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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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!
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!