I’m pretty confident that all of us have sometimes had the feeling that our work is not good enough. I sure know I’ve doubted myself many, many times. In this video from Adorama, photographer David Bergman talks about the imposter syndrome and the loss of confidence. But, he also gives you some great advice on how to deal with them and boost your photographic self-confidence.
Imposter syndrome is that feeling that you’re not good enough at what you. It’s the fear that people will figure it out eventually and you’re going to be “exposed.” To be fair, it’s pretty tricky to find a parameter of success in art, which makes things even more complicated. If you make a living from photography, your earnings could be one of the parameters, but definitely not the only one. And it’s most likely not the one that will make you feel pleased with your photos.
A lot of us take photos just for fun and we don’t make a living from photography, so it can be even harder to determine whether or not we’re good at it. Likes on social media can do the trick for some people, but really, it’s not a valid criterion either. Photos of cute cats and kids get loads of likes, regardless of the quality of those images, so this may also not work for you.
Before we move on, it’s worth noting that you should make a difference between healthy and unhealthy fear. You need to realize that a certain amount of fear and anxiety are normal. They can actually push you to become a better photographer. However, you shouldn’t let that fear become unhealthy. This is when it will paralyze you instead of pushing your forward, making you think that you’ll always fail no matter what you do.
So, what are the tips for improving your confidence? How do you beat that unhealthy fear and stay only with the healthy dose of it? Here are David’s tips:
- Shoot what you love: if you’re not getting hired to shoot things you love, do it for yourself. Find time for your personal projects that will spark your joy and passion and help you to feel good about your work again.
- Recharge: I’m sure there were times when you felt stuck in creating a photo or editing it. This can make you feel frustrated and as if you’re not good enough. When this happens: step away from your project for a day, two, even a month if you need to! If you’re on a deadline, even just one hour of a break will do. Take a break, recharge, and get back at your work to look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. It always works.
- Lean into your strengths: learning a new skill will make you feel great about yourself and more confident in your work. That’s definitely something you should do from time to time. But, start with what you already know and use the skills that you’re good at. It will make you feel much better about your work, and you’ll build new skills upon those that you already own.
- Celebrate your accomplishments: I’m sure you have some photos you’re very proud of. Keep them in a dedicated folder on your computer and look at them once in a while. Or even better, make prints of them, it will make you appreciate them even more. With time, getting back at those photos will make you even realize how much you’ve improved, and you’ll replace some of those prints with new, even better ones.
- Develop a photo support group: your friends and family will always love your work and support you. But it’s important to also have a group of photographer friends around you as well. They will look at your work from a different point of view and be honest (and knowledgeable) about how you can improve. Also, if you need advice on anything specifically related to photography, you can rely on them.
If you don’t have any photographer friends, you’re gonna have to do some networking: photo walks, workshops, things like that. But I believe that forums and Facebook groups could also work, especially nowadays because, you know… coronavirus.
If your photography self-esteem is in a bit of a crisis, I’m sure David’s techniques will do wonders for you. However though, if you’re feeling really down and the crisis that you’re in is getting unbearable – don’t be ashamed to seek professional help. It will also do wonders, and I’m saying this from my own experience. It will do wonders for you above all, and consequently improve your self-esteem about your work as well.