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photography-business-practical-tips Insights & Thoughts

Could Your Mindset Be Harming Your Photography Business?

By Max Bridge on February 16th 2016

We’re not all confident, strong minded people. Even those that are, are rarely that way 100% of the time. Or perhaps, as the cliché goes, the outer persona is a mask for inner turmoil. Feelings of inadequacy or being hard on ourselves as artists and business owners are common emotions. The trouble is, those emotions can have a detrimental impact on your development as photographers and to our businesses.

Wow, this article has started off a little depressing. Sorry. However, I do feel it’s important that we address these kinds of issues. It’s a neglected subject and one which can have a severe impact on progression. We already know that it’s often the better marketer that succeeds (rather than, the better photographer), but what about the more confident photographer? The one more willing to take the risk. To put themselves out there, and cope with rejection. Negative emotions can be just as damaging to ourselves and our businesses as a poor grasp of marketing.

It takes lots of perseverance to become an expert on any subject. Therefore, logically, we can all see these emotions for what they are: irrational fears deriving from external factors and nothing to do with our skills as a photographer. Despite that, feelings of inadequacy still rear their ugly heads.

advice-for-photographers

You Don’t know What You’re Doing. Your Work Isn’t Good Enough

These fears / feelings are ones which I (and I would be willing to bet a few of you), have suffered from. Photography is such an expansive subject that it is perfectly understandable. You’re not going to know everything straight away. You will not start out as a great photographer – hell, you won’t even start out as a good photographer! – Nor will you be comfortable in unfamiliar situations. Personally, with each and every new step I take, these feelings creep in. All are very natural.

[REWIND: 3 REASONS WHY I MOVED INTO A STUDIO AND MAYBE YOU SHOULD, TOO]

The problem with any of this comes when you allow these feelings to hold you back. I’m not one for self-help books but I was once given one and instructed to read it. I got a couple of chapters in and gave up. That being said, the title of the book has always stuck with me and is somewhat of a mantra I now try to live by, “Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway.” Quite a simplistic premise, but reminding myself of this has allowed me to overcome many hurdles.

The best way I have learned to combat these fears is education. As mentioned, photography is an expansive subject which can often leave you feeling overwhelmed. Learning a new skill, while beneficial in lots of obvious ways, can have the less obvious benefit of boosting moral. Those that suffer from a lack of confidence need to find ways to build their confidence. Education has always been a method for me.

Comparing Your Work To Other Photographers

I (and many other photographers) will tell you that this is a healthy thing to do. However, it can also be a path to negativity. I was recently sent a link to a product photographer’s work. Now, I know I’m fairly good, but I also know there are a million people out there who are better. Even though I am aware of this, I still became very negative upon seeing this photographer’s work and learning their age. It was stupid, and it lasted days. Granted, I continued to work, but I know the stuff I was producing was not my best.

I fear that many people have the same mentality when they look at the work of others. If this is you, then I won’t pretend I have some magic miracle cure. Hopefully, merely by the fact that I am talking about this, you will be able to recognize yourself as being “this person.” If you can recognize that this is you, then you can begin to combat it. Look at the work of better photographers and use it as inspiration to learn how they accomplish their images, fuel your passion with determination.

How Does This Effect My Business?

Allowing feelings of inadequacy to take hold WILL hold you back. If we somehow manage to turn this past-time we love into a source of negativity; we’ll be far less motivated, have less drive, and less confidence. I’m sure you’ll agree that a business owner suffering from those emotions is a recipe for disaster, or at the very least, mediocrity.

Many of you will have seen some of the wildlife photos I share through my Deer Hunter articles. Strangely enough, I’ve never had the confidence to do much with them, other than show them to all of you and upload a few to 500px. Even after people tell me I should be approaching companies, galleries, magazines, I just sit there and think “you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Despite some of these people being respected photographers, I still tell myself that my work is not good enough. A fortuitous discussion with a friend in the pub (best place to make decisions) has helped convince me otherwise.

[REWIND: PREVIOUS DEER HUNTER ARTICLES]

How Do You Combat Negativity?

It’s difficult. No point pretending it’s not. Sometimes, you won’t be able to, and it’s important to recognize that. Don’t beat yourself up for letting emotions take hold. If they do, here are a few tips to encourage yourself to carry on, to persevere.

1) Look back at your early work and see how far you’ve come
2) Think about what you’ve overcome; challenges faced, obstacles navigated, milestones reached. Remind yourself of the positive, rather than focusing on the negative
3) Educate yourself. Learn something new and apply it to your work or business
4) Talk. Bottling things up is the worst possible thing you can do. Chat about how you’re feeling. Once you do, emotions may lose their power
5) Step back. On occasion, a break is enough to refresh the batteries and re-invigorate yourself

As I said earlier, education has always been my biggest solution to combat negative emotions. I don’t want this article to be an advertisement for SLR Lounge products but I would be remiss not to mention the content they provide. Years ago, far before I began writing for SLR Lounge, I was an avid reader. So much so, that I wrote an email thanking everyone for the free educational content they put out and saying what it meant to me. Fast forward to today and the standard of education has skyrocketed. Check out Photography 101, Lighting 101 and 201. You’ll see what I mean.

