Talent is a wonderful thing, but talent alone isn't enough to bring you success in the photography world. And let's face it, there are lots and lots of talented people out there. Here are some other things that you will probably need far more than talent to succeed in photography.
I should start off by saying that being primarily a landscape photographer, I am writing this article from that perspective, yet I think most of what I am saying here is applicable no matter what genre of photography you work in or aspire to work in.
Yes, there is really nothing to replace hard work. Overnight success does occasionally appear to happen, but what we often don’t see is the hard work that it took that person to get to that point. And even if they are that rarest phenomenon that we call an "overnight success," there will always be all the hard work that is yet to come if they want to stay working in their chosen field after the momentary light of fame dies down.
If you are endeavoring to be successful as a landscape photographer, you will have the lifelong work of learning your craft and honing your technical skills. Of course, this work should be the fun part and probably won't feel so hard. But it is continuous if you want to develop your skills and keep becoming a better photographer.
In addition to honing your craft, you will also have the work of getting your images seen by others. You may want to show your work to art galleries and other venues that you can possibly display it in. You may choose to start selling it at art festivals. You may want to call interior designers, home stagers, and other people who might possibly be open to using your art. Or you may choose to try selling your work as stock photography. There are lots of different avenues to pursue making a living, and every one of them will require effort on your part to get started in it. It will require patience, consistency, and an ability to accept rejection. You may even outrightly fall flat on your face numerous times. But get back up and try again. There really is just no getting around that if you want to make a living as a photographer.
Find a Mentor
Finding someone who can help guide you along your path or at least to give you good constructive feedback is invaluable. Preferably, it is someone who has made some of the mistakes that you are likely to and can help offer encouragement and perspective. A mentor can help remind you that you are not the only one who has ever faced some of the challenges of building a career in photography.
And as you progress, you may find that you are able to be a mentor for someone else. Some days, it’s easy to feel like you don’t know much and haven’t gone anywhere, but you can always be surprised at how far you’ve really come when you find someone who is just starting out and is enamored with your work or your accomplishments.
Connect With Your Peers
Find a place to be connected with other photographers, whether it is online or in the real world. There are so many great online communities for artists these days that this should be really easy. For face-to-face interaction, join a photography club. If you are starting to display your work, join an artist co-op gallery, or maybe even start doing art festivals. You will meet lots of other people who are probably at different points in their career and can give you support, insight, and hopefully encouragement. And don't discount learning from artists who work in other media.
Have Some Humility
Do you think that you’re all that? Well, you probably aren’t. A quick Google search of photography on the Internet will verify that there are a ton of talented photographers out there. Some humility can be useful in keeping you open to meeting other artists and benefiting from their insight and experience. If nothing else, you can give each other moral support.
And humility helps keep you open to learning new things. It keeps you open to being inspired and influenced by what others do instead of just seeing everyone as competition. Having a little humility helps make you approachable to others as well, and you never know what you may learn from someone else or what you can teach them.
Try New Things
Trying new things is critical for growing as an artist and to keep the creative juices flowing. Plus, when you try something new, you may discover that you really like it and are good at it. It may also give you new ideas to incorporate into your primary photography.
For more established artists, the likelihood of suffering burnout is so much higher if you just keep doing the same thing over and over, even though it may be working well for you right now. If that’s the case, you may find it useful to have your main line of work that you put most of your effort into and develop a side project that is totally different and allows you a different creative expression. This helps to guard against burnout and potentially gives you something to pivot to if the main income stream starts to dry up, all of which can help you expand and grow.
Do What Inspires You Most
By all means, make sure to spend some time doing what is most inspiring to you, even if you can’t make it the full-time gig yet. Sharing work that you truly love and are passionate about shows through to your audience and will ultimately give you the most satisfaction. And you never know who might see it and want to buy it or hire you to shoot more.
Develop a Style
As you progress as a photographer, you begin to find what it is that you gravitate towards. What things appear in your work over and over again? Maybe it's a certain subject matter. Maybe it's a way that you use light. Take a look through some of your best work and see what it has in common. This will help give you insight into what your strengths are and what you can pursue more of in the future.
Share Your Work
Wherever you are at in your career, make sure to use the opportunities you have to share your work, either online, in person, or both. Share it with both people who are potential customers and people who can give you critical feedback. You can learn from both positive and constructive feedback.
The main thing to realize is that building a career as a photographer is a marathon, not a sprint. A few setbacks along the way or some failed attempts can be an opportunity for learning, especially when you take the long view. And talent, while a useful and wonderful thing, by itself, is not enough to get you nearly as far as you think.