Deal 6: 365 days of training from the world’s best photographers
As I’ve begun teaching others how to edit their photos I’ve begun to realize that a lot of new photographers lack the confidence in their own work. I get questions like “Why don’t my photos look like this?” or “Should I buy a D800 so I can take better photos?” all the time and I’m starting to wonder if it’s simply because people don’t feel good about the work that they do create.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m my hardest critic, but I do always feel good about the photographs that I share, even if I wish I’d done something differently I am always happy that I got a result and gained some experience in the process.
Of course, it can be pretty obvious why people might feel this way when you think about it. After all the internet is filled with amazing photographs, just look at any of these inspirational posts on DPS and unless your one of the featured photographers you might wonder how you too could get to that level.
The simple answer is… First you have to feel good about your photography, because the instant you start doubting your own work, your work will start to suffer.
Of course that’s easier said than done, so confronted with these questions about confidence, I decided I’d take the time to come up with five little nuggets of inspiration that everyone should keep in mind. By doing so I think you will start to feel good about your photography no matter who or where you are in your journey.
No matter who you are the best benchmark for improvement is yourself in the past. Take a minute and dig through your archives look back at the photos you took three months ago, a year ago, or even further.
When I do this task I’ll notice that my composition and my choice of settings continue to improve. I make smarter choices for focal points and I get better and better at picking the right exposure in camera. Whatever you do don’t compare your photography to another photographer’s work – good or bad – it’s not a fair benchmark and you won’t be helping yourself appreciate your work.
Gear envy is something we all struggle with from time to time and unless you’ve been blessed with that mythical tree made of money you’re going to be doing more wanting and less buying. Don’t let the idea that a better camera, lens, accessory, gadget or what-have-you will make you a better photographer – it won’t – and worrying about it won’t help either.
Be happy with what you have and spend your time learning to get the best photos that you can out of this equipment instead of daydreaming about your dream machine – your wallet will thank you later.
Even if the only fans you have are your friends and family let them be your motivation to continue to produce more work and better quality work. Let them move you beyond the point your at now and push you to where you want to be. Be happy with every like they give you on Facebook or every comment they leave on your site – or even – every time your mom tells you that she got your newsletter and loved the photo of that flower that you took at her house last weekend.
Fans are why I do what I do and I still remember when my Facebook page had less than 30 likes and almost no interaction. It takes time and a lot of work to grow, but if you’re consistent, true to yourself, your fans, and always remember it’s not a race you’ll start to feel good about what you’re doing and then the rest will fall into place.
Are you taking photos because you want to pass time on the weekends, record family moments, or are you trying to make a career out of it? There many reasons why we take photos and before you can truly be happy with the results you capture you should define why you’re picking up the camera in the first place.
And finally – this is probably the most important one – share what you do. Open yourself up to the world and let others see the what you’ve captured. Take the critiques with dignity and class and revel in the compliments from your fans and family.
If you need a stiff kick of inspiration here are some tips to help you get the confidence to share your photos I wrote for my own site a few months ago. The truth of the matter is the more you share the more you’ll improve and the more you improve the more you’ll be able to look at step number one and say – “Wow, look at how far I’ve come!”.
And that is what feeling good is all about.
August 6, 2013 11:26 pm
@Casey - I agree with peter don't sell your crop sensor short it is certainly a very capable camera and is definitely not a child's toy - pair it with the right lenses and continue to use it and learn everything you can about properly composing and exposing your photographs and you'll be amazed at how powerful that little camera really is.
August 6, 2013 11:06 pm
I seriously would not worry about the crop sensor thing - it can be an advantage for on the move and things like wildlife or sports, and a lot of pros use crop sensor cameras (eg Canon 7D). You just need to be aware of it when it comes to lens choice (e.g. the excellent EFS 10-22 is crop sensor only, as well as expensive). Some reviews also suggest that images get soft around the edges on full frame. The T3i is certainly not a child's toy!
