Confidence may seem like something you either have or you don’t. Even worse, it may seem like everyone else has it but you. Fortunately, both of those things couldn’t be further from the truth. All you need is a little knowledge, patience, and a few techniques to become a more confident photographer.
Know Your Craft
There are few things that will boost your confidence as a photographer like knowing the craft well. The craft is the process of creating photographs. It includes planning, shooting, and processing your images.
It’s normal as a beginner photographer to have little or no confidence in your photography because you don’t know what you’re doing. If you want to improve your craft there are a ton of great resources available.
As you learn the craft, your confidence grows. You have to learn to walk before you run.
Know Your Gear
This ties into knowing your craft, but you don’t just learn this once. You’ll need to get to know each new piece of equipment as you add it to your gear bag. Learn it well and know how to use it with your eyes closed.
Think of a soldier who can dismantle and reassemble his or her gun blindfolded. Know your camera that well. The last thing you want when you’re photographing a person or scene is to be trying to remember how to change your camera settings.
Practice Makes Perfect
It goes without saying, but to become a more confident photographer, you need to take a ton of photos. Think of a skill or task that you feel confident in your ability to complete. How much time have you spent doing it to get to that level of confidence? Photography is no different.
If you want to grow in confidence as a portrait photographer, ask everyone you know to be a model for you. Photograph your mum, your kids, your friends, your colleagues, your neighbors. By the time you’re photographing strangers for money you’ll have far more confidence in your skills.
I can’t find the original source, but someone wiser than me once said this:
“Sweat more in peacetime. You’ll bleed less in war.”
As you get more confident in your photography skills, you’ll be able to wing it more, but until then, get in the habit of planning. Plan your shoots in detail. Plan your locations, time of day, lighting setups, poses, compositions, lens selection, even your post-production.
Having a detailed plan gives you the confidence that you know what you’re doing, even if you’re nervous. There’s nothing to stop you from deviating from the plan when the time comes, but having a plan will avoid the feeling of not knowing what you’re doing.
Ask For Feedback
Often a lack of confidence as a photographer comes from listening to the wrong voices, usually your own. Self-talk can be difficult to ignore. Finding a few qualified people to give you constructive feedback about your photography can help.
The key here is that they’re qualified. Hearing your family or friends saying nice things won’t help. Constructive feedback can help by telling you what you’re doing well, and highlighting areas for improvement. It’s encouraging and actionable.
Find Your Tribe
This is a great way to get feedback. Becoming part of a community of photographers you have something in common with has many benefits. You can learn from them, ask for feedback from them, be inspired by them, and be cheered on by them.
An often surprising benefit of having a tribe is that you’ll find that you actually have something to teach others or tips to offer. Contributing to other photographers’ development is incredibly rewarding and encouraging for your own confidence.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Don’t fall for the trap of thinking mistakes are failures. The sooner you see mistakes as learning opportunities the better. If you find you’re often making the same mistake, figure out why and then find out how to fix it.
Are you missing focus regularly? Learn how to take sharper photos. Overexposing and clipping highlights? Figure out how to expose more accurately. Do your portraits all look the same? Learn how to pose people better.
Let Go of Comparison
The one thing that’s guaranteed to kill your confidence as a photographer is comparison. It’s perfectly natural, and we’re all guilty of it at times. Left unchecked, it will eat away at your self-belief and leave you with no confidence in your photography.
Comparing yourself with other photographers is like looking at somebody else at the gym and wondering why you don’t look like them. We all have different natural strengths and weaknesses. We all have different stories and different goals. We’ve all been dealt a different hand in life. We all have different amounts of time and resources available.
If you must compare yourself with someone, make it the photographer you were a year or five years ago. You’ll no doubt be surprised how far you’ve come. Now that will boost your confidence.
Find Your Niche
I worked as a wedding photographer for a couple of years and struggled with comparison in a major way. There were some great wedding photographers in my town, one of whom was a friend of mine, and he was killing it.
I eventually decided it wasn’t for me for various reasons, and gave it up. When I returned to my first passion, landscape photography, I found I wasn’t comparing myself to other photographers as much.
When you find your niche, the specialty that presses your buttons and suits your strengths and personality, you’ll find a new level of confidence that you didn’t have before. If you’re struggling with confidence as a photographer, it might be worth asking yourself if your niche is right for you.
Put Yourself In Their Shoes
There’s a technique in public speaking where you’re taught to imagine the audience naked. One of the principles behind this is that if you imagine your audience naked then you won’t be quite so nervous about having to deliver a speech. Imagine how nervous your audience is!
Have you ever been on the other side of the lens? Maybe on your wedding day, senior portrait, or a headshot for your employer’s website? If you have, you know how uncomfortable you can feel.
Try remembering that feeling next time you’re photographing someone and feeling low on confidence. Put yourself in their shoes and focus on helping them feel comfortable. You’ll be surprised how much more confidence you’ll have as the photographer.
Let Go of Perfectionism
There are some jobs where being a perfectionist is important. If you’re a surgeon or aircraft engineer then perfectionism is an asset. As a photographer, it’s a curse.
You’re an artist, and there is no such thing as perfect art. I’m not advocating being lazy or accepting mediocrity. Creating a high standard of work is important, especially if you’re paid for your photography.
However, learning to let go of the need for your photography to be technically perfect will free you to express your art in new and creative ways. That will inevitably lead to more confidence in your less-than-perfect photography.
Be A Photographer
There’s a psychological edge that comes with making an “I am” statement. When you say you’re something and tell people you’re something, you begin to own it. It’s different to saying that you “do” something.
When I began to say “I’m a photographer” and write “Photographer” on my profiles, I actually started to believe it. It felt false and forced at first. I struggled with imposter syndrome for a while, and still do at times, but choosing to “be a photographer” helped a ton.
You’ve likely heard the expression “fake it till you make it”. I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: everyone is faking it. Everybody struggles with a lack of confidence or imposter syndrome or not feeling good enough. Yes, even those photographers you admire and think have ‘made it’.
Learn to be comfortable with not feeling like you’re good enough and then do it anyway. Tell yourself it’s normal to feel that way and everybody does sometimes, but you’re a photographer and photographers get out there and shoot what they love.
What’s The Worst That Could Happen?
There’s a tendency in human nature to catastrophize, which is to believe something is far worse than it actually is. When you’re lacking confidence, it’s often because you’re too concerned about the negative consequences.
The technique that’s taught to deal with this is surprising. You might think it’s to stop thinking about the potential negative outcomes, but it’s actually the opposite. If you’re worried about what could go wrong, sit down and think about what could actually go wrong.
You’ll likely realize that the worst that could happen isn’t as bad as you might think. Your photos might not get as much recognition as you hoped. You might embarrass yourself. You probably won’t get sued or die.
One of the reasons I struggled with confidence as a wedding photographer was because I worried that one of my clients wouldn’t be happy with the photos. It never happened, or at least none of them ever told me so. Over time my confidence in my photography grew as I realized it was all in my head.
Enjoy The Ride
Even if you do all this and keep growing in confidence, there will be days that you doubt yourself and think you suck. We all do. My advice on those days is to remember why you picked up a camera in the first place. Why do you do it at all?
I’m sure you have a list of reasons, but I hope at the top of that list is because you enjoy it. It’s fun. It makes you happy. You get satisfaction from it. Don’t let the bad days rob you of that enjoyment. Enjoy the ride and keep going. Nothing is permanent.
THANKS FOR READING!
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Great article, thanks!