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I know that there are some photographers who are reluctant to admit it, but self-doubt is something we all have to deal with at some point. It’s fun to talk about the good periods when you’re on a creative high and it seems that everything that comes out of your camera is a hit.
But what about those times when nothing seems to go right? It happens to everyone and it’s easy to get down on yourself. What should you do to overcome feelings of frustration and anxiety when you aren’t satisfied with your own work?
These five tips will help you beat back the blues of creative self-doubt and insecurity.
1. Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
According to the internet, every photographer makes amazing photos every time they pick up their camera. This isn’t true, of course, but it can seem that way when you buy into the hype.
Obviously, it makes sense that people would post only their best stuff online; but rest assured, even the best of the best photographers make photos that aren’t very good.
So don’t get bogged down with looking at all the great photos out there and then turning a critical eye to your own work. That’s not going to be of any benefit to you.
It’s good to view others’ work to appreciate it and use it as a source of inspiration, but each photographer is — or should be — a unique creative individual. Don’t sell yourself short by comparing yourself to others.
Concentrate on what makes you unique.
2. Keep Shooting
When you’re in a slump you will probably be tempted to just give up shooting. If you’ve determined that photography simply isn’t for you, that’s one thing. It’s quite another to be experiencing a creative rut.
Your slump won’t last forever, and you can help yourself through this phase by continuing to shoot. Don’t pressure yourself by thinking you need to create something extraordinary — just go out and photograph things you like and remain mindful of all the good things that motivate you to pick up your camera.
3. Don’t Get In Over Your Head
In other words, know your limits. Whether you’re doing paid work or a personal project, it’s important to not overwhelm yourself. You may think you’re pushing yourself by taking on a challenge, but biting off more than you can chew is a surefire way of heightening and prolonging whatever creative frustration you’re feeling.
Being realistic about your abilities and your workload will grant you peace of mind which, in turn, will clear the way for you to appreciate your own work.
4. Make Friends
I tend to view photography as a solitary pursuit but I also recognize the value of having some kind of support system available.
It’s helpful to make friends with other photographers who are willing to share their wisdom and ideas with you. One of the upsides of the internet is that we have easy access to creative individuals from all over the world.
Friends “in real life” are good too, as it can be fun to sometimes go out and shoot with another person. And fun can be the cure to all that ails you creatively.
5. Remember Why You Love Photography
What drove you to photography in the first place? Whatever it was, recall how you felt about photography when you first started. While new photographers might possess a certain naiveté about many aspects of the craft, there’s also a purity to their motives.
It’s good to harken back to that purity and how it felt to do photography not for “likes” or for money, but simply because it was fun.
Photography for the fun of it might be the greatest gift you could give yourself.
Staying motivated and creatively fresh can be a daunting task. No one is immune to the self-doubt that comes along with falling into a rut. However, you’ll be happy to know there’s a way out of the darkness.
There’s no single way that’s guaranteed to work for every photographer, but I’m confident that the tips above will get you moving in the right direction — out of your slump and over the feelings of insecurity you’ve been experiencing.