August 6, 2013 07:20 am
I am one of these people. I finally got what I consider a "real" camera (canon t3i) And I was taking what I felt at the time was amazing pictures, this was in the jpeg mode. Then I was told about the RAW format and editing your pics in lightroom. Well now my amazing pictures are never good enough for me cause I feel like I never get the development settings right even tho other people think the pictures look good. And on top of that I now have realized the t3i is a crop sensor camera and I saw several places where the professionals only use full frame so now I have camera envy and my t3i now feels like a childs toy...grrrr. I'm trying to work through this, and I am glad I am not the only one experencing these things.
August 4, 2013 09:19 pm
Great article.I liked what you wrote about comparing yourself to other Photographers.I know I can take great pictures,but when I see other Photographers pictures,I get a discouraged with my own..It's a dead end .Thanks for sharing that tip.My confidence was definetly suffering.
August 1, 2013 10:21 am
Great thoughts. The most difficult part is when you compare yourself against other people's work. And it's hard to avoid, but it's part of the learning process. I think you need to see as many pictures as you can, not only to "get inspired", also to wonder "how that picture was done?" and get a better understanding of technics, tools and art concepts.
I take photography as my way of art expression, so I take pictures to show others how I see the world.
July 30, 2013 04:16 am
Thanks for these great tips, especially for the talking to about being critical of ourselves. I have beaten myself up for a while now, but comparing to how I used to shoot, I am (GASP) even proud of some of my images now. I feel as though I am finally ready to start sharing with the world (have actually been thinking about it for a year or so). I am not really technically very savvy so I need a way to set up a Blog, etc that is pretty self-intuitive or has a walk through for set up. Can you give some ideas of how to go about this? Sites that are particularly helpful? Look forward to any ideas you have. Thanks.
July 29, 2013 03:22 am
Very good article and so true. Best tip in my opinion? "Know why you're photographing" followed closely by a combination of "share your work" and "remember your fans". Photography should bring enjoyment, both to yourself and those who see your work. One fan or a million fans really matters not.
July 28, 2013 08:37 am
Thank you for such timely encouragement, as a starter, my confidence was suffering and I have been reluctant to share but you have given me the kick start I needed Cheers
July 27, 2013 09:29 pm
July 27, 2013 12:01 am
Thank you. Yes, I am my worst critic and I do look at past photos and realize I have improved. While I do photography for myself, it is nice to know the photos are appreciated even if by only a few. https://www.facebook.com/ScottMillerFotoliphe
July 26, 2013 11:29 pm
All too much of the problem with the work posted to sites is the amount of Post-Processing that is done to the images....so many newbies look at photos and think by going to the top of the range equipment it will give them the highly stylised shots....but not the case and sometimes this is where the magazines fall into the same remit - they will post highly edited shots as winners of competitions giving the false impression
July 26, 2013 10:44 pm
Thank you for such an important article. I have been feeling that I just don't have the ability to take good photos, although I spend lots of time reading the theory. This has made me less inclined to take photos recently. Your point of not comparing to others is so right as that's exactly what I do, but when I compare to myself I have made great strides. I also, definitely have the equipment envy, "if only I had a Mac so I could get a good editing programme" , (I do everything on my I Pad) So the camera is coming out now to take photos of the butterflies in my garden. Thank you
July 26, 2013 10:07 pm
@peter - Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint it, but for me it's the same thing - I enjoy it so much and even in those points in time where I get overwhelmed and need some inspiration I still remember that it's a lot of fun to capture images and share them for people to see. Thanks for the comment!
July 26, 2013 07:10 pm
Good Article. You almost caused a nervous breakdown with that "why am I doing it?" question. Luckily I remembered that it is "because I like it". Won't forget that again.
July 26, 2013 05:39 pm
This kind of thing is often overlooked in favour of technical advice but is fundamental to development, so is especially relevant to "new" photographers or maybe even more experienced but slightly jaded ones.
The point about knowing why you're photographing is hugely important. For some people it takes a while to figure out the answer to that question, but enjoying the experience of finding out and then keeping that answer in mind can really help you manage your development and expectations. When you understand your own motivation and aspiration it's much easier to manage your own journey to achieving confidence in your progress and output. Nice work John!
July 26, 2013 02:42 pm
oops sorry same message twice
July 26, 2013 02:40 pm
The first point is the one that resonates with me, though all are valuable. Last year, I took a photograph of myself every Monday (sometimes I cheated and did it Sunday or Tuesday if there was something interesting happening). Then I compiled them all (unretouched) into a photobook with the info about the settings I used.
