How Many Of You Are Standing On The Dock?

August 12, 2009 | • Resources


I got an email today. I need to share it.

It has been six months since I dug deep into my funk and produced a video called Transform for Scott Kelby’s blog. Since that time I have received not only over 700 comments on my blog and over 500 comments on Scott’s blog but hundreds of emails and dozens of phone calls regarding the video.

I was on the peripheral edges of the photography industry when I put that video out there and now I can’t accept any more friends on facebook because I’ve reached the 5,000 friend limit. The video I was hoping would strike a chord with a few people went viral with tens of thousands of people. I had no idea the impact it would make. To be honest, I was scared to death to actually release it because I thought I would have a Jerry Mguire moment where everyone would think I had lost it. Quite the opposite happened.

Many have written to me saying it has helped them keep going. Today I got an email that has hit me in the gut and got me thinking and I want to share it with you because we need to hear from you who feel you just can’t keep going with the insane idea that you might actually become an honest to God working photographer.


As late to the game as I am with this, I wanted to thank you. I’ve watched the “Transform” video a lot since stumbling upon it earlier this year. It gets me thinking, and now I’m approaching a sink or swim moment. I’ve never been closer to sinking. What I noticed when watching it, and it’s the reason I keep watching it as often as I do, is that it doesn’t seem to have the same effect on me as it does everyone else. I don’t feel relieved that someone else goes through the same sort of despair. Instead, I agonize over the following question: If someone so talented and together feels this way then what chance have I got?

February is a rough spot for me too, but for a different reason. With each February I track the years that I’ve been stagnating. February marks some milestones in my path along this thing called photography. It’s when I started seriously thinking about it. It’s when I got my hands on an SLR for the first time. It’s when I finally got one of my own. It’s when I started getting my lighting knowledge together. It’s also, with this past February, when I noted how little I’ve progressed in the past couple of years, and how afraid I am to do the things I want to be doing.

I started a 365 project that fell flat. I just stopped taking photos. I got busy with real life and just kept forgetting. I just had no direction with it. Often I’d get ready to go to bed and my wife would remind me I hadn’t taken a picture. I’d hurry and just shoot something around the house. Eventually I just stopped trying. I was too tired. I’ve been thinking of picking it up again, or starting from scratch, but I already know how it’ll turn out.

I’ve gone from being interested in photography, to getting brave with a P&S, to being self-conscious with a DSLR, to learning light, to having big ideas, to being ready to sell my camera or put it away for good. “Transform” reminds me that there’s something others have within them that I don’t. What inspires them to get things done that I’m missing? I’ve been analyzing and comparing for far too long.

I never went to school for photography. I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the great photographers or their work, I don’t make much money. I have very little gear and can’t afford anything new. I don’t drive. I can’t get anywhere. I don’t have time. I’m spread too thin. I have too many interests and hobbies. I’m too old to start now. I’ve missed my chance. I have no confidence. I have no ambition or drive. Is it any of these things? Is it all of them?

I know all of these things are excuses and that if I truly wanted to become a photographer I’d just shut up and do it. But how do you DO that? Nobody teaches you how to have that thing that actually makes you DO it. To this day I have no idea why I’m fighting off the urge to just quit. I just keep dreaming, and I keep fretting, and I keep making excuses.

I mainly wanted to just get this out of my system and finally thank you for your video, and for how what you do inspires me. It may not seem like it from what’s written above, but it’s true. You’re doing what I’d love to be doing. I’m not interested in a ton of gear and gigantic, expensively produced photoshoots or extensive photoshop work. You remind me that people can just get out there and do it. I’m just not sure I’m one of those people, and “Transform” reminds me how much I have to think about.


P.S. – I’ve re-written this three times, each time deleting it because I felt really stupid writing it. I’m finally sending it because, of the things I’m tired of, being afraid of appearing stupid is near the top.

B. After all my schooling and years of assisting photographers I sat around for a long, long time wondering… “Yeah, but how in the hell do you have a career doing this?” I’ve heard the stories of others but what about MY story? When does mine start? How do I go from understanding apertures, shutter speed, flash power, softboxes, and the like to actually going out and producing work that I am proud of AND work that pays my bills? How do I do that?

Seriously. I had all the technical. I knew how other people had done it. It’s like sitting in a bar in a harbour town hearing people come off the ships telling stories about new lands they have found. You know what a boat is. You know how it works. But you have no idea how to go get your own boat and set off to find new land of your own.

Currently we are rebuilding the way we do business in our studio. I have been on a research path for two years to go in a direction that I was getting ready to launch in the next 60 days and with a few words from the sweet lips of my wife’s mouth I have just about scrapped that last two years of preparation to strike off into uncharted waters. I’m heading out to a place that I’ve heard plenty of stories about but I’ve yet to experience on my own. Plenty have gone before me but now it’s time for me to set sail with my own boat. Will it sail? Will it sink?

There is only one way to find out.

You are standing on the dock and you can always stand on that dock. Always. Or you can get in a boat and push off. A well known photographer once said that they dove in over their heads and swam for the top. That’s pretty inspirational. I’ve done the same thing. However… I don’t think they said anything about how many dead bodies that they had to swim by to get to the surface again.

Want to climb to the top of Mount Everest? You’ll be passing the dead bodies of those who wanted the same thing and never made it.

But damn it all… Those dead souls died climbing. How many explorers have died exploring? Countless. How many explorers have died sitting at home? Countless still.

How many of you, right now, are wondering the same thing that B. is wondering? B. wants to hear from you. Tell us your story. Drop it in the comments. All of us just want to make sure that we aren’t alone.

Cheers, Zack

PS – B. – I’m glad you didn’t delete the final draft. It’s good to just put it out there. It’s therapeutic. I know this from experience.


  • Jim said on August 12, 2009

    i can jump off the dock and tread for awhile. i try not to swim alone.

  • Eugene said on August 12, 2009

    B. is definitely not alone in his thinking. I’ve often had the same thoughts about giving up on photography…

    It’s like this: if you give up, then the outcome of having failed is certain. But if you keep pushing, your efforts will not go in vain. At some point you *will* become proud of your work, and you will no longer have these guilty feelings (shame, ambiguity, etc).

    As Zack mentioned, there are explorers that climb Mt. Everest every year and that die trying. But effort matters, and their pursuit has not been in vain.

    I’d rather be the climber who died on the mountain or the sailor who got lost at sea than the one who thought about doing all these things but never did them or gave up way too early.

    So here’s to B. and other photographers to keep going, working hard, and pushing the boundaries even when the odds are stacked against us.

  • Broderick said on August 12, 2009

    Yes, this post definitely resonates with me, I can’t believe it’s been six months since the video came out. I’ve made a couple steps in the right direction – my photo blog has taken off, but the day job is definitely in the way. I haven’t gone to school for photography and most of the workshops are out of financial reach, but I’ve learned a ton online. I’m still plugging away though!

  • Eric said on August 12, 2009

    The video was amazingly inspiring when I first watched it and have re-watched several times. And the line above, brave w/ a P&S but self-conscious with a DLSr, and similar to writer B, I to finally got a DLSR and have even be able to upgrade a few things, and feel like the technical hurdles are behind me, what remains is putting emotion, soul even, into images. How does one translate inspiration into a .CR2 or .jpeg (or a print)? Faster lenses and large sensors help, but they don’t do any more than they’re told.

    I enjoy taking photos to help tell the stories of climbing and skiing and the back-story of a big day, however living in Salt Lake City, the market for such images is utterly and totally saturated. I have a day job that I’m good at and am not interested in leaving, but I would like to find a way into the part-time-photographer world. There seem to be lots of ways to get paid in photography, but far fewer ways to get paid shooting what I love.

    If I knew what directions to start jumping, I could work on the courage to jump. And that about sums it up.

    Zack, thanks for the video and this as conversation piece. Also, thanks for advise you gave a Hirschy a few weeks ago.


  • Todd said on August 12, 2009

    If I could have written a letter about my state of being as a photographer, it would be a carbon copy. I did have the opportunity to attend photog school, finishing top of my class. But that was over 2 years ago. And what do I have to show for it? Some damn good images for sure. But I have a wife and 1 year old daughter that needs a roof over their heads and food on the table. And I’ll be damned if I know how to turn those great images into money. It seems an ever escaping dream. The type of dream that is so vivd and real that you would swear it was reality. But then, the very moment you awaken, you’ve lost it and can’t even remember what the dream was about. I’m inspired by words like “Damn it all… those dead sould died climbing.” But then tomorrow comes and with no idea how to get started, inspiration fades. I want to engage in wreckless abandenment, and go for broke. But it seems “real” life won’t allow it. B, I echo your pain. Your journey resounds in me. If I were to offer anything, anything at all, it would be that no matter how lost you may feel on this venture you do not travel alone. I, at least, am one more like you. Thank you for taking the time to share yourself. Good to know I’m not alone. ~Todd

  • Craig Ferguson (@cfimages) said on August 12, 2009

    Timely post for me. I’m kinda half-on half-off the dock, partly swimming, partly sinking. Some days I have all the confidence in the world that I’m going to be successful, others I’m very unsure. I’ve more or less killed off my day job, just working enough hours to cover rent, food, bills. Fortunately, I have the 100% support of my soon-to-be wife in this venture which makes it a bit easier.

    Now, with that said, I should stop commenting on blogs and go make some pictures.

    Thanks Zack and B.

  • Takki said on August 12, 2009

    @B: Thanks for taking your time and courage to write this e mail.
    @Zack: Thanks for considering it and putting it on the website and for all your thoughts and inspiration you are
    Never give up your hopes and dreams! Zack has been there in a place of despair – he has not given up. Al lot of us out there are standing in the middle of a desert – but there is an oasis out there. And if your in a oasis right now – know that in order to continue you have to leave your oasis and there is a desert out there waiting for you to be crossed!
    Always work hard and never give up!
    I am a runner and I have been training for almost a year now to participate in what is called the toughest marathon race in Europe: Running up to the Kleine Scheidegg on the Jungfrau mountain. Its 42,2 km and 1800 metres going up up up. I want to run that race. Time doesn’t matter. I just want to finish it. Will I make it? I don’t know – but I want to find out. I will put myself in that challange. I will run, I will endure. It have only run a marathon once before and it was dead flat.
    Never give up hope, never give up your dreams!
    I have to tell this myself – not only as a runner but also as a photographer. Countless times after I am done with a shooting I look at my stuff and think how much it sucks and I want to trash my camera. But then there are also times when people tell me how much they like my pics and how much they appreciate my work. So again, I pick up my camera and try to do better. Just as I get my running shoes and go out there running. The first step is always the hardest. But it all starts with a small first step. This is how you finish a marathon. All it takes is one step at the time.

  • Joe said on August 12, 2009

    I’ve felt so similar to B, the sad part is I have barely even begun. I have almost no experience, I’m nearly three months into my first DSLR yet I’m already wondering how do you push off that dock and make it. How do you gain that strength to just jump in head first?

    I look at people like you Zack, and the impact you’ve made. I’m sure many people look up to you, and it is because you were able to push off and sail to new lands.

    I am afraid of sailing alone, but I know there are people like you out there that see people like me, a reflection of you just jumping head first, that will help us out. In small ways, even by continuing to just produce the pure quality work that you produce.

    I don’t have the money for even the cheapest flashes, I have my camera and a silver reflector made from foam core board. You know what though? I’m not going to let anything stop me from making it, one day in the future I know I’ll look back and be amazed at how far I’ve come; but it won’t be just because I managed on my own. It is important to realize that the people around you are just as much the key to your success as you are.

    To all the photographers pushing harder, and making the industry more and more competitive I say thanks. Thank you for giving me a challenge to overcome, and thank you for giving me a standard to beat.

    B you aren’t alone, but more importantly you aren’t sailing alone either. There are hundreds of us out here daily trying to decide whether or not we are going to get in that boat and just kick off, the ones that get brave enough to are lucky. Just feel reassured in some way that when you do go on your adventure, you are not too old, and as long as it is a passion in your heart you will hit land again.

  • Laura said on August 12, 2009

    First, Zack, thank you for your courage and your follow through to share your gift of the Transform video. I lost my dad this year and it sparked a huge questioning of my life and business. Your video was perfectly timed. And I genuinely felt for your relationship with your dad.

    I’ve heard it said that just when things are at their worst is when things are about to become great. Kinda like pushing a baby out…it’s hurts the worst right before that glorious soul arrives.

    I’ve also heard if you want to cheer yourself up, help others. :)

    Thank you to both of you for your beautiful eloquent writing.

  • Luke Copping said on August 12, 2009

    I often find myself in the same boat, but in such a chaotic manner. I can be so ambivalent from time to time about my work, swinging from extreme highs and crushing lows. Perhaps its a flaw of my own personality, or a case of the artist being their own worst critic. But it does seem to end with the same effect regardless of the work that I am producing, and that is fear. I try my best to deal with it and in a weird way have tried to use it to my advantage in terms of constantly trying to prove to myself that I can do this when i get down on myself. I use it to push myself. But I still have that fear, not that Im going to bomb a shoot or screw something up. What I worry more about are the long term things. Is there a future for me in this? can my work stand up on its own? am I doing the right things the wrong way? or vice Versa? Am I marketing myself right? Wrong? there are so many aspects to the business side of this and so many choices to make. Sometimes it seems like I am so worried about making the wrong choice it paralyzes me and i end up making no choice at all missing the boat entirely.

    reading the above post got me thinking though. I am trying to make the transition from assistant to full time photographer, but I already worry that so many others have a head start that I cannot possibly catch up with.
    But maybe thats part of the process. going through these phases where we have to worry constantly. Where we have to to be a bit brutal with ourselves about our own work so that we can come out the other side with the rough edges worn off and more polish and resolve. The whole dock analogy works well I think to sum up the entire idea of “if you don’t try you will never know”

    After reading all this and ruminating on it I think I still have some fear and trepidation, but its of self defeat now. A fear that can be tackled more directly with the attitude of I would rather try and fail then give up without a fight, even if its with myself.

  • H said on August 12, 2009


    Your story rings true to heart, everything I do, or actually DON”T do is because of something inside of myself holding me back, I’m standing on the dock, and even something as simple as making a phone call to a client who’s already hired me in her mind, I can’t force myself to do. I have no idea why. I’m about to miss the boat on this one, as I have many other things in the past. I feel crazy. It’s beacuase I’m terrified, fear, has held me back my whole life. And seeing Zack’s video was insane awesome for me, I thought ok, don’t hold back. Next morning I’m going to make that call (a different call at the time) next morning comes. I don’t make the call. I feel terrible about not making it. I still don’t make it.

    Why? I’m scared.

    Cheesy as hell. But it’s my life and it’s my real true struggle, This is the first time I’ve ever admitted it to anyone. My wife just walked in and I couldn’t even admit it to her.

    B, you make me feel like I can make that call. I will make that call tomorrow morning. I will update you in the morning.

  • Jay Rodriguez said on August 12, 2009

    I can certainly relate to this!
    I just recently got layed off, my department was downsized to zero. Now the business is being outsourced to others. I was the advertising/ marketing manager where I use to work, but since the chaotic recession kicked in and superstores moved across the street I since became S.O.L.!

    During my work I had to use my graphics knowledge (I went to school for graphics/advertising), internet expertise and photography all implemented in one for the job to function right. I had a small team, but the workload always left me doing things alone. When I came home I would do the same job for myself. Bid on jobs, place ads here and there and look for clients that needed Graphics or Photography.
    I try not to stare at the closet when I’m ready to give up. I sometimes almost always want to give up and put my stuff in storage cause the competition here in NYC is practically giving the services away. Hey, what can I say, when their straight out of college they tend to make things easier for clients… I know how it is, I too was on that path once!

    What really keeps me from giving up is 1. My family and the meals they deserve every day of the week and 2. all the inspiration I find here on the internet starting from Zack, Strobist, Kelby, Jarvis, Joey L and the rest of the crews feeds I subscribed to. I sometime want to write to either of these guys but instead I keep myself motivated with a “Onelight” attempt and a blog post. I look at magazines, call over some people I know and re-create some lighting magic.

    Every now and then I get a call for a job and I get it done. Depending on the job I try to keep in their budget, and when done I ask out of courtesy for a google review for the other clients interest… sorta/kinda a friendly exchange that benefits on my end.

    I keep telling myself, I will be there one day.. but I have to be patient!
    No worries I tell myself, my goal will soon be achieved!

    I tell you, keep ya head up… Practice makes perfect. Socialize with others! Recreate ideas, collaborate with others and make sure you staty up to date with the latest news from these guys 😉

    Thanks Zack!

  • Doug said on August 12, 2009

    i want so badly to share here . . . i’ve written so much, and it is just too late . . . I choose each day to never allow my dreams be sacrificed on the altar of mediocrity.

  • sunith said on August 12, 2009

    The “transform” video did something for my soul as it did for many out there. I have been wandering on the shores without a navigation system for quite a few years now. There is always the constant nagging voice in the head “are you good enough? ” In the end I realized that talent would get you only 20% of the distance, rest is just down and dirty hardwork. I have spent six years jumping around from job to job, industry to industry. I never really knew what I was supposed to do on this planet. My classmates, one by one were settling down to a secure job and a new family, all the settings of a perfect live.
    I quite my job of three years and took a break for a year (extended with a bit of help from the current recession) In that period, I looked deep within. I have around 60-70 years more to go, some of it which would be spent in a rocking chair. Do I have the time to sit around thinking what I could have done? Those months were the hardest and the happiest. I realized how much time I wasted and how many times I screwed up. I also realized how much I have learned and how the mistakes in the past have now brought clarity to the answers to what makes me tick. I know now photography is there on the top of my priorities. I know I am not the best in my field, nor the best in my region, heck I might not be the best in the neighborhood. What I know is that there are endless resources out there to help me improve. I needed to decide on whether I wanted to… and I sure took the right decision. My right side of the brain constantly whirls around with plans and ideas, I actually have a plan on what I want, and I am working on it Every Single Day. I sleep for 5 hours or less because I can’t stop learning and working on my skills. I am totally addicted to this art.
    You have been an inspiration to me in many ways. Your work and the effort and passion you put in it motivates me to give that 10% extra to everything I do. I could relate to the struggle you been through at the beginning of your career. I had a start-up venture which had to be shutdown in a year and the anguish was heartbreaking. Your story has given me the confidence to leap from the dock….. and hopefully land on a boat. I never really had a chance to thank you. Thank you.

  • Nick Lopez said on August 12, 2009

    Wow. Perfect timing. Well, almost. Yesterday was a throwing in the towel day for me. Only I didn’t do it. I don’t have anywhere else to go. So funny. I wrote about this on my blog yesterday and didn’t put it out on twitter or facebook (which is where i get most of my readership) i just put it out there for me, and if someone read it so be it. I was ready to quit and ready to say it out loud so i could move on. The transform video haunts me because i want so badly to be a success…anyway, if you want to read it, it’s here

    Thanks for everything, keep it up.

    Nick Lopez

  • Eric said on August 12, 2009

    I must say that I too have thought, countless times, about writing to Zack in order to tell him how inspirational “transform” has been to me. I haven’t. I figured there had already been such a massive outpouring of emails, comments, etc., that anything I could add would only be redundant; much the way I felt about my photography before I saw that video. How could I hope to measure up?

    I have been running the photo gear race for years, convinced that if I threw enough money into the technical solution that I would finally become a photographer. You already know that isn’t anywhere close to the reality. I spent thousands (literally thousands) of hours learning photoshop because I just knew that I would find my photographic genius there. Nope, but I can make a crappy picture look like a fancy, crappy picture like nobody else! After years of chasing a dream, no, a NEED to express myself creatively through photography I had simply forgotten why I picked up the damn camera to begin with.

    Transform woke me up. Not because I found comfort in the fact that everyone is miserable about their photography sometimes but, because I remembered how exciting the in-between is. I remembered that it was never the destination that inspired me, it was the dream. The process. The road to wherever the hell it is I’m going. Learning, discovering, happy accidents, funny mistakes, the way I feel when I am able to share that part of me that I can only express with a chunk of glass and some digital film. The reason I started to take pictures was for every conceivable reason other than to achieve some popular conception of mastery.

    Every time I recall, “…I won’t have it figured out when I’m 56, but I’m on my way.” I remember that it’s OK to be wherever I am.

    I’m not a professional photographer. I found a profession that I don’t love but I’m at least good at and it pays the bills. It also let’s me continue the dream and affords me enough time off that I can seriously pursue my craft. That thing that I feel I was born to do. I don’t know when I will arrive, but I’m on my way.

    – E

  • evie said on August 12, 2009

    I’m currently on the dock with similar thoughts of B. @ times, but when they come, I work diligently to rid them out my head as soon as I can so I can continue preparing myself for “the push off”.

    I want to “push off”, I will (in yrs time) yet I don’t want to drown.
    I know that only pushing off is the way but I’m waiting for the time when I can educate myself enough to eliminate most failures… yet knowing to not wait too long or that time will pass me by.

    Like many things in life, ATTITUDE DETERMINES YOUR ALTITUDE.
    …and EXCUSES are reasons to keep doing whatever it is you’re doing. (staying comfortable)

    I have a 5 day/wk 40hr job but I get to wet my feet in my photography on weekends until I take that chance and sail away on that journey. :)

    I try to not focus on the “dead bodies” that will come up along the way because that steers me off my course of improving & getting what I desire/need accomplished to put myself in the position for success & my dream fulfillment.
    My success /dream is doing what I love, being able to pay my bills, traveling, helping others & capturing / showing love & life in my photography.

    Situations in life can be overwhelming but you have to continue to work your faith & believe(dream).

    While I’m standing on the dock, trying to always look up, I rely/trust in God that He is guiding my paths & I stay thankful embracing the opportunities given to me to improve & learn & enhance my craft of photography(art).

    You DO what you can, & God will do what you can not!
    (this is the advice I’m taking myself)

    (abilities/reality)-what you can do
    (faith/favor/grace/trust)- in/of God

    Keep your head up B, just take some time to figure whats best for you, because you have to live with your decisions.
    Find what you need to keep you free & not feeling in bondage comparing yourself to others.
    Those other successful stories are for encouragement, showing you that you can do it too!!
    So take that from those “stories” not the… ” i can never do what others did/do”, and if you focus on that negative aspect, how can you focus on what you need for you?

    take care & stay encouraged, evie

  • sunith said on August 12, 2009

    “all the settings of a perfect live.”


  • Cary said on August 12, 2009

    (I haven’t read the other comments yet)

    much like b I don’t get inspired by videos or powerful words from people. Similarly I don’t draw inspiration from other people doing great work. It just makes me mad. Furious at times. But I haven’t placed exactly why. I think a lot of it has to do with having to recognize that someone else got off their ass and did something awesome while I thought about stuff. A problem I seem to have is not being able to decide what I want to do. Sounds dumb right? I’ve been making my living for 7 years (more or less) as a photographer and I still feel like I’m wandering. I love the idea of having it figured out and setting out in that direction. But I think zacks most appropriate point with this whole sailing metaphor is that the course and destination is often (extremely) uncharted. I want to know where I am going before I set out but I feel like I could pick almost any direction but I don’t know which one I want. So too often I pick none. I’m in the damn boat but I’m just going where the wind takes me. That is to say, I take the work that comes instead of figuring out the work I want and going after it.

    This indecisiveness carries over into the rest if my life a lot too in that I forget what I even like any more. I used to have 98 pounds of passion and now I’ve got like 15 pounds of some sort of brownish green stuff that smells funny.

    Point is. Actually I don’t know.

    I guess I’m just saying my reaction to some stuff people draw good from, I draw something else from. Not sure what it is exactly.

    At any rate you’re not alone.

    And Zack I’m proud you’re scrapping plans and going in some random direction. Meg knows…a lot.

    Wrote this crap on my phone so hopefully it isn’t too chocked full of errors.

    All that said, I’m still plugging along to whatever degree and still get to make photos that make me happy. That’s a great place to be. If I can float along and not go totally out of business, surely others can.


  • Jeanette Leblanc said on August 12, 2009

    Thank you B. for writing, and thank you Zack for posting. Like the others, both the video and this post are timely and welcome.

    I too get mired in the paralysis of fear. I *need* to make this successful now, it’s not just hobbies and playing games now. I’ve got a family depending on me…this is it.

    I came across a quote and blogged it on my personal blog over two years ago (

    “That moment
    When you are sitting right on the edge of something daring and scary and creative and powerful and perhaps wonderful… and you blink and take a step back.

    That’s the moment. The moment between you and remarkable. Most people blink. Most people get stuck.

    All the hard work and preparation and daring and luck is nothing compared with the ability to not blink.”

    It still applies today…I’m sitting on the dock, and I’m still blinking. Like everyone, I have days when I feel poised at the brink of greatness, and other days where I’m mired in self-doubt and hopelessness.

    It is a scary and exquisitely vulnerable thing to put yourself out there as an artist. It leaves the strongest and most talented among us quaking in their boots at times. And still, we do it. We do it because we have to. Because the drive to create is stronger than the drive to hide and play safe.

    And for that, despite all the rest, I am profoundly grateful, because it is satisfying that drive to create that makes me feel more intensely alive than anything else on this earth. And in the moments that I harness *that* energy, I’ve got a half decent chance of doing battle with all those other demons…and on the good days, I win.

    Thanks again

  • David said on August 12, 2009

    I’m swimming, everyday. Had three big years in a row, sales are down 70% this year. Bought a house as the market crashed, remodeling for studio with what I got left. As I way buying a couch for the studio the salesman (who is paralyzed from the waist down) and doesn’t know my story, said it perfectly. “Perseverance is everything, never stop trying.” So everyday I work harder and try to learn more. I’m not trying to be Herb Ritts, I’m just trying to better than I was yesterday.

  • Jason Kolsch said on August 12, 2009

    I could never thank you enough for leveling with us.

  • cat said on August 12, 2009

    When I read this post I cried, just like I cried over Zack’s video, I think for some of the same reasons.

    I don’t feel like an artist and somehow I think I’m supposed to, but I realized very recently that I don’t have to feel any kind of certain way or do any kind of certain things to have fun and just shoot. One example of this is, and I know most of you will cringe and say eeew, but I’m gonna’ be brave and fess up to how I feel about just simply using on camera flash, whether built in or other.

    I want to tell you how I came to this. My friend died just a few weeks ago. He was a musician who’d played for years at the place I work. When I decided I wanted to “be a photographer” I practiced a lot on the bands (still do actually) and I’ve acquired years of photos of my friends playing at the restaurant, and some of these photos are very good. Mostly I use on camera flash, because it’s easier and there’s limited room and time for me as I’m supposed to be managing the place as well 😮

    Anyway, this particular friend, bless him, really acted like he loved for me to take photos of him, so I did. I had a library of photos to give to his family after he died. I was overwhelmed with how I felt about being able to do this very simple thing for them, for him. And if I never do anything else with my photography, but putter, it will have been a worthy thing just to have been able to do that.

    I’m going to forget mostly about “the rules” and just keep shooting. Screw whatever it is that I think I’m supposed to be, think or feel – I will simply do the thing and the rest will follow.

    Good luck to you B. in whatever you decide to do.

  • Paul Baarn said on August 12, 2009

    You have a lot of excuses holding you back. I have my fare share of negative beliefs about my ability and the state of the market, and they hold me back too. What I do is go through my images and look at the ones I’m proud of or where I made a next step in my abilities. That reminds me that I can grow and that I can actually produce pretty good work.
    Focus on what works. Do this relentlessly by asking yourself positive questions, like: where have I improved, what images am I proud of (or could I be proud of), etc.

    More important still is to ask yourself WHY you want to be a photographer. With so many excuses (or negative beliefs) you will need to find compelling reasons why you want to be a photographer in the first place. Those reasons will motivate you. But if you can’t find the reasons, it might be a sign that you want something else. You might find that if you focus on something else for your livelyhood, you would find the mental freedom to let your photography grow, withouth the pressure.

    Speaking for myself, I do professional work but something is holding me back from going all out and marketing myself. Part of it is the negative belief that I don’t bring any additional value to the market, even though my customers are always happy with the result. Another part is that if I don’t try to go all out, I won’t fail. So I’ve been thinking about what I love about photography and that’s two main things. I love to create. See things a different way, put things in a new perspective and just create interesting images. Number two, and most important, is I like to touch people’s hearts. This is the reason I mostly do portraits. It is my driving force and just thinking about it makes me want to go out and do the best job I can. But if I think about the negative aspects I grind to a halt. That’s why I’m happy I have a wife who helps me to focus on the positives.

    Good luck in your thinking and finding your path in photography.


  • MAC said on August 12, 2009

    Zack and B,
    I’ve been shooting paid, professionally as you might say, for 3 years now and I’m broke. I don’t follow through with my customers. I get fricking lazy and just want to do the creative stuff. Some of my customers are pissed and I still don’t move. What the heck is going on? It’s my fault I’m broke. If I actually finished things in a timely manner I’d probably have all the referrals I dream of. I’ve been to these big conventions and stuff where I just see more of my money go away and I tell my wife these stories about how it’s going to benefit my business. What a bunch of crap. Most of the time it’s cause I want to idolize people and dream that their “magic achievement” will rub off on me. That their ability to get things done and be more type A will effect me and I’ll start finishing my work and having customers lavish me with money as well. It doesn’t happen. I get all these ideas but I still fail at being responsible. People tell me all the time how much they love my work. I’m told all the time that people love learning from me in yet I can’t support my family cause I’m too damn lazy on the back end. I always said I didn’t want to be one of those photographers that gave our industry a bad name, and guess what I am?

    These are the things I never hear people say they struggle with. I hate the fact that I’m this way and have been this way my whole life that I’ve thought of suicide often. I struggle with it because I want to be the “man” and support my family. I can’t seem to break out of this fog. I’ll never hurt myself because when I think about it, I then immediately think of the faces of my wife and kids. I want to make people happy and supply for my wife and kids, but I put everything in front of my responsibilities to my customers. There’s a ton of back story missing here but I’m writing this instead of working. Just like my son, I always find something to do other than finish my responsibilities. This is so frustrating. I don’t know how to change. I want to push off the dock so badly. I can see it all out there in the water. I can see it. I want to touch it someday and not just see it.

  • Wasabi Peas said on August 12, 2009

    cat: that’s awesome.

    B: you’re awesome brave for putting that out there.

    Without getting into too much detail about my own situation, I’ll say that I was pushed off the dock last week when I was told my current job is going away. So I’m facing a whole ton of fear, self-doubt, questions, ideas, excitement, etc., as I try to decide what my next move will be.

    You’re not alone.

    Zach, thanks for sharing this note, your passion, and your encouragement.

  • Sean said on August 13, 2009

    I have two passions – cycling and photography.

    I’ve never dreamed of becoming a professional cyclist but dream everyday of becoming a pro photographer. Why is that?

    I, personally, don’t know. Maybe someone out there does.

    I do know that cycling is, and always has been fun. But I’ve been caving in under the pressure I’ve put on myself to become a pro photographer. It hasn’t been enjoyable at all and I considered selling all my gear the other week.

    But for some strange reason I have just came back from a local second-hand store with an Olympus Pen-EE S (1961) that may or may not take 72 shots on one roll of film. I decided to buy it knowing full well that it might be a dud. If I don’t try it, I’ll never know. It puts some of the enjoyment back (and the camera looks bloody cool too – far better than any 5D or D3)

    After all, photography is supposed to fun.

  • zed said on August 13, 2009

    Zack, and everyone else, have you ever asked yourself the question, what would have happened if that video had not been posted on Scott Kelbie’s Blog, but just on this one? What if it had not been picked up by strobist, and then by every other photog blog, inlcuding my won? I would argue that some of the opportunities Zack experienced since would not have come about in taht way – as well as the publicity, hype, facebook friends etc – does that mean zack would have been a worse photographer? not at all, what I’m saying is, its all about, the right time, the right means, the right network. unfortunately not all have access to these things in the same way – that in my opinion is what makes the biggest difference. not so much you skill. (given they are at the minimum level acceptable for pro work, whatever that means) so in other words. take courage, keep pushing, and STOP COMPARING!!!

