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7 Steps to Becoming a Confident Photographer: a Beginner’s Guide

Confidence is worth it’s weight in gold in any arena.  As a photographer, there’s nothing like KNOWING you’re capable of “getting the shot.”  It’s so empowering to know that if you miss a shot it’s NOT going to be because you didn’t know what you were doing OR perhaps worse would be that you did know how to nail it, but you were too slow in setting up the shot due to lack of practice!

There are a katrillion ways to gain confidence in your abilities as a photographer.  Here are a few that I have found to be incredibly helpful over the years.  They will help you to be prepared for any shot and ready to get your settings right in a split second.  Feel free to add other ideas in the comment section below!

1. Keep a Notebook . . . or don’t

  • Especially in the beginning, I recommend creating a well organized notebook. I still have one that I jot notes in frequently.  You can treat this like a travel log of your experience, a place where you keep notes, set goals, paste trimmings of shots you’ve found that inspire you etc.  You’d be surprised just how many photographers do this.  I’d say at least 50% of my successful photographer friends still have a notebook of this kind and use it frequently. I’ll mention it a bit more as we move on to the other tips.
  • It is important to acknowledge that for some, it’s just not their thang and I totally get that.  For some people it adds stress and pressure to something that is supposed to be fun.  If you fall into that category, ditch step one and keep moving on to the other tips in the post.

2. Shoot Frequently

(this is the most important of any of the tips, so if you’re going to choose just one, let this be it!)

  • If you really want to gain confidence, you should be out shooting as much as you possibly can.  Perhaps it’s every day on your lunch hour.  If that’s the only window you have to consistently squeeze it in, fine.  Just be out shooting frequently and consistently.
  • NOTHING can replace the benefits of just getting out there and shooting as often as you can. Practice makes perfect after all.

3. Shoot in Different Conditions

Image: By Viewminder

By Viewminder

  • Not only should you be shooting regularly, you should be out shooting in different conditions as often as possible to familiarize yourself with them.  A lot of times as photographers we’re searching for good, easy, flat light that isn’t going to throw us any curve balls (ie open shade or an overcast day).  The reality of photography however is that you don’t always have so much control, so you need to be ready for any and everything at any given time.
  • For example: maybe one week you practice shooting subjects that are backlit and the next you go out and shoot in low light.  Just get out and shoot and shoot and shoot and then come home and record what you learn each day in the corresponding section of your notebook.

4. Set Goals

  • Is there a particular technique you’d like to learn?  Perhaps there’s a shot you saw and you’d like to attempt to achieve a similar result. Write your goal down in your notebook and keep track of how far you’ve come.
  • If you’re really brave (and committed to gaining confidence) I recommend that you set your goal publicly (like on your blog, a forum you participate in etc) so that you feel accountable.  Let people know that you’re working on something new and ask for their feedback and any tips they may have.  Then get out and practice like crazy until you get it figured out.

5.  Read


Above: Scott Kelby Boxed Set

  • There are SO MANY great books out there on photography.  Scott Kelby has some really fantastic ones for beginners and the dPS eBook store has a great range too.  Make a visit to the bookstore or your local library and get your study on.
  • Now days there is so much information available for FREE!!!  What Darren has created here at Digital Photography School really is remarkable.  Dig through the archives.  If you don’t find what you’re looking for you can always kick of an email to DPS or directly to one of the writers and give us a post suggestion.  No guarantees, but we really do want to give you what you want and need! We’re here to help you succeed!

6. Ask Questions

  • Sometimes photographers have a hard time asking questions. Why do so many of us like to feel like look like we’ve got it all figured out?  It’s baffling.  Asking questions frequently will help you feel certain you’re going about things in the right way and that’s a HUGE step toward gaining lasting confidence.

7.  Change Your Perspective

Not to get too philosophical, but. . .

  • I recently received an email from a follower of my personal blog.  She expressed frustration over the discouragement she feels when she looks at other photographer’s work:  “I keep thinking I’m learning and improving and then I see other people’s stuff and I just feel like the worst photographer ever!” The concept of comparison is not a new one. It exists in every field but I would venture to say that the plague is particularly rampant in this industry.
  • My anecdote is this: simply remember that no matter who you are or how celebrated you become, there will always be a zillion photographers better than you AND always a zillion worse. And guess what? It doesn’t matter a bit! Comparison is all about perspective, and that’s something you have complete and total control over. Rather than viewing another photographer’s work and feeling down because you feel incapable of taking shots like that, think “Wow!  That’s a great shot! I’m so glad I now I know that shots like that are possible and I can start practicing and trying to figure out how!” How’s that for empowerment! Word.to.your.mother! Instead of secretly begrudging the attention another photographer is receiving for their work, just think, “Wow, if I work really hard, I could get that kind of attention to MY art!”

Ultimately confidence is a choice.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are our skills as photographers!  But I really TRULY believe that with the tips listed above, you can soar above anything you’ve ever dreamed was possible and enjoy your passion for photography in a whole new way!

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Natalie Norton
Natalie Norton

is a writer and a lifestyle wedding and portrait photographer who shoots across the globe. She is based off of the North Shore of Oahu and out of Gilbert, Arizona. Enjoy more of her photography and writing at www.natalienortonblog.com. You can also connect with Natalie via Twitter or on Facebook.

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