“WOW, YOU’VE MADE IT!”
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Just say it to yourself out loud right now: “I finally made it!” Whatever it means to you, it carries a sense of achievement and positivity. But how do you “make it” in photography? Do you have to live comfortably off your photos to say it? Is it all about making that one photo that you always dreamed about? Or do you have to wait for others to tell you that you’ve made it?
The best photos in the world raise more questions than they answer. But is there a finish line to your creative marathon called photography? To me, there definitely isn’t. You are never “done” with photography. If you think you’ve reached your full potential, there is always a next level. It’s the same in life: If you think you are wise and smart, you probably aren’t. The more you learn, the more you learn what you haven’t learned yet.
It’s extremely important to realize that early on in your photographic development. Otherwise you’ll quickly loose motivation and give up. Every photo is a your very own contest for the perfect snapshot of your creative spirit.
In the beginning you usually struggle with the jungle of technical options. As simple as the ABC of photography sounds, it takes quite a while to master. If you can’t use your camera properly, how could your mind be 100% focused on life around you and within you? That’s why you have to learn the gear and composition first, in order to create unique photos with your eye, heart and soul!
If photography is your creative outlet, you have the potential to make excellent photos! Although in photography there is no such thing as talent, it exists in sports. Your body plays a huge role there. You just won’t make it in the NBA if you have to climb “Mount Kitchen” for your cereal every morning. However, what could be in the way of you taking amazing photos? If you are not blind, your eyes are good enough. As long as your heart beats in you, you have access to human emotions. The only thing left is your soul. I’m pretty sure you have a rather unique one. If your DNA is unique in 7.5 Billion people, your creative one is as well!
BREAK YOUR CHAINS
So which “lack of talent” prevents you from making the best photo you could ever take? The concept of “having the eye” is nothing more than a compliment for those who’ve worked hard. Inspiration has to find you working, but how often are you “at work”? You know why the word “talent” gets thrown around so often? It’s the perfect excuse that I used myself way too often. Isn’t it very easy to say: “I will never make it, because I’m not that talented!” or “That photographer just has talent”? It’s all about hard work and emotions. Logic just helps me understand the magnitude of it. In order to improve your photography, just apply the following “cycle” as often as you can:
- Look at your photos.
- Write down what you love.
- Write down what you hate.
- Shoot more what you love to see and feel.
- Shoot less what you hate to see and feel.
You repeat this formula as much as you can till your photos are filled with a style and elements you love to see and feel. If you still believe in the concept of “talent”, there may be two reasons. First, you haven’t applied the formula above often enough. Although I wouldn’t pin it down to exactly 10.000 hours. However, from my experience it definitely takes at least thousands of hours to see your vision of photography come to life. How fast you unleash your potential largely depends on how honest you are to yourself.
Secondly, maybe photography is just not your creative outlet. If photography doesn’t feel right to express yourself, then you will always lack “talent”. That’s why honesty with yourself is so important. If you see a long journey emerge, it’s the right one. I’ve tried song-writing, playing bass, rapping, singing, dancing, beatboxing, coding, developing games, designing, painting, retouching, drawing, cooking, model making, pottery, calligraphy, DIY projects, copywriting and developing advertising ideas till I stumbled upon photography. Write your outlets down, reflect honestly and find new ones.
In order to make the best photo you could ever make, you have to “make yourself” first. Incredible photography is hard work. Hard work is rooted in motivation. Motivation or intention is your reason why you have to make better photos. If you don’t have a good reason to make photos, you probably lack motivation. Motivation is the fuel of discipline. It’s the routine behind hard work. Discipline is a promise to yourself that you show up to work all the time whether you want it or not. Discipline doesn’t know excuses and neither do great photos. Although photography is burning emotion for me, let’s apply logic again to explain the steps to unleash your full photography potential:
Great dreams make great motivation.
Great motivation make great discipline.
Great discipline make great routines.
Great routines make great work.
Great work makes working for greatness great.
Working for greatness makes your photos great.
Great photos make your photography great.
Great photography makes you great…
…and your greatness makes the world a greater place!
You just have to ask yourself where you need to invest energy in order to make your photography greater. In the meantime, I while I ask myself whether I will explode into a supernova of colors if I write “great” and “make” one more time!
As logical as this “photographic journey to excellence” sounds, your creative machine is run by deep emotions and hard work. Logic just helps to analyze your inner self, journey and photos. It’s incredibly important, but you can’t logically puzzle together your photos by analyzing other photographers for instance. You have to allow yourself to be as real and emotional as it gets and pour all that powerful energy into your photos. If you ask me, creativity is a romance and photography is the love of your life.
Motivation and intention are your wedding vows. Discipline is your wedding ring. Having a relationship is hard work. Only if you commit to the love of your life endlessly, she can give you what you truly deserve: Life in paradise!
It’s filled with the fruits of your labor that you share with the people you love. Your romantic journey begins with self-love. Promise yourself to love yourself for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health. Only if you truly love and fully embrace yourself, the love of your life and the world around you can do it, too. Be vulnerable, open yourself up, admit your flaws and issues, celebrate your weirdness, be as real as it gets and share your darkest memories.
Open your heart as much as you can: Get stabbed. Love again. Get it broken. Love even more. Break it yourself and reassemble the million pieces to something you love being. The hardest part about love is that you have to go all in. Sometimes you may even lose it all, your self-love and love for life. You never give up though. Never.
Photography is the love of your life for crying out loud. Make her proud, connect and re-connect with her, be as honest as you can be. Give her the space she needs, let go if you have to, but never lose sight of her completely. You not only have to live for her, you have to be willing to die for her! Conquer the highest mountains for her, walk through the deepest valleys, survive the deadliest deserts and cross a million oceans to be with her. It’s not death that scares you. It’s the thought of losing her forever that send shivers down your spine!
No matter what you face in life, it’s her face that you always see in front of you even if you stare into absolute darkness. It’s your love for her and your paradise that fuels and fills your heart: every day, every hour and every minute. You will sweat, you will bleed, you will suffer the insufferable, but you will do it for her! It may take months, years and maybe even your whole life to convince her to be with you, but what else are you going to do?
Grab your camera now, don’t read any further and get her! The moment you kiss your muse for the first time will change you. The moment you start to love her will change you even more. The moment you promise her to love her till the end of your life will change you forever. The moment you realize that you will never betray that promise will give you the love you always wanted.
The moment you understand that you have to fight for the love of your life every day will give you life in paradise.
And that paradise is what makes you,
because you made it…
About the Author
Marius “VICE” Vieth is a 21-times award-winning street photographer, entrepreneur and coach from Amsterdam. If you want to improve your photography, make sure to check out his international fine art photography label Eye, Heart & Soul. The label supports uprising photographers worldwide. You can connect with EHS on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to level up your photography game! This article was also published here and shared with permission.
[Editor’s note: if photography is the love of your life and you’ve made that relationship work, you can check out this article as well.]