  • Sissel said on August 13, 2009

    Wow, what a moving letter. I am grateful B had the courage to finally push “send”.
    I know this feeling all too well. Photography is art. Art is personal, and it isn’t always accepted by everyone. Sometimes, art takes courage; courage to face rejection; courage to get up and try again. It gets easier. Encouragement helps. I have a full time job and now a second almost full time job adding in photography. I get tired. I feel like quitting sometimes, and then someone comes along and shares that I have inspired them. Me. I have inspired someone somehow. That almost makes it worth it. Also, ( I could share so much more but it is late) I remember every day two sayings that keep me feeling like everything is just fine. The first one was from Zack, while attending his One Light Workshop, he said, “Good things grow slowly…” For me, it was almost one of the most important things I learned that day. Funny. Light shines from all kinds of places. The second is “it is never too late to be whoever you want to be…” Brilliant. Anyway, I’m sure there are a lot of people who feel this way. I do often. But something always swings it around. Best of luck to you B.

  • Jason Kolsch said on August 13, 2009

    i quit my job to photograph.(blog) It will now be my blog inspired by Zack and all the people who respond so kindly to his posts.

  • Simon said on August 13, 2009


    I saw a BBC docu about Rankin recently (top UK photog) and was amazed how many times he said how nervous he was before a shoot – this guy is right at the top of the game, and even he gets scared all the time…I think it’s just part of being an artist, questioning every detail is what makes interesting work. Turning that off is hard.

    Thanks for your honesty everyone.

  • Jurgen Willocx said on August 13, 2009

    This sounds so familiar!

    Countering the same problems as B. does. This happens to me every 2-3 years. The boat is comming, all I need is to step in and “push off”…But I don’t.

    I turn around and walk away to another dock. Starting with something new, something to forget the previous, something to get relaxed again.

    But then it happens again. And I think it’s caused by “passion”. I can’t do anything without passion and giving me 100%. So I start growing and getting better due all the effort and energy you put into this new project.

    I start making plans to make this new idea work and escape from boring 9to5 Job, which requires no passion at all.
    The own expactations rises and there is less relaxing into the game…it’s getting serious…

    And then one day I’m standing again @ the Dock, waiting for a boat to pick…affraid for what is coming. I can’t see furhter then the horizon that moment, I can’t see the land. That makes me afraid, it makes me turn around and walk to another dock.

    Walking to another dock is the easy part…it just requires time.

    I’m into photography now and hoping to step on that boat one day. I’m less into the technical stuff right now, I know I’will reach one day the dock again, I doesn’t matter when. I’m more Focused on getting into that boat when he arrive on the dock.

    final word:

    You have to read – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – It will tell you how to live your own legend.

    Good luck B. , Zack, and everyone else!

  • Christian said on August 13, 2009

    I did never see this Transform-video.
    I my opinion sorth reading and considering despite this fact? I don´t mind how you answer this question for you, because for me… well I think my opinion is worth writing.
    May I sound silly? Yes, but who cares!

    So, what am I going to write…
    My own situation is I have a 5-day 40-h job. I have a DSLR. I have ambition in photography. Am I becoming a good photographer? Will I earn money throu photography?
    I don´t think so.
    Why? Because I decided not to.
    Why would one decide so? Well, photography for me is a hobby. I want to want to take pictures. I don´t want to have to take some to make money.
    I did consider matching those two, making money with the pictures I want to take, but I decided it would cost me too much – time with my family, especially my nearly-two-year-old-daughter-model-and-camera-thief.
    So, I´m on this very dock. I stood there. Considering. I turned round, got to a port tavern had some beer.
    Made some pictures of ships – leaving, coming, being build or breaking as they where.

    B, and all the others who stand there considering “how”: don´t.
    Consider: “Why”.
    Consider: “Why not”.
    This automatically leads to: “wether – or not”.
    How comes later. If you decided “Yes” – Do it. You may do it wrong. Who cares? You may look stupid. Good!
    Good? Yes, good. If you get used to looking stupid and you dont´care looking stupid any more you gained a huge chunk of freedom. Use it for whatever you do next. Retry? Try something different?
    Looking stupid doesn´t hurt. Caring about looking stupid hurts a lot. So stop caring. Do something that inevitably makes you look stupid, like, I don´t know, wander that dock in a pink dress and green high-heels, when you are male. Will you look stupid? Yes. Will you have fun? I´m sure. Will you get to know people? Maybe. Maybe you get an assingment this way.

    The essence is: find out what you want.
    If you know: go for it.
    If you don´t want: turn away.

    Whatever you do: I wish you Good Luck and I wish you not to need to regret.


  • EMaster said on August 13, 2009

    You know, it’s funny. 12 years ago I took a Japanese language course in college on a whim because I had an interest in the culture and I needed the credit. I was a 28 year old college freshman, and, very similar to now, I was quite unsatisfied with my life up to that point and was working on making a change.

    Fast forward 12 years. Since that one class, I ended up being 1 out of only 4 students who graduated 4 yrs later with a degree in Japanese culture and language from my school. That was out of 70 students who took that same first class I did 12 yrs ago. I did a year of foreign study in Japan as a part of that degree, and once I graduated, I returned to work/live there for a number of years more, in the process of which I met my wife. We have a son who was born 3 years ago. I also have friends from countries all around the world who I met and studied/worked with that I still keep in touch with even though we’ve returned to the US. And aside from when I’m at work or with friends, I speak Japanese 100% of the time, and am quite fluent.

    None of these consequences however entered my mind that day as I sat in the counselor’s office and asked if they had a Japanese course.

    It’s the same with photography. Many of us right now are in that counselor’s office 12 years ago. We know we’d like to do it, and we have no idea of what lies ahead. So what should we do? Take the class. You could end up being one of the 70, or 1 of the final 4, but at least you took it. And quite honestly, in my case at least, the thing that got me through to the final 4 was simply what my Japanese professor told me at lunch one day in my first year: no matter how hard it seems, no matter how impossible you think it’s getting, don’t quit. As long as you don’t quit, you will learn Japanese.

    So my advice to B. is the same — don’t quit. You WILL become a photographer as long as you don’t quit.

  • Heinz Schmidt said on August 13, 2009

    @B @Zack:

    Hi, my name is Heinz and I am a dock-standing wannabe. My day job takes up all my time. My day job pays the mortgage, how do I quit and loose a salary that pays my house? I’d love to just quit, but I’m signed into a mortgage, the housing market sucks and I can’t.

    I am technically able to do photography full time, I just don’t have the time to turn it into a salary paying business. What I need most are customers, clients, people interested in buying my work. How do you get that?


  • Guen said on August 13, 2009

    wow…i feel for what B. said, and for the other people that commented above. ditto…

    i felt a little nudge to quit when a bride questioned my pricing and business “tactics”–all because she didn’t believe or feel that i was worthy…no, wait, she wanted to make me feel that i wasn’t worthy. (she wanted a $1000 discount). i questioned myself, my skills, my businesss, my sales “tactic,”etc, etc. creating more fear and doubt in myself.

    my husband snapped me out of it, and reminded me why i’m in this business…i don’t suck at photography. i capture images that my subjects love and appreciate. i have a passion for it. and…to tell you the truth, if i was to end my business, i would STILL be shooting everyday, wanting to be better artist.

    so if you truly have a passion for it, if photography is part of who you are, continue to do it, continue to get better. and learn the business part of well, this business.

    you are not alone. thank you for sharing. feel better.

  • Matt said on August 13, 2009

    The words that came out of B’s mouth could have been my own. Zero confidence, and zero drive. Worried I will look like a fool, worried my results will suck, worried people will laugh. I lack the drive because I lack the confidence. I sometimes produce wonderful images, but to me each time I click the shutter it should be wonderful, or I failed.

    Maybe one day the excuses will pile so high, I can finally use them to see whats on the other side. And maybe for me photography will fade into obscurity.

  • Paul said on August 13, 2009

    I’m in the same space as you. I know some stuff, could stand to learn more but something always gets in the way. I’l shoot for a bit, then stop, shoot for a bit, stop etc. Right now I’m stopped. No ideas, everything I try fails, no one to shoot or no time to shoot. I have no answers for you, just wanted to stick my head out there and let you know it’s not just you.

  • wilsonian said on August 13, 2009

    I *so* hear you.
    And sitting here, wrapped up in my own angst,
    reading B’s letter
    and all these comments…
    and I can’t help wondering what the world would look like if we all found a way to go for it.

  • Tim said on August 13, 2009

    No car? Get a bike. Doesn’t have to be fancy like this photographer’s:

    Best advice that has helped me lately is find a group of photogs in your area – use flickr, use craig’s list, use strobist, use whatever. Get together and learn, critique, learn some more. The Scott Kelby Photo Walk introduced me to a lot of photogs in this town (Athens, GA) – including one who was a guest at Zack’s OneLight and Lighting101 seminars.

  • brec__ said on August 13, 2009

    These times the media and the society make you think more than ever that everyone can achieve everything. That’s a missunderstanding. You can put as much of your (life)time into something and it will be your own way, not someone elses way. You can have a garage and know some funky stuff about computers, but you will not end up as Bill Gates. Meg A. won’t end up as Keith Richards and Zack not as Avedon. They didn’t mean to from the beginning. And people died on the way up to Mt. Everest. They’ve gotten as far as they could.

    Sounds dry? Bottom line is – it has nothing to do with your own drive. You can still go your own way at your own speed.

    There is no “I could have shot this” as long as you did shoot it.

  • Keith said on August 13, 2009

    I am with you B. Just yesterday I wanted to sell all of my equipment and quit…seems like it would be so much easier. But would we be getting towards the summit if we did give up? Keep your eyes on the goal! You have one right?

  • Brian Davis said on August 13, 2009

    This is a great post, one actually that I have been wondering about myself.

    A few years ago I had taken a photo class when going to school for graphic design. I fell in love with photography and with my new DSLR in hand, I felt like I owned the world…then reality set in. What was I going to shoot? How could I make a career out of this? How can I afford more gear? I never had the time to shoot and my camera just sat there, gathering dust. Not knowing the answers to those questions killed photography for me, so I just focused on design and went on with my life.

    A couple years later, I had a big turning point in my life, I was maturing and starting to get an idea of what I wanted in life. I had just changed jobs, which opened up a lot of time in my schedule as well as give me a hefty pay increase…I was happy, but still I felt empty somehow. I was sitting at work and stumbled upon Zack Arias and noticed his Transform video. After watching it, I knew what Zack was saying because I had gone through it. I had been frustrated with my work and hung up my camera, but then I realized that giving up wasn’t going to fill the void. I would always want to be a photographer and putting down the camera wouldn’t change that. I told myself that there was no reason why I couldn’t learn the off-camera lighting and start experimenting. There was no reason to give up before I had really started. So I sold my old camera and lenses, bought a new camera, lenses, lightstands, lights, modifiers, etc…and of course bought Zack’s OneLight DVD.

    Now, I’m working to be a photographer. While I’ve still kept my day job, I spend a lot of my free-time shooting. In fact, I started small with my girlfriend, family, friends, etc. Now, I’m actually shooting for others. I just did a shoot for a local clothing designer to help promote her clothing line. Over the next few weeks, I have 5 photoshoots with various people who are aspiring models…all so I can get experience, build a portfolio and work to becoming a pro.

    The moral is, don’t give up. It’s like they say, “If you get knocked off the horse, get back on!” I can honestly tell you that hanging up your camera won’t solve anything, you’ll always keep coming back to it, so just save yourself the trouble and keep shooting…just don’t give it up…you’ll always regret it.

  • Elisabeth Wang said on August 13, 2009

    I HAVE studied many times
    The marble which was chiseled for me–
    A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
    In truth it pictures not my destination
    But my life.
    For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
    Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
    Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
    Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
    And now I know that we must lift the sail
    And catch the winds of destiny
    Wherever they drive the boat.
    To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
    But life without meaning is the torture
    Of restlessness and vague desire–
    It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

    (George Gray by EA Masters)

  • Jessica S. said on August 13, 2009

    I feel for you, B. I also have a daily photo blog, and it’s tough to do.

    What helps me keep at it is I try not to be hard on myself. If I miss a day, or a couple days, who cares? It’s my blog, and creativity can’t be forced, it can only be encouraged. I feel much better about my photography now that it’s optional for me to post every day, because even on the days I don’t post I’m still mindful of photographic opportunities. It gives me time to take a deep breath before the next plunge. And I still rarely miss a day, but now it’s not a chore, it’s a pleasure. With no guilt. (To see my little blog, click on my name. It’s not much, but it’s my ‘not much.’)

    So B, if you try again, give yourself some breathing room. No one’s a star from day one, give it some time, and allow for some unproductive days to wash past you. Just pick up again the next day. Don’t apologize. You’re awesome, and no one else sees the world you see. Make sure you share that world with the rest of us. I wish you all the best.

  • wn said on August 13, 2009

    Am currently standing on the dock….trying to determine whether I want to jump in.

    Difficult decision.

    Mostly because of all of the reasons (and fears) listed here. I have no idea if I would do well as a paid professional photographer. I have no idea if I would be happy as a paid professional photographer.

    I do know that the few paid gigs I’ve taken so far have given me more pride, zest and energy than ANYTHING my day job has given me for the past 9 years. I feel more alive behind a camera than anywhere else.

    But yet still….I sit on the dock and watch safely from the shore.

  • Mr. Muskrat said on August 13, 2009

    I had not seen the video before today as I have only been following you for a short time now. It really touched me because it resonated with much of the feelings that I have building up within me.

    I’m in a similar yet different boat. I’m married with two kids, two vehicles and a mortgage to support. I work full-time as a software developer and attend college online (working towards a Bachelor of Science in photography).

    The schedules keep getting tighter. The days keep getting more and more stressful. Yet I somehow manage to only work 8 or 9 hours a day (most of the time) so that I can get my assignments in on time.

    Family time is getting pushed to the side. Photography time is getting pushed to the side (sadly, I have yet to start on the photography classes). Plain old me time is getting pushed to the side.

    I think that, with the exception of a few shots, my work is uninteresting or down right boring. I feel that if I just had some time to focus on photography that I could make it evolve; I could drive my work to the next level and start producing less crap.

    If I could start making money with my photography right now, I would do it even if it meant less time for family or myself. If I could start making enough money from photography to quit my job, I would jump at the chance because the stress will kill me if my wife doesn’t.

    I am approaching the point where something has to give. I know that soon, I will have to give up something that I love and I would rather it be school than my marriage, or photography rather than a job that keeps a roof over my head.

  • Calvin said on August 13, 2009

    B. You are not alone. There several similarities to our story. I also started a 365 day project this year and it just died. I am stretch thin with two jobs plus starting/running the photography business ( I started it one year ago). There are lot similar feelings. Sometimes I feel like I am standing on the dock with one foot on and one foot in a boat. The boat is moving and I am being stretched. What is keeping that other foot on the dock? My family. I need to provide for them and the jobs I have I believe God has given me. Do I just drop them and go for it? Not knowing how to pay the bills does not have a good comfort level. Thanks for sharing your letter. It reminds us all that we are not alone and we need to stick together to help move off the dock.

  • Megan said on August 13, 2009

    This was moving. I’ve been spending way too much time on that dock, just dipping my toes in. Thanks for reminding me why I need to head out and not just watch the others. B- I hope you find your way.

  • Jon Phillips said on August 13, 2009

    B. I am struggling everyday with the same thing you are. Back in the Spring, I finally made the decision that I’m going to make a go at this photography thing. I’m trying and it’s incredibly hard. In July, I finally got to be a 2nd shooter at a wedding. I have my first wedding coming up next month. I haven’t made a dime yet, but I realized quickly that its not about that. I love it, but at the same time I’m scared to death. And its that fear that creeps into my thoughts everyday and also allows self-doubt. The self-doubt is telling me its not worth it…that I should not worry about being a professional photography. There’s also my biggest fear…that I will fail miserably. And all my friends and family will see me fail and just chalk it up to another one of my hairbrain schemes to make money. I mean, what’s the point? I have a college education and a career already. But something inside me is struggling against that doubt. It tells me that I can do it, but it might take a while.

    I have a website, facebook page, business cards, etc. My equipment could be better. I’m using a 6 year old entry level SLR. One thing I’ve figured out is that even with limited resources, you can do pretty good work. I can thank Zack for that. The OneLight DVd and also David Hobby’s strobist DVDs are the best photography education money can buy. I have the privilege of attending a OneLight workshop next week that I’m psyched about.

    But everyday still, the doubt creeps in and the questions keep coming up. I have a wife and two kids to support. I’m praying that one day, I can do that with photography. In the meantime, I’ve set sail and I keep trying not to look back at the shore.

  • Andy said on August 13, 2009

    B. –

    That email freaked me out. I thought to myself, did I wake up in the middle of the night and fire off an e-mail to Zack with out remembering it.

    In all seriousness, if, after watching transform, I sat down and wrote an email, it would read so similar to yours it woud freak you out. The part about going from a P&S to being a self concious DSLRer makes me feel like you have hacked into my home network and read all the photographic forum posts I’ve nearly clicked “post”, but, like you, I’ve instead deleted.

    I’ve tried to be active in local strobist groups, but the way they are ran and the personalities that are present turn me off to doing more.

    I have no answers B. Where do we go from here? I wonder that too. As far as the dock (sailing reference) is concerened. I wish I knew where the dock is. I imagine from there a general direction could be seen. I feel like, in this regard, I’m land locked.

    Best of luck to you B.

    Zack awesome post. Great to read this stuff. Good luck.

  • Matt Lange said on August 13, 2009

    I jumped off that dock 3 weeks ago. For 2 straight weeks I didn’t even get an email. I wanted to hang it up quick before times got too stressful. Then all of the sudden, the emails came. One…then two…and now I have to fit everything in. All the while I’m setting up shoots on my own dime to keep the portfolio going. So it always looks ‘fresh’. Chin up man. Give it a shot. You only live once.

  • D said on August 13, 2009

    When I watched Zack’s video, I didn’t initially see it as inspiring like so many people seemed to.
    Very much like B., I actually found it very dark and depressing, because here’s a guy that does amazing work always struggling to find something else in his photography, and here I am sitting on the sidelines not making a name for myself. Unlike B., however, I really have no valid excuse.
    I do have a pretty good understanding of the basics, I can generally figure out lighting if I work at it, and heck… I even know a few people that are more than willing to lend a hand every so often and have even had one let me borrow his lights and set me up with a model to shoot once. B. might not have the drive to *want* to do it, but I have a burning desire to get out there and shoot and develop my craft to create amazing images. But I don’t.

    I wasn’t raised to be a social person, and although I’ve tried to break free from that mentality, it’s much easier said than done. I love holding a camera and putting it to use, but I hate feeling all of the eyes on me as people spot me with a camera and a big white lens and start to stare. I love people photography and am intrigued by different personalities and capturing them, but talking to people I don’t know is brutally uncomfortable.

    I keep telling myself “one day” I’ll finally break free from the chains and go on to lead a very fulfilling photography career. I just can’t seem to find that day.

  • Amanda Zaragoza said on August 13, 2009

    Well…I have been in the game for 1 year…I lost my job as a waitress and decided to sink or swim, which is a huge decison as I am a single mom. Im not making my millions (yet) but somehow i seem to be making it work. I also do design work, I had to fire my biggest client (very scary) and at that time EVERYTHING was really uncertain but I just kept faith in myself and God. B- the only one that can answer your questions about where to summons the passion for this business is YOU brother! It sounds to me that you really want to ‘get on this boat’…now…just do the work. thank you so much for your honesty and putting this out there B…that in itself is so inspiring!

  • nicole said on August 13, 2009

    It is so hard to have people tell you that you have the eye, the talent. But you yourself cannot believe it.

    I am a newly divorced mom of 2 and just took a job I dont want.

    I want to be creative all day.

    The transform video made all my fears and insecurities seem ok to have.

    We all have that option to push off the dock…. but what about us who can’t be in the water without seeing the shore anymore?

    That is me, I want it bad. But I don’t feel like I have the actual knowledge, like LIGHTING…..I dream of going to workshops to learn. I can taste it.

    B……you are not alone.
    We all feel like frauds at times.
    There is doubt.

    how do we overcome?

    We lean on each other….showing that we are a body of people who struggle.

    I am a photographer.

    whatever that looks like to anyone else, i don’t want to care…..but i do.

    sending out good thoughts to all who need them today.

    and thank you Zach, and for Meg, who inspires you.

    May we all have that partner to push the boat from the dock, when we can’t seem to let go of the rope.

  • Jeremy Snowden said on August 13, 2009

    I concur with the majority of those that have replied. Zack’s video hit home for me as well. I too, as many others, wanted to write to Zack and tell him my story. I didn’t know where to begin, or what to share. B’s, story resonates with me as it is, as one person put it “a carbon copy”, of what I would have written sans a few points. However, what happened to me after watching ‘Transform’, and received the wonderful gift of the, One Light DVD, something different happened to me.

    When I started getting interested in photography a few years back it was to document my life in images. Looking back over the years there was a gap of about, 10 years, where I really had no images of myself, or me with my family, or me at a friend’s home having a good time. That documentation of me in photographs turned into a hobby of going out and snapping images of random people, or locations, or sporting events. Then I learned about SLR’s and bought my first one and then the hobby turned a little more serious, and then it turned into something more. It turned from a hobby to a passion.

    I was able to express myself creatively for the first time in my life.

    I would look through the lens and snap an image and then sit down and look at it and be like, “Hot damn, that is a fantastic image.” As time went on, I got a little better, and then a little bit more, and become more comfortable in my skin as a photographer. I was already familiar with Photoshop, as part of my job was working in PS, so the editing and the post production never worried me.

    I fell on hard times and eventually had to sell my gear and my job took up most of my time and my passion turned back into a hobby, and then turned back into nothing. I didn’t snap a picture for almost a year and a half. I was finally able to pick up another SLR, an entry level model, and started snapping images again. It took me awhile to fall back into the rhythm, but I did. The hobby was back, and it was only a matter of time that the passion was there as well.

    My camera is always with me and it is always ready to fire. I was snapping images of anything and everything. Sporting events, weddings, children, it didn’t matter. I was just firing away. My composition was getting better, and my post production was even better than that.

    Then I decided that I would try and turn my passion into a profession. I started to look into better gear, and setting up shoots. I started to read the blogs and works of folks like Zack, Joe McNally, Joey L., Scott Kelby, etc… As I read and watched their work develop I become a little leery of the road ahead of me. That is when I realized, I was going to fail.

    I have never taken a class in my entire life. I have never had any sort of training. I have never worked as an assistant, and I have never shadowed anyone. I never even bothered to learn proper lighting techniques. When I watched the Joey L DVD, and then the One Light DVD, it became apparent to me that I had no f’n clue what I was doing, and how to do it. To see the stark contrast in my images versus, those of professionals and realizing I was still an amateur and I had no clue what I was doing.

    After watching ‘Transform’ and the DVD’s, I hung up the camera, took down my website and just stopped photographing. I took a couple of weeks and just thought about what I was going to do, and what I was doing.

    Recently I picked the camera back up and started snapping photo’s again. The dream is still there, the passion is still there, and I truly am not afraid of jumping off the dock. Quite the opposite. I am more than happy to dive off and I will use the bodies around me to climb my way to the top. It was just the realization that I was one of those bodies and was not bothering to acknowledge it.

    For me Zack, and B., the movie, the DVD’s, and all that everyone has written here, has been both eye opening and alarming. It made me realize that there is more to it than just picking up a camera, looking through the lens, and capturing something. There is more than figuring out the lighting of something. There is more than making a business out of it. It takes time, it takes passion, it takes interest, it takes money, it takes your life. You have to be prepared to give your life to it.

    There are ruts, some are different than others. Zack’s we learned about in ‘Transform’, B’s, we learned about here. Mine, well it came as a result of a combination of issues, and watching people better than myself ask how they do it. But it only furthers my passion and it only serves as a mean to drive me harder.

    So to Zack, B., and all the others out there, thanks. Without any of you, I would not have taken time to question myself and find out if this is what I really wanted to do, or even if I was capable of it. I have a long road ahead of me, but I realize now that this is what I want to do. Regardless of what obstacles I have to overcome. Because of the passion.

    “Follow your heart, but be quiet for a while first. Ask questions, then feel the answer. Learn to trust your heart.”

  • CJY said on August 13, 2009

    B, on top of the things you’re feeling, I’m kicking myself because I didn’t send your email first!

    Dammit, I’m on the dock and right now I’m staring into the water. Just staring.

    It looks cold and I don’t think I can hold water. There’s nobody out there gonna come save me if I go under. I know there are a hundred guys standing either side of me, each thinking the same thing…

    “I’ll see what happens to him first”

    Sometimes I guess a step is just a step. You take some with your eyes open and others with them closed.

    Life is too short and too precious, friend. Step out in faith.

  • Rosie said on August 13, 2009

    I’m swimming with the sharks!!! LOL(starting to do wedding photography while still doing “comfort zone” portrait) as I type and u know what? I’m scared, I’m enjoying it and most important I have NOTHING to lose but my own pride if I don’t succeed. If that time comes (hopefully NOT) I will tough it up, come back to this post and re-build myself! Best wishes, R :)

  • xlphotog said on August 13, 2009

    Where do I start? I shoot freelance for the remaining daily in my area but it is spotty. Please tell me how talented I am – how I have this gift yet the self doubt is always there. I don’t want to create art, I want to shoot whatever interests me and be paid for it. I am learning to light in baby steps – sometimes to great affect, sometimes to disasterous results. Hang in there, B, we all feel your pain.

  • John said on August 13, 2009

    It’s funny my wife and I have been talking about this exact thing for many numerous reasons here lately. I’ve piece milled my way into doing weddings and portraits on the side of my day jobs. And I say jobs because I have switched jobs at least 4 times since first picking up a camera and learning to shoot. And not to go all God on everyone, but the point of what we discussed is how God, through my limited photographic ability, really provided some income when needed (like the unexpected $1,300 car repair bill).
    Now my photography is there….just there. I feel stagnate, just doing what comes my way, no real effort on my part to reach out and create something new on my part. I have the good day job, which I do enjoy now. It pays well, but……..what if? What if I put more effort, energy, and commitment into what I do? What if I could muster enough courage to at least say once per day, “I don’t suck”? What if I said, “My work is worth more than I charge, and I refuse to take less because of that.”? So I raised my prices recently….no calls….I wait…..I wait…..I wait……..then I realize I’m not doing any marketing. You know people have a perception so I do a little marketing. And wow some calls, very interested in my work at my new rate. And the venue is classier; the work seems worthwhile and interesting again…maybe just maybe I’m onto something!
    But….how scary is that? What if I am onto something and I have to leave the comfort of the day job to pursue it? Giving up a sure thing, a nice paycheck, a good job just to pursue a dream, a passion, a whim maybe? That keeps me awake at night….then the voice starts back….”you suck”…”you’ll fail”……”No one is going to buy this crap”……”You can’t get business, Christ you don’t even own a D3”…. “Your lighting gear is Alien Bees not Profoto”…..”You reek of amateur and you always will”.
    Then I have to beat the voice back down……maybe all we really have to do to be successful is just beat the voice back down again, and again, and again, and again, an again.

  • Luca Ragogna said on August 13, 2009

    Watching Zach’s video certainly helped put thing into perspective for me. I realized that I go through these funks like everyone else and eventually I get through it and it’s ok.

    So now I know that not every shot has to be art. I know I’m better than I was and not as good as I will be and some days are better than others.

    I try to remember this when I feel like a talentless hack and I keep treading water until I’m back in the boat.

  • Kevin said on August 13, 2009

    To B:
    I think writing the email was your first step. Look at what you started.You wrote an email to Zack..who posted it on his site and at this point there are 55 comments on his site…I am sure many more than that have read this via twitter or facebook.

    You started a 365 project…which became to much…what about a 52 week project? One shoot a week. In your email you stated alot of things you do not have. What are the things you do have?

    I have read alot of photography books lately. How-to books, biographies and books on the thought process while shooting. Almost all of them have been great. I got the OneLight workshop dvds…they have really helped me in off camera flash…one of the best things about them is at the end. Zack has said it on his site as well…. GOYA…get off your a**. So unless I start shooting…the books and dvds will only be head knowledge and not workable comprehension.

    I just got a new site for myself and I want it to go live soon…but after going through my work I have found I only love a few of the photographs. So now I need to shoot more so that I have a portfolio of work that I am proud of. So it starts in a new way for me. I thought I had a portfolio of work that I could go through and grab and upload and bam I would go live with my site. Now I am trying to set up new sessions… ones if I have to, to get the portfolio of work I will be proud to display.

    I hope that Zack posts an update in a month or 2 stating that you have found your vision for your photography and that you have started on the road to that vision.

    To Zack:
    You are a leader. I came across your site last OCT/NOV and have been blessed by the content on this site and your heart to see others succeed. I look forward to seeing what you and your team pump out in the months and years to come. Thank you for caring about the community of photographers that are near you and ones whom you might never meet.

  • Brian said on August 13, 2009

    Like many here I could have written that same letter, almost have. I’ve been on the dock, even jumped in and waded around a bit only to be discouraged and jump back onto the dock. I’m there now sitting, watching the others swim.

    Often it seems that the more technical things get the worse things actually are. Lately I’ve been having a tough time putting together images that I like or even get responses from. A bad shoot will ruin it for a few weeks but with a community such as this, with professionals like Zack out there to push us off the ledge it makes it just a bit easier and a little more comforting.

  • Dave said on August 13, 2009

    I think we have all gone through this at some point. I got laid off in February and have had to get off the dock. It’s not easy, even if you jump in head first. I’m a graphic, web & motion graphic artist, that rediscovered his love of photography a year ago. I had a great paying job. I loved what I did, just not the business I was doing it for and found it a blessing when it came to an end. It gave me the push I needed to do what I wanted to do. Having a new DSLR, I wanted to add photography as another skill that could not only help earn a living, but something that could make me happy. Aside from some photography classes in high school and college, I have no formal training. Then again I had no formal training in design & motion graphics, but had a successful career for over 10 years.

    I’m still looking for another job. There’s something to be said about the security of a full-time job. I’ve even considered taking a job at the mall earning minimum wage, fortunately I don’t have to … right now. I’m trying to make it as a photographer, I’m also trying to make it as an independent graphic designer and motion graphic artist. Currently, my skills in design are helping me pay the bills. Luckily I’ve got former co-workers & supervisors that recognized and appreciated my talents and work ethic that I get referrals. However, I feel like I’m struggling with my photography business.

    There are times when I feel like my photography sucks and I should give it up. But I’m just starting out and I look back at the past year and I see an improvement in my shooting and lighting. I just can’t get people to notice my work. I recently posted on my blog, Facebook, & Twitter an offer to shoot for free during the month of August. I figured I’d get an overwhelming response. I got 1 definite and a couple interested but not committed. How frustrating is that? I can’t even give it away! Talk about wanting hang it up. It’s not an easy process, but I’m still determined. I know it’s going to take some time. I’m going up to WV in a couple of weeks and meeting up with friends, so I’m also offering free portrait sessions and plan on shooting some mountain biking action at Snowshoe. Don’t expect anything out of it, hopefully some images I can be proud of.

    I’m giving myself assignments, because no one else is right now. I’ve got to keep refining my skills, because the day I get a call for a paying gig, I need to be ready. I’ve got to keep pushing myself because no one else is. It’s hard. Getting out there and marketing oneself is really hard. I don’t know how to do it, but I know once I work with a couple clients, I’ll start getting referrals, not right away but eventually. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will my photography career and I may end up with a minimum wage job, but I can’t give up. At least not without knowing that I gave it everything (effort, not money). At least that’s what I keep telling myself. There are those days when things look dark, like there is nothing better on the horizon. Believe me, I feel that way several times a day.

    I attended Zack’s Photo 101 course in July. I’m also accountable for what happens after the class. That’s some motivation. I can’t even imagine talking to Zack in a couple of months and telling him I’ve done nothing. Yeah, maybe I won’t be making any money, but it won’t be for lack of trying.

