Last year I began posting a series of essays on things I learned about photography that I did not learn in a textbook. Hence the name:

Photography After the Textbook

To date, I’ve written seven or so of these essays and will be reposting them here, on — rewritten for clarity where needed. I will write new ones as well, when the muse strikes me. On this essay, I determined that the original, as originally posted on, didn’t adequately make my point so I rewrote it for this post.

Here is the seventh essay I wrote, titled:

Everything You Touch Turns to Gold

Recently a friend of mine was complimenting me on my success as a photographer, and he finished his thought by saying, “Everything you touch turns to gold.”

I had mixed feelings when he said that to me. I knew he was complimenting me and meant it in the best way, but there was a part of me that was thinking; you don’t know how hard this is and how much work this takes.

I think, wherever you might be in your journey as a photographer, you should understand that rarely, if ever, will your trip be easy, and nothing will come easy. You will have to work for everything and suffer failure after failure on your way to success.

When you look at other, more established photographers, don’t look at and dwell on what they have, instead, figure out what they had to do to get there, then plot your course.

Think about it for a minute…

How often did Ansel Adams sit in a cold, damp, tent, waiting for the light to hit El Capitan just so?

How long did Richard Avedon spend working to get work only to endure his flashes not firing, his assistant not showing up, and his ultimately his client not paying him?

How many long overseas flights did Joe McNally have to endure sitting next to someone with a hygiene problem?

It might sound like I’m being flippant but I’m trying to make two points:

  1. Photography is hard but those that are good at it, make it look easy.
  2. The actual photography that a professional does is the small part. Everything else the photographer has to do, including learning the craft, learning the business side of the craft, organizing a business, running the business, booking clients, hiring assistants, buying and maintaining equipment, maintaining a studio, traveling, eating airline food, schmoozing, waiting out the rain in a damp tent, sitting in a lonely hotel room away from your loved ones, spending hours behind a computer processing images… and on and on, is the hard part.

If you want to be a great photographer, it won’t be handed to you. You must roll up your sleeves and do the work.

So, get to work.