The Journey to becoming a Successful Photographer/Filmmaker


[Music] [Music] I get it I really do when you’re starting out it can be incredibly frustrating you’ve worked so hard to take your work from something that was pretty rubbish and you wouldn’t have shown many people and you’ve developed your skills you’ve shot a lot you put more work out there and you’re finally quite proud of what you’re producing and all you want in the world is for as many eyeballs as possible to look at that work to affirm what you’re doing to tell you yes you’re on the right track and to say you are doing a good job and if that motivates you if that drives you to shoot more and produce more and put more work out there I think that’s fantastic but if that creates anxiety in you if that gives you sleepless nights it’s time to put that drive in the right box in your head you may even have an expectation that if you just get your work in front of the right people that they’ll see your huge talent and they’ll throw time and energy and money at you to make you a success on your behalf but I don’t think that’s a reasonable expectation I don’t know a single person who that happened to in real life I don’t even know an example anecdotally if someone that happened to who they were putting work out there and one person came to them or a company and said hey here’s a ton of money get on a plane come over we’ll buy you camera again we’ll get you a ton of work I just don’t think it’s a reasonable expectation of how things work and we have to put that expectation in context everybody I know who made a success of a career in photography only did so because of hours and days and years and years of patience and work and putting themselves out there I think that’s the only reasonable way we can expect it will happen for those of you been following this channel for a little while you’ll know some of my story that my career with the church fell apart and I walked away and had to start from scratch so when I started photography it was really from the bottom with no connections and no Gearin and just learning the know-how because I’d only been doing it on the side of church work before and it actually meant that at 30 years old I had to sell everything I owned I had to pack what belongings I could carry into a suitcase and a backpack and come back here to the UK because I was really struggling to find work in South Africa and I felt that starting from the bottom I mean walking through an airport realizing that there isn’t anything else in storage anywhere everything I have is in this suitcase and this backpack on back that’s my whole life and I’m starting from the ground up and I got off the plane here I was kindly taken in by a family friend who helped me get on my feet and I’ve slowly slowly made my way forward and let me be honest I am no big deal I mean you’ve heard me say in a previous update video I am doing this year as a trial to see if I can make this work freelance and I’m not convinced I can it’s really a risk and that’s after 15 years of photography all in all I know how hard that is to hear because you’re just desperate for people to see your work now a view to find success straight away but someone has to be honest with you and say that a career as a freelance photographer or filmmaker nowadays is very difficult and it looks like it’s getting more difficult and I’m not saying that to dampen your spirits I’m saying that so hopefully you’ll keep going and understand that it’s a journey it probably won’t happen overnight that you have to calibrate the expectations for the long-term let that anxiety for it must happen now subside so you can actually enjoy the journey let me give you some tough truths that I think will help you with that anxiety number one your heroes are not as successful and bulletproof as you think they are I think we’re always taught that when we communicate online when we make a video or when we’re interviewed or when we write a blog post that we have to sound successful and sound like the phone is just ringing off the hook with people wanting to work with this it’s what we’re taught to do and how we’re taught to market our self in confident capitalist society but you’d be surprised about how many big-name industry professionals are struggling right now let alone little guys like me who are worried about will work keep coming in how am I going to make it to the end of the year what is my plan going forward because the industry is changing so fast it’s not as easy as they make it look number two everybody is selfish and they’re worried about themselves even the big guys I know the temptation is to just keep contacting people who look successful and show them your work and ask them to help you so that you can be successful and I’ll be honest with you I did exactly the same thing when I was coming over here to the UK I contacted Philip Bloom who a lot of you will know he’s a he’s a filmmaker he’s worked in news for years and he he produces beautiful documentary stuff and I thought if I get hold of him and I can get in as his assistant maybe he can give me some money as a job and I can learn and it’d be great so I sent him an email I put a link into my video portfolio at the time and I asked him hey can I come over and work and in the back of my head I thought that was a serious request of course he’d be able to do that and that would be my way in and I got an email back not too long afterwards and it was very very kind but it said no and no now looking back obviously not he had probably had his own ways and his own things to sort out he’s not a business he’s just a guy who’s going around and doing this stuff and my portfolio at the time was embarrassingly crap it’s just I couldn’t see it and because I wanted a shortcut I gone to this guy hoping he could give it to me he could give me that leg up it’s only recently that I’ve had people starting to contact me and say hey you know hire me as your assistant I’ll come over you could pay me I’ll