    B. and everyone else, I wish you all much success in following your dreams. Never give up!

  • neil clarke said on August 13, 2009

    you will find many are in the same boat or lack their of following zack analogy ,

    I get that way at times then i just think i dont care im goin out with my camera today just me an my camera, maybe friends an i just enjoy it an come home with some truly beautiful images, plus i find you have more drive if you have someone with an intreast in photography you can go out with for a day or even a few hours, or have a mini project with,

    i think we all need to jump in the boat, we will get their eventually.

    i try to turn my self doubt into the drive to do better so i can not doubt myself so much, so i can apceite the work i produce, ill never be 100% happy but that just how we are :)

  • Pat__ said on August 13, 2009


    Could you please send:

    8. Joe, on August 12th, 2009 at 10:26

    my email address. I have a flash he can have.

  • Andy said on August 13, 2009

    Another must-read for my wife. :) TY!

  • James said on August 13, 2009


    I can certainly relate. I did go to photography skill and know I have the skills and knowledge to really get going, but still seem to be standing on the dock. I look at the work my fellow students have done since graduating and am jealous of their success where mine has faltered and slowed. I shouldn’t be though. They’ve taken the step off of the dock, and I seem to be clinging to it as the boat floats away.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am happy for their success and I realize that my goals in life have yet to mesh with my goals as a photographer. Maybe it’ll happen one day when I’m not looking, maybe like some of the other comments here, it never will and I’ll just shoot casually and for myself forever. But when I do finally let go of the dock and shove off, I’ll remember this:

    “If you do not climb, you will not fall. This is true. But is it that bad to fail, that hard to fall? Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.” – Excerpt from Fear of Falling by Neil Gaiman


  • marcus said on August 13, 2009

    Walked out this morning
    Don’t believe what I saw
    A hundred billion bottles
    Washed upon the shore
    Seems I’m not alone in being alone
    A hundred billion castaways
    Looking for a home

  • Gary said on August 13, 2009

    My life is a carbon copy of B. I needed help so I bought Zack Onelight DVD with money I didn’t have.(The old saying I’ll rob Pete to pay Paul later type of thing) I watched it over & over again and pretty much bought every piece of gear that Zack used in his video. It pretty much almost ruined my marriage. I haven’t done anything with it other than put my family more into money troubles. Half the time don’t know what i’m doing or thinking. All I know is that I don’t want to keep doing what i’m doing. I don’t know how to more forward. One things for sure is that I love my wife, My kids & photography and I’m learning to keep in that order.I feel like i’m in a hole asking for help and the people walking by keep saying they’ll be back with some help. Thank you Zack for posting & sharing your knowlege I feel like you jump in the hole to show me there is a way out.
    I’m sorry for the way I write. I’m not a writer!!

  • Marcene said on August 13, 2009

    @B I’m right there with you. Plus I have 3 kids that I worry that I am not doing enough for them. And I’m still not getting anywhere with photography.
    @Zack Thanks for the video and for posting this.

  • Manny said on August 13, 2009

    It is often said that misery loves company. Which is why I believe your “Transform” messages hit so hard to a lot of people. While others see it as “humanizing” to see someone as popular and talented as you struggle, B obviously saw it as demoralizing. Either way, You have a way to affect the everyday photographer like no other. Youre not a rock star like so many of these other photogs try to portray themselves. Youre a guy, and a camera and a light. Just like us. THAT is why I follow you.

  • Dana~from chaos to Grace said on August 13, 2009


    I am you.

    You are me.

    I could have written those very words myself.

    I have that DESIRE, I have some talent, but there are so many things standing in the way:

    -MONEY, for equipment mostly, but so many OTHER things that go into it

    -Age, I’m 36 and so late in this game.

    -Family, I have 3 beautiful children who LIKE to eat and would like to wear somewhat fashionable clothes to school, so I must keep my full time job that I am SO OVER. And I dearly love my husband of 17 years and would like to KEEP him.

    -Time, I’d LOVE to be able to go to school for photography, but that requires TIME I don’t have, and MONEY I don’t have.

    So, what has to work for me until I can wade a little deeper into the water is LEARN all I can online. Stalk the amazing photographers and find what I like and what I don’t like.


    And yes, for most of them, they are friends and family I won’t leave alone, but I’ve discovered something….I am getting a LOT of referrals from those practice sessions. I’ve been able to begin a little wading deeper professionally because of these referrals.

    But above all, I want to do something MORE with this talent that God graced me with: I want to shoot WORSHIP photos for churches and youth groups. And something that God has scared the snot out of me with: shooting Mission trips, going with missionaries, or visiting with missionaries and shooting what they do where they live. Shooting the faces of the orphans they help, the dying faces of people with AIDS, building houses, and whatever else God sends me to shoot. We are VISUAL people and those that cannot GO and DO what they do, we need to see the work God is doing around the world!

    And until that time, I shoot Senior pictures for Youth in our youth group that cannot afford traditional Senior photos. I shoot newborn sessions for women in the Domestic Violence shelter. And possibly my favorite: shooting baptisms at church. There’s just something amazing about those.

    You shoot what you can, with what you have, and pray for more opportunities.

    I don’t want to be sitting at home WAITING and missing everything around me. And above all, I don’t want to hear God’s voice telling me I didn’t even venture out in the water. “There were opportunities I gave you, and you missed them.”

    So, even if I don’t have the PROFESSIONAL GRADE DSLRs, I have an adequate one for now. If I don’t have all the softboxes and lighting set ups, I have natural light and will learn all I can shooting with what God gave me. If I don’t have all the lenses I really need to shoot the worship photos God called me to shoot, I’ll shoot with what I DO have, and pray God will provide. And if I do not have the upgraded computer I so desperately need, I’ll sit and edit on what I have. While I’m waiting for my computer to do what I asked it to do while editing photos (for an HOUR on 2 photos, no joke, it’s truly sad), I read my Bible. Yes, that’s probably odd, but I read 5 BOOKS of the Bible while trying to edit those 2 photos.

    If I don’t become a famous photographer like Zack making kajillions of dollars 😉 I still want to shoot what I can and do all the good I can.

    And God will bless that. We do what we can.

  • Raji Barbir said on August 13, 2009

    At the end of 2008, I was about to quit my venture into wedding photography ( I had been at it for 2 years by that point, not knowing what the hell I was doing most of the time, but I kept at it, dreaming of some success, though not knowing exactly how to define it… Financial success? Artistic success?

    The hard and profoundly painful truth was that I’d booked one wedding in 2008…


    It was even less than the stupidly low TWO that I’d booked the year before…

    I felt like a complete failure. I felt like I was just hanging on to a dead dream. “It’s over already, why am I bothering?”

    So I faced the hardest truth I possibly could and told myself that if by the end of 2009 I wasn’t doing significantly better, I’d have to look for a job in my OLD career… 3D animation.

    Nothing wrong with the old career, I just came to loathe it. Just the thought of going back to it was torture. Not as much a motivator as a terrifying gun to my head.

    But 2009 came around and I did well. Very well. I’ve booked 30 weddings this year!

    Now, in an effort not to end on too cheesy a note, I should point out that despite TinyComet Photography’s very sudden surge into success,, my venture into commercial and advertising photography, is still just a failure right now…

    Do I suck? Am I a crappy business man? What am I doing wrong?!

    Aaaaand right back to feeling like a failure.

    Who cares that TinyComet is doing well? Why the hell can’t I get my commercial photography off the ground?!

    So if it’s any encouragement, although this may not be true for everyone, I know from personal experience that initially at least, every new attempt in life feels like a complete and total failure, long before your efforts have a chance to flourish. You question the value of your talents and wonder if you shouldn’t just cut your losses and quit.

    And it’s good to know if maybe it really, truly is time to quit. There IS a time for that too sometimes.

    But me personally?

    I’d rather die trying.

  • Michael said on August 13, 2009

    Hey all,

    I have been supplementing my hobby with paid jobs for a year or so now… I haven’t made the jump to full time photography because my true passion still lies in architecture, and it is there similarities that allow me to enjoy both. Light, form, composition, etc. But I find photography like my golf game. No matter how bad my round is going, there always seems to be one shot that inspires me to come back. Granted, it is only one out of 80-90 on that day, but it is enough to keep teasing me, and convincing me to want more.

  • robin said on August 13, 2009

    To say I can identify with B is an understatement.

    My problem is that I’ve spent years packing the boat, making sure I know how to drive the boat, watching other people boating (the mistakes they’ve made, the things they’ve done right, the habits of good boaters) and taking a few, very limited test runs in the little bay next to the big ocean.

    And while I think that’s important to a certain extent – so that once you fully push off, while you may be scared, it’s not wholly unfamiliar and to ensure that you really do know how to drive a boat – I think it can also be limiting.

    You can waste time insisting that you need a better boat (a different camera), a bigger engine (different lenses) or a few more test runs (more training) and, before you know it, you’ve wasted years preparing when you could be doing.

    Maybe it was the birth of my son, maybe it was the 101 class or maybe it was one too many days of an uninspiring day job but something clicked about a month ago and I made a decision to push off. I’ve made an agreement with myself that if the waters get too rough or if I need to wait out a few storms, I will but I’m all packed and I’m pushing off.

    Hope to see everyone else out there on the seas with me!


  • Stephen said on August 13, 2009

    I have these thoughts all the time. 3 months ago I was a full-time ad industry Account Supervisor, who shot photography whenever someone came calling…it was good on-the-side money, but I had a desire to be doing it full-time…3 months ago…I was laid off. BOOM, full-time photography. It’s been scary as hell the entire time. I’ve been fortunate to have a pretty full schedule, but I constantly feel like I’m running around with my head cut off in regards to running my own business. There are so many logistics, so many questions, and unlike a site like where you can get all kinds of helpful info on lighting/techniques/etc…there’s not a “” out there yet…

    Take heart. If you’re passionate about doing this, then do it. If you don’t have a paid shoot one day, ask a friend to go out and let you take portraits of them so that you can continue to hone your craft…blog the pictures and promote your business. Over time, people will start to see your work more and more…it’s about going for it, and being willing to lose.

    I was a collegiate athlete before becoming a grown-up and the only way anyone is successful in sports is when they’ve learned how to take a loss and use it to fuel them towards greater things. Photography is no different. That last shot you took that you think sucks…make it better. try things/etc. Every failure with a DSLR is FREE (unlike film) and you’ve got the opportunity to just keep trying. THEN…when you do get a shot that you LOVE, you’ll appreciate it that much more.

  • Pete said on August 13, 2009

    When I saw Transform, it touched something deep inside. I almost cried because someone understood. I’m 47 years old and about to jump. I’m giving up my job and going back to school. My friends say they have never seen me so happy, but I’m so scared, but it’s not going to stop me.

  • Will said on August 13, 2009

    I read all these responses and feel comforted in the notion that almost every artist has these thoughts and are scared to jump off the dock. I am also reminded of the regrets that I have throughout my life and want to make the jump as well.

    This post, and re-watching of the video, came at a great time as I too have been pushed off the dock and am only treading water, the water is nice but the swim looks long and tough.

    Lets all make the decision to push forward and take that swim into uncharted waters, it will make us better in the long run.

    Thanks Zach for the post and all you do!

  • Marcus said on August 13, 2009

    That email definitely resonates with me, too. I’m 29, just picked up my first DSLR (really my first camera, period) last year. I’ve become passionate about photography, reading every piece of information I can and doing my best to apply it. At this point, I am looking at going to school to study it, but part of me keeps telling me it’s not necessarily the most productive option. I am extremely interested in portraiture and have bought two Canon flashes, CyberSyncs, stands and umbrellas. I’ve played with them a bit, but feel extremely self-conscious getting them out in public.

    As the case with B., I also suffer from the “too many interests” predicament. I am also really into music so it is a big (welcome) distraction from my photography sometimes.

    Here I am, 29 years old wondering if I’ve missed “talent” boat wishing I would have spent more time finding things I really loved doing when I was younger. Sometimes I wish I could start over, or go back in time and hand myself a camera and guitar then say “Do this. Trust me”.

    As of right now, having only been shooting for a year or so, I’d be happy gaining the confidence to set up and shoot in a public place. Eventually, I’d love to pick up a job over a weekend or something… Just to make extra cash and eventually turn it into a full time thing… But for right now, I’m just focused on gaining the confidence to do what I love, where and whenever I want.

  • kevin Knight said on August 13, 2009

    I guess you can call me a professional photographer. This is how I make my living, I have nothing else but my camera, all my other skills are gone. You see I spent 15 years in the music business doing A&R for various record labels and music publishing companies. I watched the music business that I loved falls apart at the seams. I stopped loving music, musicians, songs, anything to do with music. My job was to find the next big band and make them famous and get gold records and blow these little bands up to be the next U2, but that passion just left me. I would sit in my office day after day listening to podcasts and talk radio. Near the end, I wouldn’t even listen to the records the label I worked for was putting out. Music just wasn’t fun anymore. The passion that I felt when I was 19 (my first job in the music business). What was I going to do? Quit my job? But thats how I payed rent. That’s how I put gas in my car.. most of all what was I going to do? I never went to college, I can’t play an instrument so I couldn’t join a band, and the last thing I wanted to do was go back to tour managing. I’m too old (33 at the time) to jump in a van and sleep on floors.

    I had always loved photography. I always had some kind of camera with me at all times. In the early 90’s I shot rolls and rolls of film of live shows and flowers and randomness. I had bought a camera as a hobby. It was something to pass the time with. Something that was music related. I would go out on photowalks with just me and the camera and shoot for hours and hours. I felt the new sense of calm every time I picked up that camera. I told my wife this. And she said the greatest thing “why don’t you become a photographer?”

    I thought about it.


    I quit my job and started shooting. BOY DID I SUCK! I didn’t let that stop me. I shot every day. Whatever it was, I would shoot. I took my camera with me wherever I went. I read everything I could about photography. Scott Kelby, Strobist, Zack, Lightsource Podcast and Lee Varis became my web guides to photography. I would take any amount of money someone would give me to shoot for them. It didn’t matter. I was making money with my camera. Next thing I know a year had gone by. I was still working for myself, still taking pictures, and still paying the rent. There wasn’t much more money left over. My wife and I didn’t live the lifestyle we once did, but I was happy. I woke up every day with a smile on my face and a new sense of excitement. Every day was a new challenge and every day I took that challenge on.
    Another year passes… I’m still a photographer. People that once knew me as Kevin the A&R guy now know me as Kevin The Photographer. I used all the contacts that I had in the music business to band promos and album packaging. I started making money off of music again. Labels that I once worked for (and thought I would never work with again) started hiring me to shoot their bands.
    Cut to today, right now, I am still a photographer. I still wake up every morning excited(for the most part) about the challenges of the day. But somedays I feel like B. I feel like I should give up. I’m not making the money like Zack,Chase, or Dan Winters. I’m not shooting magazine covers or features like Dave Hill or Gage Young. I’m not jetting off to New York to shoot print ads like Nick Oken. I want to put the camera down and go work at Jack In The Box.
    But then I thing to my self “It’s only been 3 years” these guys have been at it longer. They say it takes 100,000 hours to become a professional at anything. I’ve only clocked 30,000. I have time, talent and drive on my side. Thats what any good photographer needs.

    Oh, and now.. I love music again.

    Thank you Zack for your blog, your videos and your contributions to the photography community.

    Kevin Knight

  • Rick Wenner said on August 13, 2009

    Talk about timing for a post like this one. I’ve been trying to work through many of the same issues. I have had my moments of success and my moments of defeat along my relatively short path in becoming a full time photographer but I think that it’s important to go it all.

    Here’s my story…

    For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted a job that involves creativity. I didn’t want to look at it as a job either, I wanted to have fun with my career. After a mess of schooling I eventually received my AS in Graphic Design and went to work for my family’s company as the in-house graphic designer. 9 years later and I feel like one of the dead bodies that you’ll find along the way to the top of Mt. Everest.

    As the years passed, I started “taking pictures” as a hobby. Landscapes, abstract, a few portraits here and there, but I only looked at it as just a hobby. As the years passed I was seeing my skills improve and more people complimenting my work. I started working at getting some paid jobs but it wasn’t until Photoshop World when I had my portfolio reviewed by Frank Cricchio that I decided to really push hard to make this a full time thing. Frank complimented every photo he saw and told me to never give up because I’m going to go far. That meant the world to me!

    So here I am, working two jobs…graphic designer and photographer. I hold on to the graphic design work to pay the mortgage, bills, and put food on the table. In my heart, I NEED to leave this job. In my mind, I have to stay in order to live. My “second” job is photographer. This is what I LOVE. It puts a smile on my face. I NEED to do this all the time.

    How do I move forward? How do I keep the bills paid and food on the table if I were to leave graphic design? I’ve learned through Zack’s video and many other people’s stories that you have to keep on pushing for what you want. I will not give up. I will make this a full time gig. I will pay those bills with what I love to do. This will happen.


  • Ricky RLP Graphics said on August 13, 2009

    Its scary to think that im a 23 year old photographer and i want to shoot for the stars, and in the proses take down my peers, but then i think im only 23 ill never reach them they have 20 – 15 years of experience or even more, i only have 8 as a photographer and 2 commercially ill never sell like they do ill never be as creative and they are, if i take a step they’ll take 3. I work hard to be good at what i do, but even then i dont think my work will ever be good enough, i never taken a Photography class or a lighting class or a composition class or even a business class. So why is it that i dream of being one of the top dogs in my county, where Hollywood is my neighbor and OC is the mecca for trendy photography and every one is or wants to be a photographer… why do i believe that ill reach that….? i dont know, but one thing is for sure im not good enough but photography is all i know and its all i want to know so i push trough and dream to be as good as my pears. So Homei G slice Get on the boat and push… its sad to think that when you get to an old age and say what if? If u want something so bad go for it get it nothing stops you in this country but your self. Live and Love


  • LeonRaz said on August 13, 2009

    You know I was about to right my story but I just realized that my story is identical to B’s. Right know I’m on the dock. I dint go to school for photography, I dont have money for top of the line equipment I barely have enough money for the camera I have now! But I enjoy doing it even if my wife and kids are tired of standing in front of the camera. I feel like somewhere along the way I took a wrong turn in the road of life and ended up in my current dead end job when I should be a photographer. But its never too late right? Photography is going to get out this mess even if takes me a few years and some calculated risks. I dont know enough to jump of the dock all at once so Ill put on my floaties and try that first. Good luck B. Look me up on flickr,LeonRaz.

  • Shay said on August 13, 2009

    I’m just but a needle amongst the haystack. No, the hay-mountain. Sometimes I wonder what the point is. Sometimes I think I’ve lost my vision. Sometimes I know I have. B, you’re not alone.

  • Teresa said on August 13, 2009

    I have a quote on my cubicle from a hurricane photographer that says, “if you’re not scared, you’re in the wrong place”. I’m not scared at my boring day job so I have this up to remind me to work on getting out of here and into a photo career…I now have a 6th month deadline. With alot of planning I hope to step off the dock onto a boat, and not into the water…either way, stepping off!

  • Mike Young said on August 13, 2009

    Holy crap…reading B’s letter, I would have thought it was me. So worried that my best is someone else’s worst. Too afraid to pursue the dream full time because I have 3 kids and a wife and a whole lot of family that would think me crazy.

    In the beginning I read the forums religiously…now I just go there to peek and see if anything new to learn. Instead I just try to get out and do…The hard part is trying to improve while still maintaining the ability to support my family. So I started a small photography business on the side of my full time job. And I hate to say it, but I feel it’s my obligation to work extra, sweat, cry, fail, and succeed a few times to earn my stripes as a photographer entering the game late. Nothing is free and nothing is worth what you haven’t earned.

    I have to confess, I have not seen the Transform movie, just read this letter and it moves me. I’ll check out the movie soon.

    As for B, I wish you the best of luck and hope you may soon be able to put the pedal to the metal of getting the gear and opportunities that let you follow your heart of photography. I know it’s harder said than done, but never look for others input on your photography except those close to you. Put your stuff out there if you like, but do not solicit others input on forums and social places unless you truly trust the people you are asking…

    Oh, I ramble a lot too.

    Best of luck
    Mike Young

  • Dave Jackson said on August 13, 2009

    This was originally posted on the OneLight Workshop site. Here is my story about transitioning from day-job to photographer, right from my blog:


  • Michelle said on August 13, 2009

    WOW… Bravo B! I know you writing what you did took guts! But look at all these people (myself included) that feel the exact same way as you. I find it so unbelievably comforting to know that I am not alone in this. It is really unfortunate what negative self talk can do to the human spirit; I suffer so much from self doubt that it really can be debilitating at times.

    But I do echo all of the comments here and I add that I know for a surety that giving up puts you in no better position than you are in right now, nothing would change and quite possibly you would live to regret or wonder what might have happened. However pushing on and persevering has at the very least the ability to help you further develop your style, your craft and your understanding of the type of photographer you want to be.

    And the most important lesson I’m trying to learn and incorporate into my own life is to STOP COMPARING! They are they… and you are you!

    If nothing else just remember this… you have a community of loyal Zack Arias followers that are rooting for you and want to see you succeed!

  • Justin Van Leeuwen said on August 13, 2009

    Very powerful stuff here Zack, far more for me to take in, in just one sitting. I think I still feel a bit lost, more of a character trait than anything else.

    The questions “What if” “or?” “But” are far too pervasive for me, or those like me, to go at it alone, and potentially in the dark.

  • Ed Cooley said on August 13, 2009

    Really excellent blog post. We all feel B’s pain.

    The thing about photographers is too much:

    We think too much, get depressed too much, compare ourselves to others too much, worry too much, and some (like me) complain too much.

    You know what? That is no different than anybody else who is trying to accomplish something special. Doing your own thing is hard work and really, really scary. It’s even worse if you have a family to support.

    I think the reason your video struck such a chord is that while it demonstrates the demons within us it also has the solution. You get busy doing what you do well and you get excited about earning a living with a camera which is very cool.

    I’ve been self-employed for 22 years now, my advise to anyone considering a self-employed career: if you can be happy doing anything else you should probably do it. Only 1 out of 20 make it five years. Even fewer are successful enough that they need to hire help.

    But if you can’t be happy doing anything else then it is simple, JUMP! If you fail you can always find another job and be like everybody else but at least you gave it a shot. Why torture yourself for the rest of your life? If it doesn’t work it is not the end of the world.

    Your level of success is solely determined by you. No excuses; if we are not where we want to be than it is our fault. Not the market, not the economy, not our equipment, not anything except the person you see in the mirror each morning. You have to be honest with that person when things are not working out as planned. Find the problems and fix them early. Make your plans and pursue them. If the plans don’t work out then revise those plans and move on as soon as it’s obvious.

    You have to be responsible for your own state of mind because no one is there to pick you out of your funk and tell you to get to work. Your enthusiasm and passion is what gets others excited about what you have to offer. Good or bad, it will show in everything you do.

    Now I feel stupid but I am clicking Go anyway.

  • Si said on August 13, 2009


    I blogged my thoughts on this today here:

    Was a great vid and these comments are really interesting. Its great to see how so many diff people feel about this pretty universal subject.

    Cheers dude.

  • Yannick Beauvalet said on August 13, 2009

    A cruel mistress!

    I’ve not met a mistress crueller than photography.

    One minute I’m on top of the world, ready to quit my day job and go pro. I just crafted an image exactly as I had pictured it in my mind – the perfect blend of art and science. My client sheds a tear at the sight of the images and I’m bursting with pride. I’m making the leap and dedicating my life to making images.

    The next minute, it all falls apart. A whole shoot just downloaded into Bridge and not a usable frame in the bunch. The science just kicked the shit out of the art – focus is a little off, the action was a little too fast for the shutter, the metering is way off, the white balance sucks, and there is not enough Photoshop magic out there to save even one shot. I’m so grateful I have a day job and steady pay check, bankruptcy is avoided and I bask in the safety of my life as a public servant.

    Two days later and my camera and I are one again; the flash fires a perfect exposure, color is bang on, focus is sharper than the cutting edge of a samurai sword – DSLR juju is flowing through my veins and my heart is racing. Wow! I race to my computer to take a look after the shoot and….nothing. The soul is missing. No image speaks to me. No emotional response. All science and no art! F*%K! All that money invested, the latest training from Kelby, the inspiration from Arias and Joey L, all the books from McNally and still I can’t make the magic happen on demand. I’m selling all my gear, shutting down the website and taking up gardening.

    That’s what a week looks like in my life as modern prosumer – the highest highs and the lowest lows. It’s very emotional for me.

    A cruel mistress.

    Photography is hard. There are very few pursuits out there where so many variables come into play. Great gear is very expensive but can make a world of difference. Deep knowledge of the masters is priceless but can make me feel so small and inadequate. The books and blogs are invaluable tools but can make it look so easy that I think I can just learn it my osmosis. Then there is the eternal debate over formal training and the self-taught.

    Photography is hard. I say it again. It’s art almost totally dependent on science. It’s solitary and unifying. It’s rewarding and yet will not hesitate to kick you in the shins. It’s both calming and infuriating. It’s a passion, an obsession. It can thrill your spouse with incredible pictures of the kids or lead to divorce because of countless hours spent on the computer or on the road. It can make me feel like the king of the world or a worthless wannabe.

    The key for me is to keep it simple. It’s how I stay sane as shooter. Yes, I have to push myself and explore new territory as a photographer. Yes, I have to spend money on gear to stay in the game. Yes, I have to be inspired, artistic and technical. Yes, I have to learn, everyday. And, yes, I have to be emotional. But I also have to be realistic and learn to be happy, or at least content, with my current situation.

    I have no formal training, a full-time job, two kids and wonderful wife. I have aspirations of a cover shot with a nice yellow border around it but I also have to put food on the table. I have to accept that very few make it to the top. There is only one Cartier-Besson.

    Now I’m going to quit naval-gazing, accept that life, like photography is hard, and I’d rather focus on making amazing images than complaining.

    After all, even if I took up gardening, I’d just end up wanting to take photos of the flowers!

  • Michael Tissington said on August 13, 2009

    This is so similar and at time so damned frustrating.

    I have the time, I’m between jobs at the moment looking for a new direction. I’ve spent a bunch of money on ligting equipment, I have some knowledge yet I sit at home on my butt waiting for the right moment. Waiting for a peer group to show up and help with the motivation.

    Well some good and scarey news .. this Saturday I’m pushing the envelope :) After seeing a video on WIRED I’n going to attempt to take a bunch of street portraits using a white seemless .. I’ll have to walk up to total stranges and ask them .. for me this is the stretch ..

    And I have another project I’d like to do, a bow maker has recently opened up shop in our little town and I’d like to do an editoral .. well maybe now having told you all about it I’ll just have to go out and try it.

  • sean said on August 13, 2009

    I am on summer break and I have not even picked up my camera. I feel bad, but I just have not had the desire to shoot. Thankfully I am shooting a wedding in a backyard tonight. I really just have to get that desire back. Once I start I can’t stop- it is just a matter of getting there.

    Thanks for the post!

  • Ray K said on August 13, 2009

    The measure of a man is what they do if they try and fail. The real measure is the try part.
    They can’t take away your birthday. Live like you never want to say “I wish I had…..”.

  • steven noreyko said on August 13, 2009

    @Ed Cooley (#93) makes some great points, specifically:

    “Your level of success is solely determined by you. No excuses; if we are not where we want to be than it is our fault.”

    I’m 5 years into my commercial photography business and this year has been a struggle. Work has dried up and I’m not been marketing or making new contacts. Things are very slow and I might have problems paying the bills this month.

    But, it’s my own damn fault – sure I might be burned out on the specific work that’s been bringing in $, but why am I not actively developing some new kinds of work or spending time marketing? Time to jump in a new direction perhaps?

    This “standing on the dock” situation happens to everyone in cycles. Newbie or “pro”. There’s always some new challenge.

  • Bill Pennington said on August 13, 2009

    Thanks for sharing Zack. As always yo are very inspirational. I think you should stop taking pics and tour with Tony Robins! :-)

  • Derek said on August 13, 2009

    I just learned more about photography from all these comments than I have in the past 4 years of lighting courses, camera techniques, workshops, books and dvd’s.

  • Doug Robertson said on August 13, 2009

    I do not make a living as a photographer. I take pictures, for me. It seems of late that others want me to take their picture and give me money for it.

    This terrifies me. I love my job. I love taking pictures. Honestly I give pictures away to people just to make them smile. I love it when a photo I take makes someone smile. A portrait of a friend or kid that captures that “thing” that makes that person unique. A still moment in a landscape that lets you feel a little bit of tranquility just as if you had been there yourself.

    Why don’t I become a photographer? Part of me thinks that if I became a pro, then I wouldn’t be able to give this love away like I do now. At least now if I take pictures at say a wedding and the couple doesn’t like them, no biggie, they don’t have to take them. It’s safe for me to be doing the way I’m doing. And for me, truthfully I need photography as my safe place. It’s my therapy. It’s my outlet. It brings balance to what I do for a day job.

    B, I’ve been in spots like you’re in, not quite the same, but I think I know where you’re at. Celebrate the things you love, the people you love. Focus on the things that bring a smile to your face. There’s so much in the world that breaks the heart and spirit, celebrate the stuff that makes your heart beat faster.

    Will I go pro? I will not say absolutely one way of the other, tomorrow comes with changes we cannot see. Today I say that I will leave things as they are, take pictures and if people want to thank me with a little money, then I’m good, if they don’t want to give me some cash, but would rather give me a hug… then I’m still good.

    That’s my story, or a part of it anyway.

  • Rich said on August 13, 2009

    For me, I know how to push off the dock. I know how to sail and try new things. I know how to let go and cut losses or gains for a bigger picture.

    My delay for any kind of change is more questioning whether sailing to new adventure will be the answer. Will it make me happier? Am I better off where I am now? Will I realize the mistake and long to return to the dock?

    As Zack also mentions in his video, he is able to free himself to spend time where it really matters… with his family. And for that, he considers himself lucky. It’s the work to live, not live to work mentality.

    Even Chase mentions that you need to focus on what you want to do. While shooting magazine covers and corporate headshots can pay the bills, shooting jumping ninjas is way more fun.
    You have to sometimes do what you don’t like to do to pay the bills and live, but not get stuck doing that. Just do enough to get buy and spend the rest of your energy doing what you love.
    If you can already do what you love, there’s no need to change anything.

    Jumping off the dock head first with hopes that I will once again resurface means that there are far more sacrifices than I can afford right now. I may not be my happiest while at work, but when I’m at home, I am. My current situation and employment allows for this… and allows me to have my pasion with photography.

    Some people are able to blend the 2 worlds successfully. I think that’s where you break through the surface after passing all the dead bodies. You don’t have a work life and a personal life… you have a life you love to live doing what you love.

    While some can find success doing that, I think following my passion and making it my life would ruin the original attraction and my love for photography would fade.

    As much as I could be wrong, I won’t choose a path that will take me down that road. I have what matters now and am happy living both lives on my terms. Nothing says I have to go 150% with photography and make it my life and crutch… I’m fine taking it slow and steady.

    The bigger picture I took from the video is that we will all have low times. Times where we lose focus and forget what our main goals in life should be. We sometimes think that what we are doing doesn’t make a difference and it will all be forgotten not having any impact.

    Even though we all have those times, that does not mean what we are doing is the wrong thing… that we need to drastically change. What matters is that your perception again changes and you realize that what is important is within your grasp and that you can hold on with all your might.

    If you work 12 hour days 7 days a week doing what you love to do and miss your child’s first steps… is it really what you love to do? Is it worth the sacrifice? There will always be sacrifice, but what is most important and are you getting enough of that?

    I guess what I’m getting at is that there’s nothing saying you have to follow a specific path to success. The grass will always be greener somewhere else, ALWAYS… if you focus on what others have that you don’t, you’re missing more than you’ll ever know.

    Who says what you’re doing with photography is a failure?
    Do our failures along a journey in turn mean that we, ourselves, are failures? I don’t think so.
    Do others seem to have something extra that inspires them to get things done? Yes. That missing “something” is vision. A clear vision of what is important to them.

    How can you know which way to go or what to do next if you don’t know where you’re going?

    What is your end-game? Where do you need to be?
    You need to know that before you take your next step. Each step should get you closer to your goal. Your end goals or needs can change over time, and that is perhaps where momentary fogs stem from… when it becomes unclear how we got to where we are or how we got there and where to go next.
    One thing we have to make sure is that we don’t stay on the original bearing if our overall course has changed direction.

