What makes photographers successful?

Yesterday I started a small project where I asked photographers a single question (even though one respondent argued that its actually two questions…). I posted the first responses here. This project has only just started so keep on checking out the site for new inspiration and ideas. I have taken out overly promotional information and edited some comments down to 50 words (more or less).

Every photographer that wants to add their profile and website can do so in the Directory and anyone that contributes can add their link for free and it will stay free forever. (The Directory will soon have a small charge for regular users)

I have organised the answers in 8 categories which will develop into a list of activities photographers are focussing on:

Values | Attitude | Techique | Analyisis | Training | Equipment | Networking | Business

I hope you find the ideas useful and inspiring, please keep them coming and I will organise and publish them here.


Instead of documenting the event, I helped rescue personnel by holding an IV bag and lifting a victim into the ambulance. It was then I learned to look beyond the obvious but search the scene for better story telling moments. | Paul Conrad

I’ve been at this almost 40 years. I’m nice to everyone I work with and have no intention of finishing last. By maintaining a sense of discovery in my work my passion for photography infects those around me. I’ve learned not to be afraid to say, “I don’t know,” or “Please help,” and I return the favor whenever I can. | Douglas Hill

Stay Humble & Remember where you have come from! |  Rob Morton


Resigning my job at a commercial photography studio back home and have the courage to leave all behind and come to the capital work as an assistant photographer in the fashion industry. I’ve learn more in a few months than in more than a year photographing weddings and stuff like that. 😀 | Filipe Serralheiro

Coming back to photography. Having started as a medical photographer in mid 1980s and moving to wedding/portraits in the early 1990, I took time out from photography to spend quality time with the family, while they were young and growing up. Now they (children) have a keen interest in this arena and have encouraged me to take up photography again. Hence,here I am.. | Dinendra Haria

There was a key moment at the beginning of my transition from assisting to shooting for myself where I was at a party with lots of ad folks and I decided to take myself seriously, and I presented myself that way. I got my first ad gig from those connections. | Rose Callahan

Shoot more images. When shooting often I tend to need to challenge myself more and therefore tend to push my own limits. The second most important thing is to remember that I don’t know it all and there is a lot to learn. | Michael J. Albany

Study light. Unrepentedly delete. Compare lens work with same subject. Study collection holdings. Test extremes; press limitations. Search for beauty in imperfection. Know art. Sing Mahler, Strauss, Wagner. Become lost in music again. Break insect studies into short intense rounds with substantial breaks. Vary work tasks. Never press mental fatigue. | Mary C Legg

The single best thing any photographer can do is look at art, real art, on a regular basis.Whether or not it’s photography (and it’s sometimes better if it isn’t), having a library of images in your subconscious can’t help but make you better, the same way having a better vocabulary gives your more choices for expression as a writer | Eric Charles

The single most important thing that I have done to make myself a more successful photographer is to continue to believe that I have what it takes to make my photographic dreams come true!
| Cynthia Sperko

The most important thing to become a good photographer is to be extremely critical of one’s own work, no matter if the clients love it. Ask yourself if you could have done a better job, did you cut corners, should you have taken more time? Leave your ego out of every shoot and away when you evaluate the results. | Roel Loopers

Amidst all the talented competition that comes with being a photographer, having faith in myself as someone with an original point of view, and the confidence to tell others they should hire me because of it.|  Brandee Lucas


What made me better was the notion that a modern-day advertising and fashion photographer is more like a director. He (or she) is the one who makes everything come together at the right time and makes his (or her) team perform 200% from pre- to postproduction.| Mark van Vugt Photography

Since August 2008, I’ve forced myself to use manual settings 99% of the time. This has taught me so much. I highly recommend it! If you haven’t gone that route, once you do, you’ll know what I mean. | Donal Pearce

First, I started using manual settings again — or almost exclusively. I’m not a fulltime photographer, I’m a writer/editor with a great passion and good eye for photography who sells some prints, so had gotten lazy when I switched to digital from film since my D70’s modes worked so well for general shots | Madelyn Bonnett

18 years ago I started out with a Sinar P 4X5. I built a a darkroom and started
processing my own film [B/W,Color & Transparency] in a JOBO ALT 2 Plus. That showed me the possibilities of film. I took that knowledge base and built a digital framework that I’m still using today. | Bob Still

