February 6, 2021

Would It Be Worth It?


I have been a HUGE Beatles fan ever since I first saw them on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Several years later I became a fan of the band Badfinger who reminded me of the Beatles.

Well it turns out that the Beatles and Badfinger were connected…very connected. Badfinger was the first band that Apple Corps signed. The name “Badfinger” came from the working title for the song “With A Little Help From My Friends.” And two of the Beatles wrote songs for Badfinger.

But despite this backing, Badfinger was struggling to be recognized and get on the charts. Paul McCartney came to the rescue by offering them the song “Come and Get It.” But the offer came with a condition: McCartney had to produce the song and it had to be done exactly like the demo tape he had recorded.

From Songfacts:

Paul McCartney recorded the demo of this song prior to a Beatles recording session at Abbey Road studios. He played all the instruments on the demo and had a clear vision for how it should sound.

In The Beatles Anthology book, he explained that Badfinger wanted to do the song more in their own style, but he insisted they do it the same as on his demo, because he knew it would be a hit if done his way.

He was right: the song was the breakout single for Badfinger.

McCartney had a “clear vision” of how the song should sound and didn’t allow Badfinger to deviate a bit. And he was right, it was a big hit.

But was it worth it?

In this instance the band was merely a marionette. Yes, a successful marionette after following McCartney’s detailed direction, but a marionette nonetheless.

What would you do if a prominent photographer said to you: let me manage your photography…I’ll tell where to go, what to shoot and how to process it. I’ll guarantee you success but you must follow my every direction exactly.

Would it be worth it?

You would enjoy success that would open doors and introduce your work to new audiences…

But would it be worth it?

If your goal is fame and accolades, then you might think so. But if you want to create images that you love and are proud of, then that success would feel fraudulent and unfulfilling.

I believe we each must find our own Vision and not rely on the Vision of others. Copying other’s images, styles, techniques, following the latest fads or listening to others about your work is not the way to find your Vision.

But rather forge ahead on your own, learn to know what you want, critically analyze your work, evaluate what you like and dislike about your images, learn from your mistakes and improve again and again and again. That is how you grow, develop your Vision and become independent.

So, would it be worth it?

For me the answer is no. I’d rather follow my Vision and be mediocre in the eyes of others rather than be a successful marionette.



26 thoughts on “Would It Be Worth It?

  1. Yes,
    “I’d rather follow my Vision and be mediocre in the eyes of others rather than be a successful marionette.”

    Just turned 85, so not looking for a career in photography, but am still looking for continued improvement for my own satisfaction, not caring much what others may or may not think of what I produce.

    1. Mitch, your Shiprock Storm photo is a unique and inspiring take on that magical place. Glad you march to your own drummer. Cole, your photo Harbinger No 1 is stunning and led me into more B&W. I am inspired by you both. Great article, thanks.

  2. Maybe at first, or to get over a creative hump. With a guaranteed success to supplement my bank account might allow me to then pursue my own vision. Otherwise, doing it all the time, I would just feel like I worked for the photographer suggesting what to do.

  3. while i generally agree, being ‘helped’ can eventually afford a person the opportunity to explore other creative avenues. i think there are pros do the work they ‘have to do’ so they can eventually do the work they ‘want to do’. thoughts?

  4. Wonderful story, Cole. And I do appreciate your message. But I must admit, I am a webinar junkie and really enjoy learning new techniques and styles from “the masters.” I do hope, however, that I taking their inspiration and interpreting what I learn into my own story and vision.

  5. Hi Cole. I agree with your “No” 100%. I would much rather be free than a slave. I would rather be poor & happy than rich & miserable. Your story about Badfinger rings true, and I have often thought one of the reasons so many musicians have died young is because they gave in to producers who were only concerned with fame and fortune. The stress and pressure of living under those conditions end up proving fatal for them. Fame means nothing, especially when it pushes you into drug addiction or self destructive behavior. After one musician or group dies, the producers just find someone new to exploit. No, thank you. I believe freedom to go in whatever direction you choose is essential, especially when you are a creative personality. Anything less is torture.

  6. haha great read again Cole ❤️. ~ no matter what keep it with your own authencity ⭐️🎶 ~ and i have learned it all by falling and get up till this day on! I started photography out of zero and writing my own poetry on my images without ever studying / reading poetry/photography of others before.
    Rules? I know all the rules, but the rules don’t know me ❤️ Just taste it for yourself instead by listening or copying what somebody else tells you what is good or nice (ofcourse all with love). With vision we don’t need pixels. And if I really really don’t get it than I start asking around or search books etc etc.

    have a great day,

  7. Cole, great story and a good message. It may be worth it to jump start your career and then “develop” your vision after becoming “successful” . Then you would have the means to really find you way and be who you want to be. I’m not sure which path I would chose since none of this is going to happen to me…so I’ll just keep looking for my vision and be quite satisfied with that.

