Develop an Attitude of Success

Develop an Attitude of Success


As equally important to success in photography as knowing your camera, equipment and light – and being a good marketer – is developing within yourself an attitude of success. It’s something that separates and elevates the photographers that are popularly admired today including Chase Jarvis, Jasmine Star and Joe McNally, to name a few.

I wanted to use this post to give extra attention to two skills I think sometime see less awareness than other components of photography – kindness and hard-work. Combined, the two are an incredibly powerful force. The reason behind this post came after asking a few Facebook fans what I could help them with from my own experiences as I continue to forge my own path into the professional arena. The overwhelming response was, “How to make a buck with a camera.”

The variety of marketing plans and methods to get your work seen where it will sell, seems as varied as each photographer. Social media, hard portfolios, promo cards, word-of-mouth and more all fit into the puzzle. All important information to know, but to answer this question what I really wanted to hone down on was the principles of successful people, and how you can bring them into your own photography.

Give more to get more

On January 20, 1961, American President John F. Kennedy took to the podium for his inaugural address and delivered a phrase that holds a deeper meaning as a core principle of success – “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” In essence, instead of simply seeking out how other people can help you, learn how you can help others. Apply it to your photography. By doing so, I guarantee it will open new doorways for you.

Personally, it has given me an incredible amount of opportunities in a very short time period, and the chance to have a dialogue with many of the photographers I admire most. What I’ve taken from those conversations and opportunities has been invaluable. What I’ve also found pretty consistent among those photographers I admire most is they want to know how they can help me as well. It’s an attitude that’s served them well throughout their careers. Apply it to yours.

Show up to every job

Here is the crux. Be prepared and ready to deliver the help you offered with hard work and enthusiasm. Take a moment to reflect and be ready with a great attitude. Be persistent in following-up, but don’t be a pest either. If you offer to help a photographer, art director or someone else you admire, be sure you can actually deliver on that offer! Don’t propose to assist a photographer and then flake on the day of. Consider your chance with this photographer or team blown for good if you do. Prove you are good to your word and prepare to be there with your A+ game.

The same goes x10 for any client you book. These are the people or groups putting out their hard earned money for your product. Earn it. That small $500 client may be connected to a buyer or newly engaged couple that has the potential to book you for a $5,000 wedding or $25,000 commercial job. People pass along the word when you deliver not only a great product, but a great experience as well. Don’t just be there, show up for them.

Position yourself in ways to give back

Image by Nick Onken

Image by Nick Onken

It’s unrealistic to expect to get accepted by every photographer you ask to assist or art director you’d like to work for. These are incredibly busy people and the higher up the “food chain” they are, the more often they receive offers from enthusiastic and good-natured people just like you. Or you may just not fit the mold of what they’re looking for. Don’t be discouraged. Find some way to stand out amongst the pack. Always ask yourself, “What is it that’s unique about me that I can bring to this client or team?” Pursue the opportunities that will put you in a position to help or just say, “Thanks.” Give without any expectation of receiving.

One of those opportunities allowed me to get in contact with a photographer who has been a big inspiration behind my own work, Nick Onken. Being a writer for Digital Photography School has given me the chance to review his upcoming book, Photo Trekking, as my thanks for the great information I’ve learned from reading his blog. If you’re interested in the world of commercial and travel photography his blog is a must read.

Opportunities like this are available to each and every one of you if you search for them. Believe it! Being an arm-chair activist won’t get you there though; seek out the positions or unique skills that will elevate your game wherever you can.

Learn from Conan

Art by Mike Mitchell

Art by Mike Mitchell

Be open, be engaging and be kind. Good things come to good people who treat others well and live positively. I firmly believe that. You’ll notice you admire your favorite photographers not only because of their great work, but because they are genuinely great people too. We gravitate towards individuals who bring the right energy and attitude each and every day.

Conan O’Brien said it best. “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.”

Work hard, be kind and soon you will find yourself on the path to both photographic and personal success.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Matt Dutile is a New York City based travel and lifestyle photographer. He recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce a book on Mongolian nomads. Check the page out to learn more. You can view his website or join in on his Facebook page as well.

Some Older Comments

  • Hollie Edwards June 24, 2010 10:19 pm

    Fantastic article. Very inspirational. I follow Sean Orford, who is a big believer in positive thinking. Google his name and visit his site, I always come away from his site feeling positive and inspired.

    Thanks Matthew :D

  • krisini nanini February 12, 2010 12:54 pm

    this article is really helpful! it's not just about photography, but also self success! positivity and kindness ^_^

  • rick February 12, 2010 10:54 am

    Very nice. I totally agree. Kindness and hard work are good atttitudes photographers should have. I hope to develop these as I learn more photo skills.

