Becoming a successful photographer is not easy, especially in an era where everyone has a digital camera.
You constantly hear that you cannot succeed without failure. Is it true? Is life truly so hard? Is a photographer’s career really as tough as people say?
The Two Kinds of Smooth Success
I figure out there are two types of smooth success. You can succeed without failure when you are young.
The first is ordinary success. If you are talented and work harder than others, you can become a young achiever like many young and successful photographers.
The second is success that comes by chance rather than from the choices you make. You take a chance at the right time without much thinking and you are lucky.
To Learn More Effectively, Fail!
When you walk on a smooth road, with talent and hard work, you can succeed along the way. But you don’t really learn much that way. You don’t grow much, and you just walk well. Unfortunately, you only get so many opportunities; sooner or later you will encounter failure. Are you afraid of failure? Fear of failure prevents us from learning because we learn more from failure than we ever learn from success. When you fail, you find a way to conquer it; you try different solutions until you solve the problem. You learn different problem solving skills that you don’t learn when your path to success is smooth.
Photographer Eric Kim learned to eliminate projects that don’t interest him and to focus on the more meaningful ones, and learned to integrate his life with photography rather than separating the two.
Another photographer, Charlie Kingsland-Barrow, walked a dazzling route to success. She had a talented team and funding support, but her photography business failed in less than a year. It failed because she failed to take action and did not go out shooting. She had made the mistake of listening to what other people told her she “should” do rather than following her heart.
Every individual is unique; you learn more from your own failures than from your success or others’ success and failure.
Practice Creates Failure So You Learn Faster
Here’s a new idea … Practice is a way of giving yourself opportunities to fail where it doesn’t matter. It helps you learn faster. That’s the reason that the hardworking young achievers are successful. They seemingly walk a smooth path, but they learn a lot more than others from the failures they create when they practice more than others.
For example, if you are assigned to shoot a baseball story you should turn up earlier than other photographers to shoot batting practise. The extra practise will help you to perfect your timing. Photographer Robert Rodriguez Jr spent weeks shooting the same tree to learn the characteristics of his lens and to master the camera controls until he could make adjustments instinctively. This reminds me of the famous photographer Ansel Adams who took the “Moonrise over Hernandez” within a few seconds of pulling up his car and very quickly calculated the exposure without any tools but his mind. You can imagine how many times he practiced and failed before it became instinctive and natural for him to get it right first time every time.
Bigger, More Painful Failure Leads to Extraordinary Success
Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war. – Donald Trump
Photographer Gina Milicia always checks and rechecks exposure, because she ruined someone’s wedding photos on one occasion. She always backs up twice while she’s shooting, because an assistant once accidentally dumped an entire shoot into the trash. Her painful failures have molded her into the photographer that she is today who has photographed some of the world’s most high-profile people including royalty, billionaires and A-list celebrities.
Embrace Failure to Create Wonderful Success
Ian Plant is a photographer who has taken his best photos during punishing conditions and found that his photos that are professionally successful are least “liked” on social media. He has learned to embrace the virtues of failure.
Embrace failure, create failure and learn from failure. Don’t give up, and you will have bigger wins. You will earn extraordinary success.