It becomes quite a challenge to do something different each week but I can really see some improvement. I might try it again with a different subject or a different focus as it was a really useful exercise.
Sharing is also invaluable and I take a lot of photos at family events which I share. I am now starting to have requests for paid jobs!
July 26, 2013 02:40 pm
Thx I needed to read this but I know I will have to reread it every day for a constant reminder. I think I am the worse of the worse. I do not add my pics on flickr groups anymore because I need /want people to critic and no one does ...good or bad it is the only way I will learn right
July 26, 2013 02:33 pm
Thx I needed to read this but I know I will have to reread it every day for a constant reminder. I think I am the worse of the worse. I do not add my pics on flickr groups anymore because I need /want people to critic and no one does ...good or bad it is the only way I will learn
July 26, 2013 10:59 am
A timely article John. Thank you for taking the time to put your thoughts on paper (er...electrons perhaps) . The concept of comparing yourself to youself 3 months ago instead of the best 'togs in the world is very good advice.
It is normal that everyone gets down on their photography at some stage - both beginners and those who have been doing it for many years. For many it comes in cycles - Eg, I'm on a downer at the moment & hate most of my shots, but I know it always picks up & I'll find that spark of creativity again soon, wherever it has been hiding.
One trick I use is to grab a camera and only one prime lens. (or you could use a zoom lens if that is all you have, but leave it set on a single focal length) . Pick a spot/subject that interests you. See how many different composition ideas you can come up with. It forces you to be creative, zoom with your feet, & get out of your rut.
July 26, 2013 10:31 am
Thanks...I needed that! Seriously.
July 26, 2013 08:36 am
@Clyde - Thanks for the thoughtful comment. So happy that you're enjoying my work here on DPS and you shared a great example of how looking at two similar shots at different points in time demonstrates your own improvement.
July 26, 2013 08:32 am
@Darlene - Thanks a bunch happy you liked it! :)
July 26, 2013 06:33 am
Great article John!
July 26, 2013 05:26 am
Yes, a good point of view, and good writing.
Some of my picture:
July 26, 2013 05:11 am
Thanks for the encouraging advice, you are right on the money that's where I was some time ago and implemented some of the same in my hobby and like the flowers of summer it's blooming.
July 26, 2013 02:51 am
Very true n inspiring !!
July 26, 2013 01:12 am
Oh my gosh, that first tip is the BEST! I do compare myself to others, but really, if I compare myself to MYSELF three months ago, I made a lot of progress!
July 25, 2013 11:15 pm
Inspire Involve Innovate !
these 3 words are to be remembered through out the journey of photography
July 25, 2013 09:06 pm
Thanks for all the comments everyone! So happy to hear that this post has inspired so many people to either pick up their cameras or look back at their progress :)
July 25, 2013 05:57 pm
Entirely agree with comparing myself with 3 months or even a year before.
July 25, 2013 09:44 am
Nicely done! Gear envy is an easy pit to fall into, while the knowing and sharing can be hard to do. Great article.
July 25, 2013 03:01 am
Thank you so much for this article!! I'm lucky enough to be getting paid work within a year of seriously starting into photography and the pressure I put on myself when I get paid is crazy! I also do a lot of negative self-talking and rarely feel happy with what I've produced to the point where I've had (really supportive) clients and friends tell me that I'm way too hard on myself. I guess I'm just being impatient about my progress and I'm also expecting every photo to be great! So starting now I'm going to lighten up a bit and learn to be happy with what I'm accomplishing -- that doesn't mean I can't also aspire to do better, does it? Thanks again! Very inspiring!
July 25, 2013 01:51 am
This is a great article, I will definitely go back to a year or so ago to look at my photos and compare them to now. I know for a fact there's a tremendous difference, just the senior photos I did for my oldest daughter 2 years ago and now taking them for my oldest daughter, there is a huge difference. Thanks for posting this article, it's a great inspiration to all photographers out there.
July 25, 2013 01:46 am
Thanks for the advice. I especially like "Compare yourself to 3 months ago".
