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First of all, thanks to Scott and Brad for giving me this opportunity. It’s always an honor to be a guest blogger here. And last time I blogged here, some amazing things happened. More on that later.

I wanted to chat this time about a growing concern I’ve had lately. I’ve been noticing from a few people that follow my work over the last couple years that seem misunderstood in their perception of who I am as a photographer or more importantly, how hard I’ve worked to succeed in the first place and how hard I’m still working. They seem to think that I’ve arrived at some magical destination in photography land where I just sit back and watch the jobs roll in. But more alarmingly, they seem to think the same thing is going to happen for them too. I see it all the time and it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating because they have the talent but they don’t have the drive or motivation. They seem to think that their amazing talent is going to do all the work for them. And sadly, that’s just not the case. Maybe it used to be that way but it’s not that way anymore.

I recently heard an assistant (24 years old) mocking a 30-something year old wedding photographer. He said, “Man, how terrible. I’ll never be 33 years old and still shooting weddings.” Needless to say, this did not sit well with me.  (First of all, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a wedding photographer – it’s a great career path if that’s what you’re passionate about– but that’s another conversation altogether).  I respect this guy so much & want to see him succeed as a photographer, too.  So I couldn’t help but ask him, “Well, what are you doing to prevent that from happening? You never shoot anything. You never do tests or build your book. You sit around and complain and don’t do ANYTHING to proactively pursue your photo career.” Maybe you’re like this assistant. Maybe it’s time to take that next step… no matter what it takes. I know you’re busy. I know you’re probably broke. But enough excuses already. I see photographers rising above the surface and making things happen for themselves all the time. It is possible for you.

I wanted to share some stories about my career and steps I have taken to move things forward. Some of them are for my career and some of them are just ways I’ve chosen to give back to the community. But either way, I just love to make things happen. Perhaps some of these stories will give you ideas on how to move your career forward.

I started my photography career in April 2005. In May of 2005 some friends were going to Africa and invited me to join them. I was anxious to learn about what was happening so I took my camera and joined them. That ended up being a month-long journey through South Africa and parts of Kenya. After I got back I showed a friend who ran a publishing company called Relevant Magazine. We talked about how cool it would be to turn those images into a book. The next thing I know, my first book “Hope in the Dark” was being designed and printed within the first few months of being a photographer.

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Fast forward to later that summer…. After my agent found me later that summer (Yes, I got lucky on that one), she started taking me around LA to meet with all the TV networks. One of my first meetings was with E! Entertainment Networks. I was going in for a typical portfolio review but decided to take my new Africa book with me. It was an odd thing for an entertainment photographer to be lugging around a photojournalism book but I thought it would be different enough and might just give them something to remember me by. Sure enough, it worked. They loved my eye for reportage work and they had been looking for someone who could take good pictures without all the lights and huge setups. (Thankfully though, they liked my “lit” setups too.) Next thing I know, I was documenting shows for them and still work with them regularly to this day… all because I decided to be different and show my Africa work. (For the record, it was never my intention to use or exploit the people of Africa for my own gain. But sometimes pursuing projects you’re genuinely passionate about can have nice rewards whether you asked for them or not.)

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In 2006 I became a fan of a band called Frou Frou after hearing their song on a movie soundtrack. I heard that the lead singer, Imogen Heap, was on Flickr so I sent her a message telling her I wanted to work with her. The next time she was playing a show in Nashville I reached out again and we did our first shoot together. Thankfully she loved the results from that first shoot (first image below) and we’ve done 3 shoots since… one in Los Angeles and 2 at her home in London. The photos in her latest album packaging, Ellipse, came from these photo sessions…

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In 2007, I asked my client CMT if I could shoot portraits of the artists backstage at the CMT Awards. They liked the idea and OK! Magazine ended up running all the portraits. Two of the artists just happened to be very new names to country music… Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift.

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The shoot with Carrie led to more photo shoots later down the road and a solid relationship with her management who manage many other great artists.

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I took Taylor’s image, put a new background around her and sold the image to Getty images which immediately flew off the shelves to all the teen magazines.

