If you'll indulge me, I'm going to depart slightly from my normal subject of tips, and talk about your worth as a photographer (either pro, or just as a hobby). I hear from a lot of people asking "Am I creative?" "Am I talented enough to do this?" I’ve also had these thoughts. I’m sure you have too. It’s not uncommon for photographers (or everyone really) to feel self doubt. These thoughts, unfortunately, can stop us from doing all the fun stuff we want to do. Photography is not a particularly risky business, but there’s always an element of fear when you put your work out there for the world to see. How can you get over it? How can you learn to believe in yourself again? That's what we'll discuss today.
When I started this free photography tips site, I was told by friends and family that I really shouldn’t gave away my knowledge! They said I could be making so much more money at my day job, and photography should just be a hobby. How was I going to make it? What would I do without the structure and the regular paychecks? And yet, I couldn’t have been more creative. I had no choice but to be creative. To not be creative meant running out of money and having no means of supporting myself. It was do or die for me, so I did.
Now I know it’s not going to be like that for all of you, but my point is this. There is more potential inside of you than you think. You just need to stop listening to that annoying little conversation going on in your head. It’s defeating you, making you overly emotional, and wasting your time. Easier said than done, I know, but you’ve gotta start somewhere.
So here’s the practical bit. The 3 step process if you will.
Don’t hesitate. It’s important to evaluate the riskiness of doing something, but we tend to get so absorbed in the process that it stops us from acting. Are you ready to take that next step? Maybe your goal is somewhat modest. Perhaps you just want to show your friends a few of your images. Some of you might be so ambitious as to start up a photography business. In either case, thinking about it much more won’t help. You’ve gotta act at some point.
Hesitation stops you from getting into the zone with your work. My best images happen when I’m so engrossed in the art that I’ve stopped being critical. I simply create first and ask questions later. It’s not like there’s a consequence for failure. You just delete the images that don’t work out.
Take a lot of photos. I mean lots and lots and lots. It’s much more difficult to doubt yourself when you’ve literally done everything possible. Invest enough time, and you’ll be able to see the nuances in what you are doing. You can’t really doubt yourself until you’ve had more than enough time to play with your gear.
Most people bumble around in their first few years, and then they have this brilliant stroke of insight. Where does it come from? I would hazard a guess that it’s the combination of skills they’ve learned over this time period. They start putting everything together, and it becomes one big “aha” moment. You’re going to hit a lot of plateaus before you hit your big aha.
- Do your best to remove emotion from the equation. Negative emotions harm you in more ways than I can say. They sap your motivation, and they make your creative time dull, tedious, and sometimes dreadful. This is the hardest one to overcome because it seeps into your life when you aren’t looking. Whenever I can see it coming, I just remind myself “David, be rational.” It’s sort of like saying “serenity now,” but believe me there will be no insanity later.
You can’t get caught up in what other people think of your work either. Art is too fickle a thing. Some people like certain things, and others like other things. If you’re trying to become a famous photographer, it’s even hairier. Just find the crowd that does like your work and create for those people.
The lesson? It’s all one big fun game of deception. Context matters. Popularity matters. Control what you can control, enjoy photography for its own sake, and believe in yourself. You’ll get so much more out that than you will from being naturally talented.
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