Do you have what it takes?


I remember a time when someone, a friend or an acquaintance would see me with my DSLR and say “Nice camera!  Are you a photographer?  I’d get so embarrassed and feel a bit of a fraud.  I’d mumble something about being interested in photography but “I wouldn’t call myself a photographer….

You see I had been practising and practicing but I wasnt happy with the results.  I wasn’t seeing what I wanted yet.  I felt like I was a fraud, a wanna be photographer and I was overly self critical.  Imagine a baby learning to walk, she’s tottering along, trying her first few steps, falling over and getting up again.  Do you think she is telling herself how stupid she is each time she makes a mistake?  Beating herself up because she got it wrong?  What a ridiculous idea!  Yet thats what we adults do when we are learning a new skill, we make a mistake and we think “I am so stupid!  Look I made another mistake”! We tense up in fear of making a mistake before we’ve even make one!

I spent a couple of years thinking this way before I realised that it was holding me back.  I was comparing my work to work I saw in magazines and thinking “I’m not good enough yet”  Ironically if you keep telling yourself  you’re not good enough yet or your not ready yet then you postpone the day you will be good enough indefinitely! Because you keep on pushing that day off into the future.

Slowly but surely I began to see that if I wanted to be a photographer – and I wanted it so bad and still do – that I needed to work on my beliefs, I needed to change them.  Do you know what belief is?  Belief is just something you tell yourself over and over until it becomes part of you, part of your identity.  When that happens you stop thinking about it – thats the function of belief – to abolish thinking!

If you’re telling yourself you’re not a real photographer or not a real writer or artist then guess what?  You are going to struggle, you are going to feel like a fraud.  I began to tell myself I was a photographer.  When people asked Are you a photographer”?  I’d say “Yes I am a photographer”!  I told myself I am a photographer over and over, I told myself I am a confident, successful, knowledgeable photographer over and over and especially when I found myself thinking in a negative, self critical way.

Now just to point out the obvious here; you still have to practice, you have to work at it, you have to do it and never give up, it has to become as important to you as breathing is, something you not only want to do but something you HAVE to do!  Every time you get knocked down or something doesn’t work you get up, dust yourself off and keep going.

Next time you find yourself mumbling “not really” when someone asks are you a photographer answer confidently “Yes I am”.

Stop comparing yourself to someone else!  Always be the best version of yourself that you can be not a half-baked imitation.  Pay attention to the way to criticise yourself and your work, would you speak to your children that way?  I hope not.

This is not a competition,  it’s a creative process, a never-ending journey.  We do this because we love it, because we have to.  So savor it, enjoy it, love it!

If you enjoyed this blog post and it speaks to you then I’d love to hear from you!  Here is a contact form so please get in touch!


About briancooney123

HOW I GOT HERE Of course, I wasn’t always a full time photographer. I spent a lot of time in the corporate world. I had a job which paid well, but just didn’t excite me. I remember the day when I had had enough. Enough of selling myself short, enough of dreaming too small, enough of doing what others expected of me. I had put away my dreams and told myself I would get back to them later, but somehow there always seemed to be something else that had to get done first. A friend of mine had recommended I take the NLP Business Practitioners course, and although I was really busy, I decided to do it. During that time, I began to imagine the different paths my life could take from here. While I had a hazy picture of what this other life might look like, I had a clear picture of where my current life was going if I didn’t change. It was a scary moment, a bit like standing on the edge of a cliff deciding whether to jump into the great unknown or stay on the cliff, safe but trapped. I jumped. The transition to the life I wanted was challenging The transition to the life I wanted was challenging but I would never go back. After that day I resolved to do what I love, to follow my bliss.  Picking up a camera after several years away, I found that many things had changed, the digital age had arrived. In the intervening years, I was too busy to pay any attention to my photography, and occasionally when I took something I really liked, I would think “how do some photographs seem so captivating and others leave me completely cold?” I knew this is what I was meant to do Somehow though, I knew this is what I was meant to do. I dedicated myself to learning everything I could about being a photographer. I took many, many courses and I read every book I could get my hands on, I still do. Since then, I have dedicated myself to helping other creative photographers achieve the results they want. And what a journey it has been. Last year I qualified as a coach. My main area of interest is creativity and helping others to express their vision. WHAT I BELIEVE Along the way, I’ve learnt that there are no rules. Experiment, explore, play. My advice is to make your art from your heart, not for the praise or the money.  Lighten up. It’s important to take your photography seriously, but it's a mistake to take yourself too seriously. Finally, you get what you want when you never, ever give up so enjoy every minute of it and just do it!
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9 Responses to Do you have what it takes?

