Gaining, and Keeping, Your Confidence

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I’m betting I’m not the only photographer out there who thought they were pretty good, until they saw a photograph taken by someone else that just blew them away, and they thought, “I’ll never be as good as that.” Am I right? Show of hands. It happens to me all the time. And it can really shake your confidence in your growing skills as a photographer. Here are some thoughts on gaining, and keeping, your confidence.

1. Keep it all in perspective. How long have you been taking pictures? What kind of gear do you own? How much training have you had? Because rest assured, most of the blow-your-mind type photographers out there have a LOT backing them. Years of experience. Mentors that are professionals in the field. Top-of-the-line gear and access to studios. Extensive training and education and professional experience. Corporate funds, sponsorship, and/or marketing. So try to keep all of that in mind while you’re experimenting with your first DSLR and only have a kit lens.

2. You’re better than you think. We are all our own worst critics. I myself occasionally look at my own portfolio and think to myself, “BOOOORIIIING.” Or I look at a shot that I took and can only see how it could have been better, not how good it is now. But then I compare my skills today to the pictures I was taking five years ago, and I can see vast improvement. When I consider how much better I’ll be, five years from now, I gain encouragement. If you don’t trust your own judgement and opinion about your skills, ask a trusted friend – one who will tell you the truth. I’m betting you’ll be pleased with what you hear.

california wildflower watch 09

3. Take criticism constructively. Taking the above into consideration, say the trusted friend you asked actually told you something you didn’t want to hear. Ask them what they think could be improved. View your own work with a technical eye, and study up on whichever technique you realize is lacking. Post your photographs to bulletin boards, social networking sites, photo sharing sites, and photography forums. There are plenty of people out there who’d love to help you grow your skills. Photography is an art and a skill that only improves and grows with time. You will NEVER reach the pinnacle of skill and come to the point where there is nothing left to learn. There is ALWAYS something to learn. So take encouragement from the fact that, while you are learning, so is every single other photographer on the planet.

4. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As I said, photography is an art as much as it is a skill or a product. The types of photographs you like to take may not be one person’s cup of tea, but may completely impress another person. Don’t let one opinion derail your confidence – understand that different people have different views in what they find to be appealing in a photograph.

5. Practice. And practice some more. And practice some MORE. You can only learn by doing. If you take a hundred photographs and only end up with five that you consider “good”, keep going. Take a hundred more, and out of that you’ll have ten good shots. A hundred more, and you’ll have thirty good shots. And on. Some day soon you’ll find you’re keeping more shots than you’re rejecting.

6. Use every resource available to you to learn. Books from the library. Photography oriented websites (like this one, hi there!). Web-based tutorials. Seminars. Community college classes. Conversations with professionals and skilled hobbyists you may know (don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you feel it’s a “dumb” question – there is no such thing!). If you want to know about it, if you want to gain the skill you feel you lack, don’t just mourn the fact that the particular aspect in question didn’t come naturally or automatically to you. Go out there and pursue the knowledge you’re lacking. Find it! Make it your own! Don’t be daunted that there are a million subjects on photography, enjoy the process of attaining and using new skills. It’s supposed to be fun, after all!

7. Learn, and cement that skill, by teaching. Some of the best skills I have, my “go to” bag of tricks, are skills that I’ve taught to someone else. Even the process that I have here on Beyond Megapixels of teaching, writing about, explaining, and demonstrating photography techniques is a continual mechanism for my own education. Once you can demonstrate and explain a skill to someone else so that they understand it, you start gaining incredible amounts of confidence in your own abilities as a photographer.

I really hope that some of these tips are resonating with particular feelings you all may be experiencing, about the confidence you have in your own skills. We are all in this together, learning and growing and becoming better each and every day. Do you have a story of personal confidence-building? Do you have advice for us all, on how to gain and keep our confidence? We would love to hear it! Please share your story in the comments!

Photo Credits (in order of appearance):
- “Icelandic Waterfall” by ajagendorf25 on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “California wildflower watch 09″ by SimonSun08 on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Impossible object” by Extra Noise on Flickr Creative Commons.

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  • sexymohican

    I have always been a photography enthusiast right from the age of thirteen. The first camera i bought was a second-handed DSLR from my savings. Needless to say, I was super excited bringing the camera home, not minding that I knew next to nothing what all the buttons meant!

    I somehow managed to manipulate some of the settings blindly and took my first shot which was of my cat taking a nap. lol.
    There after, i took the moon, setting sun and everyone around me. I became an annoying nuisance to my family and friends and one could almost slice the tension in the air as soon as they spotted me with my camera.lol.

    Unfortunately, this beatiful and loving camera was stolen from me somehow and i mourned it for the longest of time. I did not go out of my way to build up on my interest, but had visited so many sites to view others' works.
    Then comes my 3oth birthday and my husband bought me a camera! Though not a DSLR. He said it was obvious to him that I loved photography very much and he wanted me to do what i was very passionate about, hence the decision to buy it for me as a gift. I have made a pact with him that i will learn all i can with the camera before i move onto getting a DSLR, and I have kept to that promise so far by reading and learning lighting effects which eluded me for the longest of times.

    My confidence grows each day i pick my camera to practice with and I try very much not to compare myself with others because everyone has got a story behind their coming into photograpy…

    …so, slowly, steadily and surely, I will aim to be the best that only i could ever be.

  • benjiK

    You are saying you bought a DSLR @ 13yo? So that means if you are 30 now, you bought a DSLR in 1993? in 1991 a Kodak DSC-100 cost 30k, i doubt a 13yo was able to save that much…

    Im calling BS on your story SexyMohican

  • Bill

    How about we assume she meant “SLR” that way we don't have to do math.