The Most Important Predictor of Success in Stock Photography

Determination is the most important factor in success and reaching your goals.

“We learned quickly that the most important predictor of success is determination. At first we thought it might be intelligence. Everyone likes to believe that’s what makes start ups succeed. It makes a better story that a company won because its founders were so smart. The PR people and reporters who spread such stories probably believe them themselves. But while it certainly helps to be smart, it’s not the deciding factor. There are plenty of people as smart as Bill Gates who achieve nothing.”

The above Paul Graham quote was brought to my attention by travel photographer David Sanger. It reminded me of some of my early years. It was five years after I decided to be a professional photographer that I managed to finally make a living at it. During those early years I was a substitute teacher, delivered tickets, worked as a janitor and so forth. The last job I had before I could just shoot full time, was as a landscape laborer. Even after I was able to give up the odd jobs I remember my accountant suggesting to me that I get a ‘real job”. Years later one of my bookkeepers quit because, as she said, “you won’t be in business a few months from now”. I’ve had my share of ups and downs, but I have had determination.

A great way to define determination is the willingness to do whatever it takes. When you add that kind of determination to a clear, focused plan, it is almost impossible not to succeed. Set clear goals, break them down into small steps, set deadlines for those steps and follow through. In light of the one-two punch of image oversupply and the recession I find myself re-committed to this process. I have set a new income goal for myself, broken out what I believe to be the necessary steps to reach that goal, and am working hard at completing those steps. If I miss a deadline, I set a new one. I am always learning, which means I am continually adjusting those steps. The fact that I am writing this at nine-forty three in the evening shows I am willing to do whatever it takes!

Brian Tracy is a motivational speaker and success coach. Years ago, when I was at my absolute lowest, someone gave me a Brian Tracy tape…which I listened to over and over and over again. One strategy he suggests that has always struck me as being very astute is that you should figure out what is the one thing, that if you mastered, would be the most important thing to propel your career forward, then master it. For me, way back then, that one thing was Photoshop, and it totally changed my career and my life.  Next, Tracy suggests, figure out what is the one thing, that if you mastered, would propel your career forward, then master it. Next, well, you get the point. And isn’t that true?

All it takes is determination and perseverance. You can hone your creativity, you can master camera techniques and computer programs. You can learn the business end of stock photography. You can succeed. Have the belief in yourself and the knowledge that your goal is reachable. Set that goal, break it down into small steps, set deadlines to those steps, and get your butt in gear

About the author

John Lund  has been shooting professionally for over 30 years.  John was an early adopter of Photoshop, first using version 1.0 in 1990.  He began using digital capture in 1994.  John has been active in the stock photography world as a founding member of BLEND IMAGES, and long time contributor to Getty Images, Corbis, and, more recently SuperStock.

John has lectured on digital imaging and stock photography, has been a columnist for PICTURE and DIGITAL IMAGING magazines, and written ADOBE MASTER CLASS, PHOTOSHOP COMPOSITING WITH JOHN LUND.  John has been a frequent speaker at Photo Plus and other venues and has taught workshops at Palm Beach Workshops and Santa Fe Workshops.  His work can be seen at

john lund

Shooting professionally for thirty+ years, using Photoshop to create stock photos for 20 years.