7 Tips to Boost Your Confidence in Your Photography

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All creative people suffer peaks and troughs with their confidence. It’s just part of the deal. How, then, do you pull yourself out of a dip in confidence and into a place of awesome, creative inspiration?

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I have been a photographer for twenty-odd years and I still have times when I wonder, “Will I ever take another good photograph?” Our creativity can be a very delicate, vulnerable energy – so it’s good to tend to it and treat it kindly.

In this article, I will give you some simple ideas that can help boost your confidence when you are struggling with being creative in your photography.

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1. Stop focusing on what you can’t do

While it is super important to know where you have weakness so that you can improve, don’t focus on it.

Our minds can quickly fall into soul-crushing, creativity-crushing tirades about all that we can’t and don’t do. So we have to walk the careful line of improving ourselves, without destroying our confidence in the process. If you are super self-critical (as I am) then I urge you to stop, at least for a little while because intense self-criticism won’t help you develop.

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Now start looking at your photos and think of all of the things you do well, all the things people might have said they like about them, things you like about them. Build from there.

When you are feeling good about your creativity, you’ll be so much more open when you go out and shoot. You’ll be less focused on yourself and a lot more focused on the world. That’s the right way to be, not thinking about you, but engaged and connected with the world around you. That’s when you’ll discover awesome shots.

2. We all have a story to share

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I know so many people who think they don’t have anything new or interesting to add to the world because it’s already been said and done. That is just plain wrong. Every single person has a unique story, a unique way of looking at things – regardless of how it is expressed – through writing, photography, science, music etc.

If you aren’t getting good photos, then my first question for you would always be, are you photographing subjects that you are deeply in awe of? Are you standing in front of your subject and thinking WOW?

Or are you just shooting whatever catches your eye, with a mood of vague interest?

“If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.” – Jim Richardson

What interests you may not interest me. Within the groups of photographers I teach, they each have totally different interests – and that is awesome!

The more you hone in what makes your inspiration explode, the more your ideas, your stories, your photos will be unique and interesting to others.

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What I encourage is to pick one subject that you are passionate about and really work on developing that until you start getting photos you really love. It could be abstract shapes in black and white, environmental portraits, sunrises, plants, etc.

When you pick something and go deep you become really familiar with your subject. By working different ways of shooting that subject, you are definitely in with an opportunity to develop something unique.

Dig deep into whatever makes you feel excited to jump out the bed and go photograph. Get really familiar with it, work on different angles, formats, processing techniques, etc.

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I know you might say, “But I have 10 different subjects I love to photograph.” I get it! The world is an exciting place. But if you want to seriously improve your photography start with one subject. You can always move on later.

Most famous photographers are known for photographing one or two subjects right? They know what they are doing! Pick something and become totally awesome at capturing it.

3. Kill perfectionism

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One of the main ways to deflate your confidence is to get wrapped up in trying to be perfect; trying to have the perfect kit, waiting for the perfect subject, trying to be perfect in your execution. You may think that perfectionism is striving for the best of yourself but in fact:

“Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough – that we should try again.” – Julia Cameron

When you are locked into the perfectionist mindset you stop doing and start analyzing too much. You wait for perfect conditions rather than just get on with what you have in front of you.

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Getting started, getting out there, trying your best but not expecting perfectionism is the best way to move your energy and start taking better photos.

4. Photography is a journey

My photography 10 years ago was quite different to now. Although my subjects are similar, the complexity of my images has deepened intensely as I have gotten older, experienced more, and have obviously taken thousands of more images.

We are all on a journey with our creativity, we are developing at different rates and we all doing it in different ways. The most important thing for me is to enjoy where I am at right now, and enjoy what I am photographing – otherwise what is the point?

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Trying to race through into getting better defeats the objective for me of being creative. Taking photos is my time away from all the rushing and deadlines and emails. It’s my time to be totally present in the world and to enjoy being creative.

Don’t rush the process, enjoy it!

5. Create for the sake of creating

Create just for the sheer pleasure of doing it. It’s not a means to an end, it’s a beautiful end in itself. Create for no-one, create only for yourself! That’s when you start to hit really magical work – when it’s all about your own pleasure.

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Look at Van Gogh. He sold one painting in his lifetime, but thankfully he never stopped painting.

6. Keep going

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” – Pablo Picasso

There are so many times I’ve felt like I would never get any good shots but I have gone out regardless, often because I was compelled to. There was one very dreary winter morning in London when I had to go to get final shots for one of my books. I trudged over to East London in the depths of night, only to be greeted by a flat gray sky when the sun finally rose.

