Why You May be Failing to Reach Your Potential as a Photographer

Why You May be Failing to Reach Your Potential as a Photographer

There are a number of reasons why someone might not succeed at reaching their full potential, more than I can cover in this article, so please feel free to add to this list by telling us what obstacles get in your way. If you have solutions to someone else’s problem, feel free to offer up some advice, and help out a fellow photographer.

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What does it mean to reach one’s potential?

Reaching your potential can be a bit arbitrary as everyone has different ideas of what success means. In order to simplify this article a little, let’s make a couple of assumptions to define the photographer we are talking about.

Assumption #1 – The photographer in question is someone who wants to improve their work through the long haul. This photographer may or may not want to become a professional, but they do want to look back on their portfolio and be proud of what they have accomplished.

Assumption #2 – For the sake of this article things out of the control of our make believe photographer – i.e. financial situation, health, and social/family aspects of life – are not the cause of their failure to reach their potential.

What then, are the obstacles that may be holding you back?

Lack of confidence

Think about learning a new skill. At the beginning you’ll most likely have a low level of confidence, but this is off-set by a high level of excitement to try something new. As time goes on though, that newness wears off and you’re left feeling like you’ve gotten yourself in over your head – does that sound familiar?

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With photography there is so much information available on the web, so many people to compare yourself to, so many clubs to join, and so many things to buy, that it can become overwhelming for you to figure out the right path to take forward.

This frustration can lead to confusion, or even doubt over the decisions you’ve made, making this a common question, “Did I buy the right lens/tripod/software?”.

The simplest advice that can be given in this situation is to try to block out the distractions around you. Try to focus on your own improvement, and benchmark your current photography against what you did last month, or last year. This will help showcase your personal triumphs, allowing you to stay confident in your progress.

Lack of Motivation

If there’s one thing that will stop you from reaching your potential, it’s lack of motivation. Photography requires a lot of time and energy. You have to plan shoots, find subjects, work with models or nature, often travel to a location – a lot goes into photography.

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To compound this, motivation will often peak when something is new, but as you visit the same location a few times, use the new lens repeatedly, or master the new technique you read about, the level of motivation you get from these things starts to wane.

In order to avoid stalling out due to lack of motivation, one thing you can do is to keep trying new things. One of the best ways to do this is to participate in themed challenges, like those here on dPS weekly. Another option would be to join a local photography club, or even an online community, to allow you to meet other photographers and share ideas.

Not investing in the right gear

You probably know that gear alone can’t make you a better photographer, but the wrong gear can certainly hold you back.

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Trying to cut corners on cheap tripods, poor quality bags, or inferior lens filters, will do more harm than good. One could argue that poor quality gear will actually hurt your photography, more than high quality gear will improve it. So invest wisely, but be careful not to fall into the next hurdle.

Relying on gear to carry you

As mentioned above, some investment is necessary in order to set yourself up for success. However, too much reliance on the gear you buy will only hold you back. Thinking that upgrading to full frame will improve your photography is not the right reason to buy a new $2,000 dollar camera.

When it comes to investing in new gear there are two questions you should ask yourself:

  1. What is the driving force behind your desire to upgrade?
  2. How will the desired upgrade fill a need in a way that your current gear cannot?

Hopefully by answering these questions you’ll be able to find out whether or not the gear that you’re inquiring about is a want or a need, and how big of an impact it will have on the photographs you produce.

What else stops you from achieving your potential?

Let us know in the comments what hurdles you face as a photographer. What stops you from achieving your potential, and maybe we as a community can help you find ways to tackle that challenge.


Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of articles this week that are Open for Discussion. We want to get the conversation going, hear your voice and opinions, and talk about some possibly controversial topics in photography.

Let’s get it started here – do you agree or disagree with the points in the article above? Do you have any others to add? Give us your thoughts below, and watch for more discussion topics each day this week.

See all the recent discussion topics here:

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John Davenport is the creator of PhoGro an online community that aims to help you grow your photography through engagement with other photographers. Join today! John also offers a free email course 6 Weeks to Better Photos. This course covers the most important techniques you need to learn when getting started with photography.