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.
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.
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.
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.