“Victory belongs to the most tenacious" ~ Roland Garros.
How do you know if you are successful at photography?
Are you successful because other photographers like your images?
Are you successful because critics or so called ‘experts’ like your images?
Does success mean you win a prize in a photography contest or have your photographs published online or in a magazine?
Or are you successful at photography when you overcome a hurdle, make a breakthrough in your learning or manage to capture an image that really pleases you?
As a novice photographer it’s hard to define success, and it means different things to different people.
When I first took the plunge and put up some of my images online, I was expecting criticism.
I thought I might be told that they weren’t good enough to be displayed in public.
But that criticism didn’t come, and neither did praise, so how was I to define success in my photography?
I began to realise that success is actually a very subjective thing and that what is more important than defining success by others’ standards is having the tenacity to keep going even when you’re not getting praise, to keep doing what you need to do to improve even though you don’t see much improvement happening, and to judge your work by your own standards, by how well you have overcome the latest hurdle in your learning journey.
To me, tenacity is when we persevere with something, even in the face of adversity. It is about not giving up, about determination to continue doing what we are doing even if we encounter setbacks or disappointments.
I believe that this is a greater asset to our photography than achieving success defined by others.
Success might bolster our self-confidence briefly but what about the next occasion when we don’t receive the same accolades?
Do we become deflated and disillusioned?
This is the danger and the reason why I think tenacity is more important to the long-term development of our photography than instant ‘success’.
Rather than depend on the approval of others regarding my images I began to be my own critic.
I compared my latest images to earlier ones to see where I had improved.
I studied my images to see if I could improve on composition or whether a crop or some editing might improve the look of the image.
I took inspiration from photographers working as professionals.
I studied the work of well-known and much revered photographers, past and present.
Today my barometer of success is whether I am improving, whether I am making less of the beginner mistakes than I used to make and whether I am making images that I like – at least occasionally!
There are still occasions when I am disappointed at my lack of success, even in my own terms.
I fear that I will never get any better, that I just don’t have what it takes to be a good photographer.
These are the very times when I need to re-group, change direction, take some pictures just for fun, and then start with a new outlook.
This is when tenacity wins out, when I don’t throw in the towel and give up but rather keep believing that as long as I am enjoying what I do, as long as I still love taking a camera in my hand, as long as I see things that interest me and want to take a photograph, I am achieving a lot from my photography.
Ultimately, it is this tenacity that keeps me moving on, keeps me enjoying the journey.
And enjoyment is what it’s all about.