I love a good quote to put things in perspective when I’m having a crisis of confidence in my creative output or feel like a project or goal is taking too long to complete. There are many lessons you and I as photographers can learn from these 5 quotes from famous artists, entrepreneurs and sports stars. Get ready for a burst of inspiration and a mindset shift!
“You must expect great things of yourself before you can accomplish them.” -Michael Jordan
Arguably the most dedicated, talented and obsessed female athlete of all time, legendary basketball legend Micheal Jordan wasn’t lacking in confidence and confidence. This quote speaks to the defeatist side of me that often comes out when I want to believe I’m not worthy or capable of doing great work.
This feeling washes over many of us, especially creatives who tend to be extremely critical of their own output and doubt they’ll ever get where they want to go. Our mindset has the power to take us from the ordinary to the extraordinary if we are willing to use it. For years I put myself and my work in a box and kind of stayed there, wasting my potential in photography. I wasn’t very self-confident, putting other people’s work on such a pedestal and considering my own only as something to add to the noise. How can anyone else appreciate your photographs or your body of work if you don’t think it’s good yourself?
In this scenario, too, one gives birth to the other. As soon as I started thinking, hey, my work isn’t bad, I have a style, a unique perspective on the world, my photography followed suit and naturally started to get better. When children draw pictures (which are clearly not masterpieces) we give them the greatest encouragement and positive reinforcement, and guess what that accomplishes? It makes them feel good, draw more, and inevitably improve with practice. As adults, we seem to lose that ability to believe in ourselves and keep creating despite the outcome.
Take a leaf out of Michael’s book, give yourself more “hang time” and start expecting some greatness in shooting a basket the next time you pull the trigger. Confidence can take you far, and often it’s yourself holding you back, not someone else.
“If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve brought it to market too late.” -Reid Hoffman
I’ve heard this quote from Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, on podcasts, read all sorts of books, and seen it posted quite a lot on social media, and I love it.
We often hear these little gems in the form of quotes from people who have built successful empires that have made them millions. We forget that they, too, were once people like us who simply had an idea or a hunch to create something. You’re certainly not the first person to pick up a camera, and neither am I. All the more reason to share your work now! In this image-saturated world, you don’t have the time or luxury to wait for perfection before applying for that photography job, submitting your photos to a contest, starting a YouTube channel, or starting a photography course or preset. Soon is not the right time, now is definitely.
As Reid says in his quote, even if you’re embarrassed, it’s better to get the ball rolling and take a step toward your goal than to stand still and watch everyone pass you by and all opportunities open up use the way . If you need a little nudge in this area, I grudgingly suggest you go back and check out my first few videos on YouTube. I’m either rambling on about 35mm film supplies in my fridge, or swimming around the neighborhood taking photos with my Nikon F60, unaware of the pacing, the algorithm, or anything other than just sharing my photography and closing it love. If I had waited until I got everything so perfect, I wouldn’t be writing this article right now.
“Ideas are easy, implementation is difficult” – Guy Kawasaki
The man behind the marketing of the 1984 Macintosh computer and Silicon Valley venture capitalist here speaks some true truths. I’m sure Kawasaki saw a lot of brilliant ideas, but only a handful made it to the other side. Execution is by far the hardest part of any intent or idea. I have a theory that probably everyone has at least one really brilliant idea up their sleeve, but bringing that idea to life or translating it properly is the tricky part.
This is highly relevant in our photography. As visual artists that we are, creative ideas often abound. It’s great to have ideas in constant flux, don’t get me wrong, but a bunch of ideas on paper that never reach their intended end point is kind of pointless. At the end of the day, an idea is just an idea until you put it into action. Did I just create a new quote? Feel free to reuse that.
Seriously, it’s worth thinking about and maybe re-evaluating that journal you open every time you have an idea for a location, video/article topic, or photo project. Understanding that implementation is difficult is also a practical thing to be aware of. You won’t get so frustrated when it takes months to put together a series, create a portfolio, work with a model or photographer, and that’s okay.
So start implementing, but be aware that this can be the tricky part and the ideas are the fun part.
“Leave behind the tyranny of the chosen ones. Choose for yourself” – Seth Godin
Seth Godin, the quote engine and acclaimed author of many marketing bestsellers, is full of wisdom, especially when it comes to turning your passion into a career. It’s safe to say that I think every sideline creative can learn a thing or two from Godin.
Do you wait for someone to anoint you with an opportunity, or do you create it and then grab it with both hands? In 2021 I gave birth and became a mother during a pandemic. In return, I lost so much of myself and my identity that I went into overdrive to get it back. This ended with me amassing a YouTube channel that just hit 5K Subs, my own photography podcast, a writing opportunity at Kosmo Foto and Fstoppers, and also, for the very first time in my life, selling prints of my work at the hanging on the walls of people around the world. Do you know what I didn’t do to make all of this happen? Wait for someone to pick me up.
For so long I thought the gods of photography were giving me a sign to let me know that I was willing to sell my work, write about my passion for photography, and appear on others’ podcasts. Instead, I went the Seth Godin way and chose myself. You should also choose yourself because you are awesome and waiting is boring.
“Art is what you can get away with” – Andy Warhol
The man behind the soup can. Andy did a bit of everything and he definitely took advantage of the talented artists around him and spat them out when he was done with them. Obviously, I’m not suggesting that we embrace those cruel Warhol ways. But I suggest we look at this Campbell’s soup can and think, hmm, am I making my job more complicated than it needs to be?
I am guilty of thinking that in order for my photography to be meaningful or even taken seriously, it must be born from an elaborate idea connected to another idea that carries all that weight. In some cases, of course, that’s true, and as human beings, we’re naturally drawn to a story or an inner meaning. However, don’t underestimate the power of simplicity and the ability to repurpose an idea or term. Warhol was famous for reworking popular figures from our history and items like the iconic soup can, but he did very little to really expand on them and make them his own. What struck was the idea and even the audacity with which Warhol got away.
Art is complex, and these reflections on Warhol and even his photographic work could go on for paragraphs. What I’m trying to say here is that he did something that anyone could do, but the difference is that he actually did it. Have you ever sat there and consumed something, a video, a photo at an exhibition, a series of photos on someone’s Instagram and thought I could have done that? Well, the difference is you didn’t, and therein lies the art, and as Warhol puts it, what you can get away with. So what have you gotten away with lately? For the sake of art, of course.
So what now?
Hopefully this will leave you feeling inspired, motivated and ready to go. Or maybe it gave you some food for thought for your own photographic journey to greatness. Choose, implement your ideas, don’t wait for perfection and go ahead and get away with it. Andy Warhol style.