  • Jonathan Tommy February 12, 2010 10:19 am

    Wonderful advice...
    Thanks so much for sharing :)

    Best wishes! ^^

  • J Lloyd February 12, 2010 04:32 am

    Good advice - applies outside photography too!

  • Bill February 12, 2010 04:05 am

    Very inspirational, and very to the point. Thanks for a great lesson in applying "life" to photography.

  • David Genac February 12, 2010 03:59 am

    This is so true, and goes well beyond photography. Apply this attitude to everything you do, and, as Conan said, amazing things will happen.

  • Sylvie February 12, 2010 03:35 am

    I agree , but there is something to learn while you are working hard and being kind........Im my short experience, I think it's the only thing you have to do...being kind and hard worker opens you many doorways, meeting people and live little or big nice photographic and human adventures..........
    But, some people (bad and not kind) aretrying regulary to get the best of you, without respect of your work, which is "free and natural" for them.........You are not a slave just remember that in a little part of your mind, and some human being are trying to consider you as one..........
    Just to preserve your kindness and hard working ..........

  • Jenn @ CanvasPop February 11, 2010 02:28 am

    I completely agree. Thanks so much for this great post! I love the quote that you included by Conan. It is so true. With the help of a positive attitude and surrounding yourself with positive people you can do anything that you set your mind to.

    “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.”

  • Mei Teng February 9, 2010 04:05 pm

    In servicing clients (or customers), they are always right.

  • Elevated Images Photography February 7, 2010 07:06 pm

    Conan's words ring true, great quote to go with this post. When I read it on his Press Release it was moving and it's just as moving in this context.

  • Greg Taylor February 7, 2010 02:41 am

    I have learned so much from talking to other photographers. Many have taken me under their wing and answered my barrage of questions. I place a high value on collaboration over competition. Now when I photograph concerts lots of people come up to me and ask me questions about the technical aspects of photography and I usually tell them to meet me in between sets and I'll answer any questions they have - just my way of giving back. Positive energy triumphs negativity.

    I just tackled this topic on my blog.

  • Sarah February 7, 2010 02:04 am

    Thanks for the article, I agree 100%!

  • Alessandra February 6, 2010 02:53 pm

    This post was great! I've been really working hard on just being positive and optimistic about my photography being something I can build a career around. And I also want to thank you for contributing to this site becuase as you said in this article, "Give more to get more" and this site is the perfect place to get advice from fellow photographers and share experiences. Thank you!

  • brandon February 6, 2010 09:36 am

    maybe the word of love is better than kindness
    if we looks full of love, peace, and brave.
    what mostly happen to those people is simply success

  • Jason Collin Photography February 6, 2010 06:02 am

    Yes, what I have learned in my first year of professional (paid) photography work is you cannot have the normal attitude you have with strangers in public as you do with your clients. No matter what the client does you cannot get angry at them, at least not let that anger show!

    Due to a client not confirming date and time for a portrait shoot, the shoot did not happen when the client thought it would. Even though I tried confirming by phone and e-mail several times ahead of time, thus doing everything I could, and the client being at fault for not confirming with me, I still bit the bullet and discounted the portrait session when we finally were able to confirm a date and time. This lead to getting two referrals from her later that more than made up for the money I lost by discounting her portrait session.

    If this had been one of my friends, I would have gotten angry at them and blamed them for not confirming. In business, I had to say sorry for the "miscommunication" and try to still please the client.

    What Matthew and Conan both say about being kind I think really does go a long way because of the fact kindness is in very short supply nowadays.

  • Pipsqueak February 6, 2010 04:27 am

    I agree with this post too. There are too many folks out there that think I'm nuts with my crazy "positve attitude" but it makes for a happier more peaceful life and people warm to it. I do get rude people being mean sometimes but I have learnt over the years not to sweat the small stuff!

    Always remember that kind always conquers nasty in life.

  • Robert Barnes February 6, 2010 01:49 am

    I completely and whole heartidly agree with this post. I am by no means famous or even an incredible photographer but I am learning and have been given so many opportunities thru being consistent, kind, easy to work with and upbeat. The amount of referals i get is rediculous and I always get emails from my refers about how much the new client loved working with me. Everyone in the end is always happy and it shows in the fact that i get referals left and right.

    I also have a fan page that i use to market and that has helped a ton too. Im doing a lot for free when i advertise something but when i do that, ppl are more willing to approach me and ask me to do things for them for pay.

    I think the advice that the author of this post is giving holds true not only for photography, but for all facets of life. Good stuff to live by!

  • Con February 6, 2010 01:37 am

    Kindness is a huge factor.

    Just be nice to everyone. You never know when you meet someone who, say, is the CEO of a company, or head of hiring at an organization.

    You're kind to them (not only because it's just "nice to be nice to the nice," as Seinfeld said), and they might think to themselves:

    "You know, we have an open spot, and that person seemed really genuine, smart, and all that...maybe I should ask them to come in for an interview."