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Take a moment to think back to a time when you were new to photography — whether that was two years ago or 40 years ago. While some come by the craft of photography more naturally than others, we all experience essentially the same growing pains that arise in the midst of trying become competent photographers.
Eventually, you get to a point where you feel you have a handle on things like exposure and composition and subject selection. Yet in spite of how much creative growth you’ve experienced, you seem to be constantly hounded by self-doubt. Have you been through this?
I would suspect that virtually all photographers struggle with self-doubt at some point in their journey; it’s a natural by-product of having to expose yourself to criticism, ridicule, or dismissal. Sharing your art with others can be a profoundly intimate act.
But the confidence it takes to share your work with the world is by far one of a photographer’s most important assets. Yes, more important than whether you use a mirrorless camera, a DSLR or a mobile phone. In so many ways, sharing your vision is what solidifies your role as a photographer.
Photo by Thomas Leuthard
If you completely lack the self-confidence to share your work or if you’re tired of being afflicted by the nagging self-doubt the creeps in each time you go to post a photo, here are a few thoughts that will help ease any sharing related anxiety you may experience.
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1. Know Why You Take Photos
Don’t worry so much about whether your photos are “good” or “bad.” There’s a whole lot of subjectivity tied up in those terms. Does taking snapshots of your kids running around the yard make you happy? Do your loved ones express joy when you share those images with them?
Well, in that case you’ve found your audience; they’re appreciative of the photos you make and that’s all that really matters. It doesn’t matter much whether those image meet some socially agreed-upon definition of good; those images matter because of what they mean to you.
The criteria would certainly be different were you planning on entering a contest, showing in an exhibit or publishing a book. There’s bound to be a degree of anxiety no matter what, but knowing why you do what you do helps keep things in perspective.
Photo by Anne Worner
2. Don’t Worry About What Others Think
This is easier said than done for most people, but you will thank yourself once you get to the point where yours is the only opinion that truly matters. You can’t internalize every bit of criticism you get about your work.
It’s good to have access to people who can help you grow by providing constructive criticism — helpful critiques, if you will. The problem is that most people aren't going to do that; they will just want to tear you down, usually as a means of feeling better about themselves.
Learning to value your own opinion of your work is immensely empowering.
Photo by Matthew G
3. Don’t Gauge Your Life or Your Art Against Social Media
Social media definitely has its benefits but it’s something that needs to be kept in perspective. It’s easy to get swept up in the idea that everyone you follow is a brilliant photographer who never produces a bad photo and lives a life of adventure and opulence.
Next thing you know, you’re staring at a screen of other people’s photos while feeling inadequate and wallowing in self-pity. I will say it again: it’s all about perspective. What others are doing on the weekend or where they’re traveling to for vacation is irrelevant — it’s got nothing to do with you.
And remember, most photographers only share their best stuff; everyone takes crappy photos sometimes but no one is going to put them on display. If you’re going to take anything away from the social media accounts you most admire, it should be to live your life and practice your craft on your terms.
Photo by Marcela McGreal
If you're looking to specifically improve a certain aspect of your photography, this guide on “Better Black & White Photography” is what all photographers ought to know about Black and White Photography to create captivating images that pop! It's not as simple as a preset, rather it incurs a knowledge of tone and contrast amongst many other things.
4. Don’t Try So Hard, You're Doing Fine
Pressure is something most photographers are accustomed to; whether it’s an impending deadline to finish up work for a client or the internal drive to take your skills to the next level, a certain amount of stress comes with the territory. The right kind of stress can be a great motivator, but there is a dark side: pressure can also take you out of the moment.
You will discover that you’re at your best when you’re “at one” with your camera. Yes, it sounds hokey but that’s okay. Once you’re able to shake all the distractions, all the expectations, you will feel better about what you’re doing.
You need to allow yourself room to make mistakes and accept that you will always have fewer keepers than throwaways. Those keepers are the shots you’ll want to share and should feel good about sharing.
5. Take Some Risks Along The Way
Sometimes, in order to defeat self-doubt, you need to dive in head first. Throw caution to the wind. Like my recommendation of not trying too hard, you also want to avoid overthinking things.
If the very thought of sharing your works causes you to break out in a cold sweat, just wipe your forehead and click “submit” anyway. Moving ahead so boldly with something that causes you such anxiety is the ultimate icebreaker and will set the stage for further growth.
Photo by darkday
Sharing your work takes courage; opening yourself up to the condemnation of others isn’t an amusing proposition but this is the ordination of all photographers. There's not much of a point in stockpiling all your photos just for no one to see them.
Find a way to overcome or, at least, suppress your self-doubt so others may experience your passion and you can continue to grow as a photographer.
If you're looking to specifically improve a certain aspect of your photography, this guide on “Better Black & White Photography” is what all photographers ought to know about black and white photography. It's not as simple as a preset, rather it incurs a knowledge of tone and contrast amongst many other things.
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