Few years ago I learned about the work of James Russell, a very successful commercial photographer that used to share his thinking about photography in a couple of forums in the web.
“When I finally discovered photography it was like finding the right partner; you just know it’s for life”.- James Russell
I always liked to read his musings. This below is from the dpreview forums where he used to share his mind years ago.
The first time I saw a beautiful photograph, I fell in love. Photography was what I was going to do and that was that. To reach success in my segment of photography it takes a dedication that borders on obsession. It takes 14 hour days, either producing, testing, shooting, selling, networking.
It is a true and complete obsession.
We recently hosted a class from UNLV in our studio. I asked each student why they are taking the class. All gave different responses, but in the end the same answer; they have no choice. Photography was in their heart and soul and their direction is set.
If anyone thinks photography at any level is not a real job, they are either naive, or obtuse, because few jobs require such a heavy investment in time, capital and emotion. My studio has concepted and produce photographs that have produced sales increases of 400% from previous advertising endeavors. My financial rewards are acceptable, but far below that of fortune 500 company’s CEO and in a world where sales rule, I have sold a lot of goods.
Photography never lets you rest. You walk through a park you see an idea for a photograph, you walk through Times Square and you see 2,000 beautiful photographs, most you didn’t take and all you wanted to produce.
Still, the end result is if you really and truly want to be a photographer, nothing will stop you because you have no choice.
Most photographers are still trying to find out what to do for a living and luck has little to do with success in this, or any other business.
There is pleanty of room for an honest, talented and hard working photographer and little room for one that doesn’t posses these qualities, regardless of some popular perceptions.
Sometimes who you know helps, but usually, especially long term, success comes from tenacity, talent and knowledge. You know, all the things your dad told you.
The most imporant ingredient for success is not to limit yourself. Don’t sit in Little Rock and dream of being the next great fashion maven, just hopping someone from Conde Nast drops by and discovers you. Go to where the business is, or develop a business plan that gets the business to you.
Do the hard thing. Think like your clients think, find a way to give them what they want in an honest, straightforward manner. Offer more than your competition.
Most of all, become good. Become real good. Work so you can compelte whatever assignment is given to you.
I like most of my clients, but if I didn’t it really would not effect my performance as my standards are my standards, not some arbitrary level of quality that depends on the moment.
If I have a situation or client I don’t enjoy, I try to step back and think how they view me and the process. Why they hired me, who they have to please after my work is done. Usually it makes for a more understanding and positive production.
The best advice I can give anyone is to do it your way. Be unique, not what everyone else is. Listen to others, but take everything with a grain of salt. The most successful people in any field, usually make their own paths.
You can be anything you want to be.