Top 5 Excuses I Hear From Photographers And Why They Are Total Bull$#^!

They are the biggest obstacle to success.

Sometimes, we don’t even recognize them for what they are. But if any of these excuses sound familiar, then it’s time call yourself out.

Also included is some great advice on how to make sure these justifications don’t hold you back from being the amazing photographer you are.

“There just isn’t anywhere I can go to learn the things you know.”

I’m an art school graduate. I teach photography at a college. I probably learned about 2 percent of my technical knowledge from formal education.

Now, more than ever, there are tons of (if not too many) resources out there for photographers to learn the technical parts of the craft. When I started out, I spent countless hours and many sleepless nights on YouTube.

Yes, YouTube. The video website that is responsible for the viral videos of morons falling through tables and adorable kittens being tickled is probably one of the best educational resources on the planet.  You can find anything! It’s the internet. So why not put that behemoth resource to good use? Here are just a few recommendations to get you started:

Here’s the hard truth; photographers who complain about not having the resources are just not motivated enough to go out and find them.

I have a student in one of my Digital Photography courses, sitting in front of a textbook, in a class where someone (me) is demonstrating what they need to know, and surrounded by other students who are also learning the same material. This student still finds it easier to throw their hand up in the air rather than use the resources around them.

The answers are out there. You just have to want to learn it.

The kind of want to that keeps you up at night reading, watching and listening.

“I Can’t Afford ____________________.”

So part of this excuse can be legitimate. I understand that, but I hope to put things in perspective a little bit.

First off, if you are starting out and learning you don’t need a ton of gear. A decent DSLR body (A Nikon D7100 would be my go-to. They start around $1,000) and a nifty 50 (50mm lens) will do the trick.

However, everything is relative. And $1,200 (camera and lens) may be a very hefty price tag for some, so what are your alternatives?

You don’t need to start off in this price range; you can find DLSRs that you can learn on that are lower cost models or a refurbished model that is maybe a generation or two older. Then, as you grow in your skills and understanding you will have to decide if you are worth investing in. You are your number one asset. If you aren’t willing to invest in yourself, what are you going to bankroll?

On the higher end of things, photographers can spend tens of thousands of dollars on camera and lighting gear.  I love expensive studio lighting, but you don’t need it to create amazing work.

Give me a solid camera and a 5-in-1 reflector and I’m set.

“There’s just too much competition in my market!”

“Good, one less competitor to worry about”.

That’s my internal dialogue.

Look, there’s supposed to be competition. It’s what pushes you to grow your skill set and your business.

I’m a sports guy, so let’s look at this from a different perspective. There are 67,887 football players in the NCAA; there are 255 football players that get drafted each year. That means if you play college football and want to go pro, your odds of success are 1.7%.

1.7%? You probably have a better chance of being audited by the IRS than drafted by the NFL.

So should NFL Hall of Famers like John Randall or Lou “The Toe” Groza, – undrafted and unsigned – have quit?

Do you think they stopped because of too much competition?

If you want to be the guy you have to beat the guy.

Without those who are worlds better than us, we wouldn’t have those benchmarks to catch up to – or surpass. Michael Jordan wouldn’t be Michael without Magic and Bird.

The other aspect of this I want to address is the fact that you have to remember that you are a business. Most businesses are not fiscally successful in the first 2-3 years. It takes time. You might not need to compete right away; you just need to stick around.

In many of the community fields of this business, (e.g. weddings, family, seniors, etc.) I see photographers come and go.  People want to hire someone they recognize, someone they have seen before.

Sometimes, the name of the game is just to last long enough to be remembered.

“I’m just not good at __________________.”

Ok, pre-warning I may get a little fired up on this one.

This is total bull$#^!.

If this is where you stand, then just accept, very peacefully, that you have no real desire to be a professional photographer.

And, that’s ok. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with saying, “I love taking pictures and so that’s what I’m going to do.”

But don’t take a run at this and then complain, “Well, I’m an amazing photographer and I could be really successful; I’m just not great at __________ so ITS NOT MY FAULT!

No. It is your fault. It’s literally no one else’s fault but yours.

So it’s time for some self-evaluation. If you’re a great photographer who’s just not good at…

  • Marketing
  • Selling Myself
  • Dealing with People
  • Pricing My Work
  • Editing
  • Social Media
  • Building Website
  • Lighting
  • Posing

…then you have three choices: get good at it, pay someone else to do it, or quit.

“I’m doing everything right, my work is great, and I’m still not getting hired.”

This is the hardest one for me. I’ve experienced this with students. They do all the work, learn all the technical aspects, they really want it, but the product just isn’t there.

Sometimes, we just have to step back and be honest. Maybe the work just isn’t that great; maybe you’re just not ready. That doesn’t mean you should quit, but what you see as masterful work may just not be.

It can be hard to find people who can provide honest and objective feedback. It can be hard to fight through the online trolls who live to tear people down. Knowing when to block out the noise of the jealous troll and when to lower our defenses and listen with an objective ear can be a very challenging thing.

“There’s no accounting for taste.”

It’s true. There isn’t. Sometimes this is the key factor in this large disconnect between how someone perceives their work and how the rest of the world see’s their work. But there is a solution, maybe not a 100 percent solution but there is one.

I preach to students the idea of “speaking the visual language.” If you are a designer and you design for a specific genre, you need to speak that visual language. So, if you want to be a great fashion photographer and you’re not studying fashion photography, then there’s a problem. You need to see what is being printed, find what photographers you are drawn to, get every piece of their work you can find, and study it.

Look at it, dissect it, and learn the visual language. We will always be victims to our own sensibilities, for better or worse, but you need to study the language before you can speak it.

Because being a great photographer is about skill, not talent.

And these excuses are getting old.

Lance Nicoll

Lance Nicoll is a New Orleans based photographer and educator. Lance has taught photography for the past 6 years at the college level. As a photographer, he is know for his fashion and beauty work, a sensibility that he brings into his wedding photography.

  1. Another one I often hear regarding portrait photographers: “Yeah, anyone can create beautiful portraits as long as they have beautiful people in front of the camera. I just don’t have beautiful clients.”

    This is a cop-out. Do beautiful models help? Sure. But a portrait is so much more than a subject. It’s background, environment, lighting, wardrobe, props, camera angle, depth of field and so much more.

    To get good you need to put the time in, just like anything else. You will not improve if you don’t keep going after it.

    Study the work you’re drawn to. Why are you drawn to it? What makes it so appealing. Look at magazines, blogs, websites that feature great portraits and then start understanding the elements that make them successful in your eyes.

    A photographer who only shoots and doesn’t study good photography is like a writer who expects to write the next best-selling novel but doesn’t read books.

    You’ve got to immerse yourself in the craft.

  2. Great point, Ryan!

    These excuses are specific to photography, but you can apply them to all sorts of fields and personal experiences.

    The person who says it can’t be done is usually interrupted by the person doing it.

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