learn a lot it’ll be a great two-way relationship and I don’t know what I’m doing to present the wrong picture but I’m not a successful guy with a successful business and one guy who is freelancing and hoping that for the next few years I can keep just my head above water I think YouTube and social media gives the wrong impression that if people are following me online it means I have a successful business but in my experience certainly followers on YouTube or Instagram do not translate into business or they certainly haven’t for me yet we’re all just struggling along little freelancers and big-name photographers in a fast changing industry we’re all worried about how we’re going to make this work and very very few and making a huge success of it so if you’re starting out in photography the truth is you and I are far more in the same boat than you think number three if success and notoriety is your goal no amount of money or attention will ever be enough I mean how much money is enough how many clients will you have before you’ll say I’m making a success of what I do how many followers on Instagram or how many subs on YouTube is enough for you to go I am now a success at what I do I can relax I’ve made it I’d crossed some kind of invisible line because I promise you this when you reach those goals you set for yourself another goal will be staring you in the face probably before you even get there when you get to those 10,000 subs on YouTube that seemed impossible to reach a hundred thousand is going to be the next goal and it’ll seem a long way off and you won’t be happy to reach that but when you do there’s a million subs and there’s ten million subs none of those things will make you happy and if you’re constantly chasing success or money or attention your art is going to suffer and number four if you don’t deal with your need for attention and affirmation you may lose your art altogether I’m gonna be really straight with you here if you found that anxiety to succeed and be successful straight away is keeping you up at night is is constantly gnawing away at you it might be time to go speak to somebody I mean I had counseling for years with people and this was one of the issues that came up and it was great to be able to talk that through to work out where did my own need for approval come from and to put that into perspective in my head and then get back to work because the need to have your work appreciated is a good need there’s nothing wrong with that but when it’s over calibrated when it’s too emotionally charged when it saps you of your energy it will cause you to lose your way if you don’t deal with it what I would say is don’t miss the journey all of this struggling and fighting and wrestling at the beginning is a big part of the story that’s going to make up your life when I listen to interviews with actors the most interesting parts of their story are often when they were going to audition after audition after audition at the beginning of their career and they were failing and struggling and fighting and all the things they were learning along the way that made them who they are today stand-up comics do the same they’ll talk fondly often of the days that they had to go to four or five clubs in the night and do these sets where they were paid very very little and walked away but they were on a buzz and all that training and fighting and struggling with little sleep and lots of frustration made them who they are today and it’s the same for photographers it’s so interesting hearing stories about photographers you start out with very little gear and how they struggled for years but in those early years there was something pure about their work because they were fighting for every little inch of it the question you have to ask yourself is and I ask myself as regularly is if the notoriety I have today and the success I have today is is as good as it gets it never gets better than this from here it goes downhill would I keep doing this thing that I love do you actually love to take photographs do you love to make films do you love to write do you love to make poetry or paint or or act or whatever it is that you do do you love it does it fire you up and if you never get more successful than you are today would you keep doing it because you love the art itself because if you do that will give you the energy to keep doing what you do into the future because the art form itself is its own reward and if you find huge success or notoriety one day it will just be the byproduct of somebody doing what they absolutely love so those are just some of the things I’ve been thinking about in the last month after interacting with you guys online and I hope it’s encouraged you in the last video I mentioned that I was putting a store live and I’m really excited to say that all the books are now in so if you want to grab yourself a copy I’m really proud of this I had a friend of mine help me design it and I think it came out beautifully there are 90 images in here some of my favorites from last year 45 black and white and then 45 color and some quotes from some of the different videos so if you want to pick up your copy to support me I’d really really appreciate that and then this month on the 22nd of February it’s a Thursday evening I’ll be giving a talk at a coffee shop here in London it’ll be great to see as many of you there as possible I’ll link the event down below I will be selling books there and using it a little bit of a launch for this book but also I’ll be giving a talk about my trip to Namibia last year and everything I learned from the trip itself and my time spent shooting portraits with the Himba [Music] [Music]

100 Replies to “The Journey to becoming a Successful Photographer/Filmmaker”

  1. Fantastic, once again. Love your honesty in telling the crude truth about being a freelance photographer/creative. It is hard, it is soul destroying, it is stressful, it is long…….but love the artform and you'll fight through reality.

