Photographers who already made it beyond the beginner's level sometimes have trouble getting out to shoot. Because they know what a good photograph needs, they're afraid they can't deliver that quality. If that's you, then maybe you're the Worst Photographer Ever.
A Problem Everyone Is Familiar With
Every creative person will know the problem of a block. Writers have writer’s blocks, musicians struggle to compose a new song, and photographers simply struggle to pick the camera and hit the shutter. I know these doubts too well. My cameras are charged, my tripod is ready, but then, in the last minute, I decide not to go out and do something else instead. During the following days, I will get angry about my own habit of photo procrastination.
It’s a downward spiral. The less you shoot, the less success you will have. Less success causes less confidence. And the less confident you are, the less you shoot. Well, here we are, stuck in a vicious circle that’s driven by self-doubt.
A Harsh Word
Do you sit at home, your camera locked away, and think that you’re not competitive as a photographer? Well... you’re not!
While insults probably won’t help your self-confidence, let me give you an explanation for the harshness: you’re not uncompetitive because your photographs are weak. You’re uncompetitive because you don’t have photographs at all.
If your main argument for not going out to shoot is that you can’t compete with others, then you’re making a big mistake. It’s against any rule of logic to believe that shooting nothing will make you a better photographer. As long as your work isn’t out there, you’re the Worst Photographer Ever. It’s not just you, though. I guess most of us have been there.
The Worst Photographer Ever
The Worst Photographer Ever is not the one who cuts off the head of a member in a family portrait or comes back from a trip to the sea with images of skew horizons. The Worst Photographer Ever didn’t even talk to the family, because she or he thinks they will make fun or the images. Neither did she or he take that image of the seaside.
Do you know the saying “the best camera is the one that’s with you”? The worst photographer is the one that doesn’t pick the camera.
Do You Really Like Photography?
There are actually two scenarios. The first is that you bought a camera, because you thought you’d like photography, but you don’t. In this case, you might do better to stop reading this article. Get rid of the camera, and search for a hobby that you like. It’s not everyone’s duty to shoot good pictures. Other hobbies are probably cheaper, too.
But if you are still reading this article and hopefully a lot more, you seem to belong to the second category: someone who likes photography and wants to improve somehow. You’ve probably read a lot of articles already, and most of them have told you: you need to shoot a lot. Well, that’s true.
When it comes to getting up and starting something, I love to use the metaphor of a bungee jump. I know probably many readers won’t like the idea of jumping from a bridge, head first, with just a single rope tied to their feet. But let me explain. Nobody goes to the edge fully confident and fearless. Fear is a natural reaction, and it protects us from doing stupid things — for example, from jumping head-first into a canyon without a rope. Brave people aren’t fearless; they just know how to challenge themselves when their feelings are irrational.
When you decide to bungee jump, you will have seen many people doing it before, and you will probably never have seen someone die. The risk is indeed very low, probably lower than dying during some other activities that you do. But why should you jump? Because it simply is amazing. There’s no comparison to the feeling of happiness that will rush through your body once the rope tightens and pulls you back. I didn’t witness anyone jumping who didn’t yell and laugh for less than five minutes after defeating the fear. Indeed, I couldn’t stop smiling for more than an hour when I jumped.
Exposing Yourself Needs Courage
The good news is that you don’t even need to bungee jump to become a better photographer. But the story is the same, because you’re paralyzed by fear, you are afraid to make the first step. It’s irrational, though. There’s no need to fear that you will look silly with your tripod or that people will judge you because you don’t own a full frame camera. Firstly, whoever does that is an idiot. Secondly, even if you post imperfect images (whatever that means) online, someone will appreciate it or give you useful critique. If you don’t like the image, you don’t even need to share it; you can simply learn from the experience. Trust me, we’ve all gone through this. I have gigabytes of images that I won’t show to anyone, because they are failed experiments. Don’t be afraid to ask people to model for you, and don’t be afraid to take your camera out in public. You’re still learning; that’s okay. All of us are students.
But just as it happens in case of the bungee jump, once you started and jumped (or hit the shutter), there's no way back, and you will see that it didn’t harm you. My first paid photo shoot really felt weird in the beginning. When I accepted the new situation after a few minutes, it started to become really fun, though.
On the other hand, postponing your photography desire into the future will only make the feeling worse. Of course, there will be days when there are really few occasions to shoot something. Yet, this argument doesn’t last forever. At least, when the sky clears up a little and offers just a small chance of a short moment of pretty golden light, it becomes invalid. Don’t miss that chance if the alternative is feeling like the Worst Photographer Ever. At one point, you will feel that there’s some sort of success, even if only the pride of finally getting up and having started something.
Be the Best Possible You
If photography is your job, you’ll have to get up and shoot anyways. Pressure from outside is always helpful. Also, by writing articles for Fstoppers, I am often encouraged to get up and create some visual support for the written words, whenever my stock of former projects and jobs does not contain what I need. If you struggle to find sense in shooting, you might need to force yourself. Do something regularly. Write a blog, upload an image every week, or even join a 365-day challenge. There are a lot of groups of photographers who encourage themselves to improve their skills, both online and offline. The first step is hard, but once you’ve done it, you’ll see that your worries were unjustified. Don’t be the worst, but the best possible you. And if you feel brave enough, you should really go and try bungee jumping!