So you’ve done everything photographers advice you to do and you might’ve even studied photography – but you’re still not successful in making an income out of it. This might come as a shock to some, but photography – like any other creative path – is not linear road to take. Even if you’ve done everything that was required of you in order to start making an income, for some reason you don’t see a steady income flow from your photography.
I want to look at some basic reasons that one might not be aware of when starting their photography journey, or even if you’ve photographed for some time already. Those reasons are simple, but not obvious and require honesty when examining the way we work.
1.You’re not failing enough
You might’ve encountered failures on your path in becoming a photographer, but have you learned anything from them? We often reflect the failures to ourselves as not being good enough or not being ready for the task at hand. Viewing it more from a perspective where you can better your abilities to manage the same task next time, is the true reason failing has met you.
When you start shooting with film and the first 3 rolls come out blank because you forgot to check the film was put in correctly. Or when you’ve been sending emails to 20 photo editors but no one has replied to you. Don’t view it as a reason to stop, view it as a reason to embrace the difficulty and try again. Without failure, there is no success.
2. You don’t know how light works
Here I’m not saying you should know everything around a studio, but if you just photograph everything in natural light, it will meet it’s plateau. While natural light is beautiful and works in building amazing imagery, being unaware of how artificial light could elevate your work will also work as a stumbling block.
It will also restrict you from photographing in specific times of day or even being able to progress into product photography or other more commercial assignments. And by this, I don’t mean building an unnatural photographs with artificial light – knowing how to manipulate lighting to your advantage; even reconstructing a light that is not obvious to the viewer.
3. You don’t know what you’re actually doing
I had this for years. Photographing on my free time and enjoying it, but not truly viewing what it was I was doing or not doing that was affecting my development. Not planning or critically viewing my work and the direction I was going to. There should be an element of the unknown in your creative work, but just drifting and photographing whenever someone comes to you with a job will not do much in building your practice.
One of the reasons you’re not successful is usually due to the lack of planning; what it is you want out of photography, what kind of photographer do you want to be ? And be specific with your answers – if it’s wedding photography – so be it. If you’re interested in contemporary photography, think of ways you could improve your knowledge and skills to be able to pursue that path. Decide on your direction and go for it, clarify it for yourself; what are the steps others have taken?
4. You don’t think you’re good enough
This is a major one and affects other parts of your life too. But especially when creating anything, there needs to be innate passion for what you’re doing but also the will to know it will eventually pay off. Just because you know how the camera works doesn’t mean your images are interesting content-wise. Some might argue that photography can be intriguing in its’ simplicity; yes it can – but again if your goal is to build a business and improve your photography, you do need to know how to tell a story with your work, to have a coherent narrative in your style.
It’s crucial to know that if your work doesn’t excel the way you want, you can and you should tweak it to the right direction. So in knowing you are good enough to succeed, but also to know when your work is good enough to be published or sold. Ask people you know to give honest feedback on your work, you can even send it to someone creative and ask for their feedback on it.
5. You’re afraid to explore
This is tightly connected to the fear of failing. With exploration there will be failures, because we do not know what it is that will serve us on our journey. Letting the fear of photographing people or being declined to exhibit your work in a gallery you deprive yourself of the opportunity to grow which will result in you being where you are now.
When you start exploring the history of photography, photographic art and various past and present trends affecting the photography as a medium, you will also be able to find inspiration and reflect this to your work. Online courses, books and art exhibitions will feed this creative hunger while letting your mind be more receptive to change and improvement.
6. You don’t know what inspires you
I struggle with this immensely – there are periods where you will feel everything inspires you and you know exactly how you want to build your photoshoot or which direction to take. And other days you will try to find inspiration pictures on Pinterest knowing well enough it’s not only imagery that will do the trick.
Create a space for yourself where you can be inspired, regardless of how you feel at that specific time. Also the people and places we visit are a huge part of our inspiration process – if you work at a boring job or the people around you are not as innovative or creative, you can be sure this will reflect on your inner world. Find ways to be your own inspiration.