Some people think that talent is the decisive factor, but if you look closer…
If you have been in the business long enough, you already know that there are four basic factors that determine success in a photography career:
- technical skills
Someone with great technical skills but scant creativity will produce some excellently engineered photos, but not much in the way of original work. The opportunity to get a great shot might present itself during a reportage but he will very likely miss it. He can get the lighting perfect for a portrait but create a very boring image.
On the other hand, a photographer might be a creative genius and have a knack for connecting to his subjects but be weak in technique. With his intuition and promptness he will capture the moment only to find out later that his photo is overexposed, blurred or out of focus.
In time, both will have the chance to get better (especially the one who needs to improve his technique): mistakes are great teachers and the more mistakes you accumulate, the more likely you will be to avoid them in the future. That’s why experience is so valuable.
Funny enough, the most decisive element in a photographer’s career seems to be the fourth one in my list: opportunities. You could have no talent, no creativity, no experience or technical skills, but if you have the opportunity to get assignments and some help, your career will start developing. At that point your mistakes will help you gain experience, technical skills, and perhaps even a bit of creativity. Of course, the more talented you are, the faster your career will unfold.
Things don’t work the other way around: a talented photographer with no opportunities is not going to be able to express himself and grow.
Why am I writing this? Lately I look around me and see very talented and experienced colleagues who are completely out of work. I also see the opposite: inexperienced and untalented photographers who do have some work, but not because of their professional qualities. And there are many degrees in between.
Looking back, I can recognize how important it has been for me to walk into an editor’s office at just the right moment or managing to show my portfolio to the right people. Times have changed and opportunities as we once knew them (assignments, clients offering well-paid jobs) are less available.
One thing is sure: if once photographers had to concentrate manly on developing their ability to create images, now a very important part of their job is creating opportunities.
How is your experience?
About the Author
Enzo dal Verme is an Italian portrait photographer based in Milan. He’s been in the photographic industry for over 15 years and had his work featured in various magazines like Vanity Fair, l’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Sport, Glamour and many others. If you would like to see more of his work, visit his website and follow him on Twitter. If you prefer paper to digital formats, you can read his book Storytelling for Photojournalists. This article was also published here and shared with permission.