What Makes A Top Photographer?

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On my path to becoming a top photographer, identifying an assumption about my own skills and abilities was pretty easy:

“I want to live the life of a professional photographer, but I’m not sure I am technically skilled enough yet to do that yet.”

I spent the week doing some research, defining words like “professional” and “technically skilled.”

I also asked friends, colleagues and strangers for their feedback on my assumptions and on my photographs, too.  (Ever do that? It’s gut wrenching at first, but you’ll get over it).

After a few days, it was pretty eye-opening to realize that my assumptions were all self-imposed and self-defined.  Like I was trying to live up to some sort of accepted universal definition of those words.

And here’s the rub – no matter how good I think I am, or how good others say I am, I always define this gap between where I am and where I think I need to be.

I used to call that gap my “growth opportunities.”

But now with photography, I seem to define that gap as “I’m less than.”  That in some way that gap has to be justified, defended or explained as to why it exists.  When the hell did that happen?

What makes a “Top Photographer?”

In a post I wrote a while ago, I singled out 8 top photographers who have really made a name for themselves in the photography world.

I went beyond their images and started looking in to what these top photographers actually do — and what I found was pretty consistent

  • As artists, they are passionate creators of beautiful images
  • They share their knowledge, stories and experiences with the world
  • They create opportunities for other photographers to learn and practice their passions

And for a moment, I let myself think that I was a top photographer – because I think I am on the path to doing those things right now

  • I create beautiful images as an artist — it’s my passion
  • I share knowledge stories and experiences with the world by being a part of 8 Women Dream
  • I have created opportunities for others to learn and practice their passions by starting The Sonoma County Photography Group — a group that has grown to 315+ members in 17 months, and has the reputation for being a fun and ‘safe’ place to learn

So my own assumption of “I d like live my life as a top photographer but I don’t think I’m technically skilled enough yet to do that” is totally bunk.

And now my intentions are clear. I can live any passionate life I want.  I can learn anything I need to and get technically better.

The question now is: How “top” do I want to be?

Until next photo,


Remy’s dream is creating opportunities for photography showings and public displays of her work.

  • Heather Montgomery, CEO & serial entrepreneur

    Go girl… its just a tool, that camera of ours, and if we can learn to walk, balance a checkbook, change a diaper and drive a car, we have the skills to learn ANY tool.

    Thanks for the great post! – H

  • Pingback: 8 Hints for Being a Top 2nd Shooter « 8 Women Dream()

  • Toni Schram

    It’s a blessing that the ones who are best in their field are the ones who are willing to pass their passion onto others.

    As usual, great post Remy!

    • Remy

      thx Toni! we still need to shoot together…

  • Rayne

    I like the idea of viewing the gap between where you think you should be and where you are as a growth opportunity. I’m stealing that. And thanks again for recently taking a really great headshot of me. I’m using it like crazy and everyone compliments me on it.

    • Remy

      Rayne, steal away! I am really studying something now called “strengths based management” and redefining what that gap represents – so I’ll let ya know what I come up with. And you are welcome for the head shot. Easy to get a beautiful shot with a beautiful person – so sorry to say, it has little to do with me. xox Rem

  • Mary

    Love taking pix. Love everything about it. I love to talk about it. I love to dream about it. I see wonderful, inspiring shots online and wish I was the one who took the photo. Yeah, that’s my ultimate dream. These photographers are incredible.

    • Remy

      Hi Mary – thanks for your comments – and I totally agree. I stare at some of those images and dream lots. I’m trying to practice as much as I can – so I can produce those “inspiring shots” that you talk about…Keep Dreaming! It will happen! Rem

  • SoCooLBob

    I’ve got some really good news for you.
    If you continue to set positive goals … visualize what you, the world is like
    while you’re achieving them … do positive things, one at a time to get there,
    and the there will be beyond your wildest expectations

    I started “positive thinking” when I was 26
    In the course of pursuing positive goals, I became a public speaker.
    I set a goal to be involved with the world in setting and achieving positive goals.
    I created and “starred” in a Television Show … when you couldn’t get a basketball game on television.
    I became a writer.
    I became a web publisher.
    When I set the goal there was no internet.
    I became a very popular website publisher .. single handed without capital.
    I began to take and publish digital pictures.
    I began to do video.
    I began to create videos and television shows.
    I began to encode some of those previous videos.
    I began to broadcast them.

    I now am ‘actually” an internet television producer with 100 or so television shows,
    each in there own way designed to encourage self and others to think positively
    and do one more good thing … again and again.

    And, I make 80 plus percent of my free throws.


    And, I’ve survived chemotherapy 6 times … 42 infusions … and am currently
    cancer free.

    • Remy

      Wow, incredible stuff. i didn’t see the video of you making your free throws tho! lol.
      The power of positive thought – the idea of yes. Doing what you love to do. All things I try to harness and use every day. thank you for your insights, links and support. Come back again, Bob. xox Rem

  • Bruce

    Neat post! I like your expression of your dream. The haul is long, but the trip is guaranteed worthwhile.

    • Remy

      thanks Bruce – and you are right….journey and destination – both important…what are your dreams these days? xo Rem

  • Catherine Hughes, Editor & Chief

    One thing I did pay attention to are my thoughts and feelings when I am exhausted. They aren’t real and I just need to ignore them.

    And I keep going back to my sources of inspiration when I am this tired –

    In the Bootstrapper’s Bible, Seth Godin talks about the difference between a freelancer and an entrepreneur. A freelancer sells their talents. They are doing a job without a boss, but not running a business. There’s no exit strategy or pot of gold, but they make their own hours and can be their own boss. Examples include writers, consultants, freelance web designers, freelance graphic designers, film editors, small landscapers, architects, and musicians. Seth Godin writes that on the other hand an entrepreneur is trying to build something bigger than themselves. They take calculated risk and focus on growth. An entrepreneur is willing to receive little pay, work long hours, and take on great risk in exchange for the freedom to make something big, something that has real market value.

    “Listen instead to your real customers, to your vision and make something for the long haul. Because that’s how long it’s going to take, guys.”


    ;-) Cath

    • Remy

      The long haul…is long! Thanks for your insights and feelings. Very important! xo Rem