I was immediately drawn to this essay on the Take Great Photos this week when the newsletter showed up in my email. Photographer Catherine Hall offers tips to help combat fear on the road to developing a photographic style and identity. Looking at Hall's work, it's almost crazy to imagine that this extremely talented wedding photographer would ever have a moment of doubt.
But it's something that I cope with often, as do many of my photography friends. Insecurity and fear, like other emotions, are neither good or bad...they just are. Acknowledge them, master a new skill to help you cope with whatever that fear is, and move on. The only time that I get worried is when those emotions paralyze me and stop me from advancing, and I know you should never let that happen -- for too long anyway. ;)
Perhaps these tips from Hall will be of some help. They appeared in a great issue of TakeGreatPictures.com:
1. Don't be afraid to laugh and make fun of yourself.
People are often painfully conscious of being in front of the camera, especially at weddings. They get stiff and uncomfortable. I find that if I misdirect the attention from them to myself, they worry less about how they look. So don't take yourself too seriously. Don't be afraid to laugh at or make fun of yourself, because inevitably that's going to put people at ease.
2. Don't be afraid to experiment.
Photographers often ask me for advice on finding a personal style. My feeling is that you don't find your style; your style finds you. Be receptive to ideas that come to you as a photographer. You are never going to develop a unique style if you stick to what you know works and you’re too scared to let yourself experiment. “What you know works,' is basically what other people have already done.”
3. Don't be afraid to charge what you're worth.
This is a huge tip for new photographers. We all have difficulty with this because we love what we do. It’s uncomfortable, but my advice is just to start off charging what you're worth and eventually you'll get used to it. Ultimately we're selling something that's unique and that gives it demand, so we should charge for it.
4. Don't be afraid to make a mistake.
Your clients don't expect you to be perfect, but you don't want to waste their time, either. If something isn’t working during a shoot, you'll get more respect by admitting it and moving on than trying to save face and taking bad pictures.
5. Don't be afraid to succeed.
Fortunately, I've never felt that I don't deserve to succeed in business, and because of that many wonderful things have come my way. But we all have fears. I see a lot of selfsabotage that goes on, a lot of excuses people make that get in the way of their success. This is not something that changes overnight, but its important to think about that and how it might be putting up roadblocks.
6. Don't be afraid of challenges.
This is for new photographers in particular. A lot of times you will be offered jobs that you think you can't do, and you just have to put faith in the fact that if the person offering you the job thinks you can do it, you probably can. Never turn down an opportunity!
7. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable.
If you have the desire to succeed and be exceptional, you will inevitably be exposed to criticism and rejection. Don't be afraid to put yourself at risk and express yourself in a way that will allow you to grow. People are not going to pay a lot of money for a mediocre photographer. There are a million of them out there. You have to distinguish yourself, and in order to do that you have to make yourself vulnerable.
8.Don't be afraid to play in post-production.
Have fun. With weddings you have to be careful because the images should be timeless and you can't do crazy special effects, but just as you experiment when you’re shooting, allow yourself to experiment in post. Allow yourself to be creative when you're working on the images in the same way that you are when you're making them.
9. Don't be afraid to grow
It’s really important to constantly be challenging yourself in order to avoid getting stuck in a routine. Have fun with growing as an artist. I am continually reinventing myself, which has allowed both me and my work to grow.
10. Fear is the darkroom where all negatives are developed.