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Artists And Artisans: Luck Has Very Little To Do With It

Artists and Artisans

“There is no luck except where there is discipline.” ~ Irish Proverb

Artists and Artisans

In my dealings with other photographers, I often hear the word ‘luck’ come up. “I just got lucky” being probably the most common reference.

Why is that?

My first impression is that it’s a lack of confidence. It’s easier to attribute a successful shot to fortuitous happenstance than it is to their own efforts. When an artist directly states that a good image is of their own design they commit to meeting those same expectations with the next photograph they take. “Luck” is an easy out in case they put up a rock down the road.

My second impression is false humility. “Nah, it was just luck”… which is lame.

Everything we create is a product of our decisions. Artists spend years honing their craft and should stand behind their choices – sometimes proudly, sometimes with humility. There’s nothing wrong with taking responsibility for either success or failure, but calling it “luck” diminishes both the art and the artist’s efforts.

Sure, there are those crazy one-offs where the universe just aligns and the snap makes history. In the moment it seems like they were just in the right place at the right time, but the end result is really just a product of a series of decisions that led to that exact point in time. Coincidence? Yes. Luck? If you want to call it that, I guess (however, that kind of thinking can lead to the “luck trap”, as explained by University of Toronto math professor, Jeff Rosenthal).

Years ago, a mentor told me that “skill makes its own luck” and I’ve lived by that ever since. What may seem like simple good fortune to many is really just the product of practice, paying attention and making sound choices. Even being in the ‘right place at the right time’ is often the end result of pattern recognition, timing and a familiarity with likely events.

Just ask anyone who photographs sports, animals or children… 


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