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Early in my career, Sony hired me to shoot a live concert for a Trumpet player named Chris Botti. Botti had several guests that night including Sting. My art director told me that they didn’t need headshots of the guests and that they wouldn’t have time for pictures. I decided to secretly set up my lights backstage just in case a moment arrived. As I was hanging backstage, Sting was standing around looking bored so I asked him if I could borrow him for a few minutes for some photos. Thankfully he agreed. I’ve never been so starstruck. We talked for a bit while we took photos and I have no idea what we talked about, I was so nervous. But to this day, everywhere I go, people say “What was it like shooting Sting?” It’s one of the most important chances I’ve taken to move my career forward. One big name in your book can do wonders.

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In 2009, I was asked to tour with Britney Spears on her Circus Tour as her concert photographer. I had been documenting the shows night in and night out but was never really getting great access to Britney herself. So on the very last night of being on the road, I asked, pleaded and begged if I could document her behind the scenes for the entire show. Thankfully they agreed and the result was amazing. We had a blast working together and more importantly we got some great images. They immediately ran a huge spread in People Magazine featuring the photos from that night.

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Now, for the 2 most meaningful and impacting events of my career…

Later in 2009, Brad and Scott asked me to be a guest blogger here at ScottKelby.com. I asked if I could push an idea that had been brewing for a while. I followed Zack Arias’s lead and launched a video. In it, I explained the idea for Help-Portrait. The idea was to encourage photographers worldwide to spend one day over Christmas doing free portraits for people in need. With the additional help via blogging from Chase Jarvis, Zack Arias and Vincent Laforet, the idea was launched. If you can, take a few minutes and watch what happened below. The results of the photo community coming together to help others was simply mind-numbing. (This video collage is brand new by the way… appropriately debuting on this blog post!)

When the earthquake hit Haiti in January of this year, like everyone else, I was very overwhelmed with the devastation and wanted to help immediately- but I didn’t know how. I wanted to go down there right away but didn’t have a good reason too. I didn’t want to just add to the sea of photojournalists. Finally I realized what was missing. The media wasn’t portraying the human part of the story. They were just running shock and awe campaigns featuring dead bodies and crumbled buildings. I wanted to hear from the people. “What were they thinking” I wondered. So with the help of some incredible friends, I traveled down just shy of 2 weeks after the earthquake and did my own photo essay called Voices of Haiti. The idea was simple. Take some art supplies to Haiti and let people write their thoughts on found pieces of rubble. I compared it to visual tweets. We’re able to express ourselves at any given time. Why shouldn’t they be able to?? The result was overwhelming to hear such hope, creativity and intelligence among such devastation.

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“Love Conquers All.”

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“Having my leg chopped off is nothing. What troubles me is my country’s government.”

A few weeks after I’d been home and had shown the photos, I was asked to display my photos at a UN conference in New York.  Our nation’s government, the Haitian government and many world leaders were meeting to discuss the restoration of Haiti. The Haitian government had recently taken a poll among the people of Haiti on how they wanted their country rebuilt, and on that day at the UN, they were to discuss the results of the poll and how Haiti should be rebuilt.  As they walked into the main hallway of the UN Conference leading into the meeting, the Voices of Haiti images were on display along the way.  They ended up pledging 10 billion dollars that day to rebuild Haiti. The voices were heard. Photography made a difference.

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“I hope this never happens again. Too many people died.”

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“The fact that I’m still alive does not mean I’m better than the others. It’s just a gift from God.”

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“Where will I go when it rains?”

I haven’t told you these stories to brag or to pat my own back. I only use them to illustrate that this industry is tough. But if you’re motivated and wiling to do the work, amazing things can happen. I’ve achieved a lot in 5 years but I don’t make a habit of looking back. I prefer to look forward. I just moved my family to LA temporarily and I’m trying to have the mindset that I’ve started over. I’m back at square one and have to prove myself all over again. It keeps me grounded. It keeps me motivated. And it keeps me excited.

So… what’s YOUR next step?

For more of Jeremy’s work and projects, visit his website, Help-Portrait, and Voices of Haiti. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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90 Comments

  1. Jeremy,

    You and your work are truly inspiring. Please don’t stop doing what you do so well.

    Thank you,

    Neon

  2. Jeremy, What a story! I can’t wait to read the next chapter. Godspeed.

  3. Jeremy, thanks so much for taking the time to share (and thanks to Scott for having him back again). Great words of encouragement and challenge in not sitting back and expecting things to just come on their own. Your work is AMAZING, but what you’ve done with that work and talent is beyond words. The work you’ve done with Voices of Haiti has changed so many lives, those of the people of Haiti and all of us that have been able to share in their message through the images. Thank you! And the fact that they were at the UN conference is awesome. Keep it up!

