Become the Photographer You Want to Be: My Story - Part 2


In my last post, I was telling you about how I made some changes in my life to become the photographer I wanted to be. Taking more photos and showing them to the world is probably the best tip I can give you.

I took my camera to work every day and I posted photos on the blog I had back then called ‘SMALL WORLD’. It started out as a little project to keep busy. A plan to find out what I wanted to do with my photography. Posting a photo every day encouraged me to take more photos and I slowly got better at it. And then one day, I received an e-mail.

A shot from ‘SMALL WORLD’ published in BLUR Magazine.

A shot from ‘SMALL WORLD’ published in BLUR Magazine.

An editor from BLUR Magazine asked me if they could publish a photo from my ‘SMALL WORLD’ project. In print! Wow! So there I was, just taking photos for myself and suddenly, someone wanted to publish them. I couldn’t believe it. That one e-mail gave me the motivation and confidence to really go for it.

I always take photos for myself because I love it so much but an audience that likes your work is necessary to keep you going. It helps you to explore and push your limits. In my case, it helped me discover that I wanted to show people how I see the world.

Related read • Exploring Will Inspire You Not Only to Take Better Photos

Getting my photography out there

I started to take even more photos and came up with ideas for personal projects and photo essays. I started sending photos to magazines and entered photo contests with shots from my ‘SMALL WORLD’ project, which was growing.

First award

A few websites agreed to publish my project and later I received a phone call from the Samsung photo contest. They’d selected me to join a master class with Carl De Keyzer and Jimmy Kets, two of my favorite Belgian photographers!

One of the photos from ‘SMALL WORLD’ that got me selected for the Samsung Masterclass.

One of the photos from ‘SMALL WORLD’ that got me selected for the Samsung Masterclass.

The idea was to join the master class with other aspiring photographers and afterwards go out half a day to take photos on your own. Then, out of the photos everybody took that day, they’d pick a winner. I didn’t end up winning the main award but I won the People’s Choice Award. Again, my motivation and confidence got a boost.

My photo taken during the masterclass that won the People’s Choice Award.

My photo taken during the masterclass that won the People’s Choice Award.

Motivation and hard work

It took a lot of hard work but those little achievements kept me going and motivated. I’m convinced you need those motivation boosts along the way to become the photographer you want to be. It takes a lot of effort to improve your skills—especially when you have a day job. Take photos every day and send your best shots to competitions, websites and magazines.

LIFE LESSON 4: Work hard but refuel on small achievements along the way to keep you motivated for your main goal.

People need confirmation. Everybody likes to hear they’re doing a good job. It’s no secret and there’s no shame in it.

Traveling & photography

I also started to travel more and more. I loved photographing my surroundings but also the world and different cultures. The combination of exploring and photography seemed just right for me, so I started to focus on telling stories with my photography.

Then, I became obsessed with looking at the work of other photographers. I browsed the internet looking for photography websites and photographers and soaked everything I saw like a sponge. Finding out what exactly you like in other photographer’s work helps you to improve your skills. Learn from as many people as you can…

LIFE LESSON 5: Instead of being jealous, envious or discouraged, learn from and be inspired by people that have achieved more than you.

It’s fine to use the work of artists you admire as an inspiration for your own. I look at photographers who are miles ahead of me every day to learn and be inspired. Just don’t get discouraged or envious of what you see on social media. People only show the good things on social media and the internet. Don’t focus on what other photographers have achieved but look at their work. Appreciate it and learn from it.

First assignment

And finally, the e-mail that probably laid the foundation for The World Ahead Of Us². At the end of 2012, production company Geronimo was looking for a photographer to join them on an expedition to the Democratic Republic of Congo. They were inviting random photographers for an interview.

That was it. I wanted to go with them, no matter what. I went to the interview not knowing what to expect. I think I was the last candidate of the day and they told me they didn’t have much time. We talked a bit, I showed my work and went back home.

It felt like it went OK but it was so short… When I arrived home, I thought “let me send a follow up e-mail letting them know how much I want this” and that “I would gladly make the one hour commute again to talk some more if they had the time”—without sounding desperate, of course. Within the hour, I received an e-mail telling me not to worry about anything. They’d made a choice. Yup. They took me to the heart of Africa in 2013. I spent three weeks in a hospital in the middle of nowhere.

Related read • Blood, Sweat and Gangrene

Mosango Hospital, 2013.

Mosango Hospital, 2013.

Ever since, I wanted to explore more, photograph the world and tell stories with my photos. It took me years to find out what I wanted to do in life. And it all started with studying the wrong subject…

LIFE LESSON 6: Take your time to find out what you want to do in life. There’s no rush and it’s OK to change your mind.

In part three, I’ll tell you about how I ended up deciding to quit my day job and travel the world with my partner in life, Joanna. So, how’s your life going? Want to make a change?

By the way, I can help you to improve your work and get it out there. I’ve learned a lot in the past ten years and I share what I know on Patreon. Join me and TWAOU² on Patreon and we’ll talk about your work and where you want it to go…