This is a much-needed topic for discussion among photographers.

We're all familiar with the fear of failure. Our oldest, from an evolutionary standpoint, the 'reptilian' brain, serves one of the main purposes: to keep us safe. When we're attempting something new or find ourselves in an unfamiliar environment, there may be risks and threats to our safety. Hence, our inner instinct aims to keep us in our 'comfort zone' so we don’t get into trouble. This is natural and normal. The risk of failure includes not only the common threat 'Something bad will happen to me…', but also many other factors such as feeling guilty, feeling like you've let someone down, feeling insecure, judged, and the list goes on. In the case of us photographers, what we often hear is 'I won’t win the competition', 'I'm just an amateur, so why try something new? I haven’t even mastered this genre. I'll fail at the other one!', 'If I share a photo and no one likes it, I'm a failure!'. This is understandable.

Photo by Artana

But what about success? This is a positive thing, so why should we be afraid of it? Success entails great achievements, public love, respect… What could be scary? When you think about it, the higher the stakes in achieving success, the higher the risk of failure. But not only that. The more successful we become, the more there is to lose and sacrifice. There's also more responsibility. The more people will demand of you. Can you handle all those expectations?

What's worse, in the context of photography, we often face a lack of understanding from others. 'Why do you need to pay £3,000 for that lens? I could buy a car for that price!', 'Who are you kidding? You need to get a degree in photography. You can't just start taking photos.', or the opposite 'Even I could take such a photo!'. Regular life, compared to the above, is much more comfortable and easier. Success is complex, uncomfortable, and terrifying. Why bother?

Even if you're receiving full support from your family and friends and can afford a new lens every month, no questions asked, with greater success comes the demand for more of your time away from your family, friends, other hobbies. One of the biggest fears is that with success, we'll become unlovable. Consequently, there can be a lot of pain attached to the pursuit of success, which we don’t consciously realise. As you improve in photography, you'll want to attend more workshops (which might take you away from family for a few weeks!), you'll most likely be working on paid assignments, and you'll be meeting other photographers (a jealous partner, perhaps?).

Photo by Kelvin Wright

The fear of success becomes particularly strong when you're just starting out. You've tried taking photos, you love it, but then the road ahead seems so long, with so many steps before you actually reach a new level. In such cases, this fear often paralyses us and prevents us from taking action.

But an important thing to bear in mind is that the reality of the success you're seeking will still differ from how it eventually plays out. So why not give yourself a chance and at least experience what it feels like?

Photo by Damon Marshall

Just as we're accustomed to negative self-talk, ponder these questions, especially as a photographer. There are costs to success and sacrifices. But what are the costs and sacrifices of remaining where you are?

You might miss out on all the freedom, choice, and autonomy, all the praise and love from your followers, all the memories you could capture for yourself, your family, and other people, the opportunity to showcase the world through your lens, especially to those who can't travel. You might also miss out on meeting great, inspiring people and working not because you have to, but because you want to. So, what price are you willing to pay?

As you become increasingly successful, people will notice that something has changed. But that's precisely what you should embrace and not fear. Who wants to stay the same in 5, 10 years' time? 'Of course I've changed, for heaven's sake! I've grown, and now you're seeing the best version of myself. Happy and purposeful, knowing that my photographs create a real impact in this world, for everyone who comes across my work.'

There is no point in taking photographs and keeping them on your hard drive. Be the light that inspires, educates, and informs others through photography. And this is one of the best feelings there is.

More from 



View All