  4. Fantastic post, Jeremy — and a needed butt-kicking to work harder to make my own connections and my own successes. I love the approach to Haiti, and your persistence in pushing yourself. Very inspiring.

  5. Jeremy, thanks for sharing your story. It’s so amazing to do what you love, and to not stop but only look forward. I learned a lot from you. Thank you!

  6. Truly amazing. What a real truth and lesson about life, how-it’s-not-easy to reach to the top. Real effort is needed. We all need a push, rather a harsh push to understand that we have to learn, not to sit idle and wait for things to happen.

    Very very inspiring read. I saw your website yesterday, fantastic work there. Following you on Fb.

    Thanks to Scott and Brad for this guest post.

  7. Inspiring! Thank you for writing this post.
    Best guest blog for quite a while in my opinion.

  8. Very inspirational story! We all have a story, but we have to make it happen! Thanks for sharing

  9. Jeremy –

    Once again we are fortunate here on Scott’s blog to get a glimpse into another truly compassionate artist’s world and why they just happen to be successful. No surprises here…its clear that you work from the heart and with technical excellence, your images speak volumes and the projects you choose or create morph into much grander productions because of this.

    Some might say you have had good luck. I would argue that your circumstances are what one makes of opportunities we are presented with or create. Continue to be true to yourself and your ideals, then you will continue to succeed beyond what ever expectations you have even now.

    We will follow you from afar and continue to cheer you on, great start so far….just keep pushing those boundaries, anything is possible to those who know no limits.

  10. With exception of Zach’s video, this is the BEST guest blog piece I have seen.

    Well done!!

    Scotty
    Jakarta, Indonesia

  11. True dat! I think we all know it, I know I do, the constant call of “what greatness have you achieved lately?”
    Having started my business a little over a year ago I find the challenge of getting “traction” an on going battle and I spend a great deal of time on business issues and not enough on new, breakthrough work. Gotta get refocused!
    My friend and web designer, Bryan Ledbetter speaks very highly of you and I see now what he admires!
    Keep it up!

  12. Awesome post and truly inspiring.

  13. Love your blend of passion and willingness to work hard – and your images are amazing!

  14. Jeremy,

    The video for help-portrait is simply awe inspiring. I’ve followed your work for a while now and what you say in the rest of the post is so true – we all do need a kick in the behind now and again to remind us to work harder if we want to achieve anything.

    Keep up the good work :-)

  15. My favorite guest blog by far. Great life you helped make for yourself, Jeremy.
    Keep up the interesting and rewarding life( funny how the two of those go hand in hand).

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  16. Jeremy,
    In the midst of following your work for the past year or so, one thing I deeply admire and strive to achieve daily is a commitment to family. From various writings and posts of yours, your love of family shines through. For me, this makes your story and work so much more remarkable. Those who support us in wild endeavors so often don’t receive credit for their sacrifices. Thanks for the vision.
    Brian

  17. Note: Adobe now has a plug-in package for cs5 with (among other things) a picture package. This can be downloaded at Adobe’s web site.

  18. Wow – great story Jeremy. If ever anyone needed to read a story that proves one person can help make a difference, here’s an example.
    And as for my next step, I gotta look into that Help-Portrait community. Your great video just proves that doing such an simple, easy thing can bring so much happiness to people.

    Thanks!

  19. Thank you for taking the time to share!

  20. Phenomenal post, Jeremy.. a priviledge to know ya.. and a great inspiration for everyone.

    RC

  21. Always good to read the story of someone who made something from nothing.
    Its not easy getting started in this business, even harder to sustain the momentum, but you seem to be be off to a good start.
    Good ideas and hard work conquer all, that needs to be said more often.

  22. Truly inspiring. Thanks for sharing and putting a bug in my head to do something.

    Thx, Glenn N

  23. Dude, you’re inspiring. Help Portrait was amazing, what you do to give back is amazing.

  24. Way to make me cry Jeremy, that video is awesome.

    Scott, thanks for another platform to share these wonderful, encouraging stories.

    Time to move forward and do some work.