    When you realize that how you are living does not meet your goals, that’s when a change in direction is needed… not when you don’t fit into a mold.

  • Amanda said on August 13, 2009

    Can I just say that this is THE most inspiring, truthful, knife-to-the-heart post I’ve ever read! Ever.

    And it’s got my name written all over it.

    A life filled with self-denial, self-destruction and self-“everything” is just so boring! It isn’t risky, it isn’t fun, it isn’t hard…it is SAFE. And we really want to just be un-safe for a moment and *know* that we won’t drown. Ahhh. It should be so simple.

    And I’m learning for some it is. But for me it is very much so the opposite.

    It causes me frustration, heart ache, opportunities to pass and dreams to die without ever coming to life.

    Dang-it, I’m just not wanting to live that way anymore.

    When you love something so deeply and you have such a strong desire to achieve; while scared to DEATH of failure; taking that “jump into the boat” just may be what sets you free!

    What a blessing this post has been to me. You just don’t know. So thank you “B”. And thank you, Zack for putting it out there.

    We just aren’t so abnormal after-all!

  • Jason said on August 13, 2009

    I am also standing on the dock. At this point am am wondering if there is even a boat there at all.

    I am a full time working IT professional but a photographer at heart. I have reached a point where i need some sort of mentoring to take the next steps. I have most of the technical but just need mentoring to help put it all together with practical experience.

    Trying to find time for the practical experience with a 50 hour a week job plus two young kids just seems impossible.

    Damn you photography. Why do i have to love you so?

    P.S. – anyone in the SF Bay area looking for an assistant?

  • Jonathan Lehman said on August 13, 2009

    A pro (not sure who) said that a good day of shooting was the only thing he could do to get rid of his inner bullshit.

    I like that.

  • Jeff Armstrong said on August 13, 2009

    Zack, your a legend. You obviously struck a chord in our world. Myself, I’m 33 and already had one pretty good career. I just finished 3 years of photog. college and got good tech skills and a bit of good know how. I’ve been lucky and got a couple of big long term jobs and now…

    Well free-fall… Worry. What’s next. How am I gonna do this. Etc. The same as everyone above here I guess.

    The best thing about my situation is: I have no choice. I have to make it or I I’ll starve. Pretty exciting huh? :) It worries me silly. Hard work. Good ethic. Perfect practice. A bit of luck. Who knows… We are not alone 😀

    Good luck to everybody, especially you Zack. Thanks and keep clicking.

  • Dorean said on August 13, 2009

    Wow, can I relate. I, too, was amazingly moved by Zack’s video, and now by B’s email and Zack’s response to it.

    I have been sitting on the dock, staring longingly at the water, wishing I could be in it. Thanks to Zack’s video, I jumped in and volunteered to do a photography fundraising project for a charity. The photography is done, and all I need to do is make the final selections and turn the whole thing over to the printer. All of a sudden I find myself swimming back toward the dock, my fear of the water fighting with my fear of boredom on the dock.

    I ask myself, what is in the water that is so scary, anyway? The answer comes back clearly. In the water is the potential to fail. I don’t trust myself to be able to continue to swim if failure hits. In the water is also the potential to succeed. If I succeed, everyone will expect great things of me, and what if I can’t live up to their expectations of me?Do I have the strength to handle failure? Do I have the strength to handle success? I don’t know. The dock is looking better all the time. But the dock also looks lonely. And boring.

    At this point, my biggest question is, how do I know if my work justifies my drive to go forward? Sure, my friends and family think my work is great, but they aren’t exactly impartial. I’m in the water, holding on to the dock. Do I climb up to safety and regrets, or do I let go and swim. I don’t know…

  • zack said on August 13, 2009

    I’m so very glad to have made a post that it’s total sum worth is from everyone but me!

    I was just sitting on my porch about 15 minutes ago asking God and asking Meg how could we help people more. Gracie started barking her fool head off as a door to door salesman showed up to sell some soap.

    I sat down with him and asked him some questions. Video will be on the blog as soon as I get it edited and uploaded.

    Keep your stories coming in!


  • Jaxun said on August 13, 2009

    Why do people think that because they don’t make money at it… they failed? Photography is a hobbie, a talent, a “passion” (there you go Zack). It’s not a job until you make the effort to turn it into a job. But if you can’t, then big deal… take pictures for yourself. Enjoy doing for your own self gratification. Quit sending in websites for Zack to critique, quit studying Jarvis’ every move. Go outside, set the kids in the grass, lay down on your stomach, and pull the trigger.

  • Matt Dunn said on August 13, 2009

    First off, great post. Just great.

    I won’t bore any of you with my own thoughts (still just beginning in photography), other than to provide you with a quote that I read the other day that seems particularly appropriate…

    “If we continue to do the same things that we’ve always done, we’ll never achieve more than we currently have at this moment…”

    For me, very sobering.


  • LD said on August 13, 2009

    I’m writing today in between breaths on my swim to fresh air. I feel as if I joyfully jumped off the dock years ago and have been swimming upward since. However, what was a joyful jump years ago now feels like a painful plea for rescue.

    I’ve seen the dead bodies of forgotten talent and lack of drive all along the way, and at times have even considered allowing myself to become one of them. It’s hard to find the strength to keep going when the “dead bodies” of pushed aside talent shown through amazingly gifted photography friends who are getting laid off and turning in their cameras for good have become the norm. It’s hard to keep going when you feel that your body physically and mentally can’t take the harsh swim into uncharted waters anymore.

    But the thing that keeps me swimming is knowing that no matter how hard the swim gets today, my heart will not stop beating and the passion for photography that lives inside of it will not die.

    However, I have never underestimated the streghth of someone who is closer to the top and can see the air bubbles, to reach down and assure you that you’re on your way. Thank’s Zack for sending life to those who are swimming behind and beside you.

    So for now, I keep trying to swim as hard and as diligent as I can. There are days where the waters clear and I feel like I’m making ground and others when the waters so murky I can’t even see my own feet. It’s those days that I just hold my breath and pray for clear waters tomorrow, knowing my heart will still be beating…

    Thanks for the breath of fresh air in murky water;) Its so vital for us to know that air bubbles and friends exist along this journey.

  • Paul said on August 13, 2009

    Don’t quit today because you never know how good tomorrow might be.

    Two weeks ago I was thinking my turn as a pro was turning back in a hobby – then along came a wedding, a youth sports league, and two senior portrait sessions…

    I wouldn’t have had them if I had quit yesterday.

  • Kenneth said on August 13, 2009

    I have been fighting the same feelings as “B.” I recently started doing some freelance work for a regional publication, but no matter what I do I seem to be making mistakes and not putting out work I am satisfied with. This has lead me to question if I am on the right path. I left my full time job a little over a year ago, just as my wife was finishing up school and was getting a job. We went from my income to her’s. Now I find myself torn between the desire to continue following what I love and the socially responsible idea of helping to sustain a household. Having gone to school for photography and feeling this way makes me question some of my past decisions.

    Watching “Transform” makes me feel like I am not alone. Reading peoples stories here makes me feel like I am not alone. But sometimes late at night when my computer is off and I stair at the ceiling from my bed with thoughts of selling my equipment on ebay, I feel very alone.

    I think I might be hollowing a canoe from an oak tree with a butter knife.


  • Kevin said on August 13, 2009

    B – I mirror your pains and concerns. I re-write emails all the time! Since you had the courage to send it, you can certainly find the courage needed for other things.

    I want to echo what Zack and so many have suggested – not trying is the only certain failure. No matter whether you gently step into the water or take a running leap, sitting on the dock is only good for knowing where your adventure started.

    Best of luck!

    Zack – great post, really inspirational. A sincere THANK YOU for sharing this.

  • Jonathan Ptolemy said on August 13, 2009

    the ego is the part of us that identifies with the voice in our head that “comments, speculates, judges, compares, complains, likes, dislikes, and so on.”

    The voice may be reliving the past or rehearsing imagined future situations. It regards the past and the future as very important–what happened in the past tells it who it is, and in the future it will achieve some goal it’s pursuing–but gives little worth to the present.

    those who are exceptionally good at what they do are often completely or largely free of ego while performing their work. They’ve taken their attention off of themselves—their petty resentments, their need for recognition, their apprehension over how their work will be perceived by others, and so on–and placed it fully into the task they’re performing. They may not know it, but their work has become a spiritual practice: when they work they become one with what they’re doing.

    When you achieve this state of flow you’re no longer worrying if you’re book will be accepted by your publisher or that someone else might get the credit for your ideas, and you’re no longer reliving some uncomfortable situation that happened to you that morning: you’re simply present with what you’re doing and firmly rooted in the moment. That is, you’ve quieted your ego and are completely at peace.

  • Deke said on August 13, 2009

    “Our doubts are traitors,
    And make us lose the good we oft might win
    By fearing to attempt.”

    Shakespeare: “Measure for Measure”, Act 1 scene 4

  • Simon Andrews said on August 13, 2009

    I’m a climber. In 1999 I fell 300 feet, in winter, while alone at 12,000ft on a Japanese mountain. As I fell I remember thinking people will say, ‘at least he died doing something he loved’. That is little comfort as you fall. I didn’t think I was going to die, I knew I was dead. I slammed into 4 steel waymark posts as I fell. The final one snagged my semi conscious body and I was given back my life. It was the last thing between me and 6000ft of ice and rock. As I fell the thought in my head was, ‘this is a futile way to die’. I was busted up pretty bad, but could still walk and got myself down, and lived. 10 years on I still climb.

    The metaphor for climbing a mountain to success, I think is very accurate. To successfully climb a mountain you must take it one step at a time and never stop taking steps until you reach your goal. If you lose your way, find a new route or go back and try again. Prepare yourself for difficult times and if it /is/ difficult, try harder. A long term, determined effort is only way to succeed. The only difference is, in reality the goal of mountain climbing is to get back down safely!

    I chanced it all for nothing as impressive as Everest. Some great advice I was given was, set yourself attainable goals. If your initial goal it to climb a scary mountain, you’ll never do it. But if you set the goal of climbing a small mountain, then a higher mountain, then a difficult mountain and finally a scary mountain you stand a chance of succeeding.

    Never stop putting one foot in front of the other. Be aware of the risks, but don’t let then stop you climbing your mountain or pushing off in your boat. Good luck!

  • zack said on August 13, 2009

    @Jaxun – Most of the folks who read this blog fall in to two categories.

    A) They make money as a photographer

    B) The want to make money as a photographer.

    Photography is a fantastic hobby that many enjoy without ever worrying about making a dime doing it or at most, make just enough to keep the hobby paying for itself. I would almost venture to say that hobbyists probably get more personal joy from the craft than those of us who have to struggle with it to make it into a job.

    There are others who want to pay their rent with a camera. They want to move from hobby to career with it. Once that desire gets planted it can be nearly impossible to remove it.

    Some folks would kill for the chance to travel to the Himalayans and look at Mt. Everest.

    Some folks would kill for the chance to just see what base camp is like there.

    Some folks would kill for the chance to climb it.

    And every year… people die trying to climb it.

    Those who have their final resting place on the side of that mountain had the desire to do it planted in them and the only way to get rid of that desire was to strap on a pack and go for it.

    The person standing 20 miles away just to see it and the person trying to make it to the top are two different people. One is not better than the other. They are just different kind of people.

    For the record… I would like to just go see the mountain. I have zero desire to ever climb it. I’d take the chair lift to the top if they had one. :)


  • Ed Verosky said on August 13, 2009

    “B” says, “I know all of these things are excuses and that if I truly wanted to become a photographer I’d just shut up and do it.”

    A photographer is someone who takes pictures. It’s that simple. There are no other requirements.

    Maybe what “B” wants even more is to be as “talented and together” as he thinks some of his heroes are.

    I suggest that he not worry about what anyone else thinks, or accomplishes. Just take photos when you feel like it, or never, or whatever.

    What you’re really looking for may not be what you think.

  • zack said on August 13, 2009

    @Ed – I think it goes deeper than wanting to be as talented as a hero one might have.

    There is a drive inside of most of us trying to get better for known other than ourselves.

    Even with all the comparisons we make with others I think we all want to go further, get deeper, make a difference for no one but ourselves.


    PS – And.. there are many who want to be like others. So… I don’t know what I’m saying. :)

  • Vince Callaghan said on August 13, 2009

    Ok so I am sat here reading Zack’s entry and all the comments and I really want to say something myself, but I just cannot find words. But after 1 can of beer, 3 cigarets and watching Zack’s video again all I can say is I guess I am not standing on the dock, I am on the beach. The reason for this is that I like so many others cannot jump off the dock. So I am on the beach and a fine one it is, I am there because from the beach you can take steps, first just dipping a toe in then your foot and when your ready out to deeper water till you meet with those that jumped right in.

    It does not matter how long it has took or how old you are all that matters is that your there and that you had a blast along the way! I myself am maybe ankle deep at the moment and like Joe (comment 8) in these difficult times am finding it hard but I will get there and I will have fun.

    Joe, if I had anything to give you to help I would but you have the most important things, you have a camera and you have you. Be creative with what you have and take advantage of all the free stuff out there, read blogs of people like Zack, Scott or Chase who are willing to give there time and knowledge, use sites like flickr for feedback and encouragement, and shoot shoot and shoot some more. A website you may find of use is its a site full of DIY projects to make camera gear.

    Any ways I hope I made some sense to you all.

    Go be all you can be and have a blast along the way.


  • william lee said on August 13, 2009

    Which one do I finally pick? Dying trying or trying not to die doing nothing.

  • steph said on August 13, 2009

    I’m not sure how to put into words what I am thinking and feeling right now… I want to start off by saying that I was wholly inspired by the Transform video, which I only saw recently. The questions “Who am I? What is my goal?” resonate with me for reasons I will get to later (maybe, if I remember). Your metaphor today about standing on a dock also resonates, but not perhaps in the way it does with most of your readers…

    Even Christ told His followers to count the cost. While He wanted their whole-hearted commitment, their very lives, to belong to Him, He knew that being His disciple came with a cost, and those who started on that journey without realizing counting it would eventually fall away. Every passion we pursue in this life has a cost. The cost may differ for each of us, but any explorer who decides to push off that shore in a boat in search of new worlds is leaving something behind. For some, the cost is little compared to the promised adventure. For some, however, that cost is too high – when they lay it all out on paper, they know they cannot finish the goal. Christ also said no one can serve two masters – for he will either hate the one and love the other, or love the one and hate the other. In reading your post today, it occurred to me that you cannot both sail off and hang on to the shore – you must choose one way to commit to. If that choice is to sail off into the great unknown, you must do so knowing that you will not be coming home to your family tonight. If you choose to stay on the dock, you do so knowing that going home to your family for dinner every night means that you will never sail off for unknown lands – the cost is too high. But you set sail for discovery while still clinging to the shore – you cannot serve both masters.

    All that said, I am one who counted the cost and found it to be too high. Last summer, I closed the doors of my studio and turned in my “pro” status (whatever that was) and rejoined the ranks of the photo hobbyist. I do not regret that decision, but it also does not mean I’m content to take snapshots with a Kodak easy share and print them straight from the card at WalMart. I still struggle to better myself, to answer the questions of “Who am I? What is my goal?” I still find myself in those dark places, hating my photography and feeling like a child fingerpainting next to real artists. I still wonder if it is time to sell my camera and get that EasyShare after all. Well meaning family and friends who oooh and aaahhh over the same old cookie-cutter crap only depress me. I want to capture the emotions I feel when I look at my children, my husband, my friends, I want to communicate their beauty and essence… I want the girls in my youth group to see in images of themselves the beauty and value and uniqueness that the world has convinced them they do not possess – I want to show that to them. But when I actually have them in front of my lens, I find myself cranking out the same plastic images as everyone else. Meaningless. I believe I can have goals, have a vision and a voice, even in my little limited sphere, but how will I find it? I will keep striving to bring beauty to my little seaside life, but I know I cannot be one of those who gives up everything for the chance of discovering a new world. I will just have to rely on the stories of those who do.

  • Pippy and Champ said on August 13, 2009

    I am at the cusp of diving off the dock myself. Thanks for this timely and inspirational post. Real honesty is so wonderful, and I am inspired by B and by you, Zack to be much more honest. Starting with myself.

    1, 2, 3, JUMP!!!!

  • steph said on August 13, 2009

    Should be “But you CANNOT set sail for discovery while still clinging to the shore – you cannot serve both masters.”

    Sorry, should have proofread better. 😛

  • Bruce said on August 13, 2009

    “It’s okay to fail at the right thing.”

    I heard that from the woman who won The Next Food Network Star this summer, in the semi-final episode. It’s a theme that reinforces itself. Nike’s “Just Do It”, the common “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” and Zack’s “GOYA”.

    Although I went to Zack’s workshop to learn lighting, I have found his inspiration, drive, and personal story to end up being more important to my growth as a person and therefore as a photographer. Which means I guess I’d better take that workshop again pick up the lighting portion :) I’m glad B got inspiration too from Transform. We take inspiration wherever we get it, add it to the forces that motivate us (creative, financial, etc), and go forth in our lives. Add to that another favorite recent phrase, from David Edwards, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” and I put aside my “I’m not where so-and-so is” thoughts and redirect them as “I’m going to go do/learn such-and-such today”. It’s always one step at a time, but you’ll find that somedays, those steps are bigger than you expected. Joyous days indeed.

  • Tyler Nutter said on August 13, 2009

    Standing on the dock taking my cloths off (paying off debt) then I’ll jump straight in and swim around freely!

  • linda kuo said on August 13, 2009

    Dear b

    as you have seen you are not alone. I read somewhere “dont let your limitations stop your art” Everyone has limitations. I have 2 adopted dogs. One with fear agression so we can’t have a dog walker. For 8 years, I have to commute home from the city to walk them. I had dabbled in photography for years. Spent 3 trying to have a baby with no success Finally adopted one and then was at home. I took photos of her, around my yard, did a series on flowers and plants in my back yard because that was all I had access to. Every night before I go to bed, would research photographers. I could not however, take that first step. It was stumbling upon Zack and his DVD that pushed me over the edge. We share the same philosophy. Less is more. He made it understandable and accessible and also, I have no frecking idea, how he does what he does with the kids that he has! So that puts things in perspective. I scraped it together and bought his DVD and what did it for me, what finally got me into the boat and off the dock, was that I told myself to stop thinking. Stop wandering with my thoughts and just focus on one thing at a time. Stop thinking, and just do one thing. Then the next and soon you’ll be surprised where you are. Dash your fears.

  • Robert Lewis said on August 13, 2009

    My story seems kinda the same. The rest sounds sorta cheesy, but here goes.
    I’m a…..home dad, home school dad, self proclaimed chef, domestic engineer, dog walker, husband, snowboarder, and oh yea….a photographer.
    Within hours of watching “Transform” I had drafted out my plans to hop into my small inflatable life raft and shove off.
    I decided, Hey, I have the gear, people tell me how much they like my work, my family supports me doing this thing, and I have the time.
    Since that moment, I have “transformed” from a guy afraid to book the shoot and fire away, to a photographer willing to take a job at a moments notice, listen to my customer, and collaborate to come up with product that makes them happy.
    I feel this satisfying sense of freedom, and a weird kinda control when I’m behind the camera. I realize that I will make mistakes, Some people will like m and others will not, that some images may rock, and others will be just a faint memory.
    At 40, I’ve realized time not tradable, it does not slow down till you get the light right. Sure you can manage it, but thats about it. So pick up your camera, scribble a game plan on your list of to do’s, and go for it.

  • Shannon said on August 13, 2009

    I’ve been employed by the same company for over 16 years. It is safe. I work M-F and get off at 3:30pm. I wouldn’t say I “hate” my job but I don’t have a passion for what I do at my “safe” job”.

    I’ve been doing photography part time for almost 7 years now. It seems like I’ve shot almost every imaginable market there is and I’ve finally settled in on wedding photography. I love weddings! Photography started out as a way to make some extra money. Now photography is a passion. After reading some of the comments above, passion is the common denominator in almost every post. Passion!! I want to live my passion and be able to earn enough money to support my family while doing what I love! There’s nothing wrong with making a living at what you love.

    I didn’t go to school for photography but over the years, I’ve developed my skills to a point where I think I can say I offer an above average photography service. People complement my work all time. That makes me feel good. I attended my very first WPPI convention in Las Vegas this past February. I learned some incredible stuff and was able to implement what I learned in a very tangible way. There are a few local Dallas/Ft Worth photographers that I look up to as “distant mentors” as their work inspires me to always strive to become an even better photographer. I have a passion for wedding photography that I simply can’t escape from!

    But, I too am at a crossroads. I want to be a full time wedding photographer. Money is tight. Business trickles in. I’ve shot 4 weddings this year and a few other outdoor portrait sessions. But that’s not enough to leave a “safe” job. Advertising & marketing are things I wish I could be doing more of but again money is tight. I struggle with how can I get in front of potential brides with out gambling money away on advertising. Earlier this year, I spent over $1,000 on and got no business in return. Those things hurt the pocketbook and frustrate other attempts to spend money on advertising.

    However, this passion for photography drives me. I can’t stop thinking about it. I have recently began being represented by a wedding planner. She has helped me land 2 weddings so far. Maybe this is how my business will finally take off. Over the past few months, I’ve thought how I’m at the point where I feel like I’m pushing a boat off of the shore. At some point, when the water begins getting deeper, I’ll either have to jump on the boat or let go of the boat. I’m pushing now. I feel the water getting deeper. I want to be on the boat.

    Zach, your work also inspires me. Thank you for the video and thank you for the opportunity to share my passion for photography!

  • Ed Verosky said on August 13, 2009

    @steph – I see what you are saying, but I think this doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing for everyone. And I feel for you. You aren’t alone and seem like you have that frustration that virtually all artists share about their work sometimes.

    @everyone offering encouragement:

    Remember “B” says, “I started a 365 project that fell flat. I just stopped taking photos. I got busy with real life and just kept forgetting.”

    Again, there’s alot to read between the lines (and in them). “I got busy with real life…” sounds like someone looking for an escape rather than someone with photography in their blood.

    Not trying to be mean or discouraging, but sometimes it’s simply a distraction to wish you were something else, if it’s not in your nature to be that something else.

  • Amy Embrey said on August 13, 2009

    Wow, this post (and the subsequent comments) certainly hit close to home…

    I attended one of Zack’s very first One Light Workshops – sheesh… what? I guess it’s been close to 4 years (or more!) ago since I made the 11 hour drive from Dallas to Atlanta (and back) one weekend. I believe this was just before Zack started traveling, and I was impatient :)

    Like most of you, I walked away feeling more inspired, motivated and encouraged than ever – I mean, how could you not?!

    In the years that followed: I practiced what I learned. Held onto that “dreaded-day-job-security-blanket”. Saved my pennies (thanks, dreaded day job!). Purchased more equipment. Practiced some more. Then… finally… slowly… I tried letting go with one hand – I quit my full-time gig, and took a PART-time job in my industry. YES! More time for photography!

    More time to waste… more time to hit those walls… more time to realize that I still had a LOT to learn… I failed miserably.

    I felt defeated and discouraged and frustrated and angry – and every other negative emotion one could associate with ”failing”.

    But my bills didn’t really care care about any of that. So, I was left with no other choice than to hang it up and reclaim my position among the full-time corporate drones.

    It’s been two years since I returned to my full-time job. I’m still battling the same things as before – the same things that we ALL struggle with, AND, of course, I’ve added quite a few fears since my first, ill-fated dive off the dock.

    It’s taken awhile, but I’m finally shooting again. Sure, it hurt my pride and my confidence, but it didn’t kill me. Failure can’t EAT you. I know that.

    But it’s still scary.

    Even though I had a hard time even LOOKING at my camera for long time, I always knew that I’d be back – eventually. So! here I am.. same as so many of you, and in spite of EVERYTHING – I’m still just standing on the friggin’ dock…

    B, it IS frustrating – not knowing how to make that leap of faith (or, hell – ANY small movement at all). What is “that reason”?? Fear? Laziness? I have no idea, but I suffer from the same debilitating, self-inflicted roadblocks. No movement. No progress. Just… thoughts and ideas and “what-ifs”.

    So, for now, I guess I’ll be standing here, on the dock, alongside you – for as long as it takes for something to “click”… hey, at least we’re facing the right direction. :)

  • L. said on August 13, 2009

    I’m scared of my past as much as I am terrified of not knowing my future.

    I fell in love with photography while I was in the Boy Scouts. I had $30 dollar Olympus P&S shoot film camera that I would take to every camping trip and I would try to create the next epic Landscape. Every single time I would get my prints back from Costco, it fell like Christmas. I would get some great shots and a lot more mediocre ones. Two rolls of 36 exposures gone just to get that 1 great shot that I would put up in my room.
    I continue my romance with photography in High School. Taking beginning B&W Photo classes. I was lucky to have a great teacher that would encourage me and support my photographic endeavors.

    After I graduated high school, I abandon photography and didn’t pick up a camera for 3 dark lonely years. I began my downward spiral, hang out with the wrong kids and I became a drug addict.I was always a good kid, I just picked the wrong friends and didn’t see and realized how weak minded and lonely I was.

    In 2006, I quit cold turkey. I didn’t want my mother to have to put her son 6ft under. I grew and a faced my demons. I picked up photography again, in April 2007 I bought a Nikon P&S with manual settings, and I took photographs. It was that easy. It was therapy. NO ONE EXPECTED AVEDON. It was a P&S and a guy taking photographs. I just purchased my first DSLR last winter and now I think people expect great photographs, I expect AVEDON, NACHTWEY, CAPA. I’m afraid to fail. I’m afraid I’m failing and don’t even know it.

    I’m scared. I think its good to be scared. I’m also relieved. I have never open up about my past in the world of photography. I’m a real person with real issues with a real past. A faced my demons and I can’t just blog every day and tell the world how beautiful my life is and I’m happiest photographer in the world. That’s bullshit!

    As much as I wanted to share my story to you, I want to thank you for sharing your story to the whole world and letting me know its OK to be a real person.


  • J V said on August 13, 2009


  • Danielle said on August 13, 2009

    Last night, when my friend alerted me to this particular blog entry… it could not have been better timing. I was feeling pretty crappy about my leap into this tiny, fragile career I’ve finally gone into fulltime. Words cannot express the amount of comfort and hope that your honesty has provided for me. It’s a scary thing, faking it til you make it.

    There are lots of people that are a million times better than me, but a lot that aren’t
    so I always try to keep that in mind. But I try not to let that thought suffocate the fact that I’ll never be as good as I want to be.

    I do this because I eat, breath and sleep images. I do it because I’ve never found something that makes me so happy. I do it because I’ve finally found a way to make a living and actually enjoy it.

    I should constantly remind myself how fortunate I really am.

  • zack said on August 13, 2009

    @Ed- This is a great thing to ponder.

    “Not trying to be mean or discouraging, but sometimes it’s simply a distraction to wish you were something else, if it’s not in your nature to be that something else.”

    Sobering… but great.


  • Chad Wright said on August 13, 2009

    One thing I’ve learned is launching into photography takes so many skills beyond photography.

    You have to be a marketer, project manager, accountant, IT expert, customer relations manager and sometimes, just sometimes, those toilets need cleaning too.

    Those skills can be learned though. Just like you learned photography, learn everything you possibly can about running a successful business.

    We’ve been hovering on the edge of full time photography for 3 years now. I do so much marketing and design work I haven’t given it my all.

    About two months ago I decided the only thing keeping me from being a full-time photographer is my lack of focus. So I focused. We sat down and figured out our goals. Once the goals were set, I sat down and wrote a marketing plan to make each goal happen. Now, we work the plan.

    I’d like to tell you that the last three weeks of working that plan has flooded us with business. But that would be a lie. The key is understanding it’s a long-term goal. It may take another three years for it to fully happen. But if it’s the passion we are designed for, it’s worth working towards any number of years.

  • Dani K. said on August 13, 2009

    A friend of mine said earlier this week that when things get difficult and dark, and you want to give up – the good news is that you actually have something to give up.

    Even if it barely seems tangible, it’s there.

    Often our problems, difficulties, doubts overshadow what we have in our hands and we have to take a step back and realize that we have something. It may be just a seed, or a dream of a seed – but it’s SOMETHING. And if we take our eyes off our failings, off all our obstacles and put them back onto what we have in our hands – often it’s exactly what we need to remember why we loved it in the first place.

  • motor9 said on August 13, 2009

    @Yannick #95: well written, sir.

    @william lee #123: 😉

  • Squeeker said on August 13, 2009

    I completely agree with Chad, “…if it’s the passion we are designed for, it’s worth working towards any number of years.”

    I have been “taking photos” for a little over 7 years now… and after the birth of our second daughter (which kept me held up in the hospital for nearly the entire pregnancy) I decided to go for it.

    But how?

    I have had many doubts as to whether or not I can actually make money doing this… but I am trying. Hard. I’ve called other photographers who I think are doing something right…. like Chad… =)… and asked them to point me in the right direction. What am I not doing? Am I technically there? etc…

    After that advice I did a big overhaul on my portfolio, my website and my plans overall for what I want to do with this photography I love so much.

    It’s been only a few months since I started making those changes… but I can say that since Jan of this year I can see an immense change in the quality of my work, the level of pleased clients, and FINALLY the paying gigs are booking!

    Like I said before… I’ve been sitting on that dock for a long time and just decided that it was time to get in the darn boat and go! I’m not Zack… yet…. hehe… but I hope to get there someday! And the only advice I can give to anyone who’s thinking about doing this is to try. Try hard. Give it everything you’ve got! If it’s meant for you to do this, then you will.

    BTW~ Zack! I just adore your work! And I am soooo grateful that my husband showed me your blog! You are so talented and a fantastic teacher! Even though I’ve yet to physically take a class with you… yet… I have learned so much from what you post on your blog here. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

  • andy said on August 13, 2009

    I sat and debated on posting mine as well, but the more I read to more comfortable I feel.

    First and foremost I’m 28 years old. I didn’t continue school due to family circumstances (or whatever other excuse people use) so after high school I worked in a retail store for a while, took a construction job, and moved on to doing hardwood flooring which I have been doing for six years now. I have never been really happy with any of those jobs, but I have settled because I had to have a job and without a degree the highest paying jobs are the ones that cost you your body it seems. I have been an avid shooter around six years now and have always loved having that little black box of electronic goodies pressed to my face but I never considered the possibility that this thing I love so much could actually produce some money. About a year ago I decided to bury my face in books, talk to other photographers…basically eat, sleep and breathe photography in an effort to make something of it. I couldn’t afford to go back to school so I was on my own. Less than a year ago I made a leap. I decided that the timing was right to try to make something of myself with what I love to. You know that saying “Look before you leap”? Yeah, well…I didn’t. I found myself drowning, to stay with the analogy. I had failed. I blamed a bad economy, I blamed my work, I blamed everything I could. In the end though I had tried and failed. I had let everyone that had supported me down in the worst way. It discouraged me so much that I actually listed every bit of my equipment on eBay. Somewhere amidst all that though I was sick to my stomach. Not from the miserable failure, but from realizing that with that one failure I was ready to give up. I thought of my dad who died last year. Oh, how he would kick my ass for giving up so easily. That began to inspire me. He always encouraged me to chase dreams. I’m now on the road to another try and if that fails…another….and another still if that doesn’t work. I may never make it, but I know that if I don’t it won’t be because I sat on the dock.

    So B I share the fear. I don’t know if I will sink or swim. If I don’t swim I probably have a lifetime of meager wages and manual labor in my future…that alone is scary for me but it’s also inspiring to. Good luck to you. You know by now that you aren’t alone.

    I also want to take the opportunity to thank Zack. You have been a great inspiration to me and many others to stay at it even if the odds tell you to fold. You’re probably too humble to realize that, but its true.

  • Rory.Laubscher said on August 13, 2009

    It always amazes me how many of us are in the same situation.
    I’m a doctor contemplating the possiblity of turning my back on 8 years of my life in favour of something that makes my soul sing. I leapt, but I haven’t landed, and I am admittedly quite terrified of the unknowns. The business is up and running, the webiste is doing it’s thing and I’m spending hours behind the lens and doing pro bono work to get my name out there.

