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Insights & Thoughts

Your Work Sucks and That is Okay; Nobody Tells This to Beginners

By Justin Heyes on January 4th 2015

It has been said that novices overestimate their skill and their work, while professionals are constantly underestimating themselves; they think that they are no good, washed up or a hack and that their work is garbage. It happens to all of us. We get stuck and there is a gap between where we are and where we want to be.  About this, Ira Glass said “A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.


[REWIND:Zack Arias “Transform” – Required Viewing in the Off-Season – CameraTalk w/ Matthew Saville]

For the first couple years, you make stuff, it’s just not that good,” Glass continues, “It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

Making it in any business requires tons of hard work and the photographic world is no exception. Nothing great ever came by whilst sitting on the couch eating potato chips. Going out before the sun comes out or bracing the bitter cold is something that most hobbyists and amateurs will not do, yet some of the most incredible images come from that kind of discipline. Pushing your limits will help separate you from the herd.


If you think your work is crap, don’t quit; keep shooting. Leaving half finished projects laying about can actually slow down a creative process. Put yourself on a deadline and finish at least one project a week. By the year’s end, you should have 52 finished projects and that is something to be proud of.


Not only do you have to be good, you have to be extraordinary. Find a niche that interests you and stick with it. Don’t get lost in the ocean of photographers who are do wedding, architectural, still life, landscape, and portrait photography. A jack-of-all trades is a master of none. Follow what is unique to you; be one of kind and your photography will follow.

Nobody Tells This To Beginners

In the video, 18-year-old Saar Oz of Creavite takes the inspirational words of Ira Glass and beautifully animates them. Let the words guide you into this new year. Let this be the best year for you and your craft. Never give up what you love.

[Via Creavite Youtube / Images Screen Captures]

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Justin Heyes wants to live in a world where we have near misses and absolute hits; great love and small disasters. Starting his career as a gaffer, he has done work for QVC and The Rachel Ray Show, but quickly fell in love with photography. When he’s not building arcade machines, you can find him at local flea markets or attending car shows.

Explore his photographic endeavors here.

Website: Justin Heyes
Instagram: @jheyesphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Rafael Steffen

    Thanks for sharing some thoughts on how to improve each others photography.

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  2. Graham Curran

    My wife says I create good photos but I can usually see things that need to be improved – and would have done if I’d been allowed more time to get the right location or wait for the right light.

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  3. Jason Boa

    LMAO – I love the article title

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  4. Bonny Wright

    Every now and then I shoot something that I almost like, but most of the time I am most happy with the delete button. I knew progress would be incremental – I forgot that it would also be glacial.

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  5. Scott Pacaldo

    What a timely article! Thank you for this :)

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  6. robert garfinkle

    One more thought on this.

    Is the difference between a great photographer and a picture taker (with expensive equipment) similar to the differences between a chef and a cook. A person could play a musical instrument very well, practice, practice, practice, hold concerts yet not know how to compose or orchestrate for that matter…

    Let’s look at me for example. Photography for me is of deep interest, I do have a passion for it, yet very unskilled at the moment. I am obviously not experienced enough to do what you guys do, yet feel that someday, the eye of passion will come together compositionally… and harvest a nice crop of expressions.

    But when does one really know they are getting good at it, not fooling themselves, honestly knowing that family member’s, friend’s, co-worker’s complements are great – though well intentioned there is not much weight behind the compliments because they don’t know the difference.

    Is it just practice, practice, practice? I think it’s more than that, right?

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  7. chris adval

    I actually want to only do photography for what I’m passionate about (Fashion), just what is holding me back is my full time job taking the time of that growth, and lack of income and capital from being a full time photographer so staying a part time photographer and staying with a full time day job is my only option until I can make the jump. Plus I can’t stick with 1 type, especially fashion where I am its not NYC so being “jack-of-all-trades” is the only option to make any revenue actually in photography.

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  8. Ben Perrin

    Admin, can you please ban this person and block their ip. I’m sick of seeing these ads on your site.

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  9. Austin Swenson

    I think that in order to get critiques from people, I have to feel like they are a credible source for knowledge too. There are plenty of people out there that will tell you that you suck, but if you ask people who know more how to get better, that helps loads more than asking the average joe.