  25. Awe-inspiring post, Jeremy. With the help of some photog friends, I organised the Help Portrait session here in Bonn, Germany and although pretty small scale, we were shooting from 9am til 10:30pm. The effect it had on some of our guests was really humbling.

    You made that happen and I thanks you for your vision and for helping me to be a part of it. I hope there will be more to come, but that very special first time, as is often the case, will remain with me always.

    I wish you a lot of luck in your new start and look forward to following it with interest.

  26. I loved reading this! Thank you for sharing your journey. You are so right about always having/getting to prove yourself over and over again. That is a huge life lesson.

  27. Jeremy…I remember when you tweeted about possibly going to Haiti. I responded by wondering aloud whether Haiti really needed another photographer then when they were having a hard time getting doctors and other relief workers on the ground.

    You had a great response. You said “No they don’t actually. But the people I’m going with really need me despite me and you thinking otherwise.”

    After seeing the images that you came back with, I have to agree that it was really important for you to have gone there. You came back with powerful images and powerful messages that brought a real face to what had occurred there.

    I took part in Help:Portrait last December and I am looking forward to what may be ahead.

    Thanks for everything that you are doing.

    Les

  28. Jeremy, that was an awesome guest blog post! I was really touched by that Help Portrait video. I had heard some about the movement last year and it sparked some ideas, but I didn’t make time to contribute. But, I plan to. The wheels are turning. It’s a great thing you and everyone running with it has done!

    I, too, have a desire to shoot in the entertainment industry…especially being close to Nashville and Atlanta…and have shot with a few talented people so far. I hope to push it to a higher level. Thanks for the inspiration and sharing your talent!!

  29. Jeremy,
    Incredible post! I wanted to thank you for coming up with the idea for Help Portrait. I was involved in Minneapolis last year and it truly changed the way I look at my photography. I am anxious to do it again this year…
    Keep up the great work,
    JB

  30. Jeremy- Phenomenal story. Just like in any industry, it is tough to break through but as you have already pointed out, the real question is; how bad do you want it? Your story couldn’t have come at a better time; as I have finally given myself the opportunity to give photography a real shot. So, a lot of work is ahead for me but you just made it that much real. Thank you!
    //Andy

  31. Jeremy,

    Thank you for sharing this. Thank you for helping the people of Haiti.

    Daniel

  32. I’ve been a long time fan of Jeremy Cowarts and it is just amazing to hear him speak/write! This is to this day been my favorite(with Zacks video running a close 2nd of course). It’s just amazing that this one man has achieved so much and still found time to do something around the world so incredible like HelpPortraits! Awe-Inspiring! This Christmas I hope my local guild and I can find a way to do the same for people in Houston!

  33. Wow. Two days straight of inspiration from Jeremy Cowart! First off, Jeremy’s presentation at ESCALATE LIVE blew my mind. I’m actually very happy that Jeremy didn’t offer a typical lecture on lighting techniques, composition, etc. but rather background information on how he got to this point in his career. His presentation at ESCALATE LIVE was very similar to this post, so we got a two’fer. As always, I appreciate Jeremy’s words and use these posts and speeches for motivation to work my ass off to succeed. Thanks Scott & Brad for bringing Jeremy back to the blog!

    Rick Wenner.

  34. It’s ok to pat yourself on the back. You’ve worked very hard and I can’t think of a better way to tell a story of motivation and inspiration.

  35. Scott great guest post, I like the way it started, I love weddings and would love for you tio bring in a quest who can give us starting out a layout or plan of how to grow your bussiness from the ground up How did they reach clients make contacts grow thier skills and so on. I think a lot of your readers would really like this. Thanks

  36. Wow, Jeremy. Phenomenal post, phenomenal work ethic, phenomenal talent. I agree with everything already written but I want to add one more thing. You have clearly been blessed with an incredible gift and it is so wonderful to see you using it to give back. Thank you for your multi-faceted message to all of us. And thanks, Scott and Brad.

  37. Jeremy,

    An extremely evocative post on numerous levels. Outstandingly inspiring……Kudos to you. Keep on trucking, and thank you for sharing.

    Wow……….

  38. Very inspiring story!

    I truly loved help-portrait. Thanks for putting that together in Nashville!

