Nudity and Apologies: A Follow Up To The Shy Photographer’s Guide To Confidence

Upload from October 25, 2011

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).

You’re Naked

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.

Never Apologize

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.

Your Turn

Have you learned anything new about overcoming shyness? Share it in the comments now, and let’s help each other get confident!

Lauren Lim

Hey friend, I’m Lauren! I’m a photography ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I’m downright obsessed with photography, and love sharing it with super cool folks like yourself. When I’m not shooting, or writing, you can find me cooking (and eating!), traveling, and hanging out with wonderful people.

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21 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. My sentimentality right now may be a result of being very sleepy, but I just have to say, Im proud to be your friend. Inspiring words, not just for photographers, but for anyone who wants to try to achieve something.

  2. Enjoyed reading this article and I do feel the same about shyness. One day very confident and next not so. I have to say every time I learn something new or finally find a way of how to achieve certain look in the picture that I was trying to findout for a long time looking at other photographers work that are longer in the industry then I feel like million dollars for a week! And yet again challenge myself for something new and start all over. But this is everywhere lii have not read your book about shyness yet but will download it now as u believe there is lots to learn as you guys are quality and all the stuff u share is quality! Thanks.

  3. Another awesome piece from you – thank you, thank you. I took the plunge last night and published my web site and Facebook page. Tonight I unleash the blog! Due in no small part to reading your Shy Photographer's Guide and now this piece I took the plunge to Publish and Be Damned™! There is nothing to fear but fear itself and action usually takes care of that. Keep up the great work Fotoconcentrate!

  4. Thanks for such an inspiring post. I'm working on the "don't apologize" part.

  5. *@Manik:* :) :) :) Oh friend, you make me smile! Thank you for reading, and for the super kind words. I'm so glad you enjoyed this. I do hope it's relevant even outside of photography!!

    *@Sondra:* Thank you so much for the comment and the kind words! That's such a fantastic point, that learning to do something new is a huge confidence booster! It's wonderful that you keep challenging yourself, right on!!

    *@Lann:* Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. And HIGH FIVE to you!! That's so awesome that you took the plunge. "Publish and Be Damned", lol I love it! You are totally right, action takes care of the fear :) Keep it up!

    *@Nicole:* Me too. I am always apologizing, and need to realize that I'm holding myself back by doing so! Thanks so much for commenting!

  6. We're not allowed to apologise at roller derby when we hit someone – we have to say SUCK IT. Possibly that's a little too far for daily life but the principle applies ^_^
    This post is so the opposite of what you find on forums when you google "wedding photography tips" – I'm so sick of the whole you-must-be-a-pro-to-do-anything attitude most of the internet takes. I actually received anonymous emails from another photographer in the earliest stages of my business telling me I shouldn't dare charge for my sub-standard work, and at the time it really shook me – but I've never once received bad feedback from a client, and they're the ones that really matter, right? It's funny how one bad remark can overshadow all the compliments.
    We all rock cause we're giving it a go. GO US!

  7. I'm crazy shy. I dread going to large parties where I have to socialize with so many people. I prefer smaller, quiet gatherings. Meeting new people is tough, and learning about them is a challenge. When I try to be "less shy!", i usually become a blubbering idiot, and surely make people think, "it sure takes all kinds of people to make up a world."

    Big deal if your shy. I run a very successful full time photography business and i'm the shyest guy around. I am myself when around clients, and they like it.

    It works for me.

  8. i LOVE this blog, because it feels so honest and postitive! thank you!

  9. Hi Lauren, I,ve just read your ebook , v. inspiring! I'm defo one of the naturally shy types but have taught myself over the years how to be friendly and have discovered most people are v. lovely! I'm studying photography in college at the moment , the thing I'm struggling with is talking to people and trying to make them feel comfortable as I'm shooting and trying to concentrate on my settings – argh ! Hopefully it will get easier with time :-)

  10. All I can say is that quote rings my bell. I mean, I have used that speech as such a source of inspiration for launching into my business. And I know all too well this notion of apologizing. i mean, c'mon, it's like, innate in Canadians in the first place.

    Once, about four years ago, when I was starting to kick my photography into real gear, I met another incredibly talented photographer (Lung Liu). We were desert camping together, and I watched him work with all his gear and fancy equipment and multi-cameras. When he inquired about me, I cited my crappy little rebelXT and said, "well I'm not a *real* photographer." He looked at me and said, "It's not about that—I have watched you. Without seeing what you produce, I can see it's obvious. You are a real photographer." It wasn't a major statement, but it just really knocked some sense into me. I started seeing myself as having far more validity, and recognizing that it was about seeing and storytelling—communication over equipment. Everyone says that, but you sometimes need to hear it spun a certain way for that to become really real for you. Anyway, silly story.

  11. *@Erin:* Hahaha, yeah "Suck it!" might be a bit much for everyday, but it's totally the same principle! And wow, that is totally lame that you got anonymous emails like that. Really sad actually. You're completely right, clients matter and it sounds like you're taking great care of them! Rock on!!!

