No Such Thing as Luck

Home|Blog, Inspirational, Personal, Photography|No Such Thing as Luck

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon TS-E  24mm f/3.5L II lens, 0.8 sec at f/11, ISO 100
“Pink Sky Purple Fields”
Purchase a print of this image

A few weeks ago I was visiting family, and I had a nice conversation with my dad about work. I mentioned some of the accomplishments and opportunties over the past few years and said something about being “lucky”. And with that, my dad replied “It takes a lot of hard work to get lucky”. (Don’t dads say the smartest things?)

He is so, so right. When I reflect on the past few years and what I’ve done, while it might feel like luck it was a combination of a lot of little things that got me where I am today. Heck, I’ll be 32 in a few months and I’ve already written three books for Peachpit, an eBook with Craft&Vision … and I hope to add more to that list down the road. I make enough money with my photography alone to fully support myself, pay taxes, insurance, save for retirement and even have a little leftover for fun and travel. It feels like luck, but I’ve worked very hard to get here.

My path is unique to what many others will accomplish (or even want), and looking back it was a combination of a lot of things that have led to my success, and my goal is to keep doing these things (and more) to hopefully bring in more opportunities and adventures. The funny thing is that I did none of these things with an agenda. I wrote blog posts about my photography, shared Photoshop tips of mine that I’ve discovered and mastered and posted behind-the-scenes images of some of my photo-shoots … all because I just wanted to share what I know with others. I didn’t know who was watching, or if anyone even cared … I did these things because I enjoyed doing them. I didn’t realize that my efforts would result in jobs, and books, and amazing friendships.

While there’s no formula to success (despite what many self-help books will lead you to believe), there are some essentials that have helped me grow and become not only successful, but a better person and photographer. Here are a few that I truly believe in:

Embrace change, conquer fear & take risks. Everyone’s life is different, but there is always room for risk and adventure on many different levels. For me, I went from photography being “extra” money while I was married to going through a divorce and having to fully support myself with my work. There was a lot of fear involved with that unexpected and immediate change in my life, but it didn’t stop me. It was that event that was the catalyst in my career in photography. I went from a “normal” life to an uncomfortable one, a life where I had to be fully independent and in control, and it has made me a better person, and a better artist because of it. In six weeks I’ll be packing up and moving to Seattle, where I know no one and have no idea what to expect. It’s a huge risk I’m taking—both financially and creatively—that I hope will open new doors for me and help me see things differently.

Accept critique and contempt. To be able to get past the struggles we all face as creative people, we sometimes need to have a thick skin … but not so thick that nothing gets through. My main source of income is from microstock photography, a business model that some people disagree with (it could be that it’s just an easy target … but that’s an entirely different blog post altogether). :) It’s not easy when you get hate-comments from people who just don’t like what you do. I mean, it’s not like I’m conning widows out of their life savings to buy a photograph. But people can be mean, opinionated and vocal … I’ve learned to just let it happen and continue making my living doing what I love.

This also goes with having your work critiqued. I’m not talking about the random anonymous comment that says something extremely nice, or extremely mean about one of your photographs. True critiqe, from someone you respect and admire, is worth its weight in gold. It can be painful—and trust me, I’ve been there—but it is an invaluable learning experience that I think everyone should experience regularly.

The bottom line is that if you are ever on the receiving end of contempt, mean comments, controversy, or just basic, solid critique that you don’t want to hear, do not get hung up on it. It’s human nature to focus on the bad and ignore the good, but sometimes seeing that “bad” side of things can be a good thing. I can’t stress this enough: if you only hear good things about you and your creative efforts then you will never grow. Listen to, embrace, and accept the bad … and then walk away from it. Learn from critique, but don’t let it drag you down and stifle your efforts. Some things you can never change, like someone just not liking what you do, but other things can be used as a valuable learning experience.

Be yourself. I believe that this is essential to going down any path that would be considered “successful” in today’s world. People appreciate “real” people, people who aren’t just a robot filling in the blanks with what they think people want to see, hear or read. Create work that inspires you, that shares your vision and comes from your heart. And, once you do, your efforts won’t seem so strenuous … it’s so darn easy to just be yourself! With photography or any kind of art or creative effort, when you create what you love and are truly passionate about then you will never, ever be wrong.

By | 2016-12-18T17:01:09+00:00 July 22nd, 2011|21 Comments

About the Author:

My name is Nicole and I'm a photographer, author, & educator living in Portland, Oregon, USA. When I'm not making photos I'm writing books and tutorials for my online store, Learn more about me and my story here.

21 Comments

  1. Patrick Kelly July 22, 2011 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    A very helpful and motivational article… much appreciated!

  2. Gordon Jones July 22, 2011 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    One of my fellow physician and I were having a discussion one time. It was very wide ranging and got on the subject of work. His comment that has stuck with since that time was “If you love what you are doing everything else will follow.” I decided to change the way I do things and made each day a joy to come to “work” and do what I do. I loved reading your post because it reminded me of that change in my life and I am very happy for the new adventures ahead for you. Thanks for all you do for us out here in the vapors of the internet.