    Honestly, the one thing that keeps me partly sane is the support of my wife and the photographers I keep company with.

    Isn’t it strange how profoundly our lives can be touched by people who have never met us, simply because of the wonder of the internet? I have learnt from Zack, Joe McNally, Scott Kelby and countless others generous enough to share their experience. Admittedly, because of this, I am driven to do the same.

    Sometimes, when you’ve made that leap, and you’re swimming like mad for the surface of that vast ocean, take a look around for a rescue line. They are there, but you need to grab them.

  • dan said on August 13, 2009

    Hi B that hits the spot! WOW serious its so deep! I can honestly say i ask myself the same question every day. I find myself getting less creative when im down and at the moment thats alot!

    I can honestly say you just gota follow your heart its not as simple as it sounds tho!

    Good luck and i hope it all works out well for you.


  • Gladys said on August 13, 2009

    I so understand all of this. I’m currently paddling around with no idea of what I’m really doing, and even less of an idea of where to go with it. I think I’ve finally figured out what I do enjoy photographing and what I do not. With that knowledge, I’ve been able to narrow my focus which has been helpful. I have been chasing subjects I’m interested in like dance and fashion, trying to just get a taste of those worlds to see if I can find a foothold that will allow me to really explore. I don’t know how I can make this thing that I eat, sleep, and breathe support me, but I’m hoping that if I keep pushing open doors and opening windows to at least see what’s there, I may figure it out. I’m scared crapless, but I too, am just trying to swim to the top where I can hopefully tread water until someone or something can help me out of the water. Photography has made me the bravest I have ever been. My passion for the art of it is what lends me the strength to keep seeking opportunity.

  • Sparrowhawk said on August 13, 2009

    The Joy of Life
    by Berton Braley

    I’d rather risk gamely
    And lose for my trying
    Than grind around tamely
    –A cog in the mill.
    I’d rather fail greatly
    With courage undying
    Than plod on sedately
    With never a thrill!

    The game’s in the playing
    And, losing or winning,
    The fun’s in the essaying
    Your bravest and best,
    In taking your chances
    While fate’s wheel is spinning
    And backing your fancies
    With nerve and with zest!

    Let stodgy folk censure
    and timid folk quaver,
    But life sans adventure
    Is weary to bear,
    The dangers we’re sharing
    Give living its savour
    I’d rather die daring
    Than never to dare!

  • Sparrowhawk said on August 13, 2009

    by Berton Braley

    You’ll never get anywhere,
    Never do anything,
    Never be any one much;
    No honour or fame
    Will accrue to your name,
    You’ll never have wealth in your clutch,
    Unless you go striving for,
    Doggedly driving for,
    Seeking the thing that you wish;
    How do some guys
    Manage to rise?
    Take it from me, it’s

    Although you have cleverness,
    Brains and Ability,
    Plenty of deftness and skill,
    The thing that you need
    If you hope to succeed
    Is Courage and Power of Will;
    Without pertinacity
    All your capacity
    Leaves you a failure, poor fish
    How do the Great
    Get to that State
    I’ve got the Answer–

    You’ll hear it called restlessness,
    Wanton irreverance,
    Discontent, lunacy, too,
    But it is the force
    That alters life’s course
    And makes the world over anew;
    The one irrepressible,
    Strange and unguessable
    Cosmic, unwavering Wish!
    How did we climb
    Out of the Slime?
    You tell’em, Buddy–

  • Chris said on August 13, 2009


    Paul Dano had it all right.

    “If I want to fly, I’ll find a way to fly. You do what you love, and fuck the rest.”

    Do what you love.


  • Heather said on August 13, 2009

    “… be patient, don’t rush, chill out…”

    I am NOT a patient person. Its so interesting that Zack’s tweets have been filling my tweet deck all day because just a few hours ago I found myself having a pity party.

    I want it all. The clients, the studio, the equipment. All of it. I’ve only officially been in business 6 months. The last two of which have been booked solid. “I’m paying my rent with my camera”. And I’m so grateful for that. But sometimes I want more. And I want it ALL now.

    Mostly because the fall is coming and then the winter. And this is the first year that my business is my only source of income.

    This scares the crap out of me.

    I think we’re all scared at some point in our life. I’m scared that my photos completely suck. To be honest, lots of them do. Right now I’m not shooting what I want to shoot, I’m shooting what the clients are buying. But that’s all about to change, too.

    I’m getting ready to jump off the dock with no floatation device. I am forcing myself to swim. I just hope I remember to kick my feet and swing my arms!

  • Sparrowhawk said on August 13, 2009

    I would like to add this.

    Most of us have been taught to live our lives altruistically, for others.

    From the time we were little lads and lasses we were told not to be selfish, to think about others, it’s better to give than receive.

    Well folks, what we have all been reading here is the consequence of those ideas in practice.

    If you are to be moral you are told you must live for others first, but this contradicts your true state of being-human being. Man must act in accordance to his values and seek out his own happiness.

    Okay, before you attack me and say what about your family, I ask you this…isn’t your family a value? I would think they are one of the highest values? So you are not being altruistic if you place your family about other values. They are a top tier value and should be.

    What I am getting at is. We are taught to sacrifice that which we love in the name of “X”. No wonder we all have issues with jumping off the dock.

    We were told we should stay on shore and build boats for other people………

  • Scott said on August 13, 2009

    I spend hours everyday and night researching the net about photography and how to become a better photographer, but rarely get the camera out and shoot.

    They say knowledge is power… I say giving it a go is POWER!

    I’ve started a blog mainly for myself to keep me honest and to not make photography a chore but more of a way of escaping everyday life.


  • Levi Bethune said on August 13, 2009

    It’s overwhelming.

    The video, the response, the response to the response, and the resulting trail of tears that follows.

    It’s also overwhelming when you’re trying to provide for a family by being creative. There is that pressure. The pressure keeps you going, but it also, if you let it, slows you down.

    I have passion, I have taste, I have skill, I have equipment. Do I have hustle? Do I have drive? Am I so obsessed with what other people think, that I can’t push myself to my own edge? What happens to my family if I fail? Is it pride? Is it perseverance?

    These are the questions I didn’t know I needed to ask myself until I stumbled upon all of “us” who feel the same way. We are artists, and artists are always on the brink of something.

    So, Zack, B, and the scores of comments before mine, THANK YOU. Thank you for paving the way for me to face myself and ask these tough questions. And thank you for making me realize that I’m not the only one who second guesses.

    I’m still trying to figure out what I’m on the brink of.

  • Stefan said on August 13, 2009

    Photography has been a verry important aspect of my life in the past 3-4 years and recently I have decided to make it the top priority.
    This is it! I’m diving off the dock!
    It’s 2 am and I’m standing on a balcony of a motel room in Pitesti Romania reading this blog post. It’s been 3 weeks away from home, since i’ve seen my friends or familly or anyone who is close to me. In the last 3 months I have been home 4 weekends and on the road the rest of the time working hard, thinking 100 times a day this is not worth it. 100 times a day I convice myself I have to do this, remembering that sacrifice is needed anytime you try to accomplish something.
    2 more months of this and I can afford the minimum of equipment required to start shooting weddings.

    Wish me good luck


  • Shane Savage said on August 13, 2009

    I take photos because I love to create art and express myself through the lens. I have shot for many years never collecting a dime. Recently I started to book clients. But you know whatI do when I have no clients, I shoot for free, becasue it is what I love. I volunteer my skills to local business that can’t afford a photographer for ad campaign’s or models who need a new look to their portfolio. I just shoot, to shoot.

  • Frank Wisneski said on August 13, 2009


    Myself and a friend of mine are about to jump off the dock. We have grand ideas, and a support system in place.

    Funny thing is, we have probably always had this, so why now? 2 reasons. His mother is dying of cancer, and he considers it a great loss. It absolutely is. So he figures he’s got nothing else to lose.

    My reason? Because i’ve got kids, and I want to look them in the eyes when they are a little older and honestly be able to tell them that they can do whatever they want, and I want to say it with conviction.

    I have officially shit, now i’m getting off the pot. Your turn B

  • Smitty said on August 13, 2009

    Where’s my “It”? I have never been afraid to try, but i must say that i am afraid to succeed. I’ve always loved photography, i was the kid in the family that never cut off anyone’s heads in family pics to i was assigned photog duty :) Barely got thru H.S. due to my worry of not having “it”…Joined the US Navy with out as much knowing how to doggy paddle but i did it well enough to get in and not die, but left after four years tortured cause i was still searching for “it”, the list goes on finished college with very good grades, got into television and believed too many people that told me i don’t have “it”. Kinda like B…what is this “it” that i don’t have? I’ve been worrying about “it” since i was six when my father passed. After 30 yrs. of wondering…is this the reason i don’t “it”? But no matter how bad i want “it”, i am drawn to photography, and i keep trying…mostly dreaming about finally getting “it”.

  • Raf said on August 13, 2009

    That what is a true. Sometimes I feel bad cannot lift myself the other days are good why is not all the time so good ? All friends doing a lot different things a lot hobbies and I strugle to do as good as possible picture I invest all my money I even emigrated, I don’t want wife, I’m working for warehouse to have cash for other projects, other session. Some people say that my pictures are good then I aswearing no them still not so good, I’ve got still plenty to learn. I don’t want advertise myself even other people say me to do that I don’t want take money from photography when I can see how far behind I’m. I know that for me (22years old) is a lot to see, a lot to check but all the time I believe that yes, I can do it, I may do really good stuff. Why not ? Why Zack or Chase did that ? Why I cant believe and keep live up my dreams. There is so many questions, but I really know what I lost when I stopped play football which was my live. I’m just sure that if I will be patient and keep doing what I’m doing live give me back what I expect, what I dream. Can I see any effects of my work. Yes I do, but it is still not enough.

    To Zack :

    I don’t come here so often I focus for doing my work. But sometimes I know that there is one web side where always can give me push, can give me while for a think where I’m what I do and if is right direction.



  • Andy Pennebaker said on August 13, 2009

    “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

    — Samuel Beckett

  • Cat said on August 13, 2009

    what an incredible thread of responses…i feel like i am finally jumping off the dock and diving in…hopefully to rise to the surface, with scratches and dents, but floating nonetheless.

    i am doing this by moving to NYC this fall with my husband, to finally pursue our dreams. i’m still not 100% what kind of photography i will pursue, but i DO know that i want to eat, sleep and live in photography…continue to learn more of the technical aspect and hopefully learn this and more under the watchful eyes of some great photographers.

    NYC is our dream and we are finally making it happen.
    My husband and I want to live our lives with no regrets and we both want to try and say “hey, we did it” rather than say “what if”
    we’re gonna live life with no regrets and give it our best and our 500% of efforts.

    I tend to fall into the photography doldrums because i have a non-photography full-time job and so photography always takes the back seat, second place, and i shoot on nights and weekends, and that’s it.

    Hopefully moving to NYC and making this my one and ONLY job, my photography will continue to improve and take me somewhere.

    I’m ready to swim.

  • larry said on August 13, 2009

    Why is it that we don’t hear people say, “I’ve tried my best at this surgery thing, but I’m just not cut out to be a surgeon.” Or a tax attorney. Or a rocket scientist.

    Cuz photography ain’t rocket science.

    “If you’re not having fun, why bother?”

  • Steve said on August 13, 2009

    So many great sentiments and wise words. Thanks.

    I’m maybe not so wise but I’ve got a story to share. I hope it can provide something.

    I’m a Soldier. Been a Soldier for 21 years – my entire adult life. I always thought cameras were fragile (they are fragile next to a tank I guess). We had a professional photojournalist on patrol in Iraq with us and I was amazed at two things: how brave he was and how tough his equipment was.

    When I got home from my second trip to the war (in 2007) my son was three – last time I’d seen him he was 18 months old. I wanted to take a million pictures of him… I’d already missed sooo much. I discovered my P&S couldn’t keep up with him (kept getting pictures of him leaving the frame) so I spent a couple bucks for a Nikon D40 and a day-long workshop. A few months later I was hooked.

    Jump forward a year. I’m on the neighborhood boxing team but couldn’t fight at the last event because of an injury. I asked the owner if I could shoot the fight. Told him I’d give him pictures for his web site if he’d help me sell pictures to the fighters. I assured him my shots (with the 50mm f1.4) would be a million times better than whatever anyone else shot with their P&Ss. He said sure. I took about a hundred shots of each of the 8 fights that night and for the next week spent every night after work sorting, editing, and burning disks. 8 fights is 16 fighters – I sold 15 disks at $30 apiece. I gave the 16th disk for free because that guy lives in the projects.

    Since then I’ve shot two weddings, done three portrait shoots in my living room (using the 1-light skills I learned from Zack’s video) and now two other gyms want to hire me to shoot their events. I’m probably undercharging by a mile but I don’t care – I’m having a blast, building my skills (and confidence) and gaining a local reputation. I bring my son with me to hold my bag. I don’t even have a website – I’m too busy shooting on the weekends to get one!

    What’s the lesson? Same lesson I learned in boxing and in combat… keep your head down, move forward, and don’t be afraid to pull the trigger. You never know what’s going to happen.

    You may get KO’d. You might get shot. You also might come out on top.

    Either way at least you did it on your terms.

    Keep fighting!


  • Nat said on August 13, 2009


    I’m glad I found this and like others, the timing was perfect. Btw: Meghan has a beautiful voice. Love it on the ‘Transform’ video.

    I had made a decision to pursue photography, over 4 years ago. I was going to do it the ‘safe’ way, dipping my toes in, go to art school part time, find work part time, see if I could ‘make it’.

    The job that I was interviewing for part-time work, became full-time.

    Ok, not bad, I’ll just work harder to shoot images.

    A promotion came along.

    Ok, not bad, it’ll help me pay for new gear. I need to make time to shoot more.

    I got recruited for a sales job on the other side of the country.

    Ok, not bad, now I really can get new gear. I need to shoot. (period).

    I got recruited back to the original company. More new gear and I get to live in a city and shoot with my photography friend. Ok, I will be able to shoot now.

    It had been about 3 years since I had updated my website with anything substantial on it (Recently, I wanted to put some new content up, but needs a web design).

    I rarely shot, mainly on trips or for friends or family.

    I had always thought that my next career move would get me back to my original goal.

    But I never shot and thought about putting the camera down.

    Then I realized that no matter if I succeed at photography as a full time career, or not, I need to try and give it 100%. If then, I determine that I suck, I can accept it and move on.

    So, I decided to quit my safe, but high stress, little time to live, period, job. Pursue photography 100%, no excuses.

    I’m in my fourth full month of being ‘in it’ and I love it. Haven’t made a penny off an image in the same time period, but that’s not what this is about. It’s about a passion worth exploring and doing what we love to do, deep down inside of us.

    People always told me that I had an eye and made ordinary things in life, interesting. I thought they were, for the most part, just making me feel good that I had spent too much money on a camera.

    After an photo instructor told me that he felt I would not have a problem continuing this journey and going pro, of course, with work, I felt that whatever doubt I had, but by no means have ‘made it’, was erased by those words.

    I continue to shoot anything and everything, sometimes over 700 images in a day, just to get it right.

    I continue to talk to other photographers, network, read, experiment, fail, succeed, daily.

    So why all this when we can all take ‘safe’ 8-5 jobs? Something inside us keeps us up late at night, wakes us up early to get the sunrise shot, causes us to look at our images over and over, trying to learn, to tweak. Something that can make us talk to complete strangers and talk for hours about this passion of ours.

    While each of our situations are different and our roads will be all different, hopefully we’ll all meet in the water and can talk about how and when we decided to get wet!

    Thanks for everyone for sharing.

  • M. said on August 13, 2009

    I look everyday at the Wedding Photographers around me and wonder if I have what it takes to reach that same level. Yes, I’m booking Weddings.. but I sometimes wonder if I will ever see as well and photograph as well as the Wedding Photography giants of my area. I am 25. They are twice my age.. they’ve been doing it as many years as I have been alive.

    I have a mountain of debt from a previous attempt at a business that, due to the economic downturn, had to be scrapped to prevent my own ship from sinking along with it.

    Now as I read this post.. I face my own decision about a new step forward. And I stand on the dock looking out at something that is daunting.. but invigorating and exciting at the same time.

    I must sail. There is no doubt in my mind. But furthermore.. I must not sink. Determination and persistence will keep my boat afloat.

    Thanks B., and thanks Zack.

  • Trenton Moore said on August 13, 2009

    Thanks so much for your video, I also wanted to take a minute to let you know how much I too enjoyed it. I truly wish I had the time to sit here and read all of these amazing peoples’ comments, I can only imagine how inspiring they themselves may be. I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your dock analogy, it changed the way I think about the realm and mystique of photography, both professional and amateur.

    endless thanks,

    Thank you so much for sharing, no matter how cliche it sounds, sometimes it truly is better to get everything into the open. Thank you for what may have seemed like your chutzpah, but in truth was your hope for something more, it was without a doubt well worth sending and sharing.

  • Simi said on August 13, 2009

    I have been there. I can relate but I heard at a leadership conference that failure is usually what we have to go through to get really good!

    I guess what has turned it around is going back to what I love about photography. I can say I have been inspired to work with others and help them and as a result I have been helped. It is by no means a formula but it has made photography fun again.

    Keep going you are getting really close to the light at the end of the tunnel!

  • G said on August 13, 2009

    I’m on the edge of the dock wanting to go so badly. But that nagging fear of failure keeps me tethered to the dock. I felt exactly like B. has felt for the 6 years about my photography. But reading his email and seeing things like Zack’s “transform” lets me know that we all go through this. Its part of our growth. Besides, if photography was easy would we do it ? Earlier this year i started cutting away at that tether.

  • Mike said on August 13, 2009


    A few random thoughts from a 50-year old:

    Never be afraid to ask a question. You’ll be amazed how many good people willing to help are out there.

    The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.

    Age sneaks up on you. The older you get the more you realize just how precious time really is. So don’t waste it.

    And for heaven’s sake, if you’ve got something inside of you that needs to come out (for us, it’s making meaningful pictures), then throw caution to the wind and let it out. Forget every bad habit you’ve accepted, pick up your camera, admit to yourself that you are, in fact, an artist and start expressing yourself.

    Did I mention love, health and friendship? Savor them all.

    You’ll be amazed at what you’ll do.


  • Allen Ross Thomas said on August 13, 2009

    I shoot live music photography almost exclusively. I honestly feel I am at the top of my game in this world though I remain a student. In this genre it is more about who you know than what you can produce. As in any business, networking is the key. However, it is endlessly frustrating to to hear how great ones work is and when the time is right to make a proposition to be told we have a photographer ! Yet, it feeds the soul, and that is what is most important. Now to parlay this into something that generates income and supports the 10K of gear that hangs on my shoulder and tugs on my heartstrings.


  • Sephi Bergerson said on August 13, 2009

    I guess we all go through it at one point, and this is what keeps us going. if the questions wasn’t there, we would never get an answer.
    There is always a struggle in life, no matter what you choose to do with yours. The only difference between those who made it and the ones who didn’t is persistence.
    I’ve been a pro for more than twenty years and there was a time when I thought I could not do it anymore. I left my studio, sold everything and moved to India in pursue of a dream. I am still here almost eight years later, and I am again in love with my photography. change is a blessing, not a curse. we have to at least try to fulfill our dreams in THIS lifetime. if we die trying we have already won. there are obstacles but remember that the difficulties we encounter are never greater than our ability to overcome them! do what you love and have no fear. good luck :-)

  • Phil Hewitt said on August 13, 2009

    If I had the time to read all 168 comments to this post, I would.

    That alone is inspirational to hear that from someone else. I picked up a camera for the first time when I was 15. I’m 19 now. The one person I looked up to most? Joey Lawrence – he’s my age, born just a few weeks before me, I got myself a camera, I started shooting and all I could think about is why I wasn’t ever as good as him. I knew how to light thanks to Zack’s DVD, and Strobist websites, I knew about aperture and shutter speeds etc… then in 2007 I was hospitalized and had to undergo serious brain surgery.

    I honestly thought I’d never be creative again, I’d suck, I’d never get off my back and push myself out on that boat… Now, I’m writing this post from Hanoi, Vietnam. I’ve been shooting nearly every day with my camera and it’s because of people like Zack Arias, Joey Lawrence, Chase Jarvis… all these people that share SO much of their info with the world in order for people to learn.

    I may fail completely at this, I’m probably doing nothing new (i’m certainly not now after having my camera stolen a few days ago) But Australia is my next destination.

    My Dad has always said to me that it never matters how old you are to get stuff done. It’s like my grandad, he’s nearly 90 and always insists on building new things, he’ll die doing it, but that’s what he loves.

    I think the most important thing about photography is enjoying it, and B… you’re certainly not too old to enjoy anything are you? So do it! take the jump and just enjoy and believe. There is always time to be creative and artistic. Anything can be made into art as long as it has meaning from the person that creates it…

    The equipment will come to you, i guess that’s the way it happens, just like a new camera will (hopefully) come to me. I hate the face that I had a perfectly good 5D stolen and now all i have is lenses… I mean, that’s a kick in the teeth to say the least.

    All the best man, Keep shooting!

  • JC said on August 13, 2009


    Your video gave me cause to think and reevaluate a great many things…. things I had not thought of in a long time. In fact I was so moved that I felt compelled to send you an email and that was my first insight into Zack Arias….. great stuff with heart and soul….. Thanks!!


    First and foremost, thanks for sharing….. that took guts!

    Now I would have to say that anyone who reads your post can relate to what you’re going through, as all of us at one time or another have been there! And while I can’t tell you how its going to turn out, I can tell you, that you should follow your dreams! Don’t worry about how you’re going to do it, just focus on doing it!

    I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but you can do it if you’re willing to bust your ass to get it….. you just gotta want it bad enough!

    You can sit there and listen to others tell you how to do it or read about how others have done it, but the fact remains that only you know what makes you tick and only you can make it happen! I know from experience, and a firm believer in the old adage that, there is nothing you can’t do, if you really put your mind to it!

    For example 26 years ago this past July I found myself in a trauma center after a shooting that left me paralyzed from the waist down (not to mention a whole slew of other painful stuff)… When I awoke about a month later, the only words of encouragement I got from my doctor, who incidentally casually stood in my doorway were, “Find another line of work, cause you’ll never walk again!” Needless to say, that as tough as I thought I was hearing that was shocking, actually out right scary.

    It took a while but after the initial shock passed and I had time to think (and get really pissed of) I realized that, that was just unacceptable and told myself that I would walk again!

    Well B, it took me three years and a lot of hard work but today I walk just fine….. well almost, sometimes my legs say “We ain’t coming!!!!” and I hit the floor (oh no all those memories) but the moral of the story is, you at least, gotta try!!!

    How did I do it, well every day I would say to myself, “I think I’ll go down to the ice machine and get some ice…” and then just rolled out of bed……. I can’t tell you how many times I wished I had made it to that ice machine cause free falling from a hospital bed to that shiny hard floor, can really put some bruises on you….. especially when you’re doing it 5 and 6 times a day! Nevertheless I kept doing it and one day I finally got it.

    Okay so maybe it wasn’t as easy as that, but the point is don’t worry about how you’re going to do it, or if you’re good enough, or even if others think you can or can’t do it……. Just do it, just roll out of bed…. and if you don’t make it the first time, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and do it all over again until you do. At the very least, you will learn a lot about how not to do it along the way.

    But in the end, should you find that it’s not for you, well at least you will have tried….. Nothing worse than the “What if’s”

    Good luck and follow your dreams!!!!


  • I am B. said on August 13, 2009

    Firstly, thank you all. When I pressed ‘send’ I imagined the most that would happen was that the e-mail would get glanced at, added to the pile of responses, and/or deleted. When I woke this morning to see a response I was hesitant. I did my morning things, saw the wife out the door and checked to see what the response was.

    When I saw the words, “I’ve kind of replied here…” with a link to the blog I panicked. Really. All of the issues surrounding years of anxiety that I wrote, re-wrote, and parsed down to a few paragraphs reflected my current state of mind as it relates to my creativity and getting things done was now out there. I’d effectively been called out. I’m grateful.

    I think there were 17 comments when I first checked, and I’d gotten through about half of them when I started to tear up. It got very real, and it got personal. I’d always taken an outside view of my anxiety, watching it from a distance. I’m now staring myself in the eyes and it’s harder than ever to keep from looking away. For the first time, though, I think I’m ready to dig deep and find that thing I thought I was missing.

    I couldn’t keep up with the comments at work. It was too much and I didn’t want to have a repeat performance from the morning. It was eating me alive to know people were talking about my words, and my emotions, and I had to wait until I got home.

    Well when I got home, and settled, I not only sat down to read every single comment, but visit every one of your blogs, websites, and portfolios if you happened to link them. I owe you all at least that much for your words, your solidarity, and your encouragement. Thank you all, so very much. I wish I could respond to every comment, but there were some specific ones I’d like to address.

    H: Make that call. I’m positive I’m not the only one who would be happy to hear you did it.

    Jaxun: I can say that in my case this has less to do with making money doing photography than it does with achieving some very specific goals. I have yet to move towards making them real. If I can make a living creating images, I’d be glad to do that too. :)

    Ed: You have no idea how right you could be. Anxiety’s a b*%ch, and I’ve been escaping so much for so long I sometimes have trouble putting my finger on who I am anymore. This day’s given me a bit of courage to stop running and face the things I’ve been trying to get away from. It sounds sentimental and kind of lame, sure. It’s also the truth. The truth has a right to be kind of lame every once in a while. I think. It may not be photography (though I’d really like it to be) in the end, but I am ready to grind my teeth and do SOMETHING now.

    So here I am at close to 3am and it’s been a long, surreal day. If I’m a wise person I’ll wake up tomorrow with some motivation to work towards my goals.

    Thank you Zack. Thank you everyone who commented. It means a lot.

  • Jim said on August 14, 2009

    I’ve used a false name here and not listed my website, because I don’t want people who know me to know that I feel like this. I have a Diploma, I have worked (albeit not at any high level) with photography for a few years and now I teach photography part time at a college. Many would say I’m on the road to some sort of success. And in many ways I am, considering where I cam from. I have been deep, deep over my head for two years, trying to teach people stuff I only myself learned a few years back. I am trying to swim to the surface. Many days I feel like I am drowning. That I am a fraud. I find it easier to hide on the computer than pull my gear out and go shoot. I have more excuses than I can even remember. Fear is stopping me rising to the top. I struggle on.

    One way I do this is reading blogs. I loved your video Zack. I even showed it to some students. Some found it inspirational, some found it depressing. I found it challenging. I’m trying to rise to that challenge. Thank you for that.

  • Bryan said on August 14, 2009

    I didn’t read every single one of the comments above mine, but I did read a lot of them. There seems to be a theme:


    I was recently laid off and subsequently pushed off the dock into the boat. I’m quite blessed to have unemployment benefits for the time being and a wife who supports me. So now I’m shooting for money full-time, and let me tell you this is scary as hell. I don’t have nearly enough bookings to support myself, so I’m assisting a commercial photog on an as-needed basis. I continue to ask myself, “How in the world am I ever going to earn a living doing this?”

    The only answer I have come up with is this:

    the fear has to go.

    I can no longer allow my fear of failure,
    looking stupid,
    getting in trouble for shooting without a permit,
    letting my family down,
    never being the best,
    never having the “right” gear,
    or letting myself down stop me from doing something that I know can be a challenging and fulfilling way to earn a living. And more than that, I believe that photography and faith have become my journey, with their highs and lows, achievements and failures, grace, mercy, and photoshop fixes.

    How am I going to DO it?

    I’m going to keep pushing that little button on top of my camera until something great comes out. Then I’ll push it some more.

  • bluewhirled said on August 14, 2009

    First off, thanks to Zack and crew for everything you do for the community. “B” thanks for being honest and hitting “send” this time. I first saw your video Zack via Chase’s blog. By the number of posts it’s obvious many of us are in similar situations from time to time.

    For me, I have a decent career that’s not art related at all. I like what I do but, I’ve always wanted to do photography. It took getting out of an unhealthy relationship, dealing with my father’s health issues and being by myself for a bit to decide to finally see if I have *any* talent. I’m going to school, reading a lot and shooting more than I ever thought I would. But sometimes it’s soo easy to count the excuses not to shoot that day.

    But a really good friend of mine who I met through my first photography class IS the little voice on my shoulder that reminds me that sitting on the couch will get me no where for sure. I’m not married yet, I don’t have kids yet either, but she has 2 wonderful little girls, she and her husband both have full time jobs and there isn’t much “down” time. Yet she “makes” time to shoot. She includes her family on shoots and even goes as far as to recruit her friends and their families. On top of that she’s damn good! Really talented! I’m truly inspired by her resilience and attitude. I know she’s on her way to becoming an awesome photographer! (No doubt)

    I realized that I can sit and try to analyze why I may be in a slump that day or I can listen to a photography podcast. Read a blog. Take an iPhone pic or 2 (Thanks Chase Jarvis) or I can focus a little less on my crappy situation and a lot more on what makes others like my friend, Zack and countless others keep going despite the heavier responsibilities they need to worry about. Some others have to carry way more weight than I and are still moving forward.

    So that leaves me with no excuse not to do at least the same as them. It’s normal to be at the fork in the road and contemplate “A” vs “B”. I’m almost there and it scares the $hi7 out of me. I’d be crazy to change careers now! The thought of that decision is a heavy one. But I need to decide when I get there. So I shoot a little more, I read a lot more, I find inspiration where I can through the work of others. I put away any distractions like my beloved Playstation, cable TV etc. I listen to my friend and I learn from her example.

    All I know is at the end of the day, I gotta look back and decide if I lived my life to the fullest. What did I accomplish? Did I do something or anything to get me closer to where I want to be? How will tomorrow be any different? or any better? You know they say, “it’s not about the milestones it’s about the progress, no matter how slight.” Right? But sometimes I feel like I lost ground instead of gaining any.

    Even still, sometimes when I’m in a shoot, editing my images or helping someone else with their shoot or editing their images. I’m not worried about slumps. It’s the farthest thing from my mind. But even if I am in a slump, that doesn’t mean I can’t help out someone else. Not being able to move myself forward doesn’t mean I can’t help someone else reach their goal.



  • Sean McCormack said on August 14, 2009

    Can everyone be a pro photographer? I don’t think so. The advent of digital meant that the learning curve got quicker for most people. As cameras are now approaching the price that film SLRs once were, the barrier to entry is very low. While the cost of getting the best gear is still high, the cost of starting isn’t.

    The result of that is that there are a lot of people shooting more and enjoying photography more. That’s a good thing really. This helps drive the market for photography.

    Of course this increase also means that more and more people dream of doing it for a living. And it’s certainly something worth striving for. Being in a creative medium for work sure beats a lot of other work.
    But here’s the rub, and I’m sure you’ll agree with this Zack. Professional Photography has only a little to do with photography and a lot to do with business. Marketing, networking, accounting are a large part of working as a photographer. These are tedious tasks akin to office work that people are keen to leave Even as a photographer, you still have to attend to these tasks. Working with weddings, or portraits, often your job is the sale of the additional: Albums, mounts, frames, canvases, etc. Again not strictly photography.

    Photography for me is only some of my income. I market myself as a photographer because I am one. Still I’m also a sound engineer, writer, plugin developer and am dipping into video (the joys of the 5DII). One thing ties all of these together: the creative.

    While I come from an Engineering background (Graduated with honours in Electronic Engineering from Trinity College, Dublin), the desire to be creative is strong enough to deal with the incidentals along the way, like dealing with marketing, business, taxes etc. If you don’t you won’t survive.

    There are a lot of people with amazing business skills making a lot of money with average photography. And there are a lot of amazing photographers, with little business skills, barely rubbing 2 cent together. If you want to make the jump, learn some business skill, along with your photography training. Plan the move and make the jump. But jump when the boat is there. Don’t go jumping because you want it so bad, and end up in the water, jump because the time is right.

