To be a great photographer, hobbyist or pro, takes courage. You have to constantly be pushing yourself to go outside of your comfort zone, and do new things.
Try a different style of shooting. Set up a type of session you’ve never done before. Start a new business. Introduce yourself to complete strangers. Learn a brand new skill. Basically, you have to take on a non-stop series of challenges. Forever.
Now, we all probably know that to improve our photography we have to do these things. But more often than not, we don’t. Why is that?
I’d venture that most of the time what holds us back is fear. Nothing more, nothing less.
Now, I’m sure you can point to half-a-dozen circumstances that are preventing you from taking that next big step out of your comfort zone. A full-time job. A mortgage. Inexperience. Not having any connections. Not having enough money. Not having enough time.
But I’m going to be that really annoying person here, and say that 99% of the time those circumstances that you think are holding you back, aren’t actually holding you back. Nope. It’s fear.
I mean, you can always work on your photography in the evenings and on weekends. You can start with basic gear, or rent before you invest the big bucks. Seriously, if blind people can take photos, surely other circumstances like time and money can be overcome. It’s not the situation that holds us back. It’s the fear.
The problem is that these fears are not productive, helpful ones, like the fear of poisonous snakes. No, these are learned fears that prevent us from doing seriously awesome things, for no good reason. Honest. Let’s take a look at some of the big fears photographers face, and why they are downright silly.
(As an added bonus, I’ll be giving you a Real Life example of ours for each of these, just so you know that we’ve actually lived through all these fears. Which, coincidentally, is the best way to overcome a fear!)
Fear of Failure
That’s a good one, hey? Who here hasn’t been afraid that they would fail, big time. This is especially potent if you decide to start a business. It can be so completely paralyzing that you never actually try. You come up with excuses. You figure it never would have worked anyway.
But the problem is that there is actually nothing wrong with failing. In fact, if you’re really pushing yourself to do fantastic new things, there’s a really good chance you’ll fail. No. Big. Deal. It happens to everyone. As long as you pick yourself up, learn from the failure, and keep going, you may as well look at that failure as a positive! You now know what doesn’t work, and are closer to figuring out what does.
Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure. - Napoleon Hill
Real Life Fail: We once started a photography/graphic design business with the idea that we would do headshots and business card designs for real estate agents. We had a name, a logo, a website, lots of shiny brochures, and thought we were onto a big idea. Well, we didn’t have things quite right, because it failed, big time. We booked maybe two jobs. Ever. Looking back, I’m really proud that we tried. Plus we learned a lot. Double plus, it’s totally a great dinner party story. ;)
Fear Of Embarassment
Then there’s the fear of embarassment and looking dumb. Man, that’s a powerful one. I don’t know about you, but this is a biggie for me. I am always worried what people will think. And this one can hold you back from trying new things, and really getting outside the box. Basically, it can prevent you from becoming the best photographer you can be!
Here’s a big secret. It’s probably not at all what you expected to hear. But this is it: no one really cares. Honestly. People are concerned about their own stuff. Does it matter to them at all what you do? Hardly. Sure they might leave a negative comment, or talk about you for a bit. So what? The people who really matter in your life will still love you. You’ll still be alive. Looking silly does not matter. The sooner you can get over that fear, the more fun you’ll have. Promise.
Real Life Embarassment: As you may know, I published some of my crappiest photos on this site, for the whole world to see. I’m a professional photographer, and there’s a good chance my clients will see those (or already did). Yep, that makes me look pretty dumb. But you know what, I survived. Yes, I was scared, but I did it anyway. And I’m so glad I did, because that one small act made a whole ton of photographers feel a lot better about themselves. Totally worth looking silly!
Fear Of Rejection
A big one for photographers has to be the fear of rejection. Maybe you’re looking to network with other shooters, or asking someone to let you photograph them. Perhaps you’re showing off your portfolio to potential clients, or looking for businesses to help promote your work. If any of those situations strike fear into your heart (as they do mine), then the fear of rejection is what’s holding you back.
Now, stop and think for a second. What’s the worst thing that could happen? They could say no. Seriously, that’s it. That’s the worst. Why does that scare us so much? I think this is related to the fear of embarassment. We’re afraid that they’ll judge us when they reject us. And again, it doesn’t matter. The sooner you learn to get over the fear of rejection, the more you’ll be able to pursue opportunities, and open amazing doors for yourself.
Real Life Rejection: We once went around the city trying to connect with baby stores to promote our portrait business. We were offering them a few gift certificates they could give out to their best customers. Confession: this totally terrified us. We couldn’t just hide behind our computers, but had to get out there and actually meet people face-to-face. Double scary. And we did get rejected. A couple stores were totally not into it, and seemed pretty annoyed with us. Yes, that wasn’t awesome. Yes, the whole idea still makes us scared. But we did manage to connect with some really fantastic people, and met amazing clients as a result of it. Those clients have even opened up new opportunities for us that we would have never dreamed of. Take that, rejection!
Fear Of Change
The last type of fear that can be the cause of inaction is the fear of change. We all like comfort, don’t we? It’s hard to argue that constantly worrying if you’ll ever make enough money is better than a paycheck delivered to your desk every month. Or that leaving something you know well, to do something you know nothing about, is a smart move.
But here’s the thing. The only constant in life is change. Whether you like it or not, you have to get used to it. Wouldn’t you rather be the one deciding what changes will happen to you? Sure, some changes will occur that you didn’t choose, but getting used to change when it’s in your own control helps you learn to go with the flow of life!
Real Life Change: We began our careers as wedding photographers, and in a short amount of time managed to create a successful and profitable business, build a good name for ourselves in our market, and make tons of great connections. We were set. Then we decided we didn’t want to shoot weddings anymore. We wanted to explore what else photography had to offer. We pretty much stopped just as we were getting successful and comfortable, to pursue things we knew almost nothing about. Yes, it was scary. Very scary. But the change has been fantastic, we’re happier than ever, and we will probably change what we do about 100 times more in our life. Embrace the change. It’s a whole lot more fun when you do.
So these fears are big ones, and I know how much they can hold you back. They hold me back all the time. But we have to realize that they aren’t doing us any good at all. They’re preventing us from having a whole lot more fun with life! So here are a few steps to overcoming fear, and doing awesome stuff.
Step 1: Identify
First, identify the fear. Realize what is really stopping you from acting. This will help you understand what you have to overcome to move foreward.
Step 2: Figure Out Worst-Case Scenarios and Contingencies
As counter-intuitive as it may sound, figuring out the worst-case scenario can help dimish your fears. This is especially true for fear of embarassment and rejection. Remember, it doesn’t really matter if they say no. Seriously. So stop and think, what’s the worst that can happen?
Now, if the worst is a scary situation for you, then come up with some contingency plans. These always help to feel like you can handle the failure if it comes your way. If you’re worried that your business won’t be successful, for example, your contingency could be to find another job after you’ve tried for X number of months. Sure, that’s not ideal, but in the big scheme of things, is finding a new job that really that scary? I mean, there aren’t even any poisonous snakes involved.
Step 3: Act
This is the most important step of all. Acting is the surest way to overcome fear.
Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain. – Mark Twain
Now think about where you’d like to go with your photography. Your big, huge, amazing dreams. What’s holding you back from working towards that right now? What are you so afraid of?
Feel free to share in the comments what you’re afraid of when it comes to your photography. And bonus points if you can explain why it might not actually be so scary after all!