do you want overnight success? read this

In this post I discussed 6 reasons why my workshops are different – I described myself as not being one of those “rockstar photographers” and stated that I don’t believe in skipping the hard part, ie: the time, energy, and work it takes to become good at something or to become “successful” (whatever that word means to you).

I have noticed that so many people want to jump into this industry and become successful, good at what they do, and famous overnight. And I just wanted to say – fuck that — it’s not going to happen. It does not happen overnight. If you aren’t extremely in love with wanting to do this thing, if you aren’t extremely passionate about it, it’s not going to happen. If you aren’t willing to put in the 50-80 hours per week, or deal with the frustration of patiently waiting for your business to grow, or the time it takes (years) to become good at your craft, or the hard work and physical strain it can take to shoot a wedding, carry tons of equipment, shoot in 120 degree weather, the countless hours it takes in post-production to get the exact edit you want and the exact look and feel you want your images to convey, never clocking out because there’s always work to be done, the stress of not ever being able to fuck up because it’s a wedding — then you won’t make it through the time, energy, sweat, tears and extremely-hard-work-for-very-little-income-over-a-long-period-of-time that this job requires.

I don’t talk about how awesome it is to get into the wedding industry, I talk about how challenging it is. Because that’s the truth. Not that it’s not fun or rewarding, it really is– IF YOU PUT IN THE WORK. I have gotten emails from so many photographers who are starting out that want a simple answer or trick that will propel them into success overnight. Or people who think this job is easy. It is not.

It’s the hardest job I have ever had, and I have been a receptionist, a secretary, a barista, a cocktail server at a seedy strip joint, a caretaker for an elderly holocaust survivor, a courier, a driver, the chick who answers the phones at a pizza joint, a temp… I’ve worked in escrow, I’ve been a narrator, a web designer, a creative director… I’ve worked in multimedia, instructional training for the military, I was a graphic designer, I was unemployed, I was a full-time student with a full-time job etc… But this photographer job- as much as it has been the hardest job I have ever had- is however, unbelievably rewarding on every level. When you can get to a point where your clients trust you and let you do whatever the hell you want, when you can go through your images from a wedding and feel good about them, when you can become besties with your clients, when you can watch your work slowly improve over time, when you can charge what you think you’re worth, when you can get paid to travel to beautiful places and take photos of amazing people, when you can turn down a wedding because it doesn’t fit your aesthetic as an artist, when you can have the artistic integrity to not bullshit your clients or yourself, when you can make your own hours, wake up when you want to, wake up EXCITED to work each day, when your work can be appreciated by the community of bloggers and publications who feature your photographs, when you get to eat gourmet food on the job, have a glass of wine, dance with the bride & groom and their friends, make new friends, and make an income you can live on from it– you end up really really loving your job. BUT. This takes time and a shit-ton of work. And you have to love it and you have to be strong, or get strong quick. Otherwise you’re wasting your time.

To those who have sent countless emails asking how they can get successful overnight: Is it simply a post-process that will make my work amazing? Is it a specific piece of equipment? How do you get such rad clients? Is there some big mythical creature of a secret that you can share?– No there is not. This needs to be said: You’re going to have to work your ass off, and the rewards are totally worth it. And you will learn so much about yourself. And you will become a better artist. And you will create the career that will be a dream-come-true, but not because it’s magic, because you created it with your own two hands, hard work, love and dedication. But if you can’t handle the heat, the patience, the struggle, the hours, the stress, then get out of the wedding photographer kitchen. This is the best advice I could give to anybody wanting to get into this thing. It is not easy, and although lots of successful photographers make it look that way, it really is not.

There is no way to skip the hard part and get amazing overnight. There is however, a way to become a better artist and build a business out of it with love, care, patience and dedication. If you are interested in finding ways to do this, learning different perspectives and tools that will assist you in reaching your goals, and want to know what to do and what not to do, then I invite you to attend one of my workshops (next one is in San Diego at my house) because that’s the kind of stuff I discuss. I love meeting people who are passionate about their work because I am one of those people and at my workshops we all share that. I am not one of those photographers who pretends to be better than others or pretends they have their shit together, or feels disconnected from the people who have come to spend time with me. Quite the contrary, I make the time to hang out and that’s why I put on an after party to get to know people, I have facebook groups that are exclusive to the members of that specific workshop so that we can continue to discuss, share and advise each other, I run webinars after the workshop for those interested in continuing to get feedback, ask questions and I hand out projects for us to continue to challenge ourselves, improve our craft, and break our minds open. My workshops are also my job, and just like with weddings, my clients become my friends because I truly enjoy the people I attract in both of my jobs. Which is also why I don’t believe in pretending to be someone I am not. I feel honored that people come from all over the US (and the world!) to spend time at one of my workshops and I give everything I have to these events because artists and passionate people are fascinating and incredible to me. People who have attended my workshops have tons of great feedback. I receive emails from previous attendees who share their new work, new projects, new ideas, who now have the balls to face their fears and challenge themselves, and who have reached a new level of communication with their art which is blowing their minds (and mine as well).

And to be perfectly honest, I am terrified every time I do a workshop because of how insecure I have always been as a person, and how scary it can be to talk to a bunch of people, especially about something that is of the utmost importance to me– a fear I am always trying to overcome, sometimes it’s crippling even… but then I see the results from the attendees and I think to myself: fuck my stupid fears, these workshops are helping people, so I”ma keep going with it.


17 Responses

  1. LOVE the statement you made here.
    I’ve been working in the wedding industry for 4 years now and am finally working on building my own photography business. It really does take a lot of hard work and dedication…and time. If my savings weren’t so minimal right now I’d be at your workshop in an instant. Best of luck to you! I’ll be following along on the inter-webs. 🙂

  2. Noa,

    I wish the photography magazines would write the truth about the wedding industry and starting your own business. It’s super hard work and I couldn’t have writen it any better myself.

    It’s giving up weekends, wondering if the phone will ring with a booking, having all the wedding enquiries for one date, it’s working at 2:00am.

    It’s sharing beautiful moments with clients. I don’t want to be famous I just want to keep doing what I enjoy.

  3. This is just so true and brilliantly put but yet even better to hear it from an artist, someone I respect and someone who still is realistic and honest as to how much work you have to do. I t make me feel a whole lot better Thanks so much for sharing this knowledge because at the end of a tricky, hard working, long hours week, i know i just want to get up and do it all again. And now I see all the other jobs that you have to do to survive don’t make you who you are, but the creative artist does. Thanks

  4. this is exactly what i need to hear right now. i like the honesty. sometimes i forget that working hard and committing is the part that i have complete control over. it’s nice to be reminded.

  5. Well said Noa, so true it does take hard work, dedication and passion to get anywhere in this business that is photography!
    Beautiful work by the way, found you by way of Ann Sage, The City Sage!!
    You guys work well together!

  6. I really can’t put into words how much I love this. I’ve been thinking about these things a lot lately and I’m glad you put it out there. It’s inspires me to want to share part of my passion for people and art.

  7. you are so right about everything! and it’s amazing how we can feel that slight taste of success after so much hard work, though i know so much more has to come yet. i’m just scratching it! and by success i mean clients appreciating my work and booking me and feeling happy for my work. that is a reason for me to smile!!!

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