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  10. Peter Nord

    I thought several times about commenting on this, but wasn’t sure what to say. I’ve finally decided that a lot of this is age related. I teach old geezer photography at a university, have to be over 50. Some are over 80, I’m 75. My students and I don’t have these worries. We’ve learned from a variety of life experiences how to go about improving various skills in all sorts of fields. Of course along with all that age induced wisdom, our photographs may still suck. But they are of our grandchildren who we dearly love. Or of the places we may travel to. Seems some of my students have been everywhere. They’ve been to the great museums, watched the iconic images in real time that young photographers must study. They learn fast with minimal instruction to improve their images. They know that the strongest photos are the ones holding their important memories, whether anyone else understands them is not at all important. And they like to shoot cause they can.

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  11. Daniel Thullen

    I was one of those who was told by a photographer I respected that my early efforts we good: That perhaps I had the “eye.” What I didn’t learn from this mentor that for the next several years as my taste improved I would become highly critical of my own skills. This articles is a wonderful reminder that at times we can be our own harshest critics, but we need to keep on shooting! Justin, thank you for a timely reminder!

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  12. J D

    I am lucky. I have a partner who honest with me when something sucks, she lets me know it sucks. I see so many people who have friends and family tell them their work is the best they have ever seen and that they should have their work in art galleries, etc. That does nothing to help anyone get better. This leads to plateauing and not pushing yourself. Many times I am asked why I waste my time reading books or watching videos on the subject. I tell them I want to get better. I had one local photographer tell me that flash was a crutch and that she was a real photographer who didn’t need it to make her photos beautiful. This is the same type who will offer a 20 minute shoot with 100 guaranteed images for $40.

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  13. robert garfinkle

    I have only been on this forum for a few weeks, and not that I have been to every photography website, but this is the first one I’ve seen that “actually” does something constructive that can actually assist in growth. the critique section is a great, great example. This is not just people gathering to converse or a site to sell their or other’s products etc, it is educational as well… Kudos, right?

    So, though I may think I “suck” yet even this article says stick with it, and not one comment so far has been arrogant… lots of humility here and a willingness to help…

    the closest, but still far, far away IMO, is nat geo’s site which does in fact have assignments, contests – the nat geo staff do comment on what they think (or why) the photo is great and do offer tips, and not knocking nat geo at all, none whatsoever, but there is an added extra in the slr lounge, peppered with intimacy, kinda like your buds are hangin’ with ya and offering friendly advice – that is cooler that (BEEP!)..

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  14. David Hall

    We are all our worst critics. I know I’ve felt like it’s just never going to come together. I just need more time practicing. I’m still mostly shooting for free just for that reason. I’ve recently connected with a small modeling agency here in my small town and I’m shooting in trade. I’ll give them full res images in trade for their time modeling. This will help them build their portfolio and also help me with learning to work with models. The talent level is mixed. Some girls know exactly what to do while others have no clue. It’s teaching me to direct them and learn how to pose them. So far, it’s been a blast.

    Still learning!! :-)

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  15. robert garfinkle

    I am my own worst critic, and then someone comes along… …and confirms that I actually do suck!!

    And, I’m proud to say, I suck at it well…

    The only positive I can draw / take away from that is, at least I’m not fooling myself…

    that was a pseudo-harsh self-deprecating moment folks…

    I have a passion for photography. My mind is there, my heart is definitely in it, yet waiting for my eyes (skills) to follow…

    If there are good shots in my suck-folio, I am more lucky than good at this point. Having said that, I did not come to a forum like this, to talk up my equipment / talk trash about other’s equipment, nor did I come to this forum to get atta-boy’s in some off-branded / ill-motivated attempt to get affirmation etc…

    I came to learn.

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  16. Ben Perrin

    So true. I sometimes wonder if I’m ever going to create anything that I’m truely happy with. But I agree with this article in that you have to work hard to get there. I was just watching Joel Grimes talk about how he takes offence when people call him talented. He says it’s taken him so much hard work to get to where he is today that talent has nothing to do with it. Sometimes it’s just about dragging yourself out of bed to go out and shoot.

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  17. Kevin Sutton

    I don’t have much time to photograph as often as I would like due to my primary job. However over the years I have seen my work get better in my eyes. I am extremely hard on myself and I have scrapped quite a bit of work and leave disappointed. Photography keeps drawing me back in so I keep at it and when I finally see a positive change in my work I keep wanting more so it drives me harder to get where I want to be. Put your old work next to your new work and see where you’ve come from. Keep at it, find what may be missing and learn it.

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    This was awesome! Thank you Justin.

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  19. Arnold Ziffel

    I can relate. Sometimes I don’t think I’ve ever taken a good picture…..

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