  3. Peter Visima July 22, 2011 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    What an honest, open and inspirational blog posting Nicole. You dad is 100% correct. Oh, and I love your photo of the lavender.

  4. Doug Kaye July 22, 2011 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    “Luck is the residue of design.” Great post, Nicole.

  5. Wayne July 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    The photo is awesome, awesome, awesome. I have a lavender farm near me, I think I need to pay them a visit, thanks for the inspiration (in both pictures and words).

    My experience with nasty people keeps bringing me to the same conclusion – for some reason, they feel threatened and compensate by lashing out. Success is not measured by what other people think, it’s about what you have accomplished.

  6. KEVIN FOSTER July 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Love the photo and the message!

    Preparation + Opportunity = Luck!

    Thank you for the inspiring post!

  7. Dan Overes July 22, 2011 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    I knew you were a great photographer, but I never realized what a wonderful writer you are too. Well done!

  8. Bill Raab July 22, 2011 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Great article. The greatest point IMO is to be yourself. It’s our greatest asset!

  9. Qualitydaydream July 22, 2011 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    Yes great photo!

    I think you have accomplished a lot in such a short period with back to back books and soon a move. 2011 is already your year and there’s still time for more!

  10. Bob July 22, 2011 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    Hi Nicole, I enjoyed your post and thought back to similar times in my life. You are wise beyond your years young lady. As for your move to Seattle, That is Utah’s loss and Washington’s gain. Let me be the first to welcome you to the state of Washington and wish you all the success you deserve.
    Although I live in the central part of the state you would still be called a neighbor. So Welcome Nicole! I was born and raised in Washington and have numerous contacts, so if I can be of help, don’t hesitate to ask.
    Now you know someone, so relax and enjoy your success in Seattle and the Northwest.

  11. Brycia July 22, 2011 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    Great post, Nicole! I admire both your photography and your insight. When I grow up I want to be just like you… trouble is, I’m WAY older already! LOL! Thanks for sharing more of your story.

  12. Danielle Kalinovskis July 22, 2011 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    Wow, what an incredibly inspiring and wise post Nicole, thank you, and wishing you all the best in your move to Seattle!

  13. Chris Gillbard July 22, 2011 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    There are times in life when you feel batter. People all around you pulling you this way and that. The media telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. It’s people who say “oh that’s so last year” well maybe to them it is, but to me it’s not. To me it’s now.
    Stand up and be proud of who you are. As the saying goes “you go girl”.

  14. Jovana July 25, 2011 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    I visit your blog often and I love every post from you. This is one is no exception. Thank you for sharing, I am learning a lot from you. I am from Seattle so it will be good to have you. :) Good luck with the move and everything.

  15. Claudia July 26, 2011 at 7:21 am - Reply

    Nicole, I subscribe to your blog and find it inspirational, especially this post. I’ve spent a great deal of time in Seattle; it’s one of my favorite places on earth and a photographer’s dream. The whole Pacific northwest is. If you love your mountain, you will love Rainier … “when it’s out”. BTW, this is one of the most beautiful lavendar photographs I’ve ever seen … truly.

  16. Julie July 27, 2011 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Hi Nicole, I’ve been following your blog for sometime now and think you take absolutely beautiful photos. As an inspring food photographer and blogger, your site is incredibly helpful and inspirational. Thank you for posting this. It keeps me and I’m sure many others motivated to take a different path. :) Julie

  17. Dharshan July 27, 2011 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    Great post and welcome to Seattle!

  18. Cristina July 29, 2011 at 7:59 am - Reply

    Hi Nicole: Very inspirational and well written post. Dads always do seem to have that no nonsense, honest insight. :)

    It can be difficult to put one’s self out there, as our artistic expression can be such a personal one and sometimes…it’s just plain hard not to take negative feedback to heart. But you’re right, with any kind of artistic, personal expression that you share, you have to be ready to receive the good with the bad (easier said than done).

    I’ve been enjoying your blog for months now and appreciate both the content you’ve been sharing and your images. Looking fwd to your food photography book!

  19. Jay Lawrence Goldman August 3, 2011 at 11:36 am - Reply

    Wonderfully written. If you don’t “make it” in photography you could easily make $ as a writer :)

  20. Charlie Johnston August 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    Thought you might like to know about my book NO SUCH THING AS LUCK. Just go to (nosuchthingasluck.com) Thank you Charlie

  21. Krystyna December 1, 2011 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    Hi Nicole, I found your blog today, I think it is very beautiful and interesting. (I’m a hobby photographer).
    From what you wrote in this post, it seems to me that you got successful because you were/are generously sharing your knowledge (instead of keeping it to yourself, fearing competition from others.) I love this, it’s a wonderful success story!! Wish you all the Best!!! Krys

Leave a Reply