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For the majority of new photographers, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is fear. This often leads to people missing a perfect photo opportunity or even, over time, falling out of the practice of actually taking photos. But it’s perfectly normal to have fears when starting anything new, especially in an industry that is so subjective and fast moving. Here are six common fears newbie photographers experience, and tip to help overcome them.
The first thing people often fear about photography is the actual camera, and all of the accessories that come with it. After all, it’s a lot to learn and remember just about the theory and practice of photography, without all of the software elements and techniques thrown in, as well as the multiple controls of the camera itself. How do you remember the difference between aperture and shutter speed? ISO and white balance? Photoshop and Lightroom? The list is endless…
The good news is that this is easily overcome by simply taking each element individually and reading about it, watching videos, and practicing. There is so much educational material available now, that it has never been easier to learn about anything you don’t know. The key is to break it down into small milestones, and focusing on that until you are comfortable, before moving on. It’s a lot less daunting trying to learn one thing at a time.
Most newbies wouldn’t have any hesitation taking a photograph of a statue or famous landmark, yet as soon as photography involves anything to do with people, fear grips them. This is usually a combination of shyness, and a fear that it will result in a confrontation with the person who they are photographing, or the owner of the place.
The reality is that most people are incredibly happy and willing to have their photo taken, and won’t get offended if you spend the time to talk with them, and ask permission to take a portrait. At other times when you have fleeting moments, the person you are photographing probably won’t even notice that you are taking a picture. The only way to overcome this fear is to go out and practice, not only the actual process of photography, but also approaching people to take their photo. You’ll be amazed at how many people are willing to have their portrait taken!
Every photographer has experienced that moment when you get home, look at the pictures you’ve taken, and realize that you’ve messed something up and the photo isn’t perfect. It could be camera shake, wrong focusing, too much noise or just bad composition. Sometimes this ends up knocking your confidence, and the fear of messing another shot up means you try to avoid it altogether. Any photographer that tells you they have never messed up a photo is a liar. Everyone makes mistakes, even seasoned pros. The difference is that as you practice more, and become more experienced, those mistakes become fewer and further in between. So instead of one in 10, they become one in 100, one in 1000, and so on.
The key is to accept that you are going to make mistakes in the beginning, and instead of beating yourself up about it, learn from the mistake and think about how you can avoid it in the future. Over the years I have learned more from my bad photos than my good ones.
One of the great periods for any photographer is right at the start of their journey. It’s all new and exciting, and motivation isn’t usually an issue. There’s no pressure to capture photographs that sell, or dealing with demanding clients who require perfect photos. You can spend this time experimenting, and trying out different genres and techniques.
But for some, the fear of failure also means they are afraid of trying something new. What you need to remind yourself is that to really stand out, you do sometimes need to take risks with your photos. I was recently at a talk by world famous wildlife photographer, Paul Goldstein, and he said he would rather see a photograph which is not quite perfect, where the photographer has taken a risk, rather than a safe but perfect shot.
It’s no surprise that an industry which is so subjective, can be daunting for new photographers. It doesn’t matter how tough you are, if you’ve worked hard to put a portfolio together only for it to get rejected by picture editors, it can be hard to live with. After a few rejections, this can knock your confidence for approaching potential clients, and for actually going out to take photos. You might think what is the point if you keep getting rejected?
What you need to remember is that every photographer has been in that situation at some stage, and just because one person doesn’t like your images, doesn’t mean others will feel the same. The only way forward is to push on, learn from your mistakes, and most importantly, do what you enjoy!
Very early on in my career I approached a stock agency to represent my work. They turned me down, so I approached a bigger and more exclusive agency and they accepted my work. A few years later the same agency that had rejected me approached me to photograph for them.
While it’s obviously important to ensure you keep your equipment safe and in good working condition, it should not be to the detriment of actually taking a photo. What’s the point of having an expensive camera if it always stays in your hotel room, or backpack, because of a fear of it being stolen or getting dirty? The higher end DSLRs these days are pretty sturdy and can withstand more than you think.
To overcome this fear, the first thing you need to do is to get yourself decent insurance to cover all of your equipment. That way you always know if something were to happen, you can get a replacement. The next thing you need to do is be prepared for the environment in which you will be photographing. This requires research, and thought about how to avoid potential problems.
For example, if you are heading somewhere where there is likely to be rain, take a plastic bag and towel to protect your camera. Going somewhere that has a problem with theft? Make sure you use a camera strap which can’t be cut and don’t leave your camera unattended. Always remember, the reason you have a camera with you is to take photos.
Photography can lead to a rewarding hobby or profession, but like anything new it can be daunting for newbies. But with practice, anyone can overcome their fears of photography.
Any other fears that I have missed? How have you overcome your photography fears? Let me know in the comments below.