  2. Very honest, Sean. I‘m sure you’re right. One should stuck more on fun than success. Millions of photographers on the road. As singers. Or writers. Or painters. And how few are top successful… it’s all about the passion

  3. As an Introvert myself I find you so inspiring. Being surrounded by extroverts from my girlfriend to most of my friends and social influences I can find it hard to relate and express my mental processes, but I feel like you really understand my own mental process, I've only just discovered your channel this month, but I'm already more emotionally invested with you than anyone else I follow. Bit deep but there you go.

  4. Your honesty and sharing your personal insights is very inspiring! Thank you kindly insti – @world_with_chai

  5. Sean, I'm an amateur photographer, for 42 years I've been a full time pastor and part time family therapist. I love your videos – not only practical and helpful but insightful and inspiring. Thanks for sharing. Allen

  6. Hi Sean, I was shunted out of the church at the age of 58. One of the leaders came down to South Africa from the UK to inform me that I was "too old' and that younger people should take over. I had no pension and was literally living from hand-to-mouth for a decade. Even at my age, nothing better could have happened to me. Your sober message is needed so much in the world of photography. The learning curve for me was so beneficial. And I shudder to think what I would have become if I had stayed in the"church". I totally love what I am doing now and you are someone who gives me courage to continue.

  7. this was such a humbling video to watch. these were painful but necessary truths i needed to hear right now. i just quit my job after eleven years as a starbucks barista. i quit on a total whim with nothing lined up. the corporate world is toxic to artists, i think. after juggling a hundred other things alongside photography for fifteen years, i just felt like it was my time to fully step in. as i work through this transition as gracefully and fearlessly as i can possibly muster, just about a year shy of my 30th birthday, i feel like i'm looking at a mirror watching this video. thank you for your continued realness. to hear it from someone i look up to and respect that this is not an easy road, is more helpful than somebody telling me that i can do whatever i set my mind to. though both are true, i think tough love goes deeper than having your hand held and your back patted all the time. this is a horrifying journey, and i want to embrace that. thank you, sean.

  8. This video is incredible and so meaningful! Your channel was shared to us by a friend of ours and we're so glad! You're very genuine and your content is fantastic!
    Even though our YouTube channel is much smaller than yours, I felt a pull to comment and try to help; have you considered creating a Patreon account?
    A lot of content creators are linking to their Patreon account because it's a direct way for them to get supported fully by their followers. It's another way your viewers could engage and learn from you. Of course, you need to provide additional value and your followers need to see that, in order to pay each month, but you're very talented and have a lot to offer. I think it would be a great fit for your brand. Anyway – we're a new subscriber to you and wish you all the best! Maybe one day we'll collaborate 🙂

  9. Wise words my friend, I've been a photographer since I was 19 years old, I'm 67 now and still love photography,. Bang on doors do face to face if you can that's my advice,never give up. Iam still doing freelance,yes it is slow because of digital cameras every one is a photographer these days

  10. Sean, thank you very much for this inspiring video. Your words inspire me to do better in photography. Keep on making inspiring videos like this. 🙂

  11. This was an amazing video. So straight forward. That is something hard to find these days. It really madam think about my life. Not photographs but more wants behind some of what you talked about. Great work. Just ordered your second book the other day.

  12. What an amazingly humble video .. I loved when Sean says " if you never get successful, would you continue shooting". YES most certainly would!! Thanks Sean!!

  13. Sean, I'm so glad that I found you on YouTube so early on. I'm just starting on my journey and you're the most honest and kind mentor anyone could ask for!

