Photography: Why I Need to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Process

Photography: Why I Need to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Process

Running a photography business, or even just posting to social media as an amateur, can end up driving some of us crazy with worry and anxiety. I'm one of these people, but thanks to friends, family, and my own doggedness I've learned some ways to cope with the madness.

There are certainly differences between the daily stresses of a business owner compared with those of an amateur. Amateurs, for the most part, have a day job while photography is their hobby/passion — it's what they do to relax or wind down after a hard week. That's not to say that they don't experience worry with regard to their photography; "Why don't my photos look like that?" or "Who can I turn to for advice?" are common questions we all asked ourselves at some stage. And, not to forget the advanced amateur, whose photography can oftentimes be better than the work of most professionals. They too suffer from the whispers of the green-eyed monster from time to time. In fact, I would say that everyone suffers from that, at times. As for the professionals, they have all these thoughts plus the pressures that come with running a business. From difficult clients to non-existent clients, dealing with people can be a struggle. Then there's you. Are you juggling too much? Are you disorganized? Do you really know what your strengths and weaknesses are? It's endless, really. But learning how to identify what stresses you out is the fist step.

Small wet dog running towards the photographer.

Doggos: One of my favorite ways to de-stress.

Not Alone

I've personally run into all these issues and because I wasn't equipped with the right tools, I ended up going to the doctor because my heart was doing summersaults in my chest. Thankfully, I don't have a serious heart condition. However, if I don't look after myself and ignore the symptoms I may end up with more serious issues. It turns out that I'm seriously stressed on top of having a touch of anxiety disorder. But my life isn't more difficult than the next person's — I just don't have the tools to cope well with certain situations. I've known this for a while and it's something that I've been working on, but I could have tried a little harder before I had this little fright. Now that I'm more aware of my situation I am more focused on what I could do to improve things. Why am I writing about this? Because it's directly related to my photography business and I know that I'm not alone, and I want others to know that they're not alone, either. Sounds kind of cliché, I know, but this is the kind of subject that can be talked about more often. Some people need to hear it again and again before they start believe it. 

Things That Cause Me Stress

So what are my triggers? I won't go through them all but I want to give some examples and what I'm doing to cope with them. 

Unresponsive Potential Clients

This happens quite often. I'll get an inquiry through my website, I'll respond, and then nothing. Not a "thanks we'll think about it," or "Sorry, I can't afford to pay €250 for photos to help sell my €750,000 house." Nothing. Now, for most people, I think that this is a no-brainer. You don't give it a second thought because what's the point? Sure, you might send a follow-up email and if there is still no response you forget about it like a normal human. But when this happens to me it feels like my brain is on fire. I will over-analyze until the cows come home. I'll become frustrated and angry, I'll feel like I didn't do enough to sell myself to them and for that I'll feel like I've failed. Sounds crazy, right? Maybe to some, but to others these thoughts are all too common.

Solution

I could stew over it, or I could move on and find a way to attract the client that I want. I will get nowhere by trying to figure out what is in this person's head. Be proactive and be patient with yourself.

Lack of Engagement on Social Media

Instagram: "I loath you but I need you. Please give me attention you tiny little rectangle of hearts and inane positive affirmations." Sound familiar? I hope so, or else I sound super weird. At times, using Instagram is like being in an abusive relationship. You're constantly seeking approval, and when it's not forthcoming, you feel rejected and dejected. But you go back to it again and again because those "likes" feel so good. As photographers, I think we mostly want appraisal from our peers. After all, they are the ones who are most qualified to give an opinion on our work. Therefore we should always listen to them rather than a well-intentioned yet simple pleb who tells us that our work is amazing. Right? Are you sure? 

Solution

Yes, I could worry myself to death because my work isn't as good as the next person's, and I could ignore the person who was kind enough to send me a message of support, or I could be happy about the success of my peers and work on improving my own skills while recognizing that I'm a person that someone else admires, even if they are a simple pleb. Point being, if you haven't guessed it already, that there will always be someone who is better than you, so why worry?

Pay Me for My Work

Some people are tight with money, others don't understand the value of good photography, and more don't seem to be able to communicate effectively. Sometimes these traits overlap, and the center of that Venn Diagram reads like something that I'm not allowed to write here. The same emotions and feelings pop up: anger, frustration, low self-esteem, and eventually, chest pain.

Solution

Nobody is worth chest pain, not even those with big wallets. Learn to attract the clients that you want. It's a difficult thing to figure out sometimes. The important thing to remember is that the type of person that is described by the above paragraph should be avoided. 

Three people walk on a sandy beach towards the horizon above the sea.

Fresh air, exercise, and human interaction are good tools to stave off stress.

The Common Denominator 

With all these issues, there is one thing that I cannot control: what others think about me. No matter how good my photos are, or no matter how well I conduct myself on a shoot, I can't keep everyone happy. If I do my best and I'm not treated in a way that reflects my effort, then the problem is out of my hands. The only thing that I can control is me. In most of these situations I can ask myself one question: "Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?" Checkmate, Instagram.

My Habits

I'd also like to list a few things that I do to keep myself balanced. These are basic common knowledge habits to keep the mind and body in a stable state. I am not a medical professional, so if you're seeking health advice, please get it from a licensed professional because everyone is different and some have limitations. 

  • I try to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • I exercise regularly.
  • I meditate/practice mindfulness regularly.
  • I try to go to bed at a reasonable hour.
  • I stick to a schedule, especially when I work from home.
  • I talk to people on a regular basis, especially because I mostly work from home.
  • I keep a tidy home and work environment (most of the time).
A floating bust of the Buddha in front of a silk curtain with a pink flower and green leaves.

Set aside time away from distractions to practice being more present. Even just 10 minutes a day will help.

Learn to Love Again

There is no magic bullet and everyone is different, but these things are manageable, you just need to identify them. If you are experiencing high amounts stress, please visit your GP, and at the very least, talk to someone. I might add that, if you're on the receiving end of someone with these issues, it's OK for you to talk to someone, too. There are solutions out there. When you are able to reduce stress and anxiety associated with photography, you will learn to love it again.

Have any of our readers experienced high amounts of stress associated with photography. Even outside of photography, how do you manage stress? We would love to hear your experiences in the comments below.

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7 Comments

Owain Shaw's picture

Thanks for sharing these thoughts - it is important for everyone to know that they are not alone in their worries, doubts and anxieties, creative or otherwise.

I've definitely had my ups and downs with Photography. I'm currently quite satisfied with what I'm doing which is personal projects, but this is just a few months on from a few months of internal struggles with Photography. In the end, what pulled me out of this was realising that I needed to believe in my ideas and start bringing my projects into being rather than thinking so much about what I want to do while not doing anything.

Mike O'Leary's picture

Thank you, Owain.

I wholeheartedly agree — overthinking a project is a surefire way of never starting it.

RUI RESSURREIÇÃO's picture

Thanks for your great article, and being sincere in all your words!

eric krouse's picture

Perfect article, Mike. You could =(Replace All "photography", " ") and this would be an important and timely writing. Also, doggos x1000.

Thank you so much for sharing your honest and insightful experiences! Great article!

Nicholas Morris's picture

Great article! I avoid social media stress by only looking at my social media engagement ONCE a day. Else I'm frantically refreshing all day and pushing that anxiety higher. Once a day, I can effectively use that engagement data to improve my social strategy in the future.

Thank you so much for sharing your honest and insightful experiences! Great article!

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