  39. Thanks Jeremy, I really like your work.

  40. Jeremy,
    Glad to see there is someone else out there who, while living the dream, realizes it’s a gift AND a result of HARD WORK! It’s not all fun and games and big jobs. There’s a heck of a lot of hard work, behind the scenes marketing yourself, continued practice and personal work, etc. etc. etc.
    Props to you my man!
    Cheers,
    Rick

  41. Let’s never forget you always got where you are because you are insanely talented Jeremy.

  42. Jeremy,

    simply inspiring… there are other people trying to follow your steps. You are an example for those!

  43. Your talent and your pursuits in your passion are incredible! Utterly inspiring! Awesome!

  44. Wow, what a great read man, thanks for sharing and re-enforcing the fact that talent is not enough to succeed. You need motivation and dedication!

  45. Amazing pictures! Inspiring…
    Thank u very much for your story.
    Could you tell how are you learning post-production? It’s terrific!

  46. Great story, very well written. Thanks for sharing.

  47. Wow. This was an extremely inspiring article- feel like I was in the right place at the right time to view it. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    Warm Regards,
    Courtney

  48. Great post!! You’re truly inspiring!
    Just one question: Why move to LA?
    Just curious because I’m trying to get my photog career going and have had many conversations with my self about the location of a photographer. I also have a family to think about.

  49. Loved this post and loved hearing your passion and heart at Escalate…thanks Jeremy

  50. Man it is so good to see the progression of your photography career.
    It is really sound of you to lay it all out like this, it serves as a great testimony to hard work, perseverance and getting in front of the right people… and resulting in you ending up running things you are truly passionate about. Fair play to you and on another note, I appreciate you being so honest and approachable on social media platforms, it has led me to follow some great people and make good contact with photographer Allister Ann who is coming over to do a shoot here in summer with me. Nice one!

  51. Awesome! Jeremy’s mission through photography is indeed inspiring. I’ve loved to be privy to some of his initial brainstorms. Many times I’ve thought, “This sounds cool, but is this practical?” More often than not, the idea has proven to be life-changing for the people involved. Silly me for doubting.

    Side note…in case you all didn’t know, he was an AMAZING graphic designer before his photo career. Some people are just blessed with extra doses of talent and creativity. He just “picked up” photography on the side. You know…whatever :)

    Congrats on a great post Jeremy, Scott and Brad!

  52. Truly inspirational, thank you for a wonderful story, Jeremy.

  53. Jeremy, great post…very inspirational!
    Congratulations and continued success….

  54. Great piece on Haiti Jeremy…it brought tears to my eyes

  55. This was a slap in the face wake up call. Truly talented work and the story to match. Well done Jeremy.

  56. Jeremy you got my attention man! Truly inspiring. I needed a good kick in the butt.
    Thank you!

  57. Jeremy: having just come back from a medical mission to Haiti just about 3 weeks ago, I was touched by your photos. The situation there is still awful…and I wish I’d seen your pictures before I went there and that I’d taken my good camera (we were warned not to take anything we didn’t want to “lose”). It would be interesting to document the thinking of the people now, a bit over 4 months after the quake to see if, and how, their sentiments have changed over time.
    Thanks for the great work and the impact your photos have made!!!!

  58. Wow what a moving story Jeremy and I love your images.
    Thanks for sharing it with us.
    Cheers
    Mike

  59. VERY inspiring,
    Its hard to tell when your ready to put yourself out there as a photographer.
    Ive shot a hand full of weddings, but have never felt confident enough with my photographic ability to really make something of it.
    Jeremy, when did you know that you were ready, you say your career started April ’05
    but what was the kindling that made you take the actions to bring your career to light?

  60. This story is truly powerful. I am not a photographer by trade, but I do appreciate great photography. Some people are just gifted. You sit, are one ofthose people. What separates you from others is that you don’t rely on just talent alone, but also hard work and dedication. That is what the American Dream is built on. Keep up the food work. Thank you for sharing your beautiful images with the world.

  61. Wow! That was great to read. Your work and your charity are both inspiring. I literally got goosebumps when I saw your photos from Haiti. Thanks for giving me a break from work to read something so worthwhile!

  62. Jeremy,

    Between you and Zack Arias, you always know what I need to hear and when I need to hear it!

