(Originally Published in “In The Frame” my weekly Sunday Dispatch. If you are not subscribed, there is a place to do it just to the right of this article.)
I recently received an eamail that made my day. It promised me a six figure income in photography and with nearly no effort. I would be able to accomplish all my dreams by understanding the secret. Or should I say, “SECRET”. And by knowing this secret, my career in photography would be easy.
I was not to share this information with anyone else, as that would make it less of a, you know, secret.
I wasn’t even tempted to open the link. Not a bit.
Because there is no ‘secret’. There is no ‘easy’.
To be a successful photographer (food on the table, bills paid, savings accumulating) takes hard work, perserverance and a lot of commitment.
Not in this day of quick answers, quick solutions… I want it now, so give me only what I need to be superstar material.
Not gonna happen.
So I came up with 10 Non-Secrets for you. Ten really important things to consider. You have heard them before, but you will hear them again here… and I hope you hear them again somewhere else.
Because they are important.
1. There is no “Easy Button”. Anyone who tells you there is is either lying to you or trying to sell you something.
2. Set your bar higher. Becoming the best you can be takes more work than becoming better than the other guy/gal. Sure you can watch the perky photographer, take a bit from here and a bit from there and make cool images like them. Even better than them. But is that the best YOU can do?
3. You are unique. What brings you to photography and the desire to make images is known only to you. Find a small, quiet place and think about who YOU are. Then make photographs like YOU do. Finding your style is more about opening up to what you already have than looking outside for inspiration.
4. Buy only what you need. Not what you want, what you need. Save money like a monk… cause there is indeed going to be a time when you NEED something expensive. Rent what you can, purchase only what you absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt need. B&H will survive if you do not purchase that 300-400MM f4 zoom lens that you may shoot twice in a year.
5. Stop comparing your work to other people’s work. Sure, look at other people’s work, but stop comparing the work to your own. They have a different tool set, a different reason to be in photography, and a different time frame as well. If you are starting out, you will not have as many photographs as someone who has been in the business for 30 years. Unfair comparisons are not only limiting, they are also debilitatingly repressing your own creative endeavors.
6. Set goals. Short term, long term, way long term. Make them just out of reach, worth fighting for, and measurable. Write them down… on paper. Read them every Sunday morning… and every time you are feeling a bit creatively cramped.
7. Love the word YES! Be open to new things and opportunities. Take chances. Take risks. Be as cautious as necessary, but no more. We do not move up the mountain by being cautious and timid. Embrace the incredible possibilities that confront us nearly every day… and go get a few.
8. Love the word NO! Do not become a negative person, but know when to call time out. Know when you are being taken advantage of or not being appreciated when the appreciation is ALL you are really looking for. Don’t take crap from anyone. Ever. Stand up for your rights, your work and your vision. Own it.
9. Learn from every mistake. Do not put the images away until you KNOW everything you could do to make them better. Critique the hell out of them. Write the critiques down. (Yeah, I tell you to write it down for a reason. Studies have shown it is retained more than typing it into a computer screen. Don’t argue with me, I know stuff.) Next time you shoot, don’t make that mistake again. And do not worry, there are a ton of them waiting to be made, so there is no arrival point. Shoot, critique, adjust. Shoot, critique, adjust. Shoot, critique, adjust.
10. Take pictures like you will never have the chance again. I’m serious. What if next Wednesday you were leaving earth to go on a mission to a distant planet. You had a minimum of room and weight, but they said you could bring 20 photographs with you. Only 20. What would those images be? The only answer is in your heart, and I can’t say what to take or not to take photographs of.
But take them like they were part of the set you get to take to space with you. Believe in your images… own them and own your vision.
(My EBook on “Avoiding Internet Scams for Photographers Who Should Know Better Than To Be Scammed by Buying This Book” will be published soon. I am only asking $97 for it and it comes with a video of me telling you how dumb it was to buy my book… cool, eh? Only $97… Think of the possibilities…