What is failure?

According to Dane Sanders, 85% of photographers fail within their first two years. Importantly, he defines failing as going out of business.

Meanwhile Don Giannatti writes on PetaPixel that there is “no shortage of examples” of photography’s “‘death.'” The art and business of the craft is “‘ruined,'” he hears from practitioners. In agreement, he signals it’s their own fault.

“Photographers,” he says, “are wildly devotedly, happily, and ecstatically in LOVE with the processes of photography,” and “they are totally 100% wrong to be so.”

They can hold their own opinions, but romanticizing photography—”a process, plain and simple”—makes it difficult to adapt to a changing industry. And while photographers are deeply committed to the nuances of their trade, the clients “are simply…not.”


With the odds mounting against us, it’s time to recognize the best that failure has to offer. Whether your idea of success is broadly or narrowly defined, always leave ample room for failure; you’ll find yourself in good company.

1. The Shy One 

“Are you super shy and introverted? Too bad,” says successful photographer Cole Joseph. Amidst a crowded field and an eighty-five percent fail rate, it’s necessary to speak up. Those who don’t are silenced, left to photographer themselves and— maybe—a few close friends, or family.

2. The Techie

Giannetti laments that “it’s like photographers are in love with the technology,”  and yet “confused by the end use of the product.” He goes after, um, blogs for gaining more social media traction with gear reviews than aesthetic critiques. Clients, he says, simply don’t care “whether the camera has a mirror.”

3. The High Roller

“If natural ability isn’t your strong point,” warns one PetaPixel article on successfully failing, “then you can simply compensate with more expensive equipment.” The idea here is, of course, that you can’t.

So here’s to all those who try anyways, burning the hard earned cash from their day jobs (or parents) on an investment even Jordan Belfort wouldn’t touch.

4. The Project-Hopper

Jay P Morgan tells Picture Correct that to succeed it’s crucial to stay focused. “It’s easy to get distracted,” he warns, “see how much time you actually spend working and how much time you waste.”

What Morgan forgets, and hardened failures know, is that it’s in those moments of inattention when newness—the blip that didn’t show up on your old radar—is discovered.

It’s also maybe when you get evicted.

5. The Optimistic Failure

On SleekLens, one writer makes her feelings clear: “Whether you recently discovered photography or entered your twentieth year of photo-taking, you have every right to fail.”

The benefits of failure simply outweigh the costs: it will both “strengthen your patience,” “allow you start over,” and “make you brave.”

Of course, you wouldn’t much need these skills if you succeeded in the first place, wouldya?