I’m baffled by how often I encounter photographers who tell me they have been shooting for years but still haven’t created their portfolio because their work isn't good enough. After a bit of convincing, I can usually prompt them into sending me a few shots to take a look at, only to find out their work is more than ready to be displayed.
Most photographers will simply come out and say: “I’m not good enough yet,” but personally, I’ve defined this phenomenon as the "gap." It is the gap separating where a photographer feels they are currently at in terms of skill and where they wish they could be. If that gap is too large, they perceive their work as insufficient quality to show the world.
Personally, I can truly sympathize with that feeling. Like most artists, I have an obsession with chasing perfection, which is an impossible race, yet my heart leads me down that road regardless. My work isn’t even close to perfect in any sense of the word. In fact, there is an infinite canyon separating me from perfection that will never close. I’ve come to accept that, and you need to as well.
There will always be a gap between where you are and where you want to be. Stop worrying about it! Instead, get your work out there; if that is your goal, the best time to start is right now.
Start Building Your Presence
If your goal is to eventually build a photography presence for whatever reason, the sooner you get started, the better. No matter how good your work is, building that presence via social media, search engine rankings, and overall visibility is a long road. If you sit on perfectly good work for years, waiting to find some holy grail that will tip your work into the realm of mystical perfection, you will still have the long climb to do once you feel you are ready.
Instead, start your trek now. Your work will get better over time, but your current work is good enough to kick out of the nest. It is good enough to represent you and show to the world. Most importantly, it is good enough to be the first rung at the bottom of a tall ladder.
Don't Be Afraid of Negative Feedback
If you are someone that is sitting back, afraid to show your work because it isn’t good enough, don’t worry about getting negative feedback. It will happen. Every photographer gets negative feedback. I have a secret for you though: if you have been holding yourself back for years, refusing to show your work, that means you are giving yourself more brutal and negative feedback than the world could ever send your way. There is no reason to be afraid of all the lesser, often uninformed critics when the harshest one imaginable is already running rampant inside your brain.
Only Do It If You Want It
Not everyone is aspiring to build a photographer presence. I understand and respect that. This article is targeted at the students who want it but are afraid to take the first step. If you are the sort of photographer who has no interest in that sort of thing and simply shoot for the love of shooting, then keep chasing that passion.
For the Rest of You
With the exception of a small few who fit into that mold of shooting only to shoot, with little interest in getting their work out to the world, it is time to take that first step. Get your work out there! I don’t care if you’ve been shooting for a week or a decade, there is no time like the present for getting started on building that personal photography brand that hovers in your dreams. There is only one way to ensure failure, and that is by not ever taking that first step because of fear. Stop making excuses. The time is now. Get cracking!