Last week, I wrote an email about how one of my readers mentioned “fear and lack of confidence” resulting in not pushing himself to achieve the results he wanted.
After hearing a few other readers responding to that email with their thanks and stories, I thought it’s time I talk about building confidence about yourself–the photographer.
I’ll keep it short as I don’t want to bore you with things that you might already know about.
So, here’re a few key things you can do to stop worrying and start getting more from photography, perhaps from your life too.
#1. Throw Out All the Restrictions That You Either Put On Yourself Or Someone Else Did
I think we all put too many restrictions on ourself.
In other words, we stick too much to the Rules. And, that in my opinion, it is wrong and hinders our progress. And, probably the first step to misery for a photographer.
A photographer is supposed to be a creative person. Not some rule-following person who’ll never learn to express himself or herself fully.
You need to understand that the Rules are made to give you a good starting point.
It’s like saying to a kid that they should write the alphabets within those 4 or 5 lines in the Copywriting books while they first start learning. While these kids were (fortunately) guided by the adults and teachers to go ahead and freely write between the lines (or no lines) notebook once they mastered writing these alphabets, I think there are not many photographers, including me, who do the same.
So, here I am telling you to…
Start treating the Rules as nothing more than the Guidelines to write the alphabets.
Once you’ve learned how to write the alphabets, it’s time to move on and unleash your creativity.
Don’t get me wrong here and start blaming the rules altogether. They are there for a reason. They are there to help you master the basics of photography.
If there were no rules whatsoever, we would have been having a “Photographer’s Block,” just like the way writers/authors have “Writer’s Block,” if you are aware of it. A Writer’s Block is when a writer/author stares at a blank page not knowing what to write.
Rules are these are tried and tested methods that
The key is to remember that they are just the starting points, not the end results.
#2. Trusting Your Own Judgement Not Someone Else’s
Here’s what Buddha said:
Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said
it,unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.
I haven’t told you this before, but I have practiced spirituality for many many years. I got a hang on it while I was still a teenager.
I don’t know if I consciously do it or not, but I always tend to test things out. At least, in those areas that I like the most.
Perhaps, I was fed up with the same photography concepts repeated over and over again which weren’t giving me any results, that I