In shooting, shoot like there never was such things as auto,program etc.Shoot manually and know your gear like the back of your hand. Check your viewfinder and then check it again. be meticulous. | Alan Rosenberg


Carefully analyze what works and more importantly what doesn’t work in your images. | Dean Birinyi


Continuing Education – the more I can learn from my fellow photographers on an on-going basis the better I become. It may not be a single thing – as each person brings something new and different, but it is absolutely the most important in my book | Georgeann Chambers

worked as a printer for 2 years in a custom black and white lab. Had to print volume, good negs, bad negs, all kinds of subjects. I learned to guess the correct exposure just by looking at a neg. translates to exposing in camera, never needed a light meter again. | Nancy Ostertag

I first learned in a wet darkroom, shooting and developing film, using that knowledge in the digital darkroom, really has made a difference. I also shoot on a regular basis and continue to challenge myself to try new ideas since I don’t have the support system of my classmates anymore now that I have graduated. | monika Wertman

I joined and got involved with ASMP…American Soicety of Media Photographers.There I learned about the business of photography,met others who helped and influenced me and still do. I also attend seminars and keep up on new techniques and groups.
|  Matthew Pace

Create a personal project that sound like what your dream contract would be and determine criterias you want to respect. Ask a more experienced visual artist to comment your work and repeat until you improve. | Geoffrey Lemieux


Cover a gig armed only with a 50mm f1.8 lens & a 512mb card! You have to make every shot count, and without the luxury of zoom or a wide angle view, you need to work hard to get the shot! | Nick Pickles

Left half my gear at home. took a 5d, 24-70 and 2 fashguns | Mark Bradford


This year saw my first Westend Solo show, I raise £8,900 for charity from the sale of ‘Autumn Light’ my largest work 5’x8′.5″ It was the centrepiece of the show and is dedicatedin the memory of my natural father, Antonio Senezio.| David Hall

While at Boston University I left spring break in Key West, FL early to come back up to Glen Falls, NY to shoot a basketball tournament with a professor. I shot the entire tournament with a Nikon D80 with a 50mm f/1.4. I met a lot of good people. The connections since have been priceless. | Nick Welles

In business, network! network! network! get involved,donate, volunteer, a pro-bono gig will often pay you back in spades Be your own bigest critic, always giver your best. Your only as good as your job. | Alan Rosenberg


Create a clean and simple web site, which serves as a public portfolio and has lots of tags to come up in searches | Juan Laden

My big life changer right now is the launch of my new photographer marketing relay business http://www.ukportraitgroup.co.uk which provides fee paying wedding and portrait clients to qualified photographers | Andrew Eldridge Lmpa

I found that after reading loads on product photography, must did not work. In the end good light blubs made a significant difference. I would advise “new photographers” to make small investment and try stuff out without buying all the latest gadgets that are reviewed and advertised in all the mags. | Nilesh Patel

Keep it simple. Staying relevant, both creatively and technically.Consistently understanding the needs of the client. | James Levin

I photographed for free – it was a great way to not only build my portfolio but also make some great connections. Working in the event planning industry also helped me become a better event photographer, with an eye for capturing the smaller, yet (much more) vital aspects of any production. | Parveen Desa

Picture: Stock Exchange | Lens | Jay-Simmons

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses

6 thoughts on “What makes photographers successful?

  • November 11, 2009 at 10:40 am

    I think that Gilbert Adams sums up my approach to photography with these words “Art and picture making with a camera are fundamentally the same, requiring such essential qualities as good taste, beauty of line, and perfect juxtaposition of tone, together with atmosphere that stirs the emotion. With vision and imagination in the mind of the operator, the most exquisite results can be obtained with detail that no other medium can record with such precision.”

  • November 16, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Good Job!

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  • January 16, 2010 at 1:48 am

    All these discussions! It seems this idea of Social Media is over bought!
    Instead of getting out there and taking pictures, you’d rather sit here and explain on a website.
    The minute that happens, “all” creativity is gone. It’s no longer original!
    When you resort to taking the picture and going to the next step and the one that follows that, and the one that follows that one, and the one after…. you will not have the time to sit and chatter the explanation of What makes Photographers Successful!
    Success cannot be measured.
    Just like Creativity is LOST, GONE when the mouth opens to wag the tongue or in this case, the CHATTER in the mind that causes fingers to move on a keyboard.

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