It's Time To Confess: Photography Nearly Broke Me

It's Time To Confess: Photography Nearly Broke Me

January had been a difficult month for me. I was shooting a lot less, and as a result, I had a ton of time to think about my career and my direction. I ended up in a fairly bad place with my mental health. Like almost every other artist, I ended up hating much of what I do. Here's why it sucks being a photographer, and what you can do about it.

To preface this article, I want to say that it is a piece going over my personal experiences. This may be different for you, but I hope to shed some light on the experiences I had to help you navigate the difficulties of being a photographer.

The Move

Perhaps this is the side effect of moving nobody speaks about. You see, having spent so much time in Budapest, I grew accustomed to that city. I knew everyone, and everyone knew me. It was super easy to shoot work. I lived in my studio, like a true artist. As much as it was miserable, it was also great.

In a nutshell, the Budapest market was very, very small, and I barely was able to get by from the shoots I did there. In order to supplement this, I traveled constantly and made sure that I networked and made as many new connections as possible to secure jobs and new work. If it had not been for the writing and for the travel, I would not have been able to sustain myself to a level I wanted in 2023.

In 2023, I rented a brand new studio. In fact, this was the first studio only I had access to. The location was downtown, and key city landmarks were a few minutes by walk. Living and shooting in a bougie neighborhood, I felt quite happy with myself. After all, I don’t know that many people my age who can say the same. The studio was a source for endless creativity. I didn’t have the exact lights I wanted, or the exact modifiers I needed, but I had enough to get most work done in there, which was all I cared about at that time. As for the space itself, it wasn’t big, but it was home. I never shot my very best work in it, but I did shoot some incredible images in the small 30 square-meter room that I had. The main thing was that I had every connection I wanted, and had more friends than I could count.

One day, I decided to leave this all behind, without too much thinking. I wanted to move from my small heaven in Budapest to a bigger market, a market where I could grow and prosper. A market where I would not feel the pressure of having to write or travel all the time to make sure I could pay rent when it’s due. A generous offer of a studio upon my arrival made the move a lot easier and less stressful. So I moved. It’s now been a few months since then, and it’s not as good as I thought it would be.

Lack of Inspiration

The first problem that I encountered when moving to a new place was just a lack of inspiration. Oddly enough, I considered myself a photographer who could shoot anything anywhere, but this is very far from the truth. I only feel inspired when there is time pressure. Take that away, and I become a lazy uninspired slob.

The lack of inspiration came as a direct result of a lack of creative people around me. Having moved, I realize that my level is somewhat intimidating for some of the people I work with, and they are less keen on pitching ideas, waiting for me to come up with another “genius” of mine. A few years back I would only dream of this, but now that it’s reality, I hate it. In order to combat this, I decided to have a set number of test shoots I do a week, and stick to that schedule. A test shoot can only be canceled by a paid job, which rarely happens.

On the bright side, I am booking a lot more jobs than I did before. So much so, I don’t need to worry about other streams of income. Now that I started having disposable income, I am also quite pleased that I can go and treat myself.

Constant Stress

The constant stress that comes with the move is unavoidable. I was able to reduce it quite a lot by having accommodation and studio sorted before moving to Germany. Fortunately enough, my work was interesting enough for a client to do that for me. This is not the norm, I am aware. But when someone is really interested in you, you’d be surprised at the benefits you can get. The stress came from not knowing that many people, and fear that I would have to rely on one person.

Frankly, being able to manage stress was only possible by pushing it away by working more. Perhaps it’s how my brain is wired, but the more I worked, the less time I have to think about stress, and the less stressed I am. As such, in Budapest, I was never stressed because I had rent to pay; in Munich, I have no stress because I am working a lot more. You may have noticed a boost in the number of articles I am writing; this is one way to deal with stress.

Marketing in an Unknown Market

When I was coming to Munich, I knew only one person. That was not nearly enough for me to feel secure in the market. There are also some specific things that you must know about the market in each city. The research has to start from 0, which is always the worst point. You see, in some other markets I already have the snowball rolling, and I don’t need to put as much effort into marketing my work as I need to do in Munich. It’s the struggle of my life, even though I am gaining popularity in the market. The way I overcome it is by sheer force: just shoot as much as possible, and eventually, it will be good.

Not Knowing Who Is Who

This is a difficult one. When I travel to other countries for a few days, I am not as bothered by who I work with as long as they are at my level or above. At the same time, I can’t say the same about a city where I am based. Knowing who is who, and which reputation each agency, photographer, and stylist has, is key. No matter the size of the market, everyone knows everyone. Fashion is not as big as you’d think. The importance of associating yourself with the right people from the get-go can do wonders for your reputation in the long run, which ultimately is the most important thing. The way I solve this problem is by trying to connect with people I feel good about. Then eventually, you can find out information and make the right choices.

Final Thoughts

You might say, moving is never easy. You'd be absolutely right. At the same time, my high expectations of the new market were clearly not met. Although I can produce a shoot in record time no matter the city, being completely in a foreign market was somewhat of a shock. I'll be honest, I felt like not leaving my apartment, selling all my gear, and quitting. Sure, that thought left me quite quickly, but still. It was on the table, even if for a brief moment.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.

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20 some-odd year old talking about how moving is hard.

Some good 20 years ago I moved from Norway to Riga Latvia. I was not doing photography, I was tuning a hosting company with severs in Oslo. I remember driving the main road into the city in an old run down Ford. Man was I nervous. I could not distinguish Latvian from Russian and I did not know anyone one. I had moved within Norway from Stavanger to Bergen and then Oslo. But this was quite a stretch. It worked out fine, I stayed for the most time of ten years.

I was 40 at that time. At 21 life is in front of you. Whatever you achieve in photography at this point, will follow you. The experiences, the lows and the highs. What you overcame. What you lost. Your life have a a part adventure to it. It’s not easy sailing for nobody. Even if you are stretched it is a lot better then staying home looking TikTok after you finished your shift a MacDonalds. You living the dream.

Just make sure to do something for your soul. Go jogging. Have som trip out of city, it’s really nice toward Italy:) Do something not photography to freshen up your mind. If you have the money, have a little trip somewhere nice.

And then go after your dream and work hard! I am positive you will develop and find a place where you will be your best!


Thanks for opening up and sharing your experiences with us. I especially appreciate that you delve into the difficulties and struggles that you have encountered and are working thru. Often, reading about those tough times is more interesting than reading about the things that just go great and come easily.

having to make a living and survive can impede your creative juices. pursue your dreams while you can. as you age, you won't be able to carry your gear or see or move the furniture or hang the lights. so don't just shoot. few make it. plan for the future. and make sure you can get affordable heath care.