Don't Fall Into the Trap of Thinking You've Made It as a Photographer

Being a creative is a constant hustle full of disappointments and failures, so when you finally reach a big accomplishment, it can feel like you can relax a bit or even stop pushing yourself. Don't make that mistake.

Coming to you from James Popsys, this great video talks about the idea of "making it," why it doesn't really exist, and why it's dangerous to think you've made it. As Popsys mentions, when you work in any creative field, no matter how successful you are, work can dry up scarily quickly, and it's dangerous to ever take your foot off the gas pedal. But it's not just about ensuring you're constantly putting yourself in the best possible position for financial success. As he discusses, there's really no such thing as creative perfection (or if it exists, it's exceedingly rare), and while we should certainly take pride in our creative accomplishments and foster positivity around ourselves and our process, there's always room to improve. And besides always striving to become better for our personal satisfaction, in a world where creative standards are higher than ever and the tools to create compelling art are more accessible than ever, it's crucial to constantly improve. 

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Ken Flanagan's picture

At one very weird part of my life I had thought that "I made it". I was making lots of money shooting really cool stuff, people, etc. I had all the gear I wanted. I had the newest and greatest Canon glass, bodies, tripods, and accessories. I had spent thousands on Macs, hard drives, and the latest software. I had custom bags, and cases. I had everything and I knew it. I wanted people to know my name, to see my work and be impressed. I wanted to feel like I had defeated the world I lived in. I had contracts lined up for the next six months that would have equaled over 400K in work, and it would have all kept going, but life being what it is, I lost everything. I had to sell thousands of dollars worth of gear for Pennies on the dollar just to put food on the table for my kids. I eventually had nothing left. No cameras, no awesome lenses, no high end Macs, and the only camera I had left was on my phone. I never thought I would shoot again. I worked odd jobs trying to get by and pay bills, constantly fighting my ego until I no only had I lost all my equipment, but I lost my identity as well. I wasn't a photographer, or film maker anymore. I wasn't all the things I had built, I was just me. Even though it was the most difficult thing I have ever been through, it was also the most beautiful. I learned so much through the losses, and the pains of growing into a person who now considers it an absolute blessing to be able to even hold a camera. The greatest lesson that I learned was that I will never, and should never "make it" because my battle is with myself; my greatest and most defining critic.

Thank you for this article. It is a constant reminder of how we should mold our thinking.

Johnny Rico's picture

Wait, so what happened.

Nate B's picture

Yeah! You're burying the lede here, Ken. How'd you lose everything? How'd you turn your whole perspective on life around?

marknie's picture

Don't fall into the trap that you are good at it either, most are not. Don't fall into the trap thinking any of these articles are any level of journalism either, most are not.

Ken Flanagan's picture

Considering yourself a critic of journalism is an interesting approach. You still read the article.

Simon Patterson's picture

Yeah, simply spreading your negativity is a much better approach, right?

marcus joyce's picture

Have you made it when you put your car, made by your company, launched into space by your company, on a path to crash it into mars?

Probably. But for the rest of us. There is a pinnecal or a peek. Where one stands proud on their work.

James is.. good. He has a dry wit that's not too dry. With a running sarcasm of making fun of situations.

But I do believe there is a sense of accomplishment which is the made it moment.

Anonymous's picture

One of the benefits of crippling self-doubt is I never have to worry about falling into this trap. Thanks, depression!

Michael Yearout's picture

Oh yes. So true. Never stop learning. Never stop experimenting. Never stop pushing the envelop. If you do, you die.