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Stop Holding Out And Share Those Images

Stop Holding Out And Share Those Images

Photography, for many of us, is a very personal ambition. As with any art form we pour our blood, sweat, tears, and heart into every project be it a paid or unpaid venture. Many of us put so much emphasis on the success of our creations that we are afraid to share them with the world. Many great pieces of work go unseen because of this irrational fear we hold.

I myself have struggled with this fear of sharing for many years. I’m not going to say it was an easy thing to overcome, in fact, it has been quite an uphill battle. The reason I am writing about this is because it took me so many years to realize the benefits of sharing my work and I am sure there are many others out there who share a similar struggle.

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The Fear Of Sharing

Sharing our creations can be a bit scary. By the time we are done finding a team, putting together a concept, actually shooting, and then retouching; many hours of labor will have passed. It is a labor of love, and once we are finished with an image, we are generally quite happy with it. We work on it until we are internally happy with the final product at which point we put it out into the world for external evaluation.

If you analyze what I said in the previous paragraph you can begin to see the root of the problem when it comes to sharing our work. We generally fear sharing our work for either external or internal reasons.

The Internal

It all starts with internal reasons. As I mentioned, when we first get to creating an image, we work on it as long as it takes to satisfy ourselves; our “internal” self. We want that self to be happy with what we created, at least in the moment, because as we grow and develop our sense of taste and our own capabilities change. Before we can get to satisfying the external, we must first satisfy the internal.

Our own feelings of insecurity and self-doubt often hold us back from achieving many great things. When it comes to sharing our work it is this feeling of not being good enough that really cripples many photographers. They will constantly compare their work to that of others, so much so, that they over analyze every little aspect of it, and inevitably they will find the excuse they are searching for that justifies to them why they should not share that image.

In addition to this self-doubt, many of us struggle with some level of perfectionism. We demand nothing but the absolute best quality from our images. This leads us down a dark path of blaming everything from our skill level, the skill level of our team, or even the equipment that we are using. This again creates a whole variety of excuses as to why the image we have created is just not fit for sharing with the public.

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The External

Once you get past the internal struggle there is still a lot to deal with externally that can prevent you from sharing your work. There is a vast network of very experienced and incredibly talented people out there so it can be rather intimidating to just jump right into the deep end. Showing your work against such strong and established images is bound to make anyone a little bit nervous.

Worse yet is the constant fear of being judged and ridiculed by others for not being good enough. Often peer reviews are given with good intention but can come off sounding extremely negative when we are already self concious about our work. I know I held a lot of work back because I was not sure how it would be received.

Why It Is All Rather Silly

You may feel as though opting out of sharing is somehow buying you time until your next project. "The next one will be so much better" we keep telling ourselves. We know all too well this is just an excuse to deal with the fear of being judged or the disappointment of not meeting our own expectations.

All it really does is stunt your growth and more importantly your NETWORKING.

Nobody is perfect and nobody starts off being incredibly amazing. In fact I don’t even need a long spiel to prove that point. Take a peek at this great article by Dani Diamond where he compares the current work with the early work of several established photographers. The evolution is dramatic to say the least! The point of course is that all these beautiful images you see were not born in a split second, but were a culmination of years and years of practice and learning.

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Why The Grass Is Greener Over Here

You might be thinking to yourself that all this observation is well and good, but in reality, what can possibly happen if you start sharing your work today? Well I’m glad you asked.

The Critique

The most obvious benefit is the feedback we receive from others. It is scary and it hurts. In fact, I can't say that it ever gets better, but learning to accept feedback and critiques is invaluable to your development. Some people will simply be at a higher level than you and that is ok. There is no shame in being newer or slower to learn. There is no shame in the fact that you started late. There is no shame in the fact that you can't afford all the best gear. What is important is the fact that you are open and willing to learn.

We should be grateful that people are taking time out of their day to give us an opinion on how we might improve our craft. There is tremendous wealth in that. Embrace it as a positive and use it as a means to grow.

Growing, Growing, Gone!

We all enjoy beautiful images and watching those who create them share those images in our social media feeds. We watch with sheer admiration at the creativity of these masterful pieces of work. There is however something more rewarding!

People love a good success story. People want to watch you grow! They want to be involved in your life and your development. It triggers the feel good receptors in our brains when we share in another human beings success. We know the good ones are good, but to watch someone start in the trenches and work their way up to the big leagues, now that is thrilling! 

The Following

You can wait until you are the absolute best photographer before you share your images. When you release them, people will like them, and they will admire you for your craft. What they did not get to witness and be a part of however is the journey. That is where the real great things happen. It's not about the destination but the trip there. Its in all the crazy things you tried, all the things that worked, and all the ones that failed. That is your story and people want to see it, so share it with them, and experience it together!

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Repetition Builds Familiarity

Do not underestimate the power of networking but do understand that it takes time. The sooner you start, the faster you can build familiarity with your name, and thus the strength of your brand. It doesn't matter that you are not the best. You will get better that much is certain, but if you put your name out there the entire time, you will have an advantage over those who did not. A constant source of content will keep you relevant and your name on everyones mind. 

When the time is right, and people start paying attention to your images, odds are they will already have heard your name. You can bet that your potential clients are more inclined to choose a photographer if they feel like they have heard the name before.

All this leads to you becoming a better and stronger photographer. The more you share, the more you grow, the better you get. So don’t hold back! Share that work and lets all help each other get better!