Summary

Feelings of inadequacy affect us all. The important thing is to recognize when these emotions are taking hold and have some actionable steps you can take to combat them. I’m not saying you can suddenly stop them altogether, but if 8 times out of 10 you can remember some of the advice here, you’ll be that much better off.

Remember, everyone sucks when they start. Nobody knows everything straight away. And only freaks are confident 100% of the time. Give yourself a break. If you do, you may find that you become a better photographer for it.

[REWIND: WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY: BEING AN INTROVERT IN AN EXTROVERT PROFESSION]

About

Max began his career within the film industry. He’s worked on everything from a banned horror film to multi-million-pound commercials crewed by top industry professionals. After suffering a back injury, Max left the film industry and is now using his knowledge to pursue a career within photography.

Website: SquareMountain 
Instagram: Follow Author

Q&A Discussions

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  1. oscar campos

    Thank you, I really needed this right now! I have been trying to bolster my portrait and wedding work. I have been getting some solid leads but find myself “scared” to follow up and through I fear that I will fail.

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    • Max Bridge

      If you’re getting solid leads / enquiries then clearly people think you can do it. Don’t hold yourself back. Feel the fear and do it anyway! :)

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  2. Cary McCaughey

    Love this article. Resonates heavily with myself on a daily basis. As a photographer now it’s harder more than ever to not be sucked into the social media “k-hole”(what I call it). It’s the continued scrolling watching so many inspirational works of photography go by and saying, “man I wish I could do that,” and thinking “I know I can, but where to start? “. Followed by another million questions then end up not doing anything due to the overburden feelings of man I’m just wasting time. Starting a photography business post Facebook or even post-Facebook going public is tough. I have the old-school mentality of just wanting to talk face to face with real people instead of typing and having people “window shop” for services. You could have beautiful images and not be someone who you could talk to! You never know. Thanks for posting this up :)

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    • Max Bridge

      I know what you mean Cary. That social media “k-hole” is a slippery slope. I see lots of value in comparing ourselves to others and allowing that comparison to drive our development. As you said, however, it is a small step from driving development to discouraging it.

      I’m not really one for social media anyway. The whole thing feels a little disingenuous to me. Perhaps once it wasn’t but these days it’s filled with businesses. Sad fact is, it’s a necessary evil. I’m currently trying to re-direct my photography though and hence have taken a little social media break. Heaven!

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  3. LYNETTE KINNETZ

    I really needed to hear that! I am not a professional by any means but people tell me that I am too hard on myself or don’t give myself enough credit. I think this article hit home for me. I LOVE what I do and I guess that should be good enough. Thanks again for the article. Very inspirational.

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    • Max Bridge

      You’re most welcome Lynette. Very happy to hear it was encouraging in some way!

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  4. Paul Empson

    All good advice..

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  5. Paul Barson

    Great article and good advice. Ironically, I think that 500px and other social sharing sites can sometimes put people on a downward spiral and actually discourage creativity as they place too much importance on likes and scores, taking them as some kind of measure of worth. When in reality they are a measure of social popularity, which certainly does not always equate to value and a reliable gauge of how good work is. That’s a whole another discussion though lol

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    • Max Bridge

      What a fantastic point Paul, thank you! In some respects I suffered from precisely this issue. When an image which I see as amazing doesn’t do well, I begin to question it’s worth and by extension, my own. Social sites can be dangerous things

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  6. William Irwin

    I learned early on in my education at Rochester Institute of Technology that there were people who were much better than me at different subjects. Where they were strong, I was weak. But I also noticed where they were weak, I was very strong.

    We all have our strengths and weakness and its important to keep things in perspective and context.

    I am also of the opinion that sharing and helping others up and educating them in the photography market is not necessarily going to take anything away from you. Helping others gives you more authority as well as helping you discover your own weaknesses by interacting with others. This alone pushes you out of your comfort zones and into a place where you will GROW.

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    • Max Bridge

      Thanks for your input William. I think it’s an important skill to be able to recognise other people’s weaknesses. It’s sounds nasty to say that, but it’s not. All we’re doing is recognising that the rest of the population is not perfect. In other words, they get things wrong too. If we can understand that, then hopefully it will serve to encourage us.

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  7. Gregg Gerdts

    Thanks for that read, I have those feelings on the regular. Thinking I’ll never be as good as so many people out there or just feeling like giving up sometimes. Thanks for the advice, it’s not an overnight fix but what you said here I will take with me throughout my future.

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    • Max Bridge

      That’s amazing Gregg! I sincerely hope the advice does stay with you. From experience, I think some people are more susceptible to these kinds of emotions than others. I know I am. It’s perfectly fine to have them, just don’t let it stop you. Good luck with everything in the future!

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  8. Leo Cavallini

    Thanks for the article. Served me and a friend with whom I shared it instantly after reading the first block of text. And your deer pics are great, gonna have a look at your stuff. Congrats and thanks again…

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    • Max Bridge

      Happy to hear you enjoyed it Leo. I hope it can encourage many others as well.

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