Undeniable Awesomeness & Perseverance.

In Marketing, Self-Promotion, Pep Talks by David29 Comments


This is my friend Eileen. We shot these to meet her need for new headshots and my need to play with my 5D Mk2 back in December. When it comes to undeniable awesomeness and perseverance, this chick’s got it in spades.

Monday’s post got me to thinking about the whole “becoming a professional photographer” thing and the strange way in which this stuff is really all so elementary and simple, and yet at the same time so hard and complicated-feeling. I’m 45,000 words into a book on the subject so my mind is filled with this paradox. But at the heart of it one of the questions people seem to be asking, is “Am I good enough?” It’s a good question, even an important one, and one I think we all need to have a long hard look at before we make the transition. But it’s not the most important one. Because talent alone doesn’t make it. The question is “Do I love it enough?” or, to re-phrase it: “How badly do you want it?”

A while back Chase Jarvis said something like this – there are two things you need to succeed: to be undeniably awesome at what you do, and to persevere. He’s bang on about that.

But for those of you dogged by the constant doubts about whether you are good enough, let me remind you of something – we’re all getting better, day by day if you work on your craft you are getting better, closer to being “good enough” which is a standard most artists always feel they fall just short of. Why? Because as our vision slightly outpaces our ability to express it, we’re always following the carrot, always feeling that our best shot is our next one, not our last one. Furthermore, and this is going to sound so cynical, the industry is full of mediocre talents who are making a solid career out of this. Why? Perseverance. I don’t say that to encourage the mediocrity, but to encourage you that if they can do it, so can you and I. And if you add “undeniable awesomeness” at whatever level you define that, to perseverance, then you can make it.

You may never be able to answer the question “Am I good enough?” to your own satisfaction, but one client at a time you’ll begin to hear the answer. Keep at it. Don’t let fear hold you back.

Whatever the next step for you is, take it boldly. These are not times for the timid; there’s no reward in tiptoeing through life only to make it safely to death.


  1. Spot on the mark David. As budgets tighten up and more and more we need a bit of rat cunning and inventiveness to work in this field, you have to love it to death. You have to love it so much that you’ll constantly think outside the box to keep on photographing what you love. When you’ve spent days keywording images to get them up in the hope that they’ll eventually sell, when you spend mindless hours in front of a computer doing some mundane task you’ll need to keep that love. It’s what will get you through. Your clients will soon let you know if you’re good enough.

  2. David,

    I don’t care whether you’re posting every day or once a month. The insights you share in each post are so much more valuable than a most of the noise. This post is no exception. Again, exactly what I needed to read today. Thanks for doing what you do.


  3. Being a professional is less, IMO, about being “good enough” and far more about strong business acumen. Taking brilliant photos isn’t even close to enough. One must be able to market, sell and stay afloat financially. Every photographer should probably take a class in running a small business. I know that we hate to think of our passions and our arts as businesses, but that, IMO, is the difference between a hobbyist and a professional. In fact, it might be a reason for the truly passionate to remain hobbyists. I’ll photograph for money, but only because I’d also do it for free (but not for clients who can pay).

  4. David
    This is gold and a life lesson as well.
    “Moderation is for Monks, to enjoy life take big bites”

  5. “…no reward in tiptoeing through life only to make it safely to death.” Oh, this is one of those priceless little pearls. I just love when someone strings a few words together to make a statement with such impact. There were several more of these but then I’d be quoting most of your post in my reply. 🙂

  6. People will sometimes think that they are not good enough or that something “needs’ to be better. When they think that, they have a hard time pulling the trigger. And that is a hard thing to do. I know that the more I learn, the more I learn that I don’t know. So I make mistakes. Some are bad, very bad. Most only I see. So what, mistakes are how we learn. So let’s starts making them today!

  7. David,
    I gotta tell you that I made a resolution not to buy any new books for awhile but your attitude and approach is inspiring. So I am ordering your book. Darn you and your evil blog. LOL


  8. Funny the way success is measured. I make photographs and video because I can’t not make photographs and video. Am I good? I think so but it doesn’t matter. Am I successful? I don’t do it for a living and it doesn’t matter, I do it every chance I get and it makes me happy . . . therefore I feel I am a success. Isn’t that enough?

  9. I love this quote:
    “there’s no reward in tiptoeing through life only to make it safely to death.”

    I think I am going to print this up and tape it to my monitor. Thanks for the inspiration!!!

  10. I think most people when they first decide that they want to pursue photography wonder if they are or their work is good enough. Each photographer or artists is good in their own way, their own style, their own choice of genre. Be yourself and be true to your passion and vision (I’m getting it David) and you will find that yes, you are good, very good.

  11. I AM undeniably awesome!! … what!? … oh … you mean someone else has to think that, too!?! Crap!

    Great post … and great shot! Drooling to get my 5D mark II.

  12. Very well said as always David. This one really struck home for me. I am always thinking the shot could have been better. I didn’t capture the light the way I saw it. Seems I can never reach where I want to be… its a good thing I’ve recently decided. Frustrating at times but good.

