Why Struggle Is a Photographer's Greatest Ally

Why Struggle Is a Photographer's Greatest Ally

The pursuit of perfection in any creative craft can often inspire the feeling that one is forever climbing a mighty mountain yet never even rising beyond base camp. Photography is no different, any photographer worth their salt will have trudged through great difficulty to reach mastery in their craft. We all commonly begrudge the struggle, but it is through that struggle that we are able to make all of our most impressive gains.

Struggle Forces Introspection

A powerful distinction between those who succeed and those who flounder is frequently an inability to self-criticize. Virtually everyone will instinctively avoid being honestly and brutally self-critical. Struggle forces us to take that look in the mirror. Arguing with potential customers by trying to convince them that your work actually is better than they seem to think generally won't translate to more sales. Only by taking a frank look in the mirror will you ever be able to truly facilitate the change that is needed to improve your work.

Struggle Hardens Resolve

Photography related struggle is almost always coupled with the concept of having a dream. Photographers who have not set some sort of lofty goal for themselves rarely are troubled by struggle. They also rarely have the opportunity to taste greatness. Anyone can maintain their momentum when the sun is shining but it is the mark of success to be able to accelerate into a storm. Periods of struggle offer the opportunity to embolden your commitment to your craft which can have a tremendous impact on how you commit to the quality of each image you create.

Struggle Shifts Perspective

Humans are naturally poor at conceptualizing alternative perspectives. We all like to think that we are the exception to the rule but that is unlikely to be the case. Humans tend to become solidified in our beliefs which are a stubbornness that is not easily shifted. Struggle forces us to shift. If your existing perspective is unable to achieve success then you will struggle until a shift is made. That struggle will face the reality that you must evolve or fail. 

Struggle Inspires Innovation

The most powerful catalyst for innovation is fueled by need. We didn't invent houses to stop the magnificent warm caress of a summer sunrise, we invented houses to bear the brunt of unwanted storms. Struggle will force you into a position that requires innovation in order to proceed. Through that innovation, your photography will expand and improve. 


Struggle is a part of every photographer's career. You can either run from it, ignore it, or embrace it. Only one the latter will lead you down the road to improvement. If you often find yourself choosing one of the former then consider this a wake up call. Challenge yourself until the challenge becomes easy, then seek out a new challenge. Always be pushing yourself to the absolute limit because it is on the razor's edge where the magic happens.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Ryan is an mildly maniacal portrait/cosplay photographer from glorious Vancouver, Canada.

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What you wrote is my story. Self taught, limited recourses, my internal war of “your work sucks”, “what do you think your doing wasting your time” , ad nauseam. I needed to reboot and re-define and find what is inside me to create. So now near 72, I like what I have been able to create. I sort of know my “place” and my skill sets. What photos I have posted here is a small sample what I do. I am part time. I so cherish this craft, watching all the videos here, practicing, practic, practice. The craft has brought me out of the “under achievers” club. When I was in therapy years ago, it got so pathetic my inner child left me. I don’t need my inner child now, I have me.

My problem is consistency. There are times when I feel I'm on the road to improvement. Then, I hit the wall of, "Damn, dude what are you doing!!!". I just say screw it and no to fear on what ever level! There's always tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. Keep moving!!!

Everyone has this issue, its just we never witness it since everyone only exposes their best work.

I don't get it. Struggle does not make using Resolve harder.
And to shift perspective, you can just use cmd+T in Photoshop. No need to struggle.
: P ok I'm out .... >>>>

I think this is one of the best articles I've seen here in a long while.

perfectly written. Loved every word.