  • Jeff said on August 14, 2009

    Sitting on the dock with my toe in the water. Started shooting as a hobby in summer of ’06. Brought my camera to my friend’s wedding in fall of ’07. Brought my camera to my brother’s wedding that very next weekend. Sent an email to a local wedding photographer to assist in summer ’08. Find another (better) local wedding photographer to assist in that same summer. Shot my first wedding in fall ’08. Shot my second wedding in July ’09. 2 bookings for 2010. Attended my first bridal show last night to see what the competition is doing. Second shooting tomorrow (even though my parents are in town). I am now on the edge of the dock ready to plunge into the water. What excites me? What drives me? – building a business that is ALL MINE. That’s how I’m transforming. Helps to have a day job that pays the bills 😉 – “Light up the darkness …” – Bob M.

  • RDSD said on August 14, 2009

    I recommend everyone read this article. Its about how to get started with a project without addressing why it can feel so difficult to get started in the first place.

  • Henrik Bengtsson said on August 14, 2009

    Zack, many thanks for that extremely inspiring and thoughtprovoking film. It applies to so many fields besides photography.

    Everyone, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. There are a lot of good information in this thread =)

    My story is still ongoing but i started about 2 years ago with shooting models, then moved on quickly to fashion. I also have a dayjob still because this does give me the freedom to choose what i shoot very carefully as i dont have to pay the bills with my photography.

    I am also truly fortunate with being able to work closely with student fashion designers here. I do not charge for this work, but the stuff they create is very avant-gardé and gets a lot of publication and exposure around the world.

    But the key for me is to make a plan for what i want to do and how to get there. I do not wish to spend the next 5 years in school or assisting for no pay, so i need to do it the “other” way. Again, its all about how you chose to focus your work.

    And like Zach mentioned, its not always easy since its hard to find out if others have done the same thing before so you pretty much need to re-invent the wheel a few times before you get it rolling 😀

    In the end, the only way to fail is to top trying =)

  • John said on August 14, 2009

    And for those whole still don’t believe top level pros feel this way. Read joe McNally’s latest blog posting

  • Henrik Bengtsson said on August 14, 2009

    @RDSD. Thats a great talk. Thank you very much for that link

  • Gene said on August 14, 2009

    I’m a 40 year old Marketing Director for a manufacturing company, married, three kids, and discovered photography about two years ago. Primarily shoot bands, and dabbling in portraits and event work. I’ve progressed technically, have the gear, and am starting to get more paid gigs. Photography brings me a lot of enjoyment.

    One side of the brain says “Dump the boring day job, pursue your dreams. You’ll be happier, and that will pass down and benefit your children more so than money every will.”

    Other side of brain says, “The grass is always greener. It is one thing to pursue your dreams, it is another to support your family and secure their future.”

    I am with a previous poster who mentioned they are no longer standing on the dock, they’ve turned around and bought a beer at the pier restaurant.

    Bottom line for me, there are still ways to pursue your dreams and at the same time balance the reality this world deals us, which happens to include a lot of responsibilities. Sometimes “Just do it” isn’t all that easy depending on the stage of life you’re in.

  • David said on August 14, 2009

    I think its time for us all to get off our ass and go to Work

    Take one picture different than
    the ones we all ways take. even if you stand on your head to do

    Take care of 3 things on our to do list.

    And tell our family we love them and today will be a good day



  • CarmenM said on August 14, 2009

    Wow.. I’m lost for words at the moment, and the caffeine hasn’t kicked in, but I wanted to say how thought provoking this video is and all the comments to follow. I’m not one to wear my emotions on my sleeve, and often sit here spiraling in self doubt, self pity and a never ending string of why bother. I do what I do cause I love it, and people want it. Derrick is an amazing man, and I expect to see him on TLC’s the Big Flip soon! If you do end up with his contact info, I would gladly like to throw a few bucks his way towards his first investment property. Keep doing what you do Zack and everyone, inspire the world around you, challenge yourself, learn something new and keep on moving forward. No matter how small or insignificant you feel, someone out there notices you and appreciates all you do.

  • Thatcher Dorn said on August 14, 2009

    I’m in the same boat, almost. I recently interviewed with a local studio in hopes of leaving my boring designer job (just found out no one gets raises this year) at an ad agency to become a full-time photographer.

    In January I set up my own company. I did it to help write-off some of my expenses and kind of wanted it to take off.

    Sadly I did not get the job. Mainly because I just could live on what they wanted to pay. But there’s a nice twist to the story. The studio offered to back me if I make the jump. If I start shooting full-time, I have access to a kick ass studio and a little cash.

    Man, if I were single I would do it in a heart beat. But I’m not. I’m father of two awesome kids, age 5 and 3, as well as a husband to a very supportive wife. We have talked long and hard about this opportunity that just fell in my lab. Of course, we’re living pay check to pay check right now. I just started paying on my school loans which just adds to the crazy bills. F***, I hate money!

    So I’m doing it. I’m going to be an action sports photographer. I’m calling every one I know for help. I have friends that are good at business plans. I have friends that work for Red Bull. I have friends that own a ski & snowboard shop. I have friends who made it as professional photographers. I worked trade to get a season pass to a local bad ass mountain. I’m doing everything I can to get it going. If I didn’t know so many people, it wouldn’t happen.

    I remember a very important thing about photography that another photog told me. You’re a sales person first. You have to network you ass off and sell it!

    I’m jumping. I’ve read all about how to do it. I have people to help me do it. But I’m still scared shitless.

    What if I do it and I suck. What if I’m not original? What if I can’t find my style? What if I f***ing made it and did some kick ass work! I know there will be shitty times. But it’s those times that make me appreciate the good ones that much more.

    I got this one life. I HAVE to do it.

  • kellyH said on August 14, 2009

    I am desperately trying to jump off the dock. But my community has my feet tied to it.

    I live on a hutterite colony, i don’t know if you know what that is, but you might want to look it up. Anyways, we basically run like a big family, and the minister is the head, then we have a secretary and a few other elders. Our colony has about 110 people.

    I am insanely in love with photography, and i know i am quite good at it as well. I am very technically minded as well as artistically, so i am well off.
    But the problem i have, cameras are technically not allowed in our community. they are accepted more and more, but even then, i feel extremely self conscious when handling the big one i have in public. The older people, who are more likely to follow rules, are not afraid to tell me to put that camera away.

    But i want to create art, and nobody sees that as useful. Heck, if it were up to the elders, they would say, we can live without photos. I beg to differ, but i have no say so.

    I want to take a photography course or workshop, but have no money due to our way of living. My camera was given to me by my sister, and my second one the 40D by someone i met on flickr. I could never afford it by myself.
    I would have to go to the secretary to ask for money, but i would get none, because it’s not quite allowed here.

    I once had almost 2000 photos on flickr, but i had to delete my account, because the minister found out.

    The area i would like to peruse is fine art, and fashion, Somewhat your style, mixed with Drew Gardener’s style. I have only one flash, i can afford only one, and i am immensely inspired by your one light photos, because frankly, i have only one light.

    But even so, I am quite well known amongs colonies, and i am often requested to go photograph events. And even then, i am often not allowed to go, because, “they should take their own photos” or “they don’t need photos” is what i get as a response when i ask to go to these events. I am simply stuck at home, photographing the few souls who are not self conscious enough to have their photo taken.

    But thanks for making me feel i am not in this alone.

  • Alice said on August 14, 2009

    yea – this is pretty much how I feel on a daily basis. One thing that helps me keep going is something Jasmine Star (the wedding photog) says – the challenges are there to keep the people away who really don’t want it bad enough. I do feel like others are doing it better than me or having faster success – in the end I think they are doing better because they have less fear. I already have full time job and a baby – I’m the breadwinner – what am I thinking taking on a side business wit hopes it will turn into something bigger for me? In the end though – the harder question is what if I didn’t try? Better to regret trying than to have wondered what trying would have been like. Hang in there – you are not alone!

  • H said on August 14, 2009

    Well, I said I would report back, yesterday morning and say how things went.

    I made the call. I got an amazing opportunity from an amazing person. I’m super excited. All it took was that phone call. What held me back. can’t hold me back anymore.

    Thank for the motivation B, you have no idea.

    Zack! The same goes for you man!

    Thank you


  • Andy said on August 14, 2009

    First off, thanks to Zack to bringing this topic to this open forum…

    And thanks to B. for being the impetus to get this thread rolling and letting me get my own thoughts out there into the world.

    Let me qualify this – I’m a part-time CPA (and mind you, I don’t like being a CPA) and a part-time, semi-professional photographer. FYI, I am not a “guy with a camera” and when I do a paid shoot (events & architecture, primarily) I bid at competitive market rates and conduct myself as a professional – yep that means delivering no matter what, written estimates/contracts, invoices, terms & conditions, industry best practices, etc., etc. – all the stuff that’s not photography and, as many have said before, not really that fun.

    Also, nothing in this post is meant to be discouraging to other people – because after all, what the heck do I really know – but I hope that maybe it’ll strike a chord with some people and allow them to take the pressure off a little bit.

    OK. So with all the disclaimers out of the way, I’ve been saying that I’ve been “trying” to make my photography into my full-time career for a couple or few years now. I say “trying” because I’ve increasingly been feeling like a non-starter in working at the ENDLESS list of to do’s that it takes to make it as a working pro and at the same time, it has been to the detriment of exploring my photographic creativity – which in a sick twist has made me feel like LESS of a photographer! I’m not shooting nearly as much as I used to, I spend hours on the computer working on “business” stuff and making lists and plans, and I’ve actually been to the point where I’ve looked at all that’s been invested – time, money, equipment, passed up opportunities – and I’ve thought how much easier my life would be without photography in it! Craziness, right! To blame it on photography…

    But it’s all been a part of my process and I’ve recently had the conscious realization that I don’t think I want to support myself full-time with photography. There, I said it. At the same time, I can’t let it go because I have a burning desire to do more, create more, learn more…it is interesting and exciting to me and it is a passion none the less. And on top of that, I do have a talent, a vision, and a way of seeing that needs to be shared…it would be a crying shame to abandon it or put it away or leave it to stagnate.

    To bring this full circle and to tie in with some ideas that other posters have touched on,(@Ed, @Sean Mac, & @Gene, to name names) why does it have to be one way or the other? Some of us were just not cut out for making photography into our full-time careers in the same way that some of us – and I really mean “me” here – are not cut out for making accounting into our full-time careers! But that does not make it all or nothing and does not mean that you have to sink or swim – maybe you can just float…

    And by “float” I mean take photography to where it takes you. If that’s full time professional photog, than rock on! If it’s hobbyist or “amateur” stay true to that and do it “for the love.” And if it’s somewhere in between, than count your blessings, pursue the jobs you want to shoot – the ones that you find interesting and exciting – and do yourself and your fellow photographers who are professionals and are doing this to feed themselves and their families a favor: if you’re going to be “hired” or “selling” your photography, than learn some of the business stuff, conduct yourself as a professional, and take the time to make sure you’re paid competitive market rates. Not only will you not sell a cover photo to TIME for 30 bucks but you’ll probably earn the respect of working pros rather than their scorn.

    In closing, I have also realized that, for myself, I’ve got to get the heck out of accounting! Sure it pays the bills, but it does not fit ME and it really never has. I do not find it interesting and exciting and there is no passion. To that end, I’ve adjusted my self-examination from “How can I make photography into my full-time career?” and I’ve begun to ask myself this question instead – “How can I take my unique skills and interests – namely, a friendly & easy-going personality, a passion for photography, visual art and visual communication, a detail- and project-oriented mindset, and the desire, need, and passion to create – and turn that into an exciting and interesting full-time career?”

    Comments and questions, ideas and criticisms…and all reasonable career discussions…are welcomed and encouraged.

  • Pat said on August 14, 2009

    And here I thought I was the only one. If I were as articulate and courageous as B, I could have written the same letter. Zack, you did it again. Now thinking about all those mountain climbers who didn’t quite make it to the top, but had a great time trying.

    Around thirty years ago, I was thinking about returning to college but it seemed like a daunting proposition. I was a single mom of four & had no money. The biggest thing holding me back however, was that I thought I was too old. I remember whining “Four years? That means I’d be, gasp, 37 when I graduated.” A friend looked me in the eye & asked: “and how old do you think you’d be in four years if you didn’t go?”

    Now that I’m in my 60’s, I’ve found myself feeling like, even though I’ve accomplished more life than I ever expected, I’ve missed the bus when it comes to serious photography. Well, B got me thinking & Zack pretty much slapped me upside the head. Guess I needed to be reminded that there are worse things in life than only making it halfway up the mountain. Far better to end up as a little frozen, smiling lump in the snow than watching longingly from the bottom.

    C’mon B, let’s go for it.

  • Diala Chinedu said on August 14, 2009

    Hi B,
    I understand what you are going through. Especially when you mentioned that you do not drive. That is a big blow photographically because most of my shots are produced far away from home. I have only been in photography a year but I went through what you are going through BEFORE i actually started photography. I am a student nurse/ aspiring medical doctor. I was working in the hospital oneday with an 82 year old patient and one thing he said struck me HARD. He told me that I should PLEASE, for his sake and mine, go out and do that one thing i always wanted to do. It didnt matter how silly the thing is but the fact that I actually did it. He told me how he always wanted to go sky diving and he kept pushing it off till he got to the point where he is now. He is a very successful man with many accomplished children BUT he wasnt happy just because he hadnt gone sky diving. That was when I decided to get off my butt and pursue photography because i didnt want to get to a point where i would be in his shoes. Another thing i will advice you is for you to do is as a passion and not for money…if you have the passion for it and generate an online presence, either thru flickr or facebook, you will notice that you will start getting clients. I have a facebook page for my photography and already have about 209 fans. Believe me, my customers so far have been from my fans…I have NEVER printed a single flier or business card since I started but I have shot multiple weddings and portraits and earned some reasonable amount of money…I have even turned down jobs. The way I think I did it was that my passion drove my work to heights and people who appreciated my work hired me…I really hope you find the strength to go on despite your limitations…no matter what…Also, you should post ur photography on facebook/flick and comments people give you will act as a drive for you to go on. DO NOT GIVE UP…YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE so make an attempt and keep striving for ur goal…I can send you a list of links of inspirational photographers, just send me a message…thanks…Also, check out my facebook fan page

  • Darien Chin said on August 14, 2009

    I recently decided to jump as well. I’m trying to make true changes in my life because I’m tired of not living up to my own expectations. I’m tired of being poor and I can’t pay bills with flickr comments. I’m tired of people thinking I make a lot of money in photography when I am really eating top ramen. I’m tired of not shooting at the level I know I can shoot at while others around me just get better and better, and the people I look up to seem to get further and further away. I’ve quit smoking herb, which I’ve done every day for the last 13 years. I’ve quit all other drugs too, things that before I thought helped me in ways or at very least didn’t want to admit hampered me as I thought I could ‘handle my shit’. I’m tired of just maintaining. I’m tired of peaking and plummeting. I’m tired of that guilty feeling inside that I get when I know I could be spending my time doing something better with myself. I want to just fly and get high from life and to know what true accomplishment feels like. I won’t live forever..

  • chris stewart said on August 14, 2009

    I feel like this now and have been for a while. As of 3 weeks ago I quit my day job, and have ventured into full time photography with my lovely bride Jen. I feel right now with me, my style, and how I have to work so hard just to get the jobs to come in. I get frustrated with myself alot cause I want to be able to live comfortable and provide for my family of 6. (3 boys and a darling baby girl) but reality of it is thats not reality now, but is a struggle for me. Instead of being happy about jobs coming in, I feel overwhelmed with all the jobs coming in and cant enjoy the jobs, but feel and tell myself “gotta jam this session out so we can work on the next…..and the next…….and the next….” still trying to breathe, balance family time, and time with Jen. Alot of days go by and both Jen and I want to throw everything away. The business, the relationship, and unfortunately say that the kids sometimes. Working from home is NOT the best solution. I dont care what alot of people say. Those people dont have kids. This career is great at times, bad at times, frustrating, stressful etc. Anyway i have rambled on to long but I know its where GOD wants us to be and has brought us to this point only by him, so we work on, and keep pushing forward cause down the road it will get easier. Thanks for your openness Zack. Its genuine and REAL. Alot of people in this industry can’t even do that cause they worry about their image. Stay strong and keep moving forward. Your wife is the best critic you have and the best encourager as well.

  • michael said on August 14, 2009


    I feel like I have just read an autobiography. I’m sick of being worried about not making it.

    Thank you B. and Zack – its time to jump off the dock and into the water.

  • Mohammad Jassem Buyabes said on August 14, 2009

    I was i can say the same. that i’m on the dock and i’m ready to jump. but what can i do if all that around me TAKES ME AWAY FROM THAT DOCK.
    I’m a kuwaiti photographer in an ARABIAN country where photography is considered a waste of time (By some people) and a threat (by alot of people) and a talent by a few.
    i have started around a year ago and i was blessed that i can afford some really nice equipments and i think i did well for this period of time… i learned alot, read alot of books and watched hours and hours of videos about photography.
    and after a while i knew what i’m in love with, (PEOPLE and STREET PHOTOGRAPHY).. i love to take photos of people but the problem is i only can do it while traveling because people here in kuwait are threatened by the idea of someone who is taking photos of them. it needs hours to explain why but i’m still trying to change that thought and talk to people around me and in the streets … maybe someday i will walk to THE DOCK and start to build my dream.

  • jennifer said on August 14, 2009

    Zach, thanks for posting this. I have been feeling very lost lately, wondering what my next step should be. I was a teacher of 8 years until mid June when I was laid off because of low enrollment, or at least that is what my principal said. I found out I had simply been replaced by a newer model, probably a cheaper model that did not have my experience or my Master’s degree. It was devastating to know that my career was snatched away over a lie. I felt betrayed and used and neglected and taken for granted. I was devastated that while many knew of the lie, none would confront it; pastors, teachers, coworkers, friends. And I am devastated still that I have not been given a reason, no response, no answer for why this deceit happened. He simply let me go. My summer so far has been spent trying to recover from the blow. There are good days for sure, when I feel like I can conquer the world, when starting a photography business seems like the best idea, funneling all of the years of loving and taking pictures into a new and scary way of supporting myself. But then there are other days, when I can’t pull myself out of bed until 3 in the afternoon, when I think no one would hire me, I am not good enough to shoot weddings, or just any pictures. I don’t have the right equipment, I don’t have all the skills my super talented photog friends have, I don’t have the editing software…Starting at the ground floor is both exhilarating and terrifying. I pulled myself out of bed at 3 yesterday, to go take some practice headshots. I have signed up to attend some photoshoots, to practice, to interact, to feel like maybe I can pull off this new career, this photography thing after all. The guy on the video was inspiring… I know how many times I have brushed off such a man because I had my own mouth to feed, my own bills to pay, and no money to spare. And now I feel like I’m in his shoes a little. No, I don’t have a record, I don’t have such a dark past, but I am working on a future, that I am not always sure is mine to take. God is good. He has blessed me, and he has given me so many opportunities. I am grateful that you have put the time and energy into this, to touch someone else, to give to the next guy. Thanks.

  • Jeff Ambrose said on August 14, 2009

    I had a long written out response to this yesterday, I would have been reply #16, then I thought to myself screw it I’ll tell you guys from the water. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Sandy Redding said on August 14, 2009

    I saw the dock. Thirty years ago, I walked away from it.

    A few years ago I began rediscovering the passion for photography. The pleasure of having a creative outlet that I truly enjoy is now just slightly marred by the fact that I think I could have made this a career.

    So while you’re standing at the dock, turn around, put the fear at your back, and take a look at regret.

    Take the jump.

    In the end, you don’t regret the things that you didn’t do. You regret the things that you didn’t try.

  • Zac said on August 14, 2009

    I’m still building the dock, I’ve been building it for a long time. Not until recently though have I realized I was building it so I could jump off of it, rather than just to build a dock. Finally the right side of my brain is saying “hey, lets swim”, and the left side is saying “sure, why not, the dock is built lets have fun.”

  • Niek said on August 14, 2009

    I’m still standing on the dock…. afraid I cannot swim. I’m 37 now and I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up….. I hope it’s not the lame ICT desk job I’m in now, and I know that it is only me that can make a change… but what if I cannot swim?

    The Netherlands.

  • Dylan said on August 14, 2009

    Wow. B. is right where I often find myself.

    The ONLY thing that he said in his email that didn’t pertain to me, had to do with driving. I do drive, everyday.

    I find myself going through cycles of being very motivated, and then very discouraged. Ready to go shoot people, then scared I will screw it up, and I back off. Happy with what I can do, then disgusted by my lack of talent.

    I too find myself lacking good equipment. My list of tools is VERY short, and I am not in a place to expand them. At all. On one hand, I realize that the equipment is not the most important part, but on the other hand, it is a big enough part to cause my discouragement.

    I have big dreams, but not enough consistent enthusiasm to follow through. I too started a 365-project once, and failed. I did the same exact thing, and found myself scrambling for pics at home to make the shot of the day. At first that promotes creativity, but then becomes a problem, and the project dies. I have my camera with me ALL the time, and treat it as if it is one of my children, yet I never feel motivated to take it out and shoot.

    The point of my rambling is just to Thank B. for sending the email/reply. It’s nice (in an odd way) to know that someone else out there goes through the same battles as myself. I have never talked about it because I kind feel dumb, or petty, so it’s nice to be validated, in a weird way.


  • Neil said on August 14, 2009

    Well, like all the other posts I too have been in your situation B…..but it was 27 years ago when I was 17. I placed all my camera equipment beside my bed with a note attached that read “must sell this gear”. I woke up in the morning and went to breakfast leaving the note and cameras as I’d left them the night before.
    I never did sell them, I didn’t have the heart. 27 years later and I’ve enjoyed a mostly successful career as a photographer. I say mostly, as the feelings of failure and worthlessness still very much exist. I think this state of mind goes way back to ones childhood. Creative lives are vulnerable and fragile. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that to give ones self a fighting chance you have to be pretty selfish. I find it very hard to indulge myself in personal photo projects at the expense both emotionally and economically of my wife and 5 year old. I too have convinced myself to take a picture every day only to fail miserably by the 3rd day. hell, I can’t even do that, I look at the picture and just think it’s crap. (see frank Horvat, for his picture a day)
    I constantly peruse websites of photographers seeking to find out what camera they use so I can go and get one to emulate their ideas and skills. the bottom line from me is, I really relate to what you’re saying and I still have the same self doubt, but try to find a project and keep going with it. hey, if you do a picture a day, so will I, we can make sure we continue to do it I’m in London, UK so we could encourage each other to fulfill this project. If you can get my e mail I’d be pleased to keep each other motivated to finish 365 images. It doesn’t matter what they are, so long as we do one every day ! good luck. Neil

  • Adam said on August 14, 2009

    A life jacket is not always JUST used to rescue you. When you are young (new), there are life jackets to help you learn and get comfortable in the water as well.

  • Leigh said on August 14, 2009


    i think we all have this lie of thinking that we are alone in feeling this way, regardless of how long you have been doing it, how much money you’ve made or whatnot. Its the “nothing” (neverending story reference, if you dont know, watch it, if you dont remember, watch it) that comes to try and steal.

    I started 10 months ago, and i am just now starting to feel confident in this as a business, but i started doing it because it was something i loved, enjoyed, so learning was just to sharpen the craft. The passion is behind it. Its a balance of not letting “money” get in the way of what you are doing. Easier said than done, but its your art, you can’t compare yourself, you are the only one with your brain, your eye, your soul. Allow your soul speak to you. If you feel down, find inspiration…(read The Alchemist). What are you passionate about? Surround yourself around people the speak life into you, and don’t beat yourself up. I have also started the 365 thing, but i have missed a couple days, some days suck, some days rock, some days are ok…

    you will NEVER arrive, so just try your best to always allow change and learning.

    thats my two cents.


  • Anastasia Pottinger said on August 14, 2009

    I just had some time to catch up on all of this… and watch the transformation video for the first time. As with so many, it has surely struck a chord with me.

    I am paddling my boat around in circles right now-off the dock for sure, but slowly, so slowly moving forward.

    I wanted to be a photographer since I was 8 years old and was handed my first camera (kodak 110). When I was in college (J-school, I never wanted to be a journalist, just couldn’t get it together enough to go to art school) I quit. I sold all my gear and walked away from photography, I thought for forever. I finished school with a degree in human development and family studies. Eventually, I met my partner (we both taught in early childhood setting) and we started a family. There is a photography exhibition/sale/contest held in town every year. I went and looked at the work and thought, ‘maybe I can do this.’ We bought a digital p&s and I began shooting again. The next year came around and I entered the competition. I won first place. It was a life changing event. I got brave and decided to ask if I could exhibit my work at a local coffee house.

    As I was hanging my pieces that I had painstakingly chosen-my head repeatedly said, “you are crap. These suck. You should NOT be doing this.” Oh man, it was scary! My friends told me that my head was lying to me and not to listen.

    That was 8 years ago. 5 years ago I started charging people for my work. For portraiture…. and of course, it all makes perfect sense that I work with children as my subjects. 3 years ago I started easing my way out of working at our home day care with my partner. 2 years ago I signed a lease on a commercial space downtown. My business continues to grow.

    I’m not where I want to be. I have a panic attack every time I hear of a new photographer in town doing similar work. I know there’s more I need to do. I’d like to be an equal partner in the bill paying of my household but I’m not quite there yet.

    Thanks for the inspiration. Thanks for the dope, soap and hope video. My gosh, it is just so true.

    On a side note…. do you ever offer scholarships to one light workshops? I have a brother (and also a client) who live in L.A. so I think I could scrape up the air fare from Missouri… but the $600 for the workshop is hard to come by right now. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to earn a scholarship….

    Thanks for sharing all that you do. For your inspiration, for your knowledge of the craft. For reminding me that when I am 78, I’m probably not going to be thinking about f-stops…. I want to be thinking about the love I spread. thanks.

  • Misty said on August 14, 2009

    I can relate with B as well. I get discouraged though because I keep telling myself not to bother because there are so many “better” photographers out there.
    I don’t have a lot. I got my DSLR on Christmas 2008. I had been shooting in manual mode with my camera prior to the new one. I also don’t work with lights or do excessive Photoshopping. I basically just use natural light and try not to edit too much. I also don’t even have a great editing program. I am waiting to save up for it.
    I have two lenses and two filters. That is it. There are a LOT of times I just want to give up. More often then not.
    I had my first paying photo shoot and even that I knocked myself with. Although the mom was pleased.

    I just try to keep going when I can. I haven’t shot in a while and that is my own fault. So I guess you can say that I have one foot in the water and one hanging on to the doc.

    Not sure I made sense but B. You definately are not alone.

  • Amanda said on August 14, 2009

    B & Zack, thank you both. I will try to write my story but I am not good with words. If it runs on please bare with me.

    I am 26 years old and yet to finish anything in my life. I know to a lot of you that may seem young but I have been grown up for a long long time.

    I have a sad story like many other people. I know I am not alone. My father abandoned me. Never wanted me. I was diagnosed with a mental illness when I was young and my mom didn’t want to deal so I ended up in a group home. I was on my own at 16 and was lucky to graduate high school. My last year i rarely went and then I left 3 months early. I was really lucky.

    I tried college. Three times I tried. Twice at a community college and once at Culinary school. I couldn’t even make it through a semester. most days I didn’t want to get out of bed. It just didn’t seem worth it. most days it still feels like that.

    I’ve always been treated like I couldn’t do much. I have never been able to keep a real job.I’ve had roughly 30-40 since I was 15. I have quit them all. No one has expected anything of me. No one thinks I can do anything worthy. That i have any talent. My mother didn’t even want me to have children because she didn’t think I was good enough to be a mother. I did it anyway but now I struggle to feel like I am worthy to have them at all.

    To be honest I feel worthless and talentless. i don’t feel worthy or feel like i can do anything. I have motivation. I want things for myself and my family. i want a happy life but don’t no how to get there. i have been reaching so long. I am so tired. I want to give up. I want to go to bed and pull the covers over my head. Shut out the world because I know I can’t really do anything worthy of it anyway. I want desperately to please people. The only way I feel that is if i get praise from others but that rarely comes.

    I have an artistic urge. I want to create. I’ve had so many hobbies I have never finished. Projects never completed. I never feel like any of it is good enough so I want to give up. Then I just move to the next thing I am trying desperately not to do that with photography. I love it. I love creating images of my children. While I am not great at it it is the only thing I am even ok at and the only thing I love so I want to try to use that to make my families life better. I am stuck though and I don’t know where to go. I don’t know how to get clients. I don’t know if people won’t pay me because i suck or because I have a horrible personality. It feels like it could be a combination of the two. I feel like there is nowhere to go from here.

    My husband has lost his job in January and is on unemployment. I am on Social Security for my diagnosed bipolar disorder. We have two kids and live in an apartment we are struggling to afford. I NEED to make money for my family and I NEED to do it with photography becasue I know I can’t do anything else. This is my option. I have to make it work. I just don’t know how. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

    I am taking a deep breath and hitting “Go”…

  • mark owen said on August 14, 2009

    I’m at the dock and i’m so ready to go but my boat hasn’t come in yet. It’s frustrating to feel this way.

    Sometimes you have to take a short break, sometimes you have to take a long break and come back with fresh eyes.

    For a whole year now i have been in such a hurry trying reach the next level, whatever that maybe.

    I’m at the dock asking “what next?”.

    I realized Photography has been there long before i discovered my love for it and it will probably be there long after i’m gone. What’s the rush?

    I’m standing in the dock waiting but my boat hasn’t come in yet so i’ll spend this time waiting better preparing myself for the journey ahead. This is just the beginning not the end of the journey.

    I always remind myself what Zack said in his video to Be patient and not to rush.

    I’ve seen people get into this and spend a fortune on equipment and everything, just to find out after a year that they quit already.

    I guess it’s not a race but a marathon after all.

    You are not alone in feeling this way i’ve been down this road many times before.

    What worked for me is just to find ways to simplify things and just keep shooting. Shoot without any agenda, shoot not for the sake of shooting.

    I just shoot for the love of it, sometimes i just shoot to hear the shutter click it’s my favorite sound in the world. That’s one of the reasons i love it.

    Here’s another video i find very inspiring i hope it inspires you too

  • Ash said on August 14, 2009

    Current Status: I’m sinking.

    I took a running leap off the dock five years ago with the “sink or swim” mentality. I had just graduated college and decided to take my business full time (seemed like the logical thing to do as I could never see myself as a normal 9-5er).

    Before the jump I had done everything “right.” I started with a few different internships at local magazines, then freelanced, second shot for other wedding photographers, did freebie weddings for friends, then their friends, then their friends friends, ect. Even took one of the very first One Light Workshops Zack ever hosted in Atlanta. I didn’t just “jump” into business not knowing what to expect. I did my research and put in my time and had a great working portfolio to show for it.

    The first five years were great. I loved every second of my “dream job”…

    I loved shooting.
    I loved editing.
    I loved running a business.
    I loved getting paid to do my #1 passion: photography.

    I had it all… Great clients, an awesome schedule working from home, taking my dog on a walk on a whim, the ability to easily pay my bills, ect.

    Then something just changed, and I started to sink.

    Literally in the past 8 months I have gone from swimming full speed ahead towards the horizon to sinking like I have two cinderblocks strapped to my feet. And the most frustrating part is I don’t know where I went wrong or how I can get myself back to the surface to take another breath.

    Overall I think I just let myself get burnt out, and I didn’t even see it coming. I think my #1 problem is I just can’t seem to keep up, no matter how many hours I work the to-do list just gets longer. And as a result it has made me hate my passion.

    “But how can someone hate what they love?”

    I ask myself that question daily, and I feel enormously guilty and ungrateful for feeling like I currently feel. So many photographers would absolutely kill for the business I have built and the awesome clients that never cease to flood my email box with session requests and reprint orders. And I just want to throw it all away. How selfish is that?

    I don’t get excited about shooting anymore, and I absolutely hate everything that comes after. I hate editing, I no longer enjoy designing albums or actually running my business. Everything I used to love I now strongly dislike.

    Where did I go wrong? How did I get here? How in the heck do I get BACK on the dock…???

    I have put some serious thought into getting out of the professional side of photography all together and just throwing away everything I worked so hard to achieve (while my logical side is screaming “have you *!^*@#% lost your mind!? You have a house to pay for… you have clients who love your work… you are GOOD at what you do!”)