    Recently a good friend told me I need to stop being afraid to succeed. It sounds strange to think that someone is afraid to succeed but it’s true. Sometimes I link this feeling of being afraid to succeed to not thinking I am good enough. A way of holding myself back. If I don’t put in all my effort then if I fail (or when as the case may be) I can put it down to not giving my all. It needs to change.

    Thanks for all of the inspiration you give David. In a way I feel you give me (and others) permission to think beyond the how and more into the why. I can’t wait to read your book. I have it but I want to dedicate my full attention to it but too many things are going at the moment.

  13. Author

    @ Pat – You said: Funny the way success is measured. I make photographs and video because I can’t not make photographs and video. Am I good? I think so but it doesn’t matter. Am I successful? I don’t do it for a living and it doesn’t matter, I do it every chance I get and it makes me happy . . . therefore I feel I am a success. Isn’t that enough?

    Yes, it is enough. But I’m speaking here to those making, or wanting to make, the transition to doing photography vocationally. You can define success any way you choose, but for most of us part of that success depends on being perceived by our clients as “good” You can think you’re “good enough” or not “good enough” but at the end of the day, speaking purely from a business perspective, what matters is whether the market thinks you’re good. Your own assessment of yourself, your own enjoyment of the craft matters a great deal, but won’t factor into the aspects of success that will keep me afloat.

    So yes, it is good enough. The love of it is what matters most, even for business. But that alone won’t keep a career photographer solvent.

  14. this is so true, my grandmother is a very accomplished sculptor and painter and she always used to say “Artists are their own worst critics – it’s never ‘good enough’ for them”

    it’s important to be able to make peace with “good enough” to oneself.

  15. David,

    We’ve all seen many professional photographers whose output is competent at best, so quality clearly isn’t a requirement for professionalism. If you want to be *very* successful as a pro photographer though…that’s another story.

  16. there’s no reward in tiptoeing through life only to make it safely to death

    OK – Other’s copied this too, but, wow. You put into a phrase what I’ve been trying to beat into my head the past few months. To fully grasp the significance of that statement and to act on it would be (hopefully will be) a life altering event.


  17. Great post and quite timely for me personally. I especially like the last line.

  18. David,
    Your posts are so refreshing, inspiring and thought provoking. A real jewel in a world of sameness. Thank you.

  19. Yeah, what they said.

    But it must be said again: However frequent, your posts are most inspirational and appreciated.

    Photography is often an outlet for me to be myself, when life forces me to jump through so many hoops. It’s liberating to have time to do what I love and express myself. But at the same time, doubt and fear creep into this refuge. So this, as many of your posts do, broke through the noise in my own head, and helps me keep the big picture in mind.

    What you do to teach is fantastic. What you do to inspire is sublime. Thanks for sharing who you are and why you do it.

  20. Really like your post, always a great read, full of inspiration. To go along that last pearl of wisdom, I’ll add to one of my favourites quotes on my wall.


  21. Thank you for this post, it is the record that spins repeatedly in my head, and the fear of failing is quite paralyzing at times, but your words of perseverance as each day we are getting better, just doing it boldly are encouraging and thought provoking.

  22. David,

    Another great post. I think that some of what we do in life is determined to some extent by our personalities and how we deal with life events.

    There are those who are happy in living on the edge, prepared to push the boundaries, and take life by the horns. Then there are others who prefer to take a more cautious approach, have a safety net, and generally stay within their comfort zones. But of course there are those who have a mixture of each.

    For each of the above perosnalities to swap approaches would probably be a huge step into the unknown- and probably very uncomfortable.

    But, whatever our personalities, we can all learn from experience and use the lessons learnt along the way in growing and developing. That is applicable to just about anything – our life skills, business acumen or photographic ability.

    So, every now and then, we do have to step out of our comfort zones. Some will take big steps and others perhaps will take smaller ones. The trick is to look back at those moments, analyse what happened as a consequence of taking that step, then use the lessons learned to shape and determine our next move.

    In short, we are living in the moment and learning from life experiences. ‘Life is not a rehearsal -this is it’

    Thanks for a great post

  23. oooo – your last paragraph pierces me! thanks for that… also, loving “The War of Art” at the mo. thanks for that x2!!

  24. Pingback: Friday Roundup. Blog post recommendations around the web #3 |Out of Focus| A blog by Younes Bounhar

  25. I’ll point out that maybe I’m not good enough by my own standards – I must be meeting others because I have happy clients. Which can only mean they’ll get happier as I push myself.

  26. WOW, spot on most of what you wrote here I ask myself that question from time to time. And believe me you’re not being cynical, there are lousy photographers out there making money. Which frustrates me at times, it was a little ray of light looking at it from the angle you wrote it on “persevere”…

  27. David, Thank you, thank-you, and gracias. I asked for this book for Christmas and sweet Virginia there is a Santa Claus. Let me say, this book answered every question I had about making the decision to become a photographer. Currently, I’m on active duty and will retire in less than 3 years. With a nice retirement check, I can do what I’ve always wanted to do. Your book has really inspired me and I CANNOT WAIT to begin my new career. Thank-you again for sharing your wisdom and telling it like it is. Can’t wait for the next book. If you need input about what us common folk would like to know, don’t hesitate to email me.

Leave a Comment