    *@Erik:* I totally enjoy small quiet gatherings too! And I agree that there is nothing wrong with being shy. The only problem is if it holds you back from doing what you want, which I think is the case with many folks. Being able to act, despite shyness, can help people actually start a photography business, and see that it's completely possible to do, even when shy!

    *@Jessica:* Thank you so much! I'm trying to be really honest, I think that's way more helpful than pretending I'm perfect. Ha!!

    *@Lisa:* Thanks for the kind words Lisa! People really are incredibly lovely aren't they? Once you learn to open up and be friendly it's seriously wonderful to interact with folks. And trust me, it gets MUCH easier with time!! Just keep practicing, get your settings first, keep them on Manual so they're locked in, and then start chatting away!

    *@Jasmine:* That speech is unreal isn't it? So inspiring. And apologizing is SO Canadian!! I mean, you pretty much apologized for your story, even as we're talking about not apologizing. :) It's totally not silly at all! It's wonderful that you got such an incredible lift from his words and his encouragement. I think all photographers should be more like that with each other, instead of knocking folks down for where they are in their journey. Thank you SO much for sharing!!

  12. Thank you SO much for reminding me to be confident and to work on it every day. I had a Philosophy teacher who said, "Shyness is the label we give ourselves for really being scared sh*tless." He was right.
    You are inspiring and honest. I am so glad I found your blog to inspire me start a new career and take the best photos of my beautiful girls!

  13. Jennifer Marie says:

    I have just signed up to your blog and I'm SO happy I came across this while searching the web. I'm one of those "beginners" and always saying "I'm just…" I will have to keep reading this to myself when I'm feeling as if I'm not good enough. These ruts are horrible because to me, they block out all the creativeness. With my point and shoot camera I just clicked around happily and enjoyed everything and received endless confidence on my photos. Now that I've upgraded to a dSLR this bad boy has put the breaks on my happy snapping, I've barely even posted any new pictures with my new camera which I never did before. I need to get over my shyness and being scared. Easier said then done, but your words have helped me greatly, because I'm not alone! I have an assignment for the next 4 weeks and I hope I can shine through it and be who I know I am behind the shyness. Thank you again! Can't wait to continue reading all your posts!

  14. i absolutely adore your approach to this crazy photography thing that's happening everywhere <3 thank you for sharing! i think i will come back every day to get a doze of confidence :)

  15. Another great post!
    We need to accept that we are where we are, in life as well as in photography. As long as you do what you you do as well as you know how, no one has the right to think less of you.
    I feel like I'm getting more confident as I'm getting older. Maybe age has something to do with it as well?
    And by the way: A personal confidence boost: I've realized that sometimes when I randomly spot printed photography in the streets I catch myself thinking "I know how they got that effect" and even "I could do that just as well". Realizing this helps confidence.
    Great comments as well. I really enjoy reading the feedback from the other readers!
    Sorry for rambling. ;D (I had to apologize)

  16. *@Maria:* I love what your teacher said. I totally agree! And I'm so happy you found this helpful!! :)

    *@Jennifer Marie:* We're so happy you found us! I totally feel the very same way, that I'm never good enough. But we definitely need to realize we're always growing, and that we just have to keep shooting and sharing! Best of luck with your assignment, I'm sure you'll do fantastically!!

    *@Taina:* Thank you so much for the super sweet words. I'm so happy you feel more confident!!

    *@Christian:* Thank you for the wise words about accepting where we are in life. I really needed those today! We do indeed have to just do our best!

    I agree that confidence grows with age, I'm very glad to be getting older, more confident, and hopefully a bit wiser as well!

    That's an awesome point about learning to deconstruct photography you see. I do that all the time! Definitely helps to show how much you've learned!

    And lol! You're so funny, apologizing! :D

  17. This article made me cry. In a good way. I have really been struggling with feeling inadequate lately, to the point of not getting my camera out at a party where someone else has a bigger, fancier camera for fear of looking silly. I read your guide for the shy photographer as well, and it was so inspiring! Thank you so much! I have a very exciting photo shoot this evening that I've been looking foward to nervously and I had to re-read some of your articles to get myself amped up and ready to ROCK IT! Thank you!!

  18. Hi Julie!

    I hope you rocked your photo shoot, I'm sure you did!! And I hope you keep getting more and more confident with your photography. Bigger, fancier cameras mean absolutely nothing when it comes to great photos. All that matters is that you shoot, and put everything you have into it! Thanks for the comment!!

  19. Hello!! I really loved reading the guide and this follow up was great. Do you any tips to keep fighting against shyness?? Or maybe it’s confidence… Hmmm….

    Your words really helped out! Thanks!!

  20. Hello. Thank you for posting. I get incredibly nervous before I do a portrait session. I am a phenomenal photographer but I have such a hard time directing people. I prefer candids where I don’t really have to speak and tell people how to pose. How the heck can I get over this? I am not sure what the fear is. I found your blog when googling “shy photographer”.

    • Daniel Peleg says:

      I hear you, Kelsey. One thing that helped me a lot when I was in a situation similar to yours, was just going ahead and doing it, as in: “feel the fear, but do it anyway!”
      It might be a struggle at first, but confidence will follow.
      Hope this helps.

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