  63. Guys! Wow, thank you for the encouragement. I was nervous about this post for some reason… didn’t want it to come across the wrong way! I just know that sometimes we all need a little boost of encouragement. This industry is tough. It’s not gonna happen without some tough work!

    Patrick, to answer your question… I began shooting some in 2003… musicians here and there. By 2004, I just KNEW that photography was what I was supposed to be doing instead. I almost felt like an idiot for not doing it sooner. It was that obvious. So by Spring of 2005, it was just time. And thankfully I had a wife to support the switch. She really believed in me which was huge. Does that answer your question?

    Thanks again everyone…
    jeremy

  64. Jeremy, you are an amazing talent and better yet, a compassionate, selfless human being.

    Wow, so great to read this.

    Your help-portrait project has inspired and moved so many that some friends and myself wanted to continue with your idea.

    We are a very small group in New York City and we find folks in need and offer them a free portrait session with our volunteers. We are thankful to you for inspiring us to continue with your giving-back-through-photography concept.

    It’s just a start, but here’s our web page: http://www.smilesarefree.org

    We wish to participate in your next help-portrait event to!

    You are the best.
    Ivan

  65. Thanks Jeremy, you have been very helpful.
    I think its time for me to start setting myself some serious goals!
    Keep up the good work and keep us all up to date with your up coming ventures.

  66. Thank you so much Jeremy, this came at such a great time for me. I have decided make the things that I have been thinking about for 25 years happen this year. I started back in January testing, planning, building a website, and working with a consultant. Now the web site is done (until I shoot some better stuff) and I am on the eve of launching a marketing campaign. This has been a big commitment of time and money on my part. But the most incredible thing about it is the satisfaction of doing it and even if I never get one job from it and 10 years from now I am still shooting for someone else. I will know that I gave it a damn good shot. Also if any of you are wondering if it is to late to start, think about this. I have been shooting for 25 years and will be 49 next month. No more excuses.

  67. wow jeremy. at a point in my life where i’m trying to transition myself from the position of excuses and looking at how other people and photographers could be doing something differently, and focusing on myself and turning my laziness and inaction into motivation and success. i have been just like that assistant in your story the past five years of my “career”, but on the path of finding my passion and drive in this mess, little gems like this post are something that keep me striving to believe and grow towards success in he broadest sense of the word.
    i hope to learn to touch people with my pictures. it makes me happy.

  68. Jeremy — what an incredible story about photography as a tool to better our world. No matter our station, dignity and self esteem are so important in helping people have hope. Thanks for the inspiration!

  69. I had the privilege of listening to Jeremy for a few hours yesterday on the EscalateLive Ustream feed. The photos looked like crap on the little video, so it was great to see them sharp and vibrant here. I’ll admit, I’ve seen most of them before, and have followed Jeremy’s career for about 4 years. I first found him on Virb, and I was blown away by the amount of photos the dude was uploading. I had no idea who the people were in his photos, but that didn’t matter. He was working and experimenting and putting himself out there. To be honest, his presentation skills and his slide show operation need to be polished up, and I’m positive he’ll be polished speaker in no time. That will be after he does it a few more times -which goes back to the original point that you need to practice something to be really good at it. That’s the bottom line. If you want to be a working photographer, then you have to work at it by shooting. There are no excuses nowadays not to test shoot. Jeremy works hard, takes risks, and puts himself in the right places at the right times. His presentation was so great yesterday because he was just a dude talking to you about his passion, and that’s also what makes him successful. He’s got no ego – people enjoy working with him, So don’t be a a douche bag. It doesn’t matter how talented you are if no one wants to work with you. Blogs and forums are great, but if you spend more time reading blogs and commenting on forums than you are taking photos, then you ain’t gonna make it, sorry. Thanks again Jeremy.

  70. “Follow your passion, and the money will come!”

  71. Great Post! Man, I fell really insignificant when I read posts like this! Was Garden State the movie by chance?

  72. I appreciate the work you’ve done immensley, and prior to my leaving the industry, you were in fact one of my greatest inspirations. The trouble I have starts not with your amazing talent, and not even events like the trip to Africa – though it doesn’t really square with speaking to someone who’s broke – but the trouble begins with, “…I showed my friend who ran a publishing company…”

    Realistically, that’s where the differences start. The spectacular advantages of knowing the right sort of people. You can work until your fingers bleed, and promote until you don’t even know who you are anymore. A few thousand people can see your work but it may never take, in spite of the quality, in spite of the talent, in spite of the drive, in spite of everything. Some photographers are just not going to make it – even the ones who don’t make excuses -because they just won’t. Maybe there’s something missing, or maybe they just have bad timing, but that’s just what happens.