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I was convinced that the photos I got that morning were dreadful, and came back to my office, disheartened. But I showed them to my editor and she said there were a couple she liked a lot. In fact, after the book was published I’ve had several people point out shots from that morning as their favorites.

So you seem it doesn’t always matter what you believe is going on, go out and take photos regardless. Something could lift your mood; a great subject appearing, seeing some beautiful light, etc. Or you could take a collection of photos, believe they aren’t that great but find, on reflection, that they are pretty good after all.

Or nothing could work. But:

“Chance is the one thing you can’t buy. You have to pay for it and you have to pay for it with your life, spending a lot of time, you pay for it with time, not the wasting of time but the spending of time.” – Robert Doisneau

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Keep going, you never know what will appear around the next corner.

7. Do it now – often, later becomes never

It’s so easy to get lost in our minds and our ways of not believing in ourselves. I think the root of procrastination is usually a lack of belief in our skills, a lack of belief in ourselves.

Let’s look at it this way – this is your one life, it’s your one and only experience of this very day. Don’t waste it on ideas of your lack and inability. You can do extraordinary things – we all can. We are creators, makers, forging new ideas out of nothing all of the time.

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Push through the discomfort, ignore that stupid voice in your head that says in your mind that you can’t do this, and go out and create something that is uniquely yours.

“You’re never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – CS Lewis

Most importantly – have fun!

I hope these ideas help you get a little more voom into your thinking about photography. I would love to hear what you think – please let me know by commenting below.

“Trust that still, small voice that says, ‘This might work and I’ll try it.’ ” – Diane Mariechild

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Anthony Epes is a photographer whose work has been featured internationally; including on BBC, French Photo Magazine, Atlas Obscura and CNN. He is also a teacher - writing in-depth free articles on his website. Receive his free ebook on the two essential skills that will instantly improve your photos, and sign up to his weekly newsletter providing inspiration, ideas and pro-photo techniques.

  • Eamon

    A really great blog, Anthony. We met briefly this time last year for a dawn photo walk in London and I was hugely impressed by your enthusiasm and support for all members of our group. There are so many useful, wise and inspirational tips in your blog which apply to all creative processes. They are uplifting. Keep up your great work and keep taking marvellous photos. Eamon.

  • UFreeloaders

    Awesome post, very realistic way of thinking and opposite to what the World negative thinking and thought of what we can or can’t do. Everyone in the entire planet has potential , is all in practice and connecting and learning from each other. The world has views on selfish thinking about who is on top and above everyone else. If we change our thinking to do Teamwork , Unity and Learn push each other a lot talent ,creativity , art and views will beautifully will show. I believe that we all have that what you don’t see I see inside us and if we connect instead of hate and open to each other I can see what you see and you can see what you see. We can take those ideas from each other and make them from a piece of 2inch Square paper into a Canvas. Awesome post very encouraging, God Bless You.

  • Paul McErlean

    Very inspirational…. and very true in how many of us feel.. It’s sometimes good to hear that everyone suffers at one time or another with creativity and self doubt. When I read articles like this it lifts me. Thanks for your great motivational words.

  • Andy Coles

    Ugh! Guilty! I tend to be in a rut now constantly thinking about having/wanting the ‘perfect kit’. Thanks for talking me off the ‘ledge’.

  • waledro

    Thanks for the “pep talk”. During my early morning walk today I was carrying a camera with a wide-angle lens on it and couldn’t see much of interest. Then I took a photo of a wildflower from the top and liked the results. I looked for more examples as I walked and found a few. I was again inspired and excited to be taking some photos.

  • David Gee

    Thanks for a great article. Just what I needed.

  • Patrick Marion

    Great article and very inspiring. I was starting to think there was something wrong with my camera.

  • vi

    This article was an eye opener for me! Thank you. Every since I switch form my film camera several years ago to digital, I’ve had the hardest time getting into a groove. I knew that Pentax film camera very well. Now, If I don’t shoot with the Nikon, it’s like learning all of the features all over again. I love your point about killing perfectionism. That is a big part of my problem. I enjoyed reading this article!!

  • J. Ross

    Great post, great pics and great quotes! – Thank You!

  • Hi Eamon
    Good to hear from you again! I hope you are still finding my teachings useful. I just finished a great workshop here in Arles France. What a place! Photography festival – lovely people and amazing light. I’m in heaven!

  • Thank you all for your words. It makes me feel pretty wonderful that I can connect to you through DPS. Happy shooting and creativity!

  • Mandi Lunt Burnham

    I really enjoyed this article and especially the quotes. Thank you!

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