  1. mudlips says:

    I absolutely appreciate this post! As an artist, it took me years to be able to label myself as such, even after being in juried shows and selling work. But, I also believe that everyone is an artist, they just need to find their medium. Lately, the photography has been pulling at me, yet the lesson I learned from art has not sunk in.I also have a hard time admitting I’m a photographer, especially when I’m around photographers with greater technical knowledge. So, I love this reminder and how you’ve presented it. I do enjoy your writing (almost as much as your photos).
    thanks for this nudge.

    • Thank you so much for your comment! I wrote that post for other like minded souls! You didn’t leave your name so I’ll call you red (redravens). There are a few things things I would say to you; what qualifies someone as a photographer? Is it a piece of paper like a degree? Is it membership of a society? Is it a website? It’s none of the above, for myself, I believe it’s two things; An interest in the subject of photography and access to a camera, any camera. The second thing I would say to you is that photography is an Art not a science and focus on the art, make your work from your heart and don’t give up. Tell me your technical challenges I’d love to help and I’m sure that there are other people here who can help you too. Say in touch!

      Brian Sent from my iPhone


      • mudlips says:

        Thank you so much for the very personal reply. I know what you are saying, but hearing it from someone whose work I admire really helps me take it to heart. I do work from my heart, and that has helped sustain me. When I look at my work I see what I’m trying to say, and I think in many cases others do too. It’s just that I know two VERY technically versed photographers and I often don’t fully understand what they are talking about. It’s the lingo, but also the concepts are sometimes just out of grasp. That’s what’s frustrating. I suppose that if I’m going to take my photography to the next level, I will have to be able to talk with those technical others – that supposition may be wrong to some degree. The bottom line is, I believe I know what to do with composition, it’s being able to execute in all light and conditions that is also challenging. And, beyond composition, I don’t know the basics of what makes a good photo – what do photo editors look for beyond the art?
        So, thank you again for your support and for sharing your thoughts and knowledge.
        PS – my wordpress nom de plum is Mudlips, but my friends call me Barb

      • Barb, tell me what it is you would like to know, would like to grasp that eludes you. What lingo? Let me see if I can help. I ask because I am in the business of helping other creative people achieve their vision. Whatever it is you are stuck on there are many, many other people that are stuck on it too. On the photo editors I don’t know what they look for but I can tell you that if you work from your heart and refuse, stubbornly to give up on whatever vision you have sooner or later you find other people who agree with you. When I am working best I just know it looks right, right for me first. Does that make sense?


      • mudlips says:

        Many thanks for your kind offer of assistance. I’ll keep it in mind next time I get stuck on a technical issue. I appreciate the affirmation that working from the heart is legitimate. I guess I need to let go of the tenant, “Learn the rules to break the rule.” I have mostly jumped ahead to the breaking part and do work from largely from my instinctual gut. So, once again, thank you. I know what you say is true but do appreciate reading it.

  2. Alan Frost says:

    Hi Brian
    I very much enjoy reading your blog and of course admiring your photographs. I am not one who normally comments on blogs but this entry struck a real chord with me. It happened to coincide with another photographer suggesting I look at this video; an address by the writer Neil Gaiman on the subject of art.
    It’s well worth spending 20 minutes of your time if you haven’t seen it before. One day I would love to travel to Ireland and in particular the west coast. I am just a keen amateur but have been smitten by the ‘photographers’ bug in the past two/three years. Can I call myself a photographer? I don’t think so, but having read your blog perhaps I now can!

    • Hi Alan,
      Thank you for your comment. Well looking at your blog I can tell you that you definitely are a photographer! Your work is beautiful and your passion qualifies you to call yourself a photographer! I looked at the clip and I will put it up on my blog, it really speaks to me and hopefully it speaks to others in our position too!

      • Alan Frost says:

        Hi Brian. Many thanks for your reply and for your appreciative comments. Given the quality of your own work they mean a lot to me. Very pleased you liked the ‘Neil Gaiman Address’ clip, it definitely made me think and I am sure others who view it will appreciate its message as well.
        Best wishes. Alan

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