“This business is hard work. It takes resilience, determination, grit, an ability to pick yourself up no matter how many times you get rejected, & just keep going.” -Olivia Bossert
Being patient sucks, right? I know how tough it can feel when you look around you (or look on Instagram) and see what looks like everyone else’s success. I speak to many photographers weekly expressing frustration as they feel their progress is too slow. Building a career - any career - takes a very long time. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard the words “I’ve been at it for 6 months/ one year/ two years/ three years and had few clients/ no success/ no magazine publications” etc.
I’m afraid that I’ve got to tell you that any amounts of time are NOTHING in the grand scheme of things. Even ten years isn’t actually that long when you look at the fashion photographers who have been in the industry their whole lives.
To give you some context: I first started to practice photography when I was about 15 years old. I started getting “paid clients” at around the age of 18/19 (mainly just family portraits, photos of kids, dogs…anything!). I then did my 4-year degree in Fashion Photography at Falmouth University. I took a two year break approximately from shooting after that, and now, it has been about 4 1/2 years of me truly focusing on my career as a fashion photographer.
I’m 28 now, so that’s 12/13 years of “working as a photographer” - and I’ve still got so many more things to achieve. I’m still only just scratching the surface!
Please don’t be fooled by people who tell you that they went from 0-100 clients in two months (that’s probably an exaggeration but you know what I mean). True success very rarely happens that fast. Lines like that make for good marketing because we all want to be able to fast track our success right? But a true, sustainable career can’t really be fast-tracked. It can be accelerated, of course. I teach a course called “Pitching With Confidence”, which is all about how to start pitching to brands and magazines. I truly believe that pitching is an essential skill that all photographers (and all creatives, to be honest) need to have. It really does work!
Even then, pitching isn’t a golden ticket to overnight success. Will it speed things up for you? 100% it will. But don’t think that just because you’ve sent out 100 emails in two months that your career will magically take off.
This business is hard work. It takes resilience, determination, grit, an ability to pick yourself up no matter how many times you get rejected, and just keep going.
I get asked all the time: “How do you find the motivation to keep going?”, and for a long time I didn’t have an answer.
Now I do: It’s my “why”.
If you’ve read the book “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek* then you’ll know what a “why” is, but in a nutshell - your “why” is the reason that you do what you do. Most successful brands and businesses have this sussed. My own personal “why” is this: I have a deep, rooted desire to create. I know how cheesy this will sound, but I HAVE to make things. I can’t really function if I don’t. That’s my motivation; the reason that I get up every morning, sit at my desk and think: “How will I be able to make the things I want to make?”
In order to make what I want to make (in my case - fashion images) I need to make an income. That means either having someone pay me to take the photos I want to take, or getting paid using my skills which means that I can fund the ideas that I want to make.
THAT is what motivates me and that is what keeps me coming back, day after day, week after week, month after month. That, and I just really love clothes, haha!
We see so many more “success stories” these days than we ever used. So many articles online about “the successful 18-year-old millionaire” or the 30 under 30s Forbes list, and it can make us all feel more “less than.” I have down days like that too - trust me! But I think it’s very important to know that success can be whatever you want it to be. Your version of success will not be my version of success. To me, success is simply being able to do the work I want to do and make a living doing it. It’s being able to choose the jobs I want to take on and say no to the ones that I don’t. It’s * eventually * being able to take a whole summer off to sunbathe on a beach. It’s being able to travel to places I’ve always wanted to go. To you, success may be totally different.
If you’d like to listen to more about success, this podcast episode by Alice Benham is fantastic!
Anyway, this blog post has been a bit rambly, and not quite the usual “how-to” that you might be used to, but it felt like something I wanted to say, and this was the best way that I knew how to say it.
To summarise: don’t be disheartened if you’re feeling like your career as a fashion photographer is taking a long time to come to life. Good things truly do take time, and as long as you dig deep, find what motivates you, focus on that each and every day… you’ll make it. I promise.
Writer/ Creative Director/Photographer/Stylist: Olivia Bossert
HMUA: Georgina Yates
Model: Sophie @Gingersnap Models @sophie.spark
📍London, United Kingdom