This happens to all of us. A lot of photographers once they “make it”, whatever that means, won’t like to admit it. But, we have all had times where we’ve wondered deep down if we can make it.
I think it starts as a feeling of panic that grows as our mind bounces from “how will I get any customers” to “how old will I be when this works” to “what will I do with my life if this doesn’t work” to the real killer “how am I going to support myself and my family”.
The stats don’t help, with the vast majority of businesses failing regardless of the industry they are in. When people start out in photography they think it will be easy. That photography itself is easy, it’s just pressing a button. Then we start to see how complicated it is, how dedicated the people at the top are and how far the gap there is between being a beginner and a successful pro. Suddenly what looked like a nice afternoon stroll with a camera, snapping pics of pretty people while the bunny rabbits bounce around us, turns into an arctic expedition requiring planning, training, and a succession of hard learned mistakes.
I know quite a lot of photographers, really a lot actually. Most of them just to speak to casually, but I see repeating patterns all over the place. Those that are panicking the most are doing the least. Those that are doing the most are having the easiest time. Hard work, in the right areas, turns into results which generates hope. You see if you don’t do much then its no surprise you get hit with waves of total fear and panic about the future. You don’t need to do photography to feel that, just sit around doing nothing and it will hit you. The feeling that life is slipping past you and why the hell didn’t you do anything. It’s easy to sit and not do enough work. It’s equally possible to spend all your time doing lots of things not very well. So you can be busy but never really push ahead in any area.
What we need is time management. Get organized in a realistic way. That’s not enough though. The real KEY to getting ahead, is to identify what the main factors are in pushing forwards. It is often a case of shooting consistently in a way where you can review your work. Drilling down on what it is you want to achieve as a look and working out the post production for it, then sharing it. Focus in on the things that matter most to progress. If you aren’t doing those things then your chances to progress will be limited.
For beginners the key areas for progress would be:
Shooting – don’t become someone who never shoots, you will never make it.
Post production – don’t become someone of the cant bothered with editing people, you’ll get left behind.
Marketing yourself and your work – if no one sees your work, no one will care. Think social media, website etc.
Analysis – what could you do better.
If you don’t shoot you aren’t a photographer, this goes without saying really. The hard part of photography is not flash power and shutter speeds etc. The hard bit is the concept to execution. Having a good idea and then being able to do it well. Having good composition and awareness only comes from practice.
You need to learn to edit. Don’t try to pretend we live in a world where Photoshop and light room are evil and real photographers don’t edit. That never happened. Even 100 years ago that didn’t happen, the darkroom could do everything if you had the skills and artistic ability. You need to learn to edit. Learn it. Don’t shy away from it. Editing can be half the product sometimes and honestly, it’s harder than the photography part (in terms of practical skills, not artistic vision), quite a bit harder. That’s why so many shy away from it. People generally move away from things that are hard.
Getting your work out there is vital if the previous steps are to come to anything. If you aren’t sharing work on a regular basis, be it through somewhere on the internet or in physical exhibitions then your work isn’t being seen. If you want to be a singer you have to be heard. Singing in your bedroom may be fun but that’s not going to get you anywhere. An artist requires an audience.
Analyze what you have done. How could you change one thing to make it better. It’s no good to bash out the same crap week in week out. Change certainly takes time but you need to start addresses issues one at a time and working to improve, not just constantly produce.
Only by repeating these actions over and over can we progress and become successful. Progress eliminates fear.
Each of these combine to make a photographer. Neglect any one of these and you aren’t in the right mindset. And yes you can start sharing your work from day one.
Each of these stages is difficult and requires lengthy research, learning and repetition of practice. Think of someone learning a martial art. Repeating and learning the same moves over and over then sparring those moves with someone to learn to actually do it.
If you aren’t addressing these issues then you are massively hindering your chances. You need to do all at the same time and do it.
This doesn’t mean life doesn’t get in the way. Of course it does. You will have times where you can’t do things. But as soon as life allows it you should get back on it.
Where to start? Plan a shoot, think it through properly, how will you light it etc. Do all the research you need to beforehand so you know what you are doing. Edit that shoot, if you aren’t sure how to get a look you want then research it. Then publish the results. Your photos don’t need to be perfect, just put them out, striving for perfection and then not moving because you didn’t hit it is just lazy and gutless.
If you are scared of people judging your work you need to suck it up and get on with it. PUT YOUR WORK OUT. Just do it, it will be ok. People will like you if you are honest and straight forward. You don’t need to be the best.
Then repeat this process as often as is reasonably possible in your life. Don’t give up your job, but be prepared to make some sacrifices. You might not be able to go out with friends as much and you might not get to watch as much tv etc. That’s fine but don’t sacrifice family time. Sacrifice your other relaxation time. Remember, for all the times you “can’t be bothered” someone else can.
Keep going and do it consistently and you will generate real results.
Dealing with the fear of failure is to address the fear head on.
Fear results from an impending result either known or unknown, realistic or unrealistic. With photography, it mostly comes through lack of work or direction or both. Doing a lot of work without direction is like running in circles and not doing enough is like standing still. Both result in no progress in the right direction. So get moving, aim at where you want to be and start moving towards it. Make the sacrifices you need to in order to find the time and then work hard, fear of failure simply reduces with action.