It’s time for another edition of our monthly series “Ask a CMpro” her on the CM photography blog in which we give our CMpros one question and they dish. Their answers alone are always inspiring and this week we asked them, “In your own words, what does it mean to be a successful photographer?”
*image by Pam Korman
Courtney Keim, New Jersey
To me, it means having a healthy balance of being able to photograph what you love and deliver to clients what they love. You must first be happy with who you are and where you are before you can consider yourself truly successful. All the money in the world won’t make you successful if you are not passionate about what you love.
Pam Korman, Pennsylvania
As a hobbyist, I think being successful is about continuing to grow and explore my photography. I try to set new goals for myself (both annual and monthly goals) to expand both my technical and artist abilities. Achieving these goals is how I measure my personal success.
Megan Dill, New York
Success as a photographer is a function of client satisfaction. As a hobbyist, I am both the photographer and the client. Realizing personal gratification through shooting what I love and being delighted with the end product equals success.
Melissa Stottmann, Delaware
Realizing that the journey is continuous is the first step in being successful. Once you think you have ‘arrived’ it’s time to search out new areas of study and expertise in photography. A photographer’s learning is never complete.
Elena Blair, Washington
I think to be a successful photographer you have to be confident and proud of your own work. To me, success is pouring my heart and soul into my photography and being satisfied with the art that I produce. As a business, you have to be consistent, unique and professional to be successful.
Marissa Gifford, Washington
I believe success as a photographer is measured a few different ways. What’s most important to me is to produce work that inspires me and that I feel proud of, but that also satisfies my clients’ wants. Comparing your work with others can hinder feelings of success. The best comparison you can make is to your own previous work and how far you’ve come in your own photography journey. On the business side of things, success to me would be to have a profitable business that still allows me a work-life balance to do my most important job – being a mom.
Sarah Phillips, Massachusetts
We live in a culture that tends to equate success with finances and while I do think that part of being a successful photographer is being able to make a living with photography, I also think that success has to do with living a full and balanced life and being happy. The most important things in my life are my faith, marriage, family, friends and then my photography business. When photography starts to come before any of those other things, I may make more money (or not) but I also start to lose the joy and if you’re not happy, what’s the point?
Beth Orey, Texas
To me, being a successful photographer means that I am happy with the images I’ve produced, both for my clients and myself. When I can look at my images and know that I’ve truly captured something special and a fleeting moment, I’m satisfied. Even if my sales aren’t superior to others and my books aren’t as full, I’m thrilled with my photography and myself and that’s how I feel successful.
Caroline Jensen, Minnesota
I quantify success by the joy I feel about my work and the process of continually learning and growing. It has been said that if you do something you love you won’t work a day in your life. I agree with this wholeheartedly and will quit if the joy that drives me fades.
Stacie Turner, Connecticut
What it means to be successful is going to vary wildly from one photographer to another. To one it might mean finding time to enjoy a hobby, to another winning a Pulitzer Prize, to a third meeting a sales goal. I think it helps to sit down and ask yourself what it means for YOU to be successful, what goals met or skills learned would make for a successful week, month, year or career in your own mind. I know that I find it helpful to sit down every year and write out a list of goals for the following year that include client work, teaching work and artistic work. Some items on my artistic goal list for next year include shoot at least 20 rolls/month, submit to juried shows every month and take a weekend away just for myself to shoot without familial responsibilities.
Emily Lucarz, Illinois
I think success in photography means something different to each photographer. To me being a successful photographer means reaching my goals I have set out for each of my shoots, capturing memories in a way that will be cherished forever by families. It also means being able to grow and continue to learn in order to constantly evolve my craft. Also learning to manage photographing my clients and photographing my own children while maintaining balance is a huge factor of success for me.
Kim Kravitz, Texas
There are a few ways you could measure your success. Is your business profitable? Do you have a steady flow of clients? Etc. Etc. I think a better way to describe a successful photographer would be answering yes when asked if you are happy and satisfied with where you are in your photography journey.
Ava Hristova, California
I measure my success as a photographer based on a few things:
1) Am I happy?
2) Are my clients happy?
3) How have I steered my work and business to reflect what I learned over the past
It’s a three legged stool, in my opinion, and successful photographers are ones that not only produce amazing imagery, are excited to get up and do what they do, but also grow their art and course-navigate their business over time.
Jen Dunham, California
To me, being a successful photographer means that I’m consistently producing work that reflects my vision and upholds the quality I expect, that I’m booking clients who hire me for this vision, that my customer service is top notch, and because ultimately this is my profession, that at the end of the day this work does not put me in the red.
Emma Wood, United Kingdom
As a photographer not in business, I measure success in being able to produce images of my children and my family that will ensure I never forget the details. It’s the reason that I pursued my love of photography and I can’t imagine that feeling ever fading. I still feel exhilarated when I pick up a camera, wondering where it will take me, knowing that I can capture my children exactly as I see them, whenever and wherever I want. I think that being able to realize the expectations that I had when I first started out is what it’s all about for me.
Shan Wilkinson, Utah
For me being a successful photographer means that I have reached a level where I am shooting for me. I no longer look to outside sources for inspiration but look inside myself for that. I shoot based on my heart rather than my head now and I shoot knowing that not everyone will like what I have created but I’m ok with it because I don’t feel a need any longer to create for others but instead create in order to meet my goals and fulfill my own artistic needs.
Heidi Adams, Tennessee
When I document my family’s life, I feel successful. I began this journey to document our lives more beautifully. So, as I proceed, I remind myself of that. Reaching my own personal goals is satisfying. Receiving encouragement and praise from my peers is awesome. At times I have been so focused on the journey that I have forgotten the point of it all. So, at the end of the day, I have to be accountable to my initial purpose and ask myself if I documented my child’s first steps, printed the past months images, or ordered the beautiful wall art of our family’s latest and greatest adventure. If I did these things, I feel successful.
Ashley Westphal, Georgia
To me, it’s reaching a point technically and business-wise that allows you to charge/make whatever it is you need to sustain a healthy balance between photography and your family.
Jennifer Jabbour, California
My definition of success doesn’t have a price tag – because you can be successful whether or not you are making money. A successful photographer is one who can not only properly expose their photos, but can communicate or convey some sort of message to the viewers through the effective use of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, as well as choosing the proper lens and understanding how to use the proper lighting and color to set the mood. In addition, a successful photographer has a style that is all her own. When someone can look at her work without her name and positively identify the artist, then I would say she has succeeded as a photographer.