I feel so fortunate. I get to travel all over and meet thousands of photographers each year. Each of them is different with a unique view of the world, and it’s a privilege to be inspired and shoot with them.

Some of the people I meet are full timers, like me, and some make a portion of their income with photography, while the majority are hobbyists. I hope they are all amateurs, because that’s all that’s required to be successful in photography. Amateur means they love making pictures so much that they spend all the time and money they can afford in order to photograph everything they can. What I’m saying is that there’s only one characteristic required to call yourself a photographer.

You Must Be Passionate

There’s nothing elitist about being a photographer. We’re not doctors or attorneys, and we haven’t spent way too much money on schooling and passed a standardized examination (thankfully). Photographer isn’t a title; it’s a pleasure.

Whatever your definition for success as a photographer, the only thing you need to be to attain your goals is passionate. Passionate enough that you study and practice and fail and improve and practice some more. Passionate enough that you’ll do the menial office work, and the marketing work, and the customer service work, and the networking it takes to make a living.

Passionate enough that you’ll overcome your other weaknesses like timidity and nervousness (and, for me, laziness). Passionate enough that you’ll look past your level of skill now and be patient enough to improve and bring your skills to whatever level is required to get what you want.

Making good pictures is tough. Photographing another human being is really difficult. Networking your way into galleries and jobs is insanely hard. Making a balanced life with your family and friends is ridiculously challenging.

But if you’ll focus your passion, I know you can do it. Scott Bourne always told me he’s rooting for me, and that’s gotten me a long way. For what it’s worth, I’m rooting for you, too.