Top Photographers Share Their Thoughts on Success and ‘Making It’

Pursuing a career doing something you love can be a terrifying thing, and so we often look to the people who have “made it” in our field as sources of inspiration. We see the work of a Heisler, Hobby or Arias, and it helps us to push through when times get tough, as they inevitably do in any pursuit.

And if, once in a while, we get the chance to hear these successful people to talk about how exactly they made it, and what it takes to be a successful photographer (or anything really), then we’ve gotten really lucky. In the video above we get exactly that, from eight of the world’s best known and most successful photographers.

The video was produced by Lee Morris and Patrick Hall of Fstoppers. The duo got a chance to attend Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai this year, sat down with some of the titans of the photography industry to discuss success in general.

The photographers interviewed were Zack Arias, John Keatley, Joe McNally, Peter Hurley, Scott Hargis, David Burnett, Greg Heisler and David Hobby — all names you’ve seen mentioned before if you’ve followed PetaPixel for any amount of time.


The venue was the lobby and dining area of the Holiday Inn Express, the topic was success, and no questions were off-limits. Many of the photographers talked about success as it specifically pertained to photography and the struggles they personally went through. Others, such as Hurley, spoke more towards success in general.

There is far too much wisdom and inspiration in this video for us to include in written form unless our goal was to write a novel, so we’ll let you watch the video for most of it, but a few specific ideas came up again and again: work harder than everyone else, never give up, it’s never too late or early to start, and go after photography only if it’s what you really love to do.

They may seem like cliché pieces of advice you’ll find in any self-help book, but remember, these are the words of the people that are doing what many of you would like to be doing sometime in the (hopefully) near future.

For even more inspiration, check out Fstoppers‘ full write-up about the interviews.

Fstoppers Original: Success in Photography [Fstoppers]

  • cybergabi

    Seems you need to be a man to ‘make it’.

  • byoung328

    Dorothea Lange, Annie Leibovitz, Carrie Mae Weens, Ellen Von Unwerth, Kiki Smith, Cindy Sherman, Sally Mann, Jill Greenburg, Julia Cameron, Eve Arnold, Daine Arbus….. Not men…

  • MeloCreative

    I would say emphatically that I prefer the work of each of the women you mentioned than the ‘successful’ male photographers noted in the video. But I doubt any of these living women would or do attend these events.

  • CrackerJacker

    But not interviewed, either.

  • Antonio Carrasco

    Don’t Joe Mcnally and Zack Arias “make it” by earning the majority of their income by teaching workshops? I’m not knocking them whatsoever, as I admire both of the photographers greatly.

    I just wonder if “making it” in photography today requires you to mainly teach workshops.

  • Alison Leaf

    Absolutely!! Was thinking the same thing myself.

  • jkantor267

    The ones making the money are the ones selling books, videos, seminars, and website ads on “How to Make It.”

  • Rebecca T-S

    Exactly. My first thought was “where are the women?”

  • Gman

    Annie Leibovitz wouldn’t be anywhere if she wasn’t a woman. You can work that out from her own book.

  • WriterWriter

    Nice to hear from these fellows but they get SO much coverage…. Where are the successful women (I am one)?

    It would be nice if the rest of us got a bit of print too; I’m sure thses guys will want to support other professionals, right?

  • WriterWriter

    I recently met Mary Ellen Mark. She has definitively made it as a photographer, not as a travelling book seller.

  • Patrick Hall

    We filmed this at Gulf Photo Plus with the lecturers there, unfortunately there was only one female photographer in the bunch and we weren’t able to film her due to scheduling. I think we missed about 4 other teachers as well….they were all male except for the one female. It’s not our agenda to exclude females, just none of them were in Dubai

  • Eugene Chok

    wow the comments killed my inspiration…. thanks guys and girls….

  • Drew

    RIght? I feel the same way. Great words of advice from some awesome artists.

  • j

    dude. maybe spell the names of the people you admire correctly?!

  • j

    zack doesn’t do workshops, and joe does like 6-7 a year. i don’t think that’s how they are making it

  • j

    there was one at GPP, and she isn’t at the level of any of these guys. if a single one of the women listed in byoung328’s comment were there, they would have been interviewed if possible. get over it.

  • cybergabi

    Yes. But most of them are dead or started off way earlier than either of the guys above. I’m talking about today. Which is sad.