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13 Comments

Kendra Paige's picture

I really loved this article, especially because I relate to it. I often joke that if I had one superpower as a photographer, it would be to maintain the same enthusiasm I feel when I first review photographs from a shoot. I am always pleased with my progress, and focus on the impact and feel of an image. Fast-forward to a few days later or a week and suddenly I am scrutinizing those images for their technical value, and then I over analyze and criticize my work into a dark pit that never sees the light of day.

As a matter of work ethic, I have always provided something from a trade shoot or collaboration. But if I am not thrilled with the final product, I will deliver what's been completed and then actively push it from my mind right after.

It's good to know that there are other photographers who wrestle with the same challenges. I will say that social media outlets like Instagram have helped me to get over these fears, as I am not as pressured to put out something perfect and polished. For me, the irony is that some of the images I am least confident in are the ones that receive the most positive feedback from my followers.

I think for any photographer that takes their craft seriously, it's important to be critical of your work, just so long as you don't cripple it.

David Justice's picture

I have an irrational fear right now, not of sharing my photos, but of making videos. I'm working on a project right now and it's really special to me, I'm creating a fake apparel company because I'm stuck in a catch 22 where I want to work with small apparel companies, but I don't have any work with branding and brand image.

I didn't want to just go buy Nike clothes for my model and shoot a Nike ad, we all know how Nike ads look and it just wouldn't feel the same as if I made it myself. So I'm currently designing all the products, finding the right models for my image, and finding the right clothes to be printed on as well as maintaining a strict budget.

The thing is I want to make a video about this, because as far as I know, it's the first time anyone has done everything from design, to screen print, to select models all for a photoshoot. So I really want to make a video about it, but I don't want to look like an idiot about a project that no one gives a shit about. I also don't want to look like an idiot to current professionals either.

I just feel like once you start adding video to the mix of your project, it better be really special, because it will be looked at under a magnifying glass if you think it's worth it's own special video.

Jason Ranalli's picture

That's pretty ambitious...I really hope it works out for you. Would love to see some updates somewhere as you progress.

David Justice's picture

Thanks! If you want to follow me on Instagram I'm always hyping it up on there. @DavidJusticePhoto

Spy Black's picture

One area you overlookd, at least from a professional standpoint, is theft. Several professionals have had their work ripped off and passed off as the work of someone else. There have actually been several articles right here on FS about it. One fellow who is a wedding photographer had his entire site lifted and his work was used by someone else promoting himself as a wedding photographer!

Although I get where you're coming from, at least from a professional standpoint, "beware what you share". ;-)

Tam Nguyen's picture

There he is, just dropping a bomb of negativity (and maybe reality). I look forward to see your effort of keeping it real. Always.

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

I am waiting for a moment that someone will want to still my work ;)

Dan Ostergren's picture

So your point is that the work shouldn't be shared because it might get stolen?

DiAnté Johnson's picture

Why is fear of sharing your work silly? In the end, "All it really does is stunt your growth and more importantly your NETWORKING." What happens if your work is claimed by someone who is not you. In essence, stealing your growth and causing the anxiety that many of beginning artists actually share. I've spent a lot of time being mocked by people who thought I was that guy to screw over. When you fly solo, getting mauled by groups of conspirators can get rather annoying, but I digress. Maybe paranoia is the ultimate "growth stunter", if you will. However, the fear of the unknown is really why said fear truly IS silly.

David Vaughn's picture

If people are so paranoid about getting their work stolen that they withhold it out of fear, maybe photography is the wrong profession for them. Just be smart and understand that there's always going to an amount of risk associated with sharing content online.

I'm often hesitant to share simply because I don't do enough stuff to have a constant stream of content. So I'll share something and then be in want of something else to share for a bit. So I wait until projects pile up lol

Bill Blount's picture

I fail to see any shortage of "sharing."

We live in the Golden Age of Sharing.

However, if is done with the intent to promote your brand, and executed as such, even amateurs like me have an advantage over Ansel Adams in his prime. Even despite our "shared" lack of photographic genius.

Anonymous's picture

Thank you for this article. I would love to share my work on this site and others. I do share a lot of photography on my blog.My main concerns are privacy re my subjects. I was a wedding photographer for many years and always included a space on my contract where people could agree for me to display their images on the net.I also shoot lots of images of family and friends that are great in my opinion but once again privacy concerns hold me back.So I limit myself to sharing wildlife,scenery,some wedding shots,and some sports shots online. Of course when I am sharing with people while conducting actual physical training sessions they get to see all the work I would otherwise not put online.I agree there are great benefits in being critiqued and seeing the progress of people and their photography over the years.I like to mentor young and not so young photographers in person so it is very pleasing to see their progress.When I look at my first efforts in wedding photography shot on film on a pentax spotmatic,a manual no name flash,one 50mm lens only, a flimsy tripod,I marvel at our potential to improve and get to a professional standard with years of practice. Before the internet my source of inspiration apart from fellow photography enthusiasts was in the myriads of photographic magazines.(real paper ones). I still have many back editions that although the technology has changed are useful to re visit and learn again.Anyway thanks for a thought provoking article. I am "retired" and enjoying having the time to experiment and still improve.F stoppers is a welcome regular place I visit so thanks to all the contributors.

Pablo Muller's picture

i have over 200,000 pictures on my computer and i have not shared even a hundred of them with anyone...