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Opinion: what does it mean to be a successful photographer?

(Image credit: Amy Shore)
Meet the pro: Amy Shore

Amy Shore

(Image credit: Amy Shore)

Amy is a UK-based photographer and photojournalist who focuses mainly on car and motorbike-related subjects, working for clients such as Lexus, Renault Alpine, Jaguar Land Rover and multiple publications. She is also a Nikon ambassador.

What does it mean to be a successful photographer? Perhaps one has to earn a certain amount of money? Or have a certain number of social media followers? What if one had the fame and following but struggled to make a living? 

Would it make them a successful photographer but a terrible businessperson? And what about those international award-winning photographers whose images we admire? Is the multi-award winner more successful than the one-time award winner? Or the awardless?

I have been a professional photographer for six years now. That certainly doesn’t mean I’ve been a successful photographer for the same amount of time. 

I was the poorest I’ve ever been when I first started, living with my parents. I also didn’t have a clue what Instagram was. And yet, I consider myself to have been a successful photographer for much longer than that.

In my own opinion at least,  what is more important than any number of awards, or followers, or invoices you may ever send to clients is that you enjoy what you are doing and what you are producing. That is success of the highest realm. 

When I first started photographing for fun on holidays, I shot images that I liked. I wasn’t quite sure why I liked them, but I knew that I did. A passion had sparked in me. I didn’t feel that passion when photographing wildlife, babies or landscapes, and I hadn’t even tried photographing a car at that point, but I knew I felt something when photographing people.

What is more important than any number of awards, or followers, or invoices you may ever send to clients is that you enjoy what you are doing and what you are producing

Amy Shore

I believe that it’s the success of finding a passion to take photographs I actually liked that led to the ability to do this professionally. You are successful if you are picking up your camera and enjoying the magical medium and what you produce.

Vivian Maier, one of the most brilliant street photographers of her time, died unknown and unpublished. Her collection was found after she died in 2009 and was posted online. Since then, Maier has been critically acclaimed and her work exhibited worldwide, with documentaries and books created about her life’s work. 

She never saw the impact her images would have on the world, inspiring many photographers, myself included. She took over 150,000 images purely for the love of the art and what she saw around her. That love was her success. The rest was simply a bonus.

Read more: 
The best cameras for landscapes
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Lauren is the editor of Digital Photographer magazine, a practical-focused publication that inspires hobbyists and seasoned pros alike to take truly phenomenal shots and get the best results from their kit. 

An experienced photography journalist who has been covering the industry for over seven years, she has served as technique editor for both PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine

PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine and DCW's sister publication, Digital Camera Magazine

In addition to techniques and tutorials that enable you to achieve great results from your cameras, lenses, tripods and other photography equipment, Lauren can regularly be found interviewing some of the biggest names in the industry, sharing tips and guides on subjects like landscape and wildlife photography, and raising awareness for subjects such as mental health and women in photography.