What Stops You From Excelling in Photography?
We all have crap that gets in the way.
I have mine, you have yours.
I have never met anyone who didn’t have stuff that slowed them down, made them pause, or made them consider their worth.
And I have met some pretty impressive people.
They are the tops in their fields. From artists to CEOs, I have worked with them and am proud to call many of them friends.
And even the most successful of them admit to personal doubts, troubling moments that cause them to wonder if they are doing the right thing, or whether what they are doing is “worth it”.
The thing that separates the most successful from the ones who are not at the top is the ability to push through the doubts and just DO the damn thing.
Execution is mandatory for success.
We can sit around and talk about how cool this business idea is for hours on end. We can create business plans, meet with great thinkers, re-evaluate our terms, spend 1000 hours looking for the perfect design for our logo, and on and on…
But that is just BS resistance.
And we know it down inside ourselves and the knowledge that we are caving into the wheel spinning of resistance makes us even more unable to push the start button.
We get caught in that cycle of idea, plan, stall, find ways to back out, kill idea — then get idea, plan — well, you get it.
Many times we let other people make those decisions for us.
So you shout to the world…
“Hey world, I’m planning on transitioning into a full-time food photographer by end of 2022”.
The world shouts back.
“You can’t do that. Nobody is making money at shooting food. My brother’s girlfriend’s aunt knew a guy whose brother’s roommate’s sister tried becoming a photographer and she failed so bad they put her in prison… You don’t wanna go to prison, right?”
Yeah, that’s enough to stop us from doing something we think we want to do so very badly we can taste it.
I wonder why?
We all have a self-preservation gene that runs through our decision-making. We look at risks and evaluate outcomes every moment of the day.
Do I make this lefthand turn, or is that car coming a bit faster than I can turn, and what about the lady on the bike, and there is a car coming up fast behind me, and the light may change and, and, and…
Hey, we handle that sort of stuff every single day.
(Please watch for motorcyclists, just sayin’…)
That is part of our DNA — rustles in the brush could be a tiger, so be prepared to get out of there. Sure, it could be a bunny or a puff of wind, but if we THINK it is a tiger, and we run, the outcome is the same. We are no longer in the tiger’s dining room. If we imagine it is the wind and not a tiger and continue to play with our rock, and it ends up being a tiger… then we’re dinner.
We ran away from the perceived danger.
I have seen many photographers do this very same thing.
And the interesting thing is that so often they do it at just the moment they are getting ready to break out.
Years of workshops, shooting, books, shooting, classes, shooting, shooting, and shooting some more.
The portfolio is looking better than they had imagined only a few short years ago.
They have the gear they need, the knowledge needed to do a good photograph under bad conditions, and then…
They are ‘burned out’.
They ‘need a break’.
They ‘ran out of time’.
They decided that they are ‘too old’.
That other guy is “better than me”.
I got in a “slump and couldn’t get out”.
Now to be sure, there are certainly legitimate reasons.
If finances are a challenge, then that must be dealt with.
If ‘GAS’ has used up all your capital, that may mean a garage sale is in your future.
If you have serious family or personal medical issues, it is understandable.
I am not talking about those folks.
I am talking about photographers who I KNOW can be making imagery and building a business and turn away at the last minute for reasons that always seem a bit dicey to me.
But I get it.
What, do you think I have not dealt with, or am not dealing with resistance myself?
Of course I am and I have and sometimes resistance has won, and the idea never launched, the image didn’t get made.
I never want to come on here and preach like I am never dealing with these same issues. I am, most assuredly I am.
And that is what makes them all the more clear to me.
When I see my frustrations in someone else’s story, I know I am not alone. I remember that there are ways around the challenges that can ease the problems and present cool solutions.
If I execute.
Photography is all about execution.
To make a photograph, we must first acquire the camera — whether that means buying one or just the effort to get it out of the bag, set it up, check the batteries, choose the lenses, set up lights if we need to — after clearing out the garage so we have enough room to work.
Geeeezzzzz… that is a lot of effort.
I can grab my iPhone and snap a shot and be perfectly happy knowing that I just made a photograph.
Of my foot.
Or the cat.
Or the cat’s foot.
Deliberately making images means making deliberate choices about our time, our energy, our gear, and the entire production cycle of photography.
That is not as easy as we sometimes think it should be.
Our job is not to make ‘an’ image, it is to make an ‘engaging’ image.
A photograph is not as important to me as “the” photograph.
Recently I began writing about some of the images that I missed. Yeah, the ones that are just trapped in my mind but were never captured on film or sensor.
There are about 11 million of them, but I am only writing about 40 or so of them.
The ones I can remember with brilliant accuracy (well, not really but in my mind, they are brilliantly accurate, ya know).
Every damn one of them was an award-winning photograph that I missed, or simply didn’t turn the car around to get it, or got caught up with another part of the shoot and forgot to ask the model if she would… oh hell, so many missed images.
Excelling at photography is executing.
Excelling at anything is executing.
Prepare some more.
But at some point you have to push the button, pull the lever, hit ‘send”, make the call… whatever it takes to get us from sitting there with an idea to us seeing that idea come to life.
What keeps me from excelling?
Some days I deal with a bit of fear. Unknown stuff scares me a bit.
I have some trust issues — partners have proven problematic in my life.
I can sometimes be too focused on the ‘schedule’ to see the amazing things happening before me.
But I am working on those things.
What stops you from excelling and how are you dealing with it — or them?