  8. Such encouraging words! You have shared what I have told others many times. It’s truly important to share YOUR OWN vision. But it is important to be open to new techniques. Thanks for sharing this confirming thought. Greatly appreciated. ❤️😎. Blessings to you and yours.

  9. I agree 100% that we all as artist, must find our own path and not copy that if others. If we copy that of others we are not creating our own passion.

  10. If it is personal art for art sake then yes I agree it is not worth it. However, if your goal is a buisness I know dirty word then the paying client is the puppet master, or the in style of the way the clients want something to look is the puppet master at the end of the day. This was the problem I had when I was running my wedding photgraphy buisness. Thank God I am no longer doing the satin circus thing any more. Art for art sake, art for personal pleasure sake.

  11. Aloha Cole,

    No! Take advice, criticism, exposure to new ideas, yes. That being said, an artist trying to make a living off of their art has very difficult decision to make. Thinking I’d consider taking the offer to establish myself then eventually do my own thing. Hopefully not to get trapped by the revenue stream.

    Mahalo for the interesting anecdote and question.

  12. Well, I think we are influenced by what we desire, so we create versions of ourselves from mentors, people whose work we admire; those who have done it successfully. We may be originals, but are influenced by others. We copy, but do not steal. I think in order to find ourselves and our originality we must subject ourselves to what’s out there – art, music, photography. I have learned from those whose work I love – it shows in my own work. And I hope my work, in turn influences others.

  13. Don’t you think that McCartney did them a favor even if it meant he was being rather dictatorial? He said basically, “this how you make a hit.” After getting their feet (or guitars) in the door, they could go on in their own style. Getting someone to notice your work can be extremely difficult; you can always remake your style once recognized which is what they did. They succeeded because they had “A Little Help from My/their Friends.” A lot of things in life are like that: first you learn the rules, then you are permitted to break them. They paid their dues & went on from there.


  14. Finding my own vision or style has been a long time coming. I often sought guidance, education, inspiration from the wok of other photographers. Otherwise, I had no idea what possibilities were out there. My aim was not to copy anything but excellence and sound skills. That’s still my goal and I’m having the time of my life!

  15. your article on vision has been very inspiring and it is a guideline for most of the photographers.i am an amateur photographer and love macro.i was kinda stranded for the past few months but your article on vision has helped me and now in future i will never copy anyone.sometime back i saw your video on post processing raw images and that is something i have been following,you really do not need any complicated software to process images.tons of thanks.i wish you would write about post processing in detail.love everything you write.tons of thanks for sharing your knowledge,may god bless you.take care and be safe.

  16. Spot on Cole. Being clear what you want to achieve or pursue and have the courage to stay true to one’s evolving vision maintains one’s integrity. Easier said than done if one’s sole source of income is from a creative endeavour like art and so courage is important among other qualities.

  17. Always a lesson learned, imparted wisdom in your newsletters. You bring truthfulness to the art of photography and restore individualism to it as well.

  18. I enjoyed reading this great article. Would it be worth working with someone else’s vision? I don’t see no reason why you couldn’t still create your own vision. The other vision (job) will be the finances for your vision. At least that’s the way I see it.

  19. Cole, these are such important words. They’re ones I need to absorb as I look back at 50 years in photography. Thanks for your incredible images but also for your valuable insights.

  20. As a professional musician sometimes “wanting to do a song more in their own style” means staying within your comfort zone. Many bands hire great producers (Rick Rubin, Quincy Jones, etc. …) to intentionally force them out of their comfort zone and force them to try new things. The Beatles were very much influenced by their producer George Martin. How many photographers keep doing the same thing over and over? Perhaps trying someone else’s vision can help point you in a new direction which then becomes part of your style. In most fields progress is made by taking old ideas and combining them in new ways.

    One form of originality is creation. Another form is synthesis. Both are valid.
    People often focus so much on creating new ideas that they overlook the value of synthesizing ideas from different sources.
    Innovation usually mean connecting previously unconnected concepts.

  21. Hi Cole,
    Interesting story and perspective. I’m a huge Beatle fan too. I think Paul was “spot-on” in his request. After all, Badfinger was the first Band that “Apple Records” signed to their label. Nothing like hedging your bets, right out of the shoot/chute. FYI: We all enjoyed your presentation this past week here in Indianapolis.

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