  14. Do you have a video on your past church life/career? I was once studying to become a theologian (was part of the New Calvinist tradition), and then I left it after realizing they would never love truth the way I did. Whereas I wanted the truest conception of life possible (e.g., accepting what is logically true), they only cared for maintaining their traditions.

    There are more reasons why I left, but that's one of them here. Would love hear to hear your backstory!

  15. I so appreciate your honesty. I was a journalist for over 25 years so storytelling is what makes me get up in the morning, but it is sooo hard to make a living. I keep wondering how long I can hang on. I don't seek attention or approval. I just need to survive doing what I love to do! At the end of the day, the only thing that matters to me is telling a good story. Unfortunately, we have to eat and pay bills. I just can't seem to give up… yet!

  16. Thank you for your honesty. I take pictures because I love it. I like taking pictures. Enjoy it. I have learn a lot from you as a photographer. Thanks again.

  17. The question "Would you still do what you do if you knew you'll never be successful with it" is really worth thinking about. Very honest and precious video. Thank you.

  18. Bless you, bruv! A very important message, and strangely inspirational: it's OK to struggle! There is always room to learn and grow, especially in adversity. It takes an energy and spirit that can be hard to sustain, but the challenge will always be there when you have the energy to pick it up. Finding the love in it definitely is the key.

    Break a leg!

  19. Your videos and work have helped me pick up my camera again. Thank you for making these videos, discussing technique, art, struggle, feelings, they are very motivating! Good luck in the future!

  20. Not to compare, I love Philip Bloom but in some ways likely you will be more successful than him. In your own genuine way you inspire. I have 28+ years in production and your presentations are food for my soul brother.

  21. I'm learning photography in university. But after the graduation, i lost myself because i don't know how to reach people. I can't get followers and i don't know how to create content. Even now the social media get those algorithm things that makes my post never reach audience. I need to use popular people to expose my page. But i hate to do so. So i'm drowning with my own artwork. I need something fresh. Its been 4 years since i left photography. But i think i need to come back doing my passion.

  22. @sean, you are just amazing. I relate with you so much. You are philosophical and love creating art, just like i am. I asked myself the question that if i don't succeed as a photographer, would i still take photos and the answer is yes. Toy address just great

  23. The fight with my craft of light capture will be my own self …..the confidence I have in myself is always shaken by a bad experience in the past not even related to photography…..but I know that photography and image creation is something I enjoy so much not just for my own personal therapy but for the expression of my artistic spirit ……I know that I may never be famous but I know that I am a photographer , artist , and have the true desire to share my creations / compositions …..whether I make a living at it or not, I know I have put into this world some of myself presented in my visions captured with a camera ….I think it was ANSEL that said the photograph or image capture starts 5 inches before the view finder…..so if those images are a part of me I can hold my head high and say to myself be proud but not arrogant , thank you to whoever see's my work and finds any interest in it at all………

  24. And even if you do "make it" , sustaining that desire for your work amongst art buyers and art directors is also a very tenuous relationship as there is always someone coming up with something newer and more interesting…..I was doing great between the ages of 35-42ish that was my high point , more work and travel than I could handle and a six-figure income – now 56 I have to shoot real estate to make a living but I lived through the big change from film to digital and thus in the middle of my career I had to relearn everything…..then I lost my rep as their agency closed, then I lost my stringer work with Getty as they cut back bureau coverage…..things are always changing….especially in the photojournalism, editorial game…..you can never really say you've made it as all you have achieved can disappear for no fault of your own – just some words of advice from someone who has had a bit of success in the field only to find it wane with the evolution of digital technology

  25. Hey Sean. For whatever it is worth. I believe that you have what you need to succeed (whatever that means for you). And you have the right vision. Thank you for your videos. They inspire me. and may God bless you! And thank you for your videos!

  26. WHen I am tired of looking at other videos, and I need to find peace (call me crazy), I play your videos. 🙂

  27. I would really like to go out and shot with you, but I wouldn't ask you to pay me or anything to assist you lol I like your style of work and that is the only reason.
    Great content! As always.

  28. Sean this is exactly why I love your channel and what you have to offer. I really do appreciate this frank honesty – and you are so right! Wishing you lots of success and happiness.

