How to become an overnight success, and other mythical tales

The average overnight success takes around 10 years. Yes, you read that correctly, and I’m not joking. That’s in most creative fields, not just photography. So how long does it take to become a professional photographer? By professional, I mean able to derive the majority of your income from photography or photography-related activities. My gut response is that again, it takes most people around 10 years to really make any kind of headway. Quicker than that can happen of course, but it’s usually an anomaly.

Scott from Tin House Studio gives us his thoughts in this honest and candid video. Amazingly he’s dropped around 300 videos now on YouTube. Impressive if that’s part of your strategy and it goes to show that showing up and being consistent will always win. Here are his thoughts on how long it takes to become a successful pro photographer.

Like most creatives, it seems like Scott’s initial plan was not to have to get a ‘real job’. He’s apparently succeeded in doing that and is working for large brands and international campaigns, although he admits himself that he is no Annie Liebovitz and still has a way to go before he can get to that level.

Scott started his photography journey in 2010 (there you go, those 10+ years). Of those 12 years, he says that 8 of those were hard graft, with getting his work looked at, his portfolios reviewed and generally aimed at honing his eye and skills.

Of those 8 years, Scott says that the last 2 years have been particularly good (yep despite a pandemic). “It is a gruelling profession to be in,” says Scott, “and if you do not enjoy the process then this maybe isn’t for you.”

This is all very sobering and yet at the same time rather encouraging. I don’t know about you, but I welcome this kind of transparency. I’m tired of ‘Big name Photographer who happens to live in Nashville who gets called up to shoot a massive name band and doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing but has the (over)confidence to wing it and amazingly it makes his career and now he’s making mega-bucks, and you can too if you buy my course’ kind of people.

It’s discouraging when you don’t get that kind of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity due to geography or who you know, and it takes away from the real grit and far less sexy attributes that it really takes to succeed, like showing up every day no matter what, and not quitting. Some days you really do just feel like quitting. But other days you have literally the best job in the world. And it’s those days that keep propelling you forward.

Because 10 years is a long time, so you may as well enjoy the journey.

Where are you at in your photography journey?


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