I was thinking the other day about the life of a photographer. At first glance, it seems like a wonderful thing. Imagine spending your time traveling the world, creating beautiful artwork that is admired by all. Unfortunately, however, this dream is often just as impossible as it sounds. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be a successful photographer — on the contrary, it means that in order to be a successful photographer, you’ll need to deal with a variety of problems. Here are some of the most ubiquitous struggles that photographers around the world face on a daily basis.
1. Rejection, Rejection, Rejection
The biggest hurdle for any photographer is the rejection that he or she will face on a daily basis. You might take a portfolio to a gallery, only to be laughed out the building. Clients will decline your services in favor of those from another photographer. Even the world’s greatest photographers face rejection. The difference between successful photographers and unsuccessful ones is that a successful photographer can shrug off those rejections and continue to soldier on.
2. Your Bank Account Will Be Empty
A camera costs — and so do all the future cameras that you’ll buy when you realize that the one you currently have isn’t quite good enough to suit your purposes. Then there are the lenses, gadgets, and gear that you’ll need to fully explore your art. Once you’ve bought all the equipment, you might think that your bank account will finally have some time to grow. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, as you’ll suddenly find yourself shelling out money on books, classes, workshops and more. In other words, when you’re a photographer, the spending never stops.
3. Your Family is Too Kind
Every serious photographer craves critique because this is one of the only ways to truly learn how to create better images. The problem is, if you’re like me, your family is made up of nice people that will avoid hurting your feelings at all costs. You’ll show them your latest images, and they’ll say “That’s nice, dear!” or “What a pretty picture!” Don’t expect meaningful critique from non-artist family and friends, and most importantly, don’t let all of their kind words go to your head because no matter how pretty your mother thinks your pictures are, there is always room for improvement.
4. Photography May Turn into a Job
If you’re not currently working as a photographer, then you know how dull the daily grind becomes. You get up, get dressed, drive to your job and spend at least eight hours doing something you’d rather not do. When you’re taking photos every day, it can turn into a similar grind — merely doing a job rather than creating art.
Fortunately, there are some photographers that can happily make art all day, every day and not become bored. If you’re one of them, that’s great! But if you aren't, try to separate your “work” photography from your “fun” photography. If you do portraits all day, then save the landscapes that you’re truly passionate about for those times when you need to take a break from your job.
5. Get Ready to Face Tough Competition
These days, almost everyone is a photographer. Of course, not everyone calls themselves a photographer, but if someone has a smartphone, then they might just use it rather than come to you for professional images. And that’s not to mention all of the seasoned professionals you'll be competing against.
Think about it this way: When a bride-to-be comes to you looking for wedding photography, she has three choices. She'll either hire you, hire one of your competitors, or she'll be so appalled by the prices that you and your competitors charge that she'll find a friend with a DSLR to do it for free. The same goes for galleries — everyone and his brother has a portfolio to show gallery owners, which means it takes something really special to get yourself noticed. As a photographer, you’ll have to learn not only how to lose to the competition gracefully, but also how to make yourself stand out from everyone else.
The life of a photographer isn't an easy one. It takes determination and an incredibly thick skin to get past the myriad problems you'll face. Once you find your way past these problems, however, you’ll find that photography is a rewarding and exciting career.