I started work on The Shy Photographer’s Guide to Confidence over 8 months ago. Big scheme of things, that’s but a moment. Right now it feels like it was decades ago that I sat down and started to brainstorm about shyness.
It wasn’t something I ever expected to write about, particularly because I never thought I’d be able to give advice on the topic. And yet somehow I managed to write a whole e-book. And while I was completely terrified, I published it.
Now, even though I’ve moved on to working on many other projects, that book still pops up on my radar on a weekly basis. Sometimes daily. It seems like it struck a chord with many of you, and for that I’m so incredibly happy. Not because you’re shy. I wish we were all just brimming with confidence! But I’m so glad that there are others like me out there, working through their shyness, and that, perhaps, I was able to help you just a bit.
So the Guide has been on my mind a lot. Which means that I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned since I wrote it. I thought I’d add a few new lessons here, as a little follow up! (If you haven’t read the Guide yet, you can grab it for free here).
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. - Steve Jobs
When Steve Jobs passed away the internet was inundated with his words. How wonderful, given that he had some amazing insight to share from his exceptional life. This quote was one that hit home for me long ago when we first watched his presentation “How To Live Before You Die“, given to Stanford University students. At the time it was an amazing piece of wisdom. Now, after his death, it seems to hold even more meaning.
Why is it that we feel we have something to lose? For shy folks, it’s not even something material. I think we fear losing face most of all. A paralyzing aversion to having someone else think poorly of us. Or our ideas. Or our work.
But why? Why should we care? What do we really have to lose by being ourselves? Nothing. That’s what I’m coming to learn. Steve said it best. We’re already naked. Everything we think we have is an illusion. One day we’ll be gone, and all that will be left is what we did. If we let our shyness prevent us from acting, then that’s a sad end to the story.
So put yourself out there. Your thoughts, your dreams, and, in regards to photography, your work.
I know I’ve had far too many of those moments where I worry what other people will think of a photo. I get shy, and hold back. I hold back when I shoot, and I hold back when I publish. That’s not doing anyone any good.
Our most valuable asset as photographers is not our reputation. It’s our unique perspective. Believe in it, nurture it, and follow it. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by being yourself. And loving it.
I’ve recently become enamoured with Julia Child. She was a truly inspiring woman who followed her heart with every ounce of her being. And she has a whole lot to teach us.
One of her famous pieces of advice to cooks was to “Never apologize”. And yet I find myself doing this constantly, and I know other photographers out there do it too. I think it stems again from our fear of someone judging us. So we hedge. We make excuses. We try to minimize the amount of damage we could take.
But we have to toughen up, don’t we?? We aren’t always going to be perfect. That’s impossible, so we need to stop trying. We have to embrace failure or falling short for what it is — an invaluable learning experience.
Photographers apologize for more than just their images. They apologize for where they are in their photographic journey. I see it all the time. “I’m just a beginner”. “I’m just a mom with a camera”. “I’m just an amateur”. I’m just…
Stop apologizing for where you are in photography. There is nothing to apologize for. No matter what level of experience you have, whether you charge for your work or not, and what your gear is like, you are still a photographer, and can still make beautiful work.
I get it though. The industry tends to look down on beginners. There are nicknames and acronyms abound to describe those who haven’t yet reached that magical status of “pro”.
You know what I say to that? Baloney. (Actually I’d say something different, but I’m trying to keep it PG here on the blog!)
Look, pro photographers have the worst memory in the world. They forget that they started out at square one, just like everyone else. No one came out of the womb, camera in hand, charging a proper fee for their awe-inspiring photos. It’s silly.
So if you’re a mom with a camera, then ROCK ON. That’s probably some of the most important photography that can be created. If you’ve shot one wedding for a friend, HIGH FIVE. You jumped in and did something that is ridiculously scary. You should be proud. Not apologetic.
Once we stop this painful addiction to comparing ourselves to others, we’ll see that each and every one of us is right where we’re meant to be. We’ll go further, as long as we keep at it. We’ll get to where we want to be, as long as we keep practicing. And we’ll get there right on time. There’s no rush.
Practice, Practice, Practice
And it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t make a reference to practice at least once!
Confidence isn’t something that you figure out once and then you’re set. It takes practice, and acceptance. Some days you’ll kick shyness in the butt, and feel wildly confident. And then maybe the next day you’re back to being shy. That’s ok!
I think shyness is something that probably sticks around in one way or another for a long time. Like I said at the beginning of the Guide, shyness isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Shy folks tend to be great listeners, and that’s a wonderful thing to be.
Since publishing the book, I’ve personally opened it up and read it a couple times for myself. I still struggle with shyness on a continual basis. But I know the lessons, I know the value of confidence, and so I keep at it. And after a refresher from the Guide, I get out there and do it. And I’m so glad I do.
Have you learned anything new about overcoming shyness? Share it in the comments now, and let’s help each other get confident!