As far as secrets to success, I think there are the important staples: hard work and a lot of time for things to grow. Remember that in between the time of planting and the time of harvest, there is always this season in between while a lot happens just under the surface that the world can’t see yet. But that doesn’t mean that the most important work isn’t happening right then. As Justin, always reminds me: slow growth equals strong roots. Don’t be afraid to grow slow & steady over the long haul. Don’t be afraid to take your time and build your own substance to stand on. Remember it’s only the weeds that pop up over night.
But that being said, I also think there are things you can do to make sure what you’re planting are always good things. Here are some things we’ve learned along the way.
The people you surround yourself with and making friends any chance you can get will grow you SO much more than ever trying to go it alone. Be a really good friend. Be incredibly committed and work really hard at always getting better in your craft. Never think that it’s “good enough” or that you’ve arrived. You haven’t. You won’t. We certainly haven’t. If you do, hang up your camera and walk away for you have lost the love of it. Never, never stop learning. Consistency is key. Show up every day and do the work. Don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t get too big to answer. Never think that you will reach some place where you’ve “made it” and suddenly you’ll have permission to do what it is that you want. You have to be that permission for yourself right from the beginning.
Shoot a ton, shoot for yourself. Get a workflow together now, one that allows you to turn things around in good time but with an even greater focus on quality. Remember these pictures are more than just a check mark on your to do list; they have to last a lifetime. Be personal and be real. No like actually real. There are a lot of fake “real” people out there. Do your own work. In everything you do act with integrity. Give credit where credit is due. Don’t step on people or take what isn’t yours to try to get where you’re going. Instead, learn from other people. Learn like crazy from other people. Ask them questions. Ask them what’s working. Ask them what’s not. Learn from their experience & mistakes. Speaking of, in our experience with mistakes don’t spend a ton of money on bridal shows, preferred vendor lists, the latest camera gear or the trendiest actions to feel like you fit in. Use your camera until it’s the thing that’s holding YOU back (rather the other way around). And then and only then upgrade. Don’t get caught up in that competition.The camera doesn’t make the photographer, who you are and how you see the world does. Fall in love with light. With what it can do and how it breathes life into an image. And never, never stop chasing it.
Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Be humble. Let your talent speak more than you do. Ask the planner before running off with the couple. And if one is extra good at her job & makes your life easier, send her flowers the following Monday. Serve others. Your gifts are exactly that…a gift. You were lucky enough to be given them, so make sure you don’t leave this earth without using every last one of them to leave the world better than you found it. Tell stories that matter more than ones that get a lot of Instagram likes. Look at the big picture with your work and make pictures that will last the long haul. When in doubt, remember that classic never goes out of style and there are a lot of things you can do to your work, but that doesn’t mean you should . Hold yourself to the standard of being the photographer that you want to be. So that when you are at the end of your life, you can look back on the body of work and the legacy that you leave behind and know that this work that you did…this work always mattered. And finally, trust me on this, sooner or later you ARE going to find yourself in need a Command 3M hook and/or super glue. Add them both to your bag right now.
But above all, here is the most important one: these goals that you might have listed out on January 1st that you think are what you need to have in order to be successful, to be just like somebody else ….those aren’t really the dream. They only feel like the dream because that’s what success happens to look like right now. When you base success on a checklist of what it looks like for everyone else at some particular point in time, that success will always, always be just beyond your grasp. And there will always be just one more thing to add to the list. So you will spend your life in the pursuit of More. More, more, more just to barely keep up. Instead, I’d rather see you as the one who invents a whole new version of success that no one has ever seen before. One for all of us to look up to. Step bravely out as a leader, the world needs more leaders. Don’t just do what has already been done. Speak at the conferences, host the workshops if that’s something you want to try. But let those just be this cool thing you got to do one time. In between going out and setting this whole world on fire. In short, find success for what YOU say it is, and always, always on your own terms.
This is it. Fight like Hell.