremy Cowart

I don’t think I ever had that moment because the definition of success keeps morphing. Once you achieve what you thought was success, the definition transforms and scoots further ahead of you, but also becomes a more meaningful pursuit. Then as you look back on the journey, you realize you’ve blazed quite a trail that others refer to as a ‘success.’

© Jeremy Cowart - Website - Instagram

Lindsay Adler

I am always striving to push ahead in life toward the next goal and accomplishment. I really felt like a success when I was proud of the journey I was taking, and not just the next goal down the line. When I had my own studio in N.Y.C. and was working as a professional photographer paying my bills — that was the first time I felt myself to be a major success. I was doing what I loved for a living, at a job that is certainly challenging to stay afloat in. It's one of the most competitive markets in the world.

© Lindsay Adler - Website - Instagram

Lara Jade

Success for me is personal growth. Personal growth and business go alongside hand-in-hand. Your business decisions often reflect where you are in your life and the experiences you've had. As I’ve grown as a person, so has my business. My comfortability has grown enormously and the more confident I am, the more my business flourishes. Five years ago, I would never stand up in front of a crowd and deliver a seminar, or feel comfortable delivering a brief for a large client. The moment I felt my first success was the moment I put myself outside of my comfort zone and agreed to talk in front of hundreds of people for Canon UK around the age of 21. I felt like I had jumped over a large hurdle. As an artist, the work you put out there is somewhat a reflection of yourself, so if you’re confident in yourself, it will give prospective clients one more reason to be interested in you.

© Lara Jade - Website - Instagram

Adam Elmakias

I felt like a success when my dad stopped trying to convince me to go to college and supported me by helping me buy my first ticket to Europe.

© Adam Elmakias - Website - Instagram

Gabe McClintock

For me, I feel the definition of success is being able to do something you love which in turn allows you to spend time with those you love. And for me, I do feel successful. I have dreamt for years about being able to shoot full-time with incredible couples around the world while being able to share my adventures with my two daughters and wife, and over the last two years my dreams have come true. I owe so much to so many people for this incredible life and because of them I feel I am successful.

© Gabe McClintock - Website - Instagram

Ross Harvey

Each of us have personal and professional dreams, goals we aspire to achieve. Many define success as the achievement of said goals, but there is a big catch: Dreams evolve. Life is a continuous process — when you start to reach the level of a specific dream or goal, they begin to change. That keeps the fires burning and pushes us to expand our skills and experiences. I would proffer that success isn't a point one reaches in terms of goals, but rather an appreciation of the creative and artistic process itself. It's found in the creative moment; a place you can truly express yourself. If in doing so you can earn a comfortable living, life fulfillment becomes a part of the daily routine. A life lived in gratitude and excitement, to me, is true success.

© Ross Harvey - Website - Instagram

Susan Stripling

When did I feel like a success? It really depends on how you view ‘success.’ For many years, I supported my children and myself on my photography income alone. I have a solid plan for their college educations, as well as my own retirement. The ability to care for my family is more important to me than any awards and accolades. Don’t get me wrong, those things are wonderful, but being able to say that this is a solid, long-term career choice and not a hobby truly means ‘success’ in my eyes!

© Susan Stripling - Website - Instagram


This is something I have been pondering about for a while now. Constantly looking forward at where I can go can leave a feeling of “am I ever going to make it.” Constantly looking back at what you have accomplished can leave you stagnant and you end up getting left behind. After hearing everyone's answers, it seems that most people feel the same way. Each feeling of success is merely a small stepping stone in our journey. We need to remember that that journey is not all about us, but about the people we share it with. This journey involves our clients, our peers, and most of all, our families. Success for one is not success for another. For me, the big takeaway is that we can achieve success in our small victories; getting that client you wanted or paying for your children's school. At the point you feel a total and overall feeling of success though, means that the ride is over and there is nothing left to accomplish.

At what point did you first feel successful? What’s the next goal you are reaching for that will make you feel like a success?

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Jeff Colburn's picture

My first feeling of success was as a freshman in college (a long time ago) when I sold my first article to a magazine. I did the photography and wrote the article. As the others have said, after that your goal changes. Bigger magazines, higher pay, more challenging projects. Success is a journey, not a destination.

Have Fun,

Mokhtar Chahine's picture

Susan Stripling's explanation was spot on.

I feel that many photographers think that they are successful from doing a large number of jobs, being big on social media, giving a few seminars....etc. Don't mistaken confidence with success.

Success is sustainability. being comfortable when things get shaky. being able to do what you love, earn, spend, save, create a family, raise kids, educate them etc...oh i can go on forever.

To me, this is what success is. The rest of these respectable photographers just talked about "a step towards success" not real success in my standards & vision.

But then again, i want to have it all, some just want to have.

Cate Scaglione's picture

I found this post incredibly inspirational. I agree with bits of every post above …

To me success is a term that others have placed upon me from time to time... (former career, milestones, etc).

It's never actually a term I have been able to physically feel or embrace myself. It's NOT about a lack of confidence. Rather, it's a feeling I have that success is a ROAD. It's a road to a much bigger, unknown thing in a future time and place. Success is taking the right steps to do what's beneficial to an ever-changing dynamic life.

As life changes so drastically year to year, that "end place" becomes even more undefined for me. That's OK. My success road winds.

But if I feel contentment and happiness in what I am doing, I know I am on a wonderful journey…

Sounds a bit esoteric. But you all have inspired me to think a bit. Thanks

Anonymous's picture

Success is something we all seem to desire and strive for but as some have said it is more important to be able to provide for family and spend time with our loved ones that is a great measure of success.
Sadly for some this is not possible through no fault of their own.
Anything I have achieved in life I have come to the conclusion is by the grace of God.
When I look at so many things where I have got it wrong I marvel at where I am at now.
Many years ago when I was receiving counsel from a Christian Minister I told him my life story up to that point. I was 28 at the time.
I had had a relapse of a severe anxiety condition.
I remarked how I always knew I had a lot of intelligence,sporting capabilities and many other attributes but things were always going wrong.
After listening he quietly pointed out that I had been "programmed to fail".
That was a shock to me.
I was totally un-aware of any such "programming"
He explained how this had happened and how I was to proceed from there.
My “success” has been in sustaining a life of faith through all the trials of living.
A measure of my “success” in photography was when my Dad was in hospital and dying and I showed him my latest wedding pics. This was more than 20 years ago.
He said “these are amazing and you have gone way beyond where I ever went in photography.”
He was my first photography mentor and teacher.
At that point I had a lot of confidence to go on with my photography.
Praise from an earthly Father is something we all crave for.
It is not always forthcoming.
My relationship with my Heavenly Father is what brings “success”.

Mokhtar Chahine's picture

Very deep. Thank you for sharing.

Austin Rogers's picture

What an awesome article man. Thanks for taking the time to put it together. :)

Jason Vinson's picture

Thanks man!

Anonymous's picture

When my bank account had 7 figures.

Lance Nicoll's picture

well done article!

Jason Vinson's picture

Thanks Lance!

Jaysen Turner's picture

Success....when you're busy enough you don't have time to be reading Fstoppers articles. Unless you're doing so on your phone, of course, while on set waiting on hair, makeup, and wardrobe to complete their first look of the day. And your assistants are in the tidying up the set phase. And the client has stepped out for a phone call...Then you get on Fstoppers. :]

shelley vinson's picture

Great read, Mr. Vinson!