The word success has always bothered me. It was a goal, an elusive one, and no matter how much I tried, I always felt that I wasn’t anywhere close to it. What I considered ‘success’ or ‘successful’ had a lot to do with status and money. I was brought up to think this way, and I am going to assume that many of you reading this will agree with me. For my parents, at least, money was the singular marker for whether they had succeeded or not. And that became my definition too, for a long time, that is, until I got my first job.
I always knew that there wasn’t a lot of money to be earned in writing. But I took it up anyway because I wanted to learn how to write, and write well. I also began photographing along the way, failing miserably at first. You know what they say about finding a subject that you love. Well, I hadn’t found mine, not at the time at least. I just continued working at it.
And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good. – John Steinbeck
Almost six years later, there hasn’t been a drastic change on the salary front, but two things have worked for me. My writing has significantly improved, and I had finally discovered what I enjoyed photographing. I consider these milestones or rather stepping stones for what is to come. But am I anywhere close to achieving success? No. Am I satisfied with how far I’ve come? No. Am I happy? Absolutely.
Who Is A Successful Wedding Photographer?
The other day, I had a chat with Abhishek Scariya, a Bengaluru-based wedding photographer, about how he defined success and the qualities that make a successful wedding photographer. “The whole idea of using success as a yardstick is very unsettling, and I realized it is so because success has always been defined by others. So what is the correct definition of the term? It’s satisfaction”.
I don’t know anyone who was forced into being a photographer. This tells me that there is a personal motivation. Having said that, let’s also assume that we are talking about photographers who use photography to make a living. Now if we keep this assumption and the metric of satisfaction in mind, and then combine them, you are, in my view, looking at a successful wedding photographer. I wouldn’t add any other parameter.”
“So what happens after the photographer arrives at the pinnacle he set for himself? What happens now that he is successful?” I asked Abhishek. “The thing about wedding photography is the gradual realization that you’re shooting the same thing over and over again. It’s not that you didn’t know this already, but the thought eventually sinks in. So where do you go after realizing that you are a successful wedding photographer? I’ve observed that most people who reach this pinnacle end up becoming slaves of the latest trends in wedding photography. This is why, I’ve always held on to the fact that wedding photographers should look for motivation from outside the genre, maybe even outside photography itself. It’s also pertinent that you ask yourself—If weddings didn’t exist, would I still be a photographer? It’s so important to be satisfied being a photographer first. Everything else will fall in line,” he says.
This, however, is just one way of looking at the subject. For Prakash Tilokani, who spent the last three decades building his photographic repertoire, the road to success is one fraught with hard work and sacrifice. “I believe that everyone has to pay the price to reach a certain level of success. And the person who is prepared to reach there is already in the state of mind to go through it, regardless of the conditions. Will this self-sacrificing path affect the person’s creativity? This is very subjective. For me, it has always boosted my creativity,” he says.
“We have been conditioned to believe that success is a destination we have to work very hard and make huge scarifies for,” says Payal kumar, a Mumbai-based wedding photographer. “Before becoming a wedding photographer, I had spent 13 years in advertising, where I burnt myself out completely. However, in the last seven years of being a wedding photographer, I’ve learnt that success is a personal journey, and not a destination. Moreover, it is I who gets to decide what my benchmark will be, and then do whatever it takes to make it possible. It’s given that there will be emotional, physical and creative stress, but the fact that I am in charge of my destiny, I get to prioritize what’s important in my life, be it my health, my family, my values, money, or recognition. My success may not measure up to my peers or seem ideal in the world we live in. Yet, I’m happy to meet my ‘success’ milestones at my own pace.”
Motivational speaker, author and consultant, Alan Berg, author of the book ‘Your Attitude For Success’, is also of the opinion that in order to be successful, you’ve got to start by prioritizing different aspects of your business and personal life. “You are going to have to accept that there will be days when you will have to say no to a client, since you have already made a personal commitment to your family. Remember that success is more than money. Money isn’t going to make you love your job,” he said.
Is Success The Equivalent Of A Mirage In The Desert?
“Your job should give you a better life,” says Nitin Dangwal, a Delhi-based wedding photographer. “It doesn’t matter if this life entails shooting 10 or a hundred weddings in a year, or if it means spending a good amount of time with your family, or devoting your entire life to your craft. It’s your decision.” For Karan Sidhu, a Delhi-based wedding photographer as well, and Saravanakumar Thangavelu, a wedding photographer from Coimbatore, success is consistently ensuring that they deliver great work to their clients.
There is no standard definition for success. “It’s your success, it’s your definition,” says Alan Berg. For me, success is the equivalent of a mirage in the desert. I say this because I don’t think I am ever going to be successful. It’s not that I don’t have goals or targets. I most certainly do, but they’re not benchmarks for success. With success, there is an underlying implication that you’ve learned everything that there is to know about your work. And I don’t ever want to reach that point, or rather, it’s foolish to assume that you will ever reach it. The learning never stops. As Arthur Ashe had said, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”
We would love to read your thoughts in the comments below. What is success to you, and what would you sacrifice to attain it?