    Ultimately, I don’t disagree with you, because I have watched your career and others’ – some even mutual friends of ours’. More than anything, we all just need to get a little more real.

    • OMG that came out disjointed. The iPhone does have a way of reducing your ability to be articulate. Point is this: good timing beats talent. Sorry.

      • Now that I’ve had breakfast and I’m on my way to work I’ve settled down a bit and I’m certain that you should just totally moderate this out of existence. Sorry for cluttering things up.

      • I don’t think you mis-spoke, Silas. You said what I was expecting EVERYBODY to say- “…I showed my friend who ran a publishing company…” “…she started taking me around LA to meet with all the TV networks…”

        There’s no denying that, as Chase Jarvis and so many others have said, “wanna succeed? Be UNDENIABLY GOOD.” And Jeremy is indeed that. It DOES take true talent to be recognized and remembered as a great artist. No connections, nor luck, (nor branding) can ever cause people to say that you your images were consistently stunning.

        …HOWEVER, especially in today’s digital age where MILLIONS of people have just bought a DSLR, the unfortunate bottom line is that a connection, luck, (or a high-dollar branding makeover) do indeed pop up as the key element in almost EVERY “big” photographer’s career and business’ survival.

        Don’t believe me? Go down the line… Who is “famous” to you, and how did they get to where they are? 90% of the time, there was a catalyst present, such as luck or connection, that propelled them to their success.

        You could play the card “well we all have connections, we all have good luck, people like Jeremy simply worked HARDER (or smarter, as the cliche goes) at these connections, or creating opportunities that appeared to be “lucky” but were in fact hard work. …But I don’t buy that. I know so many people who have worked their fingers to the bone, do great work, but get nowhere. And I’m sure that Jeremy and anyone else would admit- There’s plenty of unknown photographers out there, working just as hard or harder, and/or taking just as good or better photos…

        I’m not saying this to belittle the success of other photographers and console my own self about a lack of success. I’m just pointing out that the industry of freelance photography is NUTS right now.

        Take care,
        =Matt=

  73. FANTASTIC! One of the best blogs to date. Thanks!

  74. Help Portrait was an amazing experience. Having the opportunity to give back in such a way felt good. The results were amazing for the recipient, but for me it also helped build relationships along the way. I am grateful to have been involved. In a sense, I was also a recipient. Thank you Jeremy.

  75. Jeremy is not only an inspiring and amazing artist but he is also an inspiring and amazing Father and Husband. He always see the good in people and is a very positive young man. He is always willing to help those who are in need; whatever the cost.

  76. The 24-year-old assistant at the start of this post made me think of the Benjamin Franklin quote: “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.” Jeremy, great job of showing what happens when you combine talent and hard work.

  77. Pictures of Africa are strong but I really like commercial side of it, pretty stuff Jeremy, good luck , t care.
    Dom

  78. Jeremy, thank you so much for your courage to put forth such an idea as Help Portrait. I was a big fan of your work before HP, and am a bigger fan now :) The HP event in Chicago was great. I will never forget a daughter that could not recognize her mother in the photo we had taken. Later I found out that was the mothers first time ever dressing up and wearing profesional makeup. Great memories made with amazing photographers and amazing people! Much love from Chicago.

  79. I had the pleasure of meeting Jeremy in January at his 1 day wkshp. Originally I was inspired by his work. After meeting him, his work became very secondary. His heart for the poor, broken and needy is what makes him stand out. He is a great example of a leader.

    Thank you Jeremy for your thoughtful post and continuing efforts to give back and help others.

    DB

  80. So inspiring!!! So would you recommend traveling the world before shooting celebrities and getting an agent and a publicist or the other way around? I’m so confused.

  81. Oh!!I forgot…thanks for helping me follow my dreams. I know the money will come. Oprah told me that.

  82. Thanks, Jeremy. Great advice and your story is amazing.

  83. This is the 3rd time I’ve read this post now, truly inspiring stuff thats made me sit up and review my attitudes towards work and my photography.

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