Persistence is the Secret to Success

It’s not gear or exotic destinations that makes us successful photographers. It’s the persistence to keep going out into the field, taking photographs and honing our skills.

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I had to Google this one to figure out what it’s called: The infinite monkey theorem. It’s the idea that if you give a monkey a typewriter and an infinite amount of time to pick away at that typewriter, in all that time, the monkey will eventually type any combination of words, including the complete works of Shakespeare. The theorem goes on to say that this monkey, typing away infinitely, will likely type all written works eventually — after all, he’s got all of the time to type, which means he’ll go on to type every possible sequence of letters and words.

So how does this one relate to photography? Well, I’m definitely not saying that photographers are no more than monkeys with typewriters, and it’s not that I type or take photographs blindly in the hope that I’ll create something brilliant entirely at random. But in all seriousness, there is a little bit of practical truth to the infinite monkey theorem.

In photography — and in any creative endeavor — persistence is the key. Of course, we don’t have infinite time to take every possible photograph that can be taken. But with enough persistence, I guarantee that each one of us will make something amazing.

There are a couple of key factors at play here that we need to stop and consider. First and most obvious, persistence — continually creating photographs — increases the chances that we will stumble upon a great creation of our own. More often than not, the best photographs are the ones designed with great thought and care, but there are a substantial number of photographs out there that just worked, on the spot, without any real planning. The number of those kinds of photographs is much too large to ignore. Keep on taking pictures, and you’ll certainly end up with a few of your own.

But the second factor, the factor that is probably more important, is this: It’s only through persistence that we polish our skills. The simple truth is, every time we take our cameras out, we’re learning. We may not always set out with the intent to learn. In fact, most of the time, I’d wager that most of us set out explicitly to take photographs, and it’s not until we want to learn a new technique or deliberately brush up on some skill that we do go out with the intent to learn. But learning happens nonetheless, even unconsciously. We grow more experienced. With every outing, we learn how to better manipulate the light that is available, or how to work with colors better. We develop a more discerning eye for compositions and how to pull them together. The list goes on, but the point is, persistence pushes us to grow. With more knowledge, a larger skillset, that can only increase the chances that we produce amazing photographs.

So, persistence. In the end, I think that’s all we really need to be successful photographers.