This is why you’ll never make it as a photographer

Jun 11, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

This is why you’ll never make it as a photographer

Jun 11, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Photographer James Popsys puts forth an intriguing argument. That you won’t make it as a photographer. Why? Well, because it’s impossible for anybody to really make it as a photographer. What does “make it” even mean? It’s interesting to hear James talk in this video about what he thought life would be like as a successful photographer vs. the reality of actually being a photographer who makes their income from it.

YouTube video

It’s a common fantasy amongst many beginning business owners (of all types), that once you get your first customer, your first sale, that it will be booming from that moment on. The reality, however, is very different. Sure, getting that first paying customer is a joyous and momentous occasion. But it’s only the beginning. You have to work even harder to get your second, third or thousandth.

I remember thinking what it would be like to sell my first print. And what it would be like to get booked for my first photography job. And when both those things happened, it didn’t feel anything like what I thought it would.

James’ general position, then, is that it’s not really possible to “make it” as a photographer, or as any other type of creative. The first is the business aspect mentioned above. But the second is somewhat more profound.

As creatives, we’re always pushing to create the best work we possibly can. Jason puts forth, and I agree, that it’s impossible to get to a point where we can’t improve something we’ve made somehow. Even if just a little bit.

You’re never at the top of the mountain, you’re always climbing the mountain and you’re always making it. You’ve never made it.

These days, too, it’s a lot tougher to get the work than it used to be for creatives. It’s not that there’s less work out there, there’s just a whole lot more creatives. Thanks to things like the Internet and the proliferation of digital cameras, the barrier to entry is now much lower than it once was. The learning curve also isn’t as steep, especially for photography. You don’t have to wait a day to get your photos back and see how they turned out. You take a shot, instantly you know if it’s good or bad and can correct it and take another.

So, even though you may have jobs and clients today, you may not tomorrow. To get complacent and just think it’s all plain sailing will often doom you to failure.

James’ advice is that if you have the ability to pick up that first client, then as long as you keep that attitude, then you’re well placed to keep it going in the future.

My own experiences have pretty much been in line with those James mentions. You get your first gig, and it’s all fun and games for about five minutes until you realise you need to do that again, and again, and keep improving each time. And by the time you hit each of those milestones you set so long ago, there’s so much more you still need to do and learn than you have already done and learned.

I always said that the day I stop learning and pushing myself in photography is the day I hang up my cameras and find something else to do instead.

So while the title of the video might feel like he’s just crapping on your dreams, he’s not. Treat it as motivation to get out there and keep hustling, keep improving, and keep earning those clients.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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