Like many of us, I find myself enviously looking at great photos and thinking "why can't I shoot like that?" But then I look back at the images I shot just a few months ago and realize that I have gotten better. While I'm not where I want to be with my work (who ever is?!!!) I realize that looking at photos that are better than mine inspires me and gives me creative fuel that does help me improve.
Keep up the good work here on DPS. I like your articles.
July 24, 2013 11:29 pm
Just the advice I need especially "Defeat Gear Envy. Thanks
July 24, 2013 11:25 pm
Great article and timely...I'm currently in a slump! I believe I'll be revisiting this article every time I start the downward spiral to that ugly world of photography-block. Thank you!
July 24, 2013 09:33 pm
maybe I need to try some of this. I have been so far down on myself and my pictures that I have not picked up my camera for months, I have not been to the club that I am a member of for months either and also resigned from the committee. I have even contemplated selling all of my gear, but for some reason I have not sold up and I keep looking at DPS for some sort of inspiration to kickstart me again. Who knows maybe this could be it.
July 24, 2013 07:07 pm
This is the perfect article for me to read and hammer into my own head. I'm a fair new photographer and unfortunately i tend to be hard on myself with everything. SO you can imagine how i view my own work
July 24, 2013 05:56 pm
This is a good article. I used to worry about what other thought of my photos. Now I realise what one person may hate another loves so if I like it then I am happy.
July 24, 2013 12:01 pm
This is some good and sound advice. I sometimes find myself envying the work of others and feeling my own to be substandard. I have been noticing improvement lately. Thanks for confirming what I was coming to the conclusion myself.
July 24, 2013 07:07 am
I just want to thank you again for another great article. I have read several of yours over the past few weeks and each one of them I have enjoyed and they have been beneficial to me and my work. You hit the nail on the head again with this one. I have always been my own worst critic. Not just with photography but with anything endeavor. When I write fiction I think it's horrible, when I cook something, I think it's not as good as someone else and it's something I have been trying to not let happen with my photography work. All of your tips here are great and apply. Just this year I decided to start sharing my work on my 500px site. I often think about why I am not just taking photos in general, but also why I am taking photos of certain types (portrait, nature, landscape, bird, astrophotography, etc) and each type may have different reasons for me. Thankfully I have not had gear envy. Once I was able to move up to an actual DSLR with a basic kit lens and telephoto lens (I was shooting with a bridge camera before that introduced crazy artifacts in shots, even at ISO 100) the only thing I really wanted was a tripod and a 50mm fixed lens, both for valid reasons (the tripod for obvious reasons, and the 50 for the wide aperture and sharper shots). I am content with what I have for now as I know I still have to maximize my abilities with it before I invest thousands more in new equipment. Thankfully this part has been drilled into me from the start. What really lead me to comment on this article though and not just quietly read it and take it in was the first one. This is huge, both in my photography and my post production work. This is something that I have been using to help me not be so critical of my own work Here is something I took awhile ago: http://500px.com/photo/26570063 At the time I thought this was an ok shot. I was never fond of my portrait work, even candid shots like this, and I really was not fond of my B&W conversion work (since I always shoot full color). When I finished with this though I found I did not hate it. I actually liked it, I shared it, my mother even framed it. (Point #3 above). Then months later I took this: http://500px.com/photo/29665715 Now granted, someone may argue that the equipment is far better (but they should remember the point on gear envy). Yes, it was taken with better equipment . . . but even taking that aside I think the work itself is better, the processing is better. This is the difference that a few months and experience can make. The key is that you always look to improve. It build confidence and helps you improve. You can always improve, the key is that you should take the time to enjoy the fact that you can see improvement. And by following your suggestion you are making a fair comparison that is likely to help you grow as a photographer. Thanks again for your articles and sharing your info and love the art. Keep them coming.
July 24, 2013 07:04 am
Very thoughtful article. I think you are so right in that we are certainly our own harshest critics. It took me a long time to start trusting my decisions (and fighting gear envy, seriously). Once I started trusting my instincts, I found myself outside exploring new subjects and styles as well as trying new things in post. Be yourself!
July 24, 2013 07:03 am
The timing of your article is very good. I have created a photo blog recently. With just a few visitors per day and only 5 posts so far, my blog is like a new-born baby.
In 3 months, I will remember "comparing myself to myself three months ago"
Thanks for the motivation
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