    My problem is I have lost the “passion” for my passion and I don’t know how to get it back.

    So that is where I’m at currently, and it is definitely not a good place to be.

    I want to love again. I just don’t know how to get myself back to where I was.

    P.S. Thank you. This was very therapeutic for me.

  • Kim Porter said on August 14, 2009

    Wow. Just wow. I have NEVER been so moved. Thanks.

  • Bec Thomas said on August 14, 2009

    As the saying goes “life is like a box of chocolates”, you just keep pushing ahead. Sometimes you fail and sometimes you don’t, it’s the wild ride called life.

  • Matt B said on August 15, 2009

    Hey B,

    This is a quote from a great American president, Teddy Roosevelt, that I think about every time I want to quit.

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly…who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never known neither victory nor defeat.”

    I have been a cold and timid soul with many things in my life. And it is a worse feeling than failure. At least when life punches your guts out you feel something, even if only from trying. but still, you feel something. It’s better than numbness. I too want to be a professional photographer. And someday I will- cuts, scrapes, bruises and all.

    Zack, your analogy of standing on the dock really strikes a chord with me. About two years ago I wrote in my journal about standing on the shore of the ocean, too timid to jump in and start swimming (into both photography and language study). But I am taking big strides into the cold water and making investments in a better camera, lenses, and a couple of flashes, a few books, and a lot of time thinking, studying, practicing, and really trying to figure out what makes a good photograph a good photograph, and then trying to take the kind of images that I imagine in my mind. And soon, my feet won’t touch the sandy bottom of the shore anymore, and then it’ll be sink or swim. B- the journey tends to be like that- slow but steady. Keep going, and don’t ever give up, and before long the shore will be a distant line, showing how far you have come!

  • David Weaver said on August 15, 2009

    I don’t suck at photography. I suck (internally) at working as an MBA, grinding out work in corporate America. I’ve always been happiest as a photographer. Why do I want to be a photographer? I have no idea. My paths of work and photography have cross paths and have even intertwined on many occasions. I’m always happiest as a photographer.

    At the age of 48, now, I’ve decided that I really need to persue the path of photography. I want to work on my art more. I want to teach it too. This Fall I’m starting an MFA-photography program so I can do two things and get my ship a sailing.

    One: Dedicating learning and discovery into photography will make my work better. I had many “ah-ha” moments in business school and the MBA I received is a substantial asset I bring to my work as a professional freelance photographer. I look forward to the course my ship takes in navigating an MFA program. It will make me a stronger photographer and my art will change course and improve.

    Two: I really love teaching. I’ve taught at the college level and find that inspiring students about (seemingly) boring business concepts is a great reason to get up in the morning and go teach at a major university. I’ve found that I’m a pretty good teacher. What better way to spend the rest of my life than working on my art, taking assignments from clients and teaching photography to art students. business to art students, and teaching the business of art to business students.

    I’ve never been concerned about where I land but I do know that the voyage is important. If I wind up in some community college in a place that makes me happy doing what makes me happy then I am fulfilled. If I wind up as a photo editor of some major publication in a big city doing what I love to do and mixing it with my business skills then I am also fulfilled.

    What’s truely important is to enjoy what you do. How many people do we know that are unhappy with there work and life? Sure, money helps, but at the end of day and at the end of life your bank balance isn’t something on your tombstome or mentioned in your wake.

    An old friend of mine who was the president of a major computer company has said that it’s okay to die with your last check being the one that bounces.

    If you leap in and can’t swim then you will suffer. Take that as a suggestion that you need to do something else. It can be to take photo lessions and practice your trade so you can swim or it is an indicator that you have not found your path in photography and your path is elsewhere.

    Be happy with what you do and do no harm to others in your journey.


  • Kristof Pattyn said on August 15, 2009

    I think I can at some point find myself in the story of B. I have started with a point and shoot 5 years ago. I took some nice pictures when travelling and showed them around to some people. One of them asked me to shoot his kid (I never took a real portrait before, did it with some styrofoamreflector). The next person asked to shoot her daughter inside a gym (dark). After that shoot I crossed a barrier (need for a better cam and lights). At that point one already makes a decision if you want to get more serious or not. I made the investment and was very happy learning all the new possibilities the new equipment gave me (thx Strobist). The shots got better. I started a website showing the results. I started surfing around seeing way better portfolios everywhere :-). Through the internet I learned so much from other people that would have taken much longer finding out on my own. Gradually the skills get better and more people make use of my services. I still haven’t quit my dayjob. So the days are long and sparetime is short. But since I love shooting I can’t complain. My biggest concern is if I will ever make sideprofession into my main profession. I have friends that are pro and I can tell ya once you get on the boat there are more decisions to be made, it doesn’t stop… Example: you shoot weddings every weekend, you want to spend more time with wife and kids, how do you switch from a people shooter to something else like industry work. Or you invest in a small studio because it would generate more work. It does generate so much work you need a bigger studio in a new building within a couple of years (big investment, yet another jump). You can’t handle your work anymore, are you able to pay for an extra assistant. Will you make the switch from Canon to PhaseOne :-).

    In my opinion there is one big staircase and it’s one step after another. Sometimes look back to the first step, take a deep braith and take the next.

    There will always be blogs like these that make for some great handrails…

  • Craig Judd - @ID7 said on August 15, 2009

    Thanks B and Zack for this, every day since I graduated with distinction from 2 photographic courses, that absorbed me entirely, I have struggled with the idea of finding a place in the photographic cooking pot out there, but realised after a few years of assisting and working in studios that eventually I hated being told what to photograph, and instead preferred photogrpahing what I chose, when I chose to. I then made a decision to flip my career choice on its head, and now enjoy my photography a whole lot more. I too wanted to maintain my ‘own pressure’ and try and achieve 365, but failed. Its a rediculous pressure to try and achieve. I blog now, and chose commisions and events that I want to photograph. That way I enjoy everything that is dear to me in photography. For me its the end result, no matter how I get there, using whatever method. I like a print, I like the feeling of achievement when someone else says wow, or ‘how did you do that?’ or / and this is the biggy, when they pay for it, or buy one. It doesn’t matter how little I make at photography, what ever that little bit is…. its always a lot more satisfying than earning money any other way. I’d rather sell one image, than work a month. It gives me an over whelming sense of pride and achievement that I can’t explain to anyone. For me this is ‘my photographic life’, and I guess that will be what ‘I’ achieve.
    I’m off now to try some more, and to see if i can make an image today that I’m happy with.
    Thanks again
    Craig @ID7

  • Roberta said on August 15, 2009

    I think we’ve all been where you are at sometime in our life. I was born a photographer, but fear stood in my way for 40 years. 20 years ago I was trying to emulate everyone else. I ended up uninspired; confident, and unsure of any real direction. I quit.

    Then one day I was at a point in my life that it didn’t matter if I succeeded with photography or not, I was going to do it because I wanted to do it; because it is what I am passionate about; it is what I’ve always been passionate about. I was not going to listen to what anyone else had to say. I wasn’t going to give a damn if anyone else liked the images I produced or not. I loved them, and that’s all that mattered to me.

    Surprisingly the rest of it just seems to be falling into place. Go into it looking for success and you might find it (you also might not). Go into because of passion and you will find success no matter what.

  • Joseph said on August 15, 2009

    I’m amazed by the vast amount of fellow passionate people out there that feel much like I, myself, do. This photography thing is something I love and greatly enjoy pursuing but at the same time the immense pressure placed upon myself at times feels as though is too great to overcome. The fear of failure and of not being good enough resonates with each click of my shutter. With each new shoot, friends or family, I feel as though I’ve learned nothing and continue to swim in mediocrity.

    There are photos that I’ve taken that I really do like and enjoy viewing. Though they seem few and far between even though people say I’m my own worst critic. How true those words resonate within my own thoughts. I’m truly not as bad at this thing I love as I at times make myself out to be. Yet, even though I get compliments from friends, family, and even strangers about how wonderful my photos are I see the things they don’t. I see what I could have done differently, should have done differently, if only I knew what I was doing.

    I can see the images in my mind that I want and wish to create. However those images are hiding within my camera settings simply waiting to be discovered. If only my fumbling fingers could stumble upon those settings just a little more often. Then perhaps I could stop being so hard on myself and be a little more proud of what I have created.

    My wife gives her best attempts at pushing me off that proverbial dock at which I stand. I’m at this place where I refuse to charge anyone for what I offer. I feel as though I need the practice and the least amount of pressure upon myself to improve. She says I’m wasting some God given talent that I’ve been given by short changing myself and the work that I do. Yet, I look at those images and then at those from others and silently cast doubt upon myself for not being as good as the next guy.

    She’s ready for me to order business cards and click away at the vast amount of clients she feels I’ll find. I on the other hand hear the words of praise and the request of those who ask about having some portraits made. “How much do you charge?” They ask and then stare in disbelief at my response of “free at the moment”. I have of yet had any of these so willing individuals take me up on my so gracious offer. Oh, I have a few here and a few there who actually follow through with their request but only enough to wet my appetite.

    I truly hate to see so many who feel as I do even though misery often times loves company.

    B & Zack thank you. B for putting himself out there as he has. Zack for understanding that perhaps many more of us often times feel much the same way. I truly enjoy your work and the OneLight Dvd. If only I could find a way to make it to one of your workshops. Even considered Oklahoma? Maybe Dallas TX as I’d make that drive.

  • Scott said on August 15, 2009

    I would have sworn that I had written that email, like others here it struck a chord with me and helped me.
    Not for the first time when I have came to this website I had tears in my eyes.
    B, I hope that just by hitting send that this is the first steps, not to recovery, but to something else …. inspiration.
    Zack, what a true gent t take the time to share and help others… wow.

  • Christopher said on August 15, 2009

    Nineteen years ago, I had a conversation with my sister in which she encouraged me to dump photography as a hobby and pursue it as a career. She knew something about my passion for photography that I hadn’t even seen yet. I brushed off her suggestion and moved on with my life. Six months later, my sister was killed, and our conversation resurfaced and I took her advice. After a year & a half of preparation, I was hired in the corporate world as a professional photographer. When I later tried to go out on my own, I failed miserably and was back to working as a rep in the photo industry. Fast forward 10 years, except the landscape has changed. I’m married, with two little boys of my own and in a modest home we managed to buy before the real estate market took off. Two weeks before Christmas, I was laid off of my rep job. I remember driving home from the fateful meeting wondering how I would tell my wife. When I got home, my toddlers were climbing around the table where my wife wrapped Christmas presents. She said, “How was your day, Dear?” And, somehow, with a smile on my face, I said, “I was laid off.” She burst into tears. With all the confidence I could muster under the circumstances, I told her not to worry. . .that it was time to pursue my photography full time and God would provide enough work to meet our needs. That was in 2002. Little by little, work trickled in and we managed to get by. But each year has been better than the previous one. And sometimes I feel like my artistic side is trapped inside while I produce work to pay our bills, but how can I complain? I’ve got a beautiful wife, two smart healthy sons, a home and food on the table and we pay our bills on time. I’m a professional photographer. It’s never been easy. But I go into each job with the mindset that God has blessed me with a skill that I can use to earn a living. I’m not a marketing genius, and I see other photographers who have more creative talent in one finger than I have altogether. And all I can do is be inspired to continually improve and grow as a photographer. There’s nothing else I would rather do (though sometimes I think I’d make a good barber!). For those of you making the effort, do not quit. You have to get yourself out there and tell people what you do. With a smile on your face. Be polite. Be grateful for every opportunity you get. And don’t ever reach a point where you feel you deserve more than you’re getting. Be content and keep pushing forward. You’ll find a pool of water in parched ground.

  • Chrisdavid42 said on August 15, 2009

    Here is my story: I am a Behavior Analyst, and photography is my hobby. It had been my lifelong desire to get into photography and three years ago I made the leap; I sold my handgun (I live in Oregon and hunting is a big thing here) and used the money to buy a D50. It was great, and I never thought I would master all the functions of that camera. It’s three years later now and I have mastered the basics, added some amateur lenses, and begun to work with off camera flash.
    The Transform Video hit at my desire to have a hobby that pays for itself. I have a passion to someday be able to capture in photography the way I see people. But, it also hit at another deeper level in my full time career. I had been working in my profession for about 10 years, had made my own opportunities and considered myself pretty good at what I do. I have a knack for listening to people and understanding their motivations. A year ago a malicious boss trashed my reputation and pushed me out. God was faithful, and I had another job making more money within one week. But the crush of the discouragement of having an 8 year job go up in flames, and the challenge of working with new people and a new set of expectations slowly ground me into a constant state of discouragement. I felt the way B described not only about photography (not quite skilled enough yet to catch a break), but about my current situation (stuck and miserable). Reading the comments that followed was an emotional experience. So many people are struggling with the same thing. Through your blog and through other experiences in my life, I felt God telling me to quit asking for things to get better for me, and to pray that I would be more effective for my employer. It’s just been a few days, but I feel as if the change of attitude will be good. If I keep on praying and meditating on being more effective for my employer, I am pretty sure that I will be more productive and happier. I truly believe that your transparency and your willingness to listen to people and use your business as a platform for sharing, has had a positive influence on my journey.
    I am so glad that so many people have been reminded to look at what they have in their life. I have a wife and 8 beautiful children that I am grateful for every day.

  • Robin said on August 15, 2009

    I simply can’t read all the wonderful comments here but did read the blog.

    I am not only not sitting on the dock, I made my own boat and am blowing the sails to get moving. Unfortunately, I seem to be going in circles! I have the drive and don’t know how to spread it. Any ANY advice would be greatly appreciated.

    I just recently launched my website and have done what I could to spread the word but it’s just not enough….the bookings aren’t coming…(at least not at the volume I’d like)

    I gotta do in order to do more!!

    This is my passion, my love and my lust…..I just need advice on how to get things moving!

    Thank you for all your wonderful posts!!!!

  • Jamie Carl said on August 16, 2009

    Wow. So many comments…

    I just wanted to say, B is certainly not alone. I sat here reading his/her email constantly thinking ‘yep, feel that’, ‘yep, I know what you mean’. It’s both scarey and depressing that there are so many other people like me out there that feel they have the talent required to ‘go pro’, but are just lacking the drive (or whatever) to make it happen. What’s wrong with us? Do we just doubt ourselves so much that we constantly think we’re not ready? That’s how I feel….

    I believe it was Chase Jarvis that once said in a blog post of his, “Never turn down an opportunity to create art” and that quote hit a chord with me, just like “Transform” did. I live by those words now. It doesn’t matter what the job is, if someone asks me to take photos, my answer is ‘yes’, and before each shoot i lay on the floor of my tiny apartment with my headphones on and listen to Zack’s words in “Transform” to build up my confidence. Without those two things, I would be lost. I treat every photoshoot I do like my reputation as a photographer depends entirely on it. Because it does.

    Am I a pro photographer? yes. I just don’t get paid……..

    yet. 😉

  • Darryl said on August 16, 2009

    I kind of get that George Benson song a bit more now….
    were he says he won’t quit playing his guitar until he’s a start on Broadway.

    Or in the movie Gattaca were Vincent was always fascinated with the space program even though he was an ‘invalid’….
    nothing was right about Vincent…bad heart, bad eyes, to short, but he did whatever it took to become an astronaut.

    I guess it depends on what you decide in your mind.

    Zack’s turning point was the concert shot he show’s in his workshop…he say’s it’s not the greatest shot but it was a turning point.

    I suppose we must all have a turning point.

  • Darryl said on August 16, 2009

    Or how about at the end of the Onelight DVD….

    Are you still watching this video?

    Go out and take some pictures.

    Maybe it’s that simple.

  • Gerry said on August 16, 2009

    This man is the epitomy of positive energy! It appears that God is with him and he will move mountains. I can relate to Derrick very much, as I am also a convicted felon who works in outside sales position. It’s been a long road for me from getting tattoos removed from my face, to getting my GED in juvenile hall, to endless hours of night school, to working my way up in my career and becoming a proud husband and father.
    I have learned that people will always label and categorize you. From the moment people lay their eyes on you, they are thinking “who is this person?. What is he/she about?” We all send messages, whether we know it or not. We are judged by how we carry ourselves. That is why Derrick is able to make such striking progress with his positive attitude. The best way I can word it is as follows; we are like TV sets, and life is filled with hundreds of channels. The channel we choose to tune into is the chanel people will see when they view us. Regardless of what you’ve tuned into in the past, whatever chanel you chose today will determine how you are viewed, but more importantly, you will be filled with that positive message to inspire yourself and others around you.

  • Lou said on August 16, 2009

    I’m in a very similar boat with B. here, if not the same. I watched “Transform” and was mesmerized (of course, my computer barely will play flash vids, so it was a lot of stuck frames while listening to the audio lol). It let me know that someone else out there has the same doubts and obstacles I do. Except this one “has his shit together”, so to speak. So that puts me in the boat with B. What chance do I have?

    But that only partially gets me down, and not too often–honestly I don’t usually feel that way. What I do feel, however, is the fact that I never seem to have the time and/or money to really get where I want to be. I know that all I need really is a good flash, a light stand, and a transmitter. But I can’t even afford one of those cheap Cactus v4 RF transmitters (the poor man’s Pocket Wizard) that’s $45/pair. It’s not like I’m jobless, or work for minimum wage at Radioshack (which I did, for 3 years). I work an awesome tech support job for an awesome education software company, and make way more than I ever have before. And it pays for my rent to keep my wife and I sheltered. And food. And internet. And animals. That’s pretty much it. Granted, this could go on about a tangent about my wife needing to get a job, but that’s a whole other ball of wax with it’s own complications.

    That being said, I realize that I’m the sole breadwinner in a household where we’re definitely stretched. I know what kind of images I want to make, what I have in my head, and what I need to get to do this. But I just can’t.

    I feel that if I don’t have this gear, looking at other local photogs, I just won’t be taken as seriously. Because I don’t have the gear to make the port. I know I look at some photogs work and wonder “How are they getting shoots? How are they getting paid?!?” I was on a photowalk with a friend the other week where we saw a photog who seemed like she was working with clients, with a 350D and a kit 17-55mm on a tripod using onboard flash. Personally, to me, this level of quality is unacceptable for free stuff, nevermind if you’re getting paid.

    But there comes a point when I have to realize that if I continue this mindset, I’m never going to do ANYTHING, and will never work up to a good portfolio, work with people I want to work with, shoot what I want to shoot, and get the look I want to get unless I just go out and do it.

    Which is incredibly hard when you’re pressed for time, money, and attention from family.

    So what’s a guy supposed to do? How are you supposed to overcome these obstacles?

    I have no idea… But, if I find out… I’ll be sure to share that info.

  • Steven said on August 16, 2009

    After reading this post, I am compelled to confess that I have been standing on that dock my entire life. Every so often I climb aboard a little tour boat and go off somewhere for a “safe” holiday. When I’m at that other place, I can still look back to where I was and I start thinking “Wow! I made it! I’m somewhere else!”
    But, when the journey is finally over and I disembark the tour boat, I realize that it has returned me to where I had started from. And the most awful thing about it is: I was steering the boat the whole time!

    I know that I could have gotten off that boat ANYWHERE. Yet I chose to come back “here”. Again and again I’ve taken that sane tour. Each time thinking that THIS will be the LAST time. When I get off the boat THIS time, I will really be someplace new and different!

    I have done it with my Art: Rather than attend College after High School I attended a Graphic Design school, but never became a Graphic Artist.
    I’ve done it with my music, playing drums in a garage band in the 90’s, but I never becoming a Real Musician.

    I’ve done it with my Business: I got involved in Real Estate Investing back when the bubble was growing, but couldn’t make it work and had to ditch my investments.

    And I’m doing it with my Photography: I didn’t go to school for it. I do recognize that I have some skill with it. I have had positive feedback from people, not just my family/friends. Yet I am still struggling internally with doubt and a serious lack of confidence. I struggle trying to learn about lighting, buying books and even reading thru some of them. Buying “Learn to be a Photographer” DVD’s and such. I attended a workshop on lighting and really did learn some good things…but while others have taken it to the “Next Level” I am still sitting here trying to figure out a good Workflow, and Filing System. Still trying to learn how to place the lights based on my knowledge, rather than just “guessing” that this will work.

    They say that we are our own toughest critics…and I am here to tell you “They” are right! The more I work and show my work the more I am afraid of being seen as a Photography Hack…One of those Digital Guys that the Old School Film guys are always bitching about because I am stealing their business by offering my Photographic Services on the Cheap or even “Gasp!” for Free! (TFP)

    Yet somehow I haven’t considered selling my gear. I just keep hacking away in Photoshop. I continue trying to learn about lighting ratios, and how to distinguish in advance what the effects will be on an image when changing the shutter speed vs. the f/stop, and how to effectively use the gazillion Light Modifiers available to me. I keep working on the technical stuff and then throw it all away when I have a subject to shoot and I get lost in the process of working to produce Art.

    By the way, I still play Drums (Got the kit setup in the living room, much to the neighbor’s dismay I’m sure) and I still like to draw at times…but I have to admit that everything takes a back seat to my passion of Photography. And by everything I am including the Doubt, Fear, and Apprehension I feel when I am not holding the camera… Weird, huh?


  • J. said on August 17, 2009

    Yep, reading B’s letter I could easily substitute my J. for his B. Change a couple dates, etc but basically the same story.

    I have a job, a good one…that doesn’t include photography. But there is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t wonder…how can I change that. It’s hard to jump off a ship that’s sailing and start swimming on your own. However…I believe that’s what makes the greats…great. It’s that drive. It’s the “I can’t take it anymore and I’m just going to do it.” that drives them.

    Maybe someday I’ll have that…then again maybe I won’t. Time will tell.

    For now…I’m going to enjoy my ride.

  • elena w said on August 17, 2009

    thank you! … just … thank you.

    I know I can/could swim, and I keep sitting on the dock trying to figure out what’s the perfect swimming stroke for this water. And in the process I’m still not getting not even an inch further from the dock. Time to dive in and figure it out.

  • D.M. said on August 17, 2009

    hmm.. not sure where to start but I am in the same boat as B. This passion has almost killed me on more than one occasion it has gotten better and the transform video is the driving force that got my head straight. I just dont know how to get off the dock the anxiety and predetermined fate I envision destroys any drive I have. bricks and shackles will drag me to the bottom. I am hoping to attend a workshop when Zack comes to town it might just be the key to a new and prosperous time in my life that is filled with fear.

    Thank you for being a positive force in my life!

  • MK Jade said on August 17, 2009

    B. You’re so not alone in this…when I read your letter I sat here nodding my head agreeing with everything you wrote. I’m scared to fail…but I know if I never try how will I know I have failed…I have recently started shooting again on a small scale and I’m taking it slow but even then I find myself doubting over and over again. I know I need to stop in order to succeed but I lack confidence. I discovered Zack’s video “Transform” from my photography teacher and it opened my eyes but still days later I would forget and become uninspired. But I rebuild myself each time I tear myself down and as exhausting as it is it keeps me going sometimes…

    Thank you for opening up and sharing your story B

  • David said on August 18, 2009

    I am sitting here, 2:30am on a work night (hooray for a decent paying dayjob) and I just have been thinking about the why’s and the how’s and the who gives a crap’s of my photography. Then, again, I come to this site and I am moved. There are a lot of other photographer sites that I read, but a lot of them seem to blow sunshine where the sun don’t shine. This is more in my head sometimes.

    B sounds like where I have been. I am not there RIGHT now, I am like, a half a step ahead of that. I haven’t thought about selling my equipment for at least a year! That’s a step in the right direction, i think.

    I am sitting on the dock though. A year and a half abo i had someone pretty much begging me to get on their boat and i got scared and ran back to shore. Now, I am back on the dock. I am luckily, thanks to a lot of things, not the same person I was then. But Still, scared. Failure, scary stuff… I do finally have someone developing me a real website, so I have one less excuse (oh well I made my own site and it sucks so that’s probably why I didn’t get this that or the other thing) and I am setting a realistic time frame, not saying if it doesn’t work in 5 months I FAIL AND I SUCK!!!

    I would like to thank Zack for having a site that, like I said, isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but isn’t gloom and doom either. This isn’t about whether we get a good score on a test, this is our guts splayed out on some website, in some magazine, hung on a wall, and us hoping other people like our guts.

    I don’t think we are trying to do photography cuz its neat. We don’t fight overwhelming feelings that we aren’t good enough, because of anything other than we really care about this. That makes it even scarier.

    I dunno, not I am running on!



  • Sheri Johnson said on August 18, 2009

    Fear will always hold you back from the things you desire and dream about. I have learned to embrace the things I love, to be truly passionate about them and to pursue those things with true faith. Wisdom also plays a huge role in whether you make good decisions. Knowledge is oh so valuable no matter where it is obtained whether it is self-taught or from a college or university. When it comes to photography, you really have to find your niche and refine it as an artform. There is so much competition in the field of photography and because of this, each individual needs to find what makes them unique and stand out. There are challenges along the way, many of them. If others find lasting value in what you do, you will find reward in that. Getting started can be the hardest part, finding your way through everything to reaching a point where you know you have gotten to where you want to be. I think more than anything that a person shouldn’t be so scared that they don’t ever try to get in the boat.


    note to Zack…. I tried to watch the video because I hadn’t seen it before. It must be getting lots of traffic because it froze up and won’t play all the way through.

  • Mike said on August 18, 2009

    It makes things easier to know that you still feel that way at 36…I am 26 and I feel like I am getting into this too late.

    i started playing around with photography in my first year of college but stopped because it was too expensive.

    I am an artist to I continued to try and find something ‘artistic’ to do. i went to school for animation, painting, acting, Graphic and web design, and music. I dropped out of all the programs. ( one the upside I am now a one man studio).

    I work in a thankless job right now and have decided to fill the other time trying to seriously get back into photography. I love photography. It’s one of those art form that allows me to be artistic and technical and I can still work by myself. But I feel at 26 years old, I am too old to be a beginner at this and it discourages me.

    My photos are ok, and I think i have a good eye, and I really want it.

    Sometimes I don’t know where I am going.

    Some days I think I am out of my mind for wanting to be an artist.

    Some days I don’t feel like an artist at all.

    It helps to know that even at your age, you still don’t feel like you are hitting the mark.

    Maybe I can learn from you, and find my own motivation within myself.

  • Mike said on August 18, 2009

    This is to B. because I forgot it in my last reply.

    Your words were ripped from the depths of my mind.

    The things you wrote down, it was as if someone was reading my brain back to me. I got emotional at work, and I don’t get emotional a lot.

    You moved me today like no other, and I appreciate your honesty. I too never want to look or feel stupid, and, like you, I never post to blogs because of it.

    You made me look at this life I live, and you your email has given me the perspective i kinda needed.

    I always thought that I have been alone. My parents and family were around, but never really pushed me to do anything.

    “be happy” my mom always said.

    I never had that motivation.

    even my friends don’t really push me to do things. I do. I push me, I am alone, and i do it everyday.

    I can now say that I have gotten this far in my life by myself. Alone.

    I know now that I am not alone. there are people out there, whom I haven’t talk to, who are speaking my mind.

    I want this. It makes me happy.

    Thank you B. I will be reading this more and more as the week goes on I am sure of it.

    Maybe we can all help each other to the next chapter. Maybe I can find the boat I need to climb on.


  • Paul said on August 19, 2009

    Hi Zack, hi B,
    wow, what can I say? I am moved; seriously, ground-shakingly, have-to-get-up-and-walk-around-just-to get-some-air-in-my-lungs shocked.

    I’ve only seen your film this week Zack but I am touched and really, really heartened by it. I had no idea that a photographer as successful and well-established as you could possibly have (had) these feelings as recently as this last Spring.

    I have had those same self-doubting, frustrated, worthless feelings every Feb for the whole of the time I’ve been involved in this wonderful terrible mistress that is photography.

    Last winter it got so bad I got to March and could not remember the last time I’d picked up a camera.

    Eventually though each year something catches my eye or pricks my conscience and I get going again. This year it was going back over my photographs from the last 3-4 yrs and trying to put a book of my best together. I didn’t manage the book but it did remind me that I do have a good eye, a creative mind and some skills with a camera and that was what sent me back into shutter-clicking mode in 2009.

    B, I can totally sympathise with your situation – support from a loved one is great but when you are on the edge of the dock, it’s you against the universe and you find it so easy to see every reason not to leap, and not a single good reason to jump.

    Unlike many here (I think), I haven’t had any formal training nor is this my career … I’d dearly love either or both to be the case. I’m 34 and desperate to be doing something that I love – photography.

    Sadly when I left school, when I got married, when we had kids, photography was not a part of my life. How often I think back and wish that someone would have pointed me in that direction earlier, or I could have discovered it myself … then I might not be in this sales job which saps all my energy and takes-up all my time so when I get home in the evening and weekends it’s all I can do to keep my family & 4 kids happy, without even considering some time and motivation for myself and my desperate wish to earn money from photography, enough to be able to walk away from the road-warrior sales job for good.

    I know that I could make this a successful career, that I could earn some more from portraits, weddings, families etc (I have done a few of these) and that with that behind me I could move more into making the areas pay which really make my heart sing – natural macro photography and more unusual fine art work.

    The issue is the daily job which grinds my down, wears me out and yet which pays the mills including the mortgage. If I was on my own, if I could get the house & bills paid for 6 or even 3 months, I would be able to get this business off the ground, but while ever I am so totally split in 2, I can’t seem to give the work I love enough time, energy or motivation to get it going, or keep that level of involvement and commitment going with all the other demands on my time.

    I *totally* agree that you get a spark, inspiration, an idea, and if you can’t run with it immediately it goes from a positive thing to a double negative – not only have you lost the drive but you’ve wasted the idea & opportunity too.

    Anyway, enough whining, I *am* going to be glued to this, re-watching your video and reading everything – I know the key for me is here to make a difference to the world, do something positive and to change my life for the better.

    Thank you Zack, thank you B,

    Paul, UK

  • Lyn Walkerden said on August 19, 2009

    Very thought provoking post. I for one am still standing on the dock. Fear keeps me there. On the dock is my well paying secure job that pays the bills and keeps my young family afloat. I have come to hate that job because I have no passion for it. I found my true passion almost two years ago when I first held a DSLR and I am consumed by it. As much as want to jump into that boat and take the chance, my family is depending on me to bring home a good income. So I stay on the dock gazing longingly at the boats while surrounded by the people I love and dip my toe in the water every now and then. One day maybe I will take the plunge…


  • Claire said on August 19, 2009

    To B.: Thank. You.

    Your gutsiness (or just plain fed-up-ness!) that allowed you to be so honest is something I really admire. I share so many of your feelings, but they are getting a bit fainter now that I know that I’m not the only one. You’ve given me the most valuable gifts: hope and inspiration. THANK YOU.

    And for Zack: Ever since the wonderful accident of discovering your blog through your white seamless tutorial (invaluable!) I have become a grateful fan. But it took until this week for me to comment. Your ‘Transform’ video, the letter from B., and Derrick hit me like a ton of bricks, and left me much better for it. Thank you for your dedication and generosity, I am a real admirer!


  • Kristine said on August 20, 2009

    Since this post brought me to tears, I’ll chime in and then I will go and find the video and read the comments here – some very interesting and inspiring ones.

    I also could have written B’s email. It’s amazing that so many things that he’s written are things that go through my head every day.

    At 46 I still have a dream of having photography more than just a hobby. Other people believe I can do it – and every once in a while I look at one of my photos and actually believe it myself – and then there are the others that I look at and say “what are you doing”.

    I guess we all just need confidence and courage to get off the dock.

  • Leah said on August 20, 2009

    I have not been checking my favorite photo blogs for several weeks. I just felt burnt out on them. So it was awesome to come across this post. I know how you feel B.! I am right there with you. I look at the countless people in photography and I wonder what do I have to offer? Do I really want to do this? Everyone else seems so young and successful, am I also too late into the game? A couple weeks ago the passion, fire, obsession and love I had with photography just died. It was like a switch flipped and it was gone. I’m scared, freaked out. I have put too much time and effort into it and I do want it! So where did the passion go? And what do I do to make it come back? Can I make it comeback? The whole thing is making me, think, re-think, and think again about what it is I want to accomplish and what my goals are now. At the same time that the fire went out for me, I feel like it can come back but I need to shake things up. I need to do things different. Even though my ideas seem crazy, silly, and like a load of nonsense. Things are going to change for me but at this moment I am too afraid to make those changes. I need a push or just make myself jump…Anyway thanks for sharing and for all the comments it is nice to know I am not the only one struggling!