  29. You speak with wisdom, no doubt through the trials of life…. I love who you are! A very inspiring individual. God bless you to prosper wherever your path leads. Nancy

  30. I watched this last year and was inspired by your talk.
    Watched it again to motivate me to continue on and yes I Love Photography and the Art of it.
    I may not be successful yet but will never stop.

    Sean, you are Successful. In Life…

  31. I' ve seen hundreds of videos and tutorial of many photographers but I never seen a video like this in youtube, I admire the honesty of Sean.

  32. Love love love your honesty Mr Tucker. Your art and your heart are so connected to truth. I've just found you in the last 2 weeks. I now have to listen to and observe your channel as much as possible. I'm 72 and have been a musician and a photographer and a movie industry professional most of my life. All of these things I've done at different times in my life and and very inconsistently because of the nature of all them. Hot and cold is a good description. They are all very competitive and in LA there is no shortage of any of these particular mediums being done by brilliant humans and growing more saturated everyday. I love what I do and at this age maybe more now than ever. I love the inspiration and tips and techniques I find on Youtube by many wonderful Photo and musical artists as well as more now than ever Filmmakers. But you are on another level Sean. I love this particular episode because of the very well thought out and insightful but BRUTAL honesty. You are such a wise and sensitive young man with wisdom way beyond your years. Your craft is also way beyond most people twice your age and experience. I have to thank you for placing yourself right in the eye of the storm fearlessly like a warrior with so much grace and generosity for all of us to revel in. I'm eternally grateful. [email protected]

  33. ..and now you have significantly more subscribers than Mr.Philip Bloom. Yeah, of course, it isn't a measure of success. But it inspired me, thank you, Sean!

  34. Here's what I love: you speak truth. Such a great presentation. Reminds me of the Wizard of Oz where the wizard says "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" And we find out that he is just a man like everyone else. You speak to hard work and self-examination. Those are qualities that will never go out of style. And, of course, to doing something that you really love. Thanks for the incredible perspective and focus on what really matters!

  35. The worst thing about photography is that anyone can take a photograph. That is why it is so little valued. But who really loves her knows how difficult this job is and all the learning it requires. Good video Sean.

  36. You are a great photographer but even a greater human being. I feel blessed to have funded you in my path. Thank you ever so much for everything.

  37. I'm watching your posts for a while now, I can't say how much I respect and admire your transparency and obviously I'm not the only one here, I just simply love it.

  38. There's a ton of insta freelancers who have practically only just picked up a camera who seem to be getting work and recognition. There's definitely a shit ton of talented videographers coming through. Not sure what you're doing maybe some niches are more successful than others?

    Just as ppl probably fake success… Its not an unknown strategy to play it down.

  39. With all due respect, I get the message you're trying to convey, the problem is you're complaining about just scraping by in one of the most expensive cities in the world !
    I live in London and understand the grind all too well, the difference is my job relies on the city, yours as a freelance realistically could be done from a less central post with some commuting involved.
    You'd be doing fine if it were not for location…

  40. Wow just WOW!!!Thank you Sean, keep on doing what you do! you just dont know how much helpful your videos!!!

  41. You Sir, say it like the way I think and feel. I think this is one of the best ones I ever seen on Youtube. Its a hard ride, but Im happy for every period I can earn just enough to do the thing I love to do.

  42. I cannot tell you how important this video is to me. Just 2 months ago I packed up everything I own into my little Ford Focus and moved back to Long Island New York from Naples Florida. Shortly afterwards I had to have a massive spinal surgery and had to delay relocating and restarting my photography business. Starting from scratch this video absolutely went straight to the sole of my photography.
    Thank you very much!

  43. You know what you're doing, Sean, that nobody else is doing? (of course you do) .. being honest and sincere with your followers. And that's what we love.
    Please don't stop, because we also need you, to be you!

  44. Sean's philosophy applies to life and not only to photography. Ponder on this and you will find your way in life. Be it photography or any other art.

  45. I think your work is amazing. It’s artful and meaningful and you’re a class act Sean. Thank you for consistently putting out great content 🙏🏼

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