  • Ricky said on August 20, 2009

    I UNDERSTAND!!!!!!!
    I wish I had the courage to quit my day job (banker) and just do what I love… take pictures. When I hold a camera, dslr, point and shot, even a disposable, I feel in control. I feel that for that moment before the shutter clicks, I say what goes.
    I have no time between work, and house projects and family, to go out and shoot, and learn. I live for websites and blogs like Zack’s. The kind where you can learn so much because of his kind soul to help others. Not every1 does that. Ive talked to alot of photographers that in my eyes have made it.. and by that i mean they live happy and pay the bills by doing something they love. I wish I had the courage to do so. Am I afraid of failure? We all are in some way.. and i constantly tell myself im never going to know if I dont try… Its inspiring when you hear someones story of success, but it would be more inspiring if it was your own.
    Thanks Zack, Thanks B.

  • Tim said on August 20, 2009

    Thank you for this post! I’m late to reading it and haven’t read all the comments yet but just wanted to add that I’m on the dock too. I’m a teacher and am about to return to work from summer break. The thought of returning to this position has turned my stomach for the past two months and I have entertained the idea of photographing professionally. I love photography, I love what I don’t even know about it yet and have spent every spare minute (which isn’t many with a 2 year old and 9 months pregnant wife) studying and devouring every bit of photographic knowledge I can find in books, the web and DVD’s. I have started photographic projects that I got through and struggled through actually doing the work past the “idea” phase. I want this thing but I’m scared that a) I’m realy not that good and b) can’t afford to embark on this expedition at the potential expense of my family.
    I have a lot of uncertainties, but something I am certain of is that I need to live a photographic life (paid or hobbyist). I need to express myself creatively in general and visually in specific. I need to feed my soul and I need to be passionate about the work that I do. Right now I think that looks like being a professional photographer. I can only hope that I will find out for myself.

    The analogy of climbing past the dead bodies or becoming a dead body is really inspiring to me. make it or die trying is better than die wondering what outcome trying would have brought.



  • meghan said on August 21, 2009

    WOW. one of my coworkers kept bugging me to check out this posting + the DopeSoapHope video. and I just have to say WOW. It’s amazing (and comforting) to know that we’re not alone in this! I watched the transform video for the first time as well and it really made me think … WHAT AM I DOING? I have felt like I’m just drifting through life and letting opportunities slip through my fingers. and I’m only 24?! I think that sometimes I forget how much potential we have, and how we have to keep pushing keep pushing, take the time and then just do it. It’s scary. I love how real everyone has been with their postings…feels like one of the few places in the photography world where we can be real. We go to the conventions, act like we’re badasses and have everything together, but really? who is? For me at the moment, confidence is running low … I am starting to wonder if things will ever take off, if we will ever stop making mistakes that cost money, time and clients. How will we convince people they need to use our services and not the guy down the street? Do people even like our photos?! It’s scary. But I feel inspired. I can do this. Today is as good as any to just DO IT!

  • Jennifer said on August 24, 2009

    I’m a SAHM who is tired of being a SAHM but still likes it. I’m jumping off the dock into the cold, dark waters and all I can do is hope I can remember which way is up. I have a kid photo shoot in 2 weeks. I’m going to do it, and have fun doing it and that’s all I can think about right now. The rest, well, it’ll come, I hope, once I get in the water.

  • S said on August 25, 2009

    I am stuck because the big boys on a Pro Forum have me convinced that I can’t start until I own a 5dmk2. I own 40D. They say I need full frame or I can not possibly go Pro for Landscape work. However I have a gallery offering to sell my work as is. How does one ignore the experts and take the plunge?

    Should I ignore them since right now the 5D is not in the immediate future?

  • Simon said on August 25, 2009

    Dockjumpers – this interview is very good viewing:

    It’s almost like it was made as a response to this post!

  • zack said on August 25, 2009

    You tell those pixel peepers that they are fools. You can shoot with that 40d just fine. Seriously. Don’t listen to those morons. The camera doesn’t make the photographer.


  • Leo Neves said on August 25, 2009

    I’m in the same situation, but I think I feel the opposite.

    I’m an amateur photographer from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where, believe me, is pretty hard to get some money with photography and even harder to buy a good gear. My personal life is a serie of accidental events and tragedies. I think you’re not interested in ‘blabla it’s a hard life’. At least I’m not, so I’m assuming it would be better to get straight to the point.

    One day I received a heritage (or deed, i’m not sure about the right word, but I mean that money you receive when someone in your family die) and I just decided to become a photographer. So I bought a couple of books, a camera, a couple of lenses and strobes. It was a hard way to begin, once I never met any professional, or even serious amateur photographer, and never got to school in photography as well. But I had the will.

    After some reading and shooting my first concert, (and not confident enough) I just started to send my photos to local newspapers and press agencies. None of them replied even with a “hey, you sucks”. But I kept doing it, working 10 hours a day in an office, studying 4 more hours, and shooting concerts three days a week, sleeping around 4 hours a day. And guess what? I’m happy. As I said before my life was a serie of failures. I couldn’t stay in one job for more than three months. I had no motivation for anything. But it was before I get into photography.
    Now I feel i can afford any kind of job, cause I have a reason for it. I feel also more confident, cause I’ve reached some goals such as publishing in locals newspapers and shooting bigger concerts. Just going out there and sending emails, being annoying some times, bothering the agencies and events organizers with my emails.

    I wish one day i’ll be good enough to earn some money with my photography, and why not living only for it. But I’m not in a hurry. I’ve reached some goals in my ‘regular’ job as well just because i’m more confident. And all this happened in four months.

    I’m still kinda lost, with no formal education in photography at all, and not getting much money shooting. I feel i’m on my own, but i also feel i’m growing on my own as well. I’m sure it would be way easier to have done a course or workshops or anything that could get me some conscious ‘how to’, and some good contacts. But i dont know, things started to work out just because i wanted them. Just because I made a decision and I kept it as a matter of honor.

    I dont know if this is helpful for someone, but this is my (yet) poor little tiny experience and i just wanted to share. Thanks you all for sharing yours as well.

    Cheers fro Rio


    PS: sorry if i got something wrong about language, but you have to put in count that english is not my first. =]

  • Luis Vallecillo said on August 25, 2009

    All of this reminds me of this excerpt from Dr. Seuss’ book “Oh! The Places You’ll Go!”:

    “Oh! The Places You’ll Go!

    You’ll be on your way up!
    You’ll be seeing great sights!
    You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.

    You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

    Except when you don’t.
    Because, sometimes, you won’t.

    I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.

    You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in a Lurch.

    You’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.

    And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

    You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win?

    And if you go in, should you turn left or right…or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite? Or go around back and sneak in from behind? Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

    You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

    The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.

    Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.

    Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.

    No! That’s not for you!
    Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing. With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!”

    I guess “The Waiting Place” = “The Dock”

  • lmphoto said on August 28, 2009

    b, just one more post to let you know i am totally totally with you. i’ve got a great canoe all set up, i just need to get into it.

  • I am B. said on August 28, 2009

    Just popping back in to let everybody know I still hit all these threads and read every comment. I wish I could respond to everybody individually, but that’s gotten to be quite daunting at this point. I owe a tremdous amount of thanks to everyone sharing their stories and overcoming their fears. You folks helped Zack deliver the boot that’s gotten me more motivated now than I’ve been in about 10 years.

    I’ve got some projects I’ve had stuck in my mind for a while now I’ve started moving on, and while they’re going to be slow starters I can’t wait to show everybody what I’m up to. Thank so much again. You guys are all AWESOME!

  • Chip J said on September 3, 2009

    I find myself deep in the valley one day and up on the peak the next. I often get discouraged and wonder wtf am I doing? But then the universe sends me a little something that I take as a sign and I keep on keeping on.

    Bottom line, I enjoy taking photos. If I suck, oh well. I’d rather not suck, but most of all I need to keep taking photographs sucky or not. Do what you enjoy and keep doing it and who knows, maybe you will start to produce stuff that amazes yourself on a consistent basis.

  • Suzie B said on September 4, 2009

    This post inspired me to keep going.
    This blog inspired me to be more honest.

  • ahmad izzat latip said on September 5, 2009

    Zack’s video had me going, from one video to a page, from a page to B’s email. And here’s my part of the story. From my point of view, B’s really needs the urge to do it. B knows what at the end of each path he takes,everyone knows it. Everyone knows. The thing is, how to actually DO it.

    B, i am a photographer too,i live in Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia. I am like you, i dont go to school of photography. I have a Diploma in Infomation Technology, and undergoing my last semester on my Degree in Computer Science. But,that doesnt stick in me. I;ve been photographing since i was 22, and now i am 26. I can see my photography develop. And happy with it. But at times, i feel like i havent touch my camera for weeks. And this would make me feel useless. No new subject to capture. No new adventure. as time goes on, i was thinking, it must be the industry here that is wrong. We are not ready to see a photographer as professionals.When i get to the point blaming the industry here. Then i sail away bit by bit, away from photography. At that time, i was hopeless in doing anything.

    Then, the magic comes in. Its not the industry. Its not you. Its what urge you to live life.

    I met a girl. And this time, it was a real deal. I’m not talking about looks, i am talking about sincerity. The passion to communicate with someone and feels you’re both are meant for each other. The urge to talk with that particular person,every single day was like injecting adrenaline to your own body. I am feeling like talking rubbish. But this is true. That is my urge. Because of this girl, i was happy to wake up and do my things, i was full of excitement, i was jumping up and down, and focused on my daily job. I have never felt like this before. The girls doesnt even have any interest on my photography, but yet, she manage to inspire me in a way. When you know there’s this urge that can transform you, You’ll be glad that you have found it.

    Thats what kept me going.

    To zack, thank you for making the video. you’ve made people think it through. and hopefully, they will come through it because of you.

  • Steve Strickland said on September 7, 2009

    My reactions:

    It’s the journey, not the destination. Most of your life will be spent getting somewhere. If you focus mostly on where you get and not on getting there, then most of your life will be wasted.

    Do you want to make art, or make a living? There’s overlap, but way less than a lot. Artists who make a good living are beyond rare (as a percentage of the pool). The seminal artist unappreciated in his/her own lifetime is a worn out cliche—because it’s usually true. To be a commercially successful artist you need to be part of a community or network, which can depend a lot on luck and social skills (and not as much on art). And you need to be edgy, but not so edgy that you’re inaccessible. A hard line to walk. Many (most?) artists have other jobs and create in their spare time (enough to keep the deamons at bay). Or work in the field, but only sometimes create art. You want to make a good living? You could learn a lot from the pseudo-art of Thomas Kincaide. Not that pseudo-art doesn’t give a lot of people pleasure (a lot of people are buying it, so it must). But it may not give you a lot of pleasure. Or satisfaction. Of course if you’re ever truly satisfied, you’re pretty much dead as an artist.

    I think artists create because they have to, not because they want to. It’s how they get there yayas out, find satisfaction, keep from pulling the plug on life.

    Make photos that you like. John Huston said (roughly): “I don’t worry about what other people like. I have a hard enough time figuring out what I like.” So just try to take pictures that you like. Look at other people’s photos, and toss the ideas you like into your closet, and incorporate them as you want. But don’t focus on doing stuff that you think other people will like. Just make stuff you like.

    Roger Ebert says (about writing): “The muse visits during the act of creation, not before.” And in Spaceballs, Dark Helmet says: “You’re always preparing to go. Just go!” You can’t wait for the great idea. Grab your camera and start shooting. Take it with you everywhere and just shoot. You’ll probably generate a bunch of crap, but once you get going, things (the muse) will start coming. Not all the time maybe, but often. Or often enough. Like golf, it’s the occasional sweet shots that keep you coming back.

    No matter who you are or where you are, you’ll (almost certainly) be better next year than you are now. And you may look back and think “Man, I sucked back then.” But then a year later, the same thing. You need to enjoy and take satisfaction in the evolution.

    And focus on what works, not on what doesn’t. “Yeah, that shot of your friend…you should have opened up more for more background blur, and yeah, it looks like that tree is coming out of his head. But wow, you caught the perfect moment and his expression is so perfect and real!” Build on the good parts and add to them. It’s like building a house by yourself. You get some small part that’s livable and live in that while you build the rest of your mansion.

    And finally, all the above thoughts are the surest sign that I’m struggling with all the same issues. But I haven’t given up.

  • Ed said on September 9, 2009

    If you were about to run a professional marathon but your only experience is jogging around the block now and again for fun, how would you start? You wouldn’t just read magazines and blogs; you wouldn’t just go get a coach; you wouldn’t simply ruminate about what a great runner you could be; you’d run. And run a lot. You would run because you know that there is a certain distance and a certain time that you must achieve. There are mile-markers and a charted course. Would it be easy? No. Could you do it? Yes. Why? Because you can chart a path and you can begin. How does one begin their photographic career? From what I’ve read and heard from the likes of all the photographers we seem to admire; you begin by shooting and shooting more. You try, you make mistakes, you get better. You take crappy photos, than you take some good photos, than you consistently take good photos, then you get a job, then you get more jobs. It doesn’t have to happen in that order, but those things happen. And throughout, you have doubts and you question your abilities, no different than prepping for a 5k than a 10k and on. Embrace those moments of doubt because that’s fear and fear is the game changer. Those that give in to it get left behind. Those that face it again and again and again, achieve. Happiness is often related to achievement of goal. I’m going to go and eat my own words now and try to be happy.

  • Adam Leahy said on September 28, 2009

    I’m getting caught up on your blog Zack. Great stuff.
    B. I was you about 3 years ago. I have no incredible successes, but I currently do part time photography, portraits mainly, that pays for my photography hobby and my mountain biking hobby. I also teach photography to high school students. I took the teaching job because I wasn’t making enough at photography on my own. Since then I’ve found I love teaching photography. And. Since I pay the bills teaching, my professional work can be only projects I want to do, and mostly the way I want to do them. :) No super cool things you might find on CJarvis, but cool to me. I’ve found a niche I really like. (by accident). One thing I didn’t do is give up.

  • Chris Biele said on October 1, 2009

    I’ve been away from your blog for a bit and am just now getting time to catch up on all I’ve missed.

    I can relate quite a bit with B. I got my first dslr in february of ’08, I started learning the strobe just before that, I met tons of local photographers in the Apple store here in Marbella where I worked. I wanted what THEY had. I wanted what YOU had. Your Transform video had a huge influence on the decision I came to make. What I hope I will never do is let my stagnation overtake my inspiration.

    I am 28 years old and today was my last day working for someone else. From now on I will work for ME. My mother always told me, “Son, if you can find something you love and make money at it, you’ll never work another day in your life”. Tomorrow I begin that journey of channeling my inspiration through the viewfinder of my camera. It will be a slow start, for sure. I need to find clients, sell prints, set up portrait shoots, etc. But I’m doing it because I enjoy the freedom I will get from it. Yes it is work, but so is getting out of bed in the morning. Feeding my baby a yoghurt when she spits it all over the floor is work, but I put up with her shit so I can see her smile later, and laugh as she crawls all over me.

    Zack Arias blog post 1/10/09
    “How Many Of You Are Standing On The Dock?”

    I’ve been away from your blog for a bit and am just now getting time to catch up on all I’ve missed.

    I can relate quite a bit with B. I got my first dslr in february of ’08, I started learning the strobe just before that, I met tons of local photographers in the Apple store here in Marbella where I worked. I wanted what THEY had. I wanted what YOU had. Your Transform video had a huge influence on the decision I came to make. What I hope I will never do is let my stagnation overtake my inspiration.

    I am 28 years old and today was my last day working for someone else. I put my 15 days notice into the Apple store 15 days ago and am now officially the worlds lowest paid “professional” photographer. From now on I will work for ME. My mother always told me, “Son, if you can find something you love and make money at it, you’ll never work another day in your life”. Tomorrow I begin that journey of channeling my inspiration through the viewfinder of my camera. It will be a slow start, for sure. I need to find clients, sell prints, set up portrait shoots, etc. But I’m doing it because I enjoy the freedom I will get from it. Yes it is work, but so is getting out of bed in the morning. Feeding my baby a yoghurt when she spits it all over the floor is work, but I put up with her shit so I can see her smile later, and laugh as she crawls all over me.

    Thank you for your blog. Thank you for your work. Thank you for loving what you do and sharing it with all the world to see. Your tilt/shift portraits have spurred me into a new direction of thinking. I promise I will take what I know, what I don’t know and what I learn along the way and I will be happy and contribute to the growth of myself and others.

  • Chris Biele said on October 1, 2009


    Sorry for the double post. You can edit that out, Ed, from the top down if ya don’t mind. Thanx.

  • Dave Roberts said on October 3, 2009

    Still standing on the dock after so many, many years, wondering and waiting, never starting, always stopping as that insidious little voice inside preys on everything it needs to survive. Photography is something that excites and envelops me and has been something I have returned to time and time again.

    Reading some of the comments above and watching ‘Transform’ is inspiring.

    Hopefully it’s still not too late for an old dog to learn and take a leap of faith sometime soon.

  • Desi said on October 11, 2009

    First I want to say I only recently stumbled upon this blog. So far, I find it very amazing with amazing and motivational messages. I would then like to say to post 17 by evie, you talk about waiting for the time when you can educate yourself enough to eliminate most failures. Well, I would like to say this. I have had my Nikon DSLR for only a year now. I have read many many articles on photography. Took a class in photography. I even joined a photography group. But all in all I have learned, I do not think it is possible to learn everything. You will always face challenges that you will either overcome or fail at greatly. There is always something new to learn in this field as either a job or hobby. There will always be things you can learn from someone else, and even more in your own mistakes.

    Its been said over and over that each and everyone of us fells like B. in our lifetime. But this goes way beyond just photographers. Each and every person has probably felt this way at some point in time. How will you know whether you will sink or swim if you dont try? How do any of us know? We don’t we just have to make it a habit to believe in ourselves. Maybe those of you who have this unforgettable doubt within yourselves should try a little self esteem booster. Each and everyday go shoot something. think of a theme and shoot only this for a hour. At the end of the day look at these images find the one YOU like best and write ten reasons you like this particular image.

    I have wanted to make a living of only photography for months now. I have always loved photography. When I was little I was always in front of the camera. I loved to pose, dress up, and have my hair done in crazy bizzar hairdo’s. Now I find that I am the woman behind the camera. Only I can decide whether to “push off” and become the person I want to be. Fait will decide if I run into those influencial beings who help mold me, shape me, and ultimately teach me new things. However, I am the only person responsible for my own destiny. It is my decision to listen, take heed, and use the information I have learned and make the best out of it.

    I have put my nose in every photography book I can get my hands on and have read every article on photography tips and tricks that I can possibly find. No matter how much I read I find I still have a lot to learn! As long as I recoginize this, I know that there is much I can learn from someone else.

    So with this said, I wish you all a very fond fairwell and much luck in your pursuit to following your dreams. However, you have to make that leap on your own. Although I learned how to swim when my father pushed me off a pontoon and said “swim or drown, its up to you.”

  • JohnnyThief said on November 1, 2009

    Hi Zack,

    Just watched the video off of Scott’s site. Totally kicked ass.

    To answer your qeustion, I’ve been on the dock many times. It’s always been about art, but I’ve gone from set painting to comic book school to screen printing to underground art to fanzine publishing to digital to art direction to digital imaging to prepress to production to tattooing in the past 25 years. Jumping off the dock is scary every time. But what god damn stories it makes. It’s like living a Chuck Palahniuk novel every day of your life,… ‘You don’t want to die without any scars, do you?’

    John said in his first letter that perfect love cast out all fear,… if you love what you do & are a true artist, you’ll find that fear is just something that is between you & where you’re going. Stormtrooping over it gets easier as your vision sharpens.

    I am now going to lurk the hell out of your site. Thanks for the inspiration. And if you’re ever in Savannah, please look me up, drinks are on me.

  • Michael C said on January 27, 2010


    I read this post (and your letter) when Zack first posted it oh so long ago. I felt that I connected with what you were saying. That feeling of How the Hell do I do this. I didn’t post then. I put it off. I went back to what I’ve been doing for the last year – hiding behind school.

    I’ve got two semesters left now. Its game time. I came back to this post after seeing a link to it in a friends blog. I re-read your letter and again felt that connection. Coincidentally enough, I got my first SLR in a February. I started to learn to light one year later, in February (not that it matters).

    I’ve become more worried about what I’m going to do once I graduate. I keep making these three and five year “plans” but they just keep getting revised into something different. The truth is I’m scared. To use Zack’s metaphor, I’m on that dock, toes curled over the edge. But the water is black and I can’t see what’s under the surface.

    I want to take the leap and start doing what I want to do. I keep debating if I should keep photography as a serious hobby and get a “real” job or if now is the perfect time for me to try something and if I don’t succeed I can just start over or move on. Print journalism is dying. Photography is becoming more popular and the market is flooded with talent – how could I possibly separate myself?

    I’m young, I’m full of piss’n’vinnegar, I want to travel, I feel invincible and of course I’m never wrong. I want to shoot all day, every day, I don’t want responsibilities that come with growing up, but I know that they are going to (quickly) catch up with me.

    A year ago I never would have thought I’d have this much trepidation about what to do upon graduation (in fact I went to my adviser last year and asked how to graduate as soon as possible). Now I’ve tacked on an extra semester just to take a class I’ve always wanted to. Part of me feels like I’m using it as an excuse again.

    I’m on that dock and I want to jump. I wish someone would just push me in (It’d be a lot easier!).

    I feel like I’m rambling on without a conclusion and I want to just delete this comment because of it. But as I wrote that last sentence I realized that there isn’t a conclusion – at least not yet. I need to go out and write one.

    Thanks for letting me rant. I’ve been needing to get this stuff off my chest for a while and just haven’t done it.

    Zack, thanks for being such an inspiration and role model (even if you didn’t know it 😉 ). B, Thanks for sharing your feelings with us, now we know we aren’t alone.

    I think its time to jump now, wish me luck.


    Michael C

  • zack said on January 28, 2010


  • sunith said on March 31, 2010

    Well, I have officially jumped into the bay now 😀

  • zack said on March 31, 2010

    Yeah! Swim baby swim! :)

  • joe said on May 19, 2010

    B, Brother you are NOT alone!!! Zack, many thanks for the video Bro’

  • Anna R. Hodges said on June 26, 2010

    Seriously? I don’t even know why I’m commenting after 290 people have commented.

    I totally feel the same way. I’m an emotional person, and when I see other people open up the way you did, B, and even Zack–the way you always do, it brings a tear to my eye because you are able to put in to words what I don’t have the guts to say to myself out loud.

    I have spent 10 years now trying to “find myself” and figure out my purpose in life. I have reached brick walls where I struggle in school and finally have not gone back to finish– I have worked my way up in every business that I have been in, to the point that I can’t go any further because I haven’t gotten a degree yet. I am trying to now go back to my roots as an artist and see if I can make it there. Otherwise– I feel as though I’m nothing.

    I’m not a religious person, but I do believe in the human spirit. What I struggle with every day is actually believing in myself. I don’t like bragging about myself because I don’t feel there is anything worthwhile to show. I have some great luxuries in my life right now- a boyfriend who supports me, and he helped me develop another business to be able to make money since I had a hard time finding a job after our move. He really inspires me because he is always shooting for some sort of goal and has it in his head of what he wants to accomplish in his life–and he’s doing great at it! But I find that I can’t (or make excuses not to) follow my love for photography because this other business now takes me away from it. I can only hope that it turns out good where someone else can take over and I can focus on my photography.

    But is that an artificial goal that I say to myself? Will I be sitting here a year later saying the same thing, and wondering if I have made excuses not to achieve my skills in photography or was it really that I had to focus on what was actually paying an income? I’m one of those people who sits and daydreams, or is slow at reading because I am trying to become more knowledgeable in the technicalities of photography–then it’s suddenly time to cook dinner and go to bed, where I say to myself, “Holy anarchy, Anna, once again, you didn’t even take the camera out today.”

    I’m recently trying to become more involved in the world of blogs and commenting, and I am so happy to be able to connect with strangers and hear what is on their mind. It is becoming therapeutic like Zack has said. It is helping me get honest with myself and look at how I want to approach my future differently than I have been.

    My mom always said, “You can’t focus on the future; you won’t get anything done.” I believe that’s true and untrue. Someday I will get smart and figure out how to balance that concept of focusing on the “now” to be able to build the future.

    Thanks guys,

  • Pradeep said on July 5, 2010

    I think it’s a lot more easier to jump in today, than it was 10 years back. The access to information, the digital age has made a difference.

  • Steve said on August 11, 2010

    that is very true. and the future will only make that stonger

  • M Dryden said on August 11, 2010

    Great stuff here. I am really glad I stumbled across it. After over 290 posts, I don’t know how many people will read this, but lately I have found inspiration in my life that I hope can inspire others.

    Many times throughout my life I have doubted myself. The first time that clearly comes to mind is when I was in high school. I attended a small school – small enough that if you tried out for a team, you made it. There were no cuts. So I played Baseball and Soccer. 3 years of baseball with one hit. I made it to second base and was out by third. As for soccer… I fell down a lot. I was bad at sports. About this same time, Snowboarding was a rising sport that I found attractive, but I would never try it. The risk was too large. You would see the videos of people tumbling down the hills. You would see your friends with broken wrists. If I can’t seem to kick a ball without falling over, how could I possibly snowboard?

    Some years later, I was out of work when a friend offered me a job at a ski hill. I took it out of necessity, and it rekindled my attraction to snowboarding. I signed up for a lesson, but on the day of the lesson, there were no instructors available. I had already taken the time off work, so I figured I may as well try it on my own. I loved it.

    Soon I was riding every chance I got, and every lift ride I would watch the people who were better than me, especially envious of the people who were taking on slopes I would never attempt. They are much to steep. The risk is way too great. I would never have the skill set to handle something of that level.

    So I kept snowboarding because I loved it. It was simply natural for me to push myself by doing what I loved. And here’s the part that inspired me. Somehow I missed the accomplishment when it happened, but I have now snowboarded the very slopes that I used to be envious of. These are the tallest, steepest runs on the hill. The double black diamonds. The ones that have warning signs at the top. The ones that require extensive avalanche control. The ones that I would never ride because the risk was too great.

    But somehow, the passion drove me blindly past the risk. I didn’t even realize it until well after the fact, but the minute I quit worrying about it, I exceeded my goals naturally.

    I have found this with many things in my life. Once a friend offered me a job as a graphic designer, to which I replied “oh, I’m really not the creative type. I could never do that sort of job.” Two years later I was working as a graphic designer, loving every bit of it. I am now in the process of starting an advertising agency with my Fiance, and all signs are pointing toward things working out.

    Now, if I could just make this happen for photography. I swear I have written B’s letter over and over in my head. I hear Zack talk about how there is something inside drives him to do photography. I hear Chase Jarvis talk about the need to be creative. All these things that the pros say you need to be successful, and I can’t find those in myself for photography… At least, I thought I couldn’t until last night when I was talking about my photography with my fiance. I was explaining how I don’t really want to make money with my action sports photography. I just want to shoot it cuz it’s fun. That’s when I realized I have the exact same passion for photography that I do for snowboarding.

    Some days, I feel like I am no good. Some days, I don’t even want to do it. Some days I feel like why bother. But for some reason or another, I keep doing it, and it’s the times when I worry less and just do what feels right that I excel.

    My advice is to just relax and go out and shoot. Don’t compare yourself to everyone else. Don’t even compare yourself to Zack. He is a great photographer, and an incredible inspiration, but you are not Zack. You are you. Just do what you do naturally. You may or may not succeed. If you fail, who cares? You enjoyed doing it, right? Will you stop shooting just because you “failed”? I know Zack didn’t, I know I won’t, and I doubt you will either.

  • m. stone said on August 19, 2010

    …when I first read this post a year ago I was shooting everyday. Had a hard time keeping my G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) in check. Started taking a few classes at the local JC in photography. Met the girl of my dreams. Learned to love FILM photography which I will fight to keep doing. Started shooting for the “Heart Gallery” (an NPO) I figure if I can’t make a million bucks as a photographer, I’d at east try to make the world a little better. But 1 year ago I wanted to be soo much closer to quitting my day job and doing photography full-time. But then life happened. Cutbacks at work, my father’s health declining. Having to sell my equipment, started to be the only way to make ends meet. As that happened I started to realize my path to being a photographer was not gonna be as straight forward as I had once hoped. I don’t know whatever happened to “B.” but I hope he made it farther then he expected. A year ago it was hard for me to really understand his letter to you and your post in reply to him. But now I do understand. I to am at the point of giving up something I love in order to be self-less and help others around me who need my help more than I need what I want…

  • Bimal nair said on May 2, 2011

    have few things to say in short:
    1st Thanks a lot B, for bcoz of you, i just saw the most inspiring video, the trademark kickass video made by Zack. Thanks a ton to Zack for such a cool video.
    2nd, B, i really feel bad for you and when you repeat “am too late to start” i feel like you are in your late 50s and its really late. If by any chance, u have the energy levels of anyone below 50s, take it up and dont be a fool to skip trying for making it big in your passion. Watch the movie “the bucket list”, before you start cursing me for saying this! please! You deserve a better feel of self worth!
    Last : B! you almost inspired me too, to write such a depressing post about myself on my blog. But thank Hell, somehow i thought not to fall into that trap. Am not going to agonize for being at the same place as you are. Am going to walk out the door and come back with a story opposite to yours and give some kick to others who are standing on the dock!
    Thanks for putting up this post Zack!

  • Alterick Wilson said on May 13, 2011

    I’ve in the same boat with the same thoughts, I got caught up in the my work don’t look like that and I started to second guess my ability to create a image. I still go through it from time to time, but I tell u want helps me sometimes is when I really look at some of my work and say damn thats pretty good. I do think sometimes hey about to be 41years old and still having a hard time getting my photography off the ground so I can quit my job. I have the equipment and the know how but can’t execute what I want to do with it. I feel like Matthew McConaughey in Failure to Launch…LOL I gotta keep pushin.
    Zack thank u for all that u do.

  • Girish said on May 26, 2011

    Thanks for this amazing post and the Transform video. There were so many things that were troubling me. Make me stop from doing what I wanted to, which I really don’t know why.

    But, now I am confident about my decision of choosing photography as a profession. I will put in my effort and overcome the issues stopping or bothering me.

    Thanks Zack, Thanks a lot.

  • monique said on June 17, 2011

    Just stopped by to see if Zack had any posts about dealing with PITA commercial clients (what am I doing wrong?) I posted a big long rant on facebook this afternoon about wanting to quit this whole photography thing…I’m an artist not a business woman. I am emotionally exhausted from being taken advantage of and nibbling at any morsel of interest or compliment I get from potential clients. So far everything I try to do to increase my business is a huge waste of time and it just starts to seem futile… the whole thing. So I’m glad that B was brave enough to send this to Zack. I hope he has continued to grow as a business person and artist, because it gives me a little faith that things are always changing.

    Thanks for the honesty, B. Thanks for everything, Zack.

  • Zack said on June 17, 2011

    Glad to be of service. Keep going. Get better. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t aim for the bottom. Other cliche yet true phrases.


  • Alex Gardner said on July 22, 2011

    So, what’s B upto now?

    Seriously? I’m sorting through picking up my camera again after some major changes over the last 12 months, changes that make me really think about who I am and what I have to offer and plenty of it has been outside photography.

    I’m heading to the US next month and I’m taking some gear. It’ll be awesome and I hope to come back with a little inspiration for life and photography.

  • Totally Not B. said on August 3, 2011

    If B. were to come around again he’d probably want to say he’s sorry for basically stagnating in the same place for the past two years and for letting everyone down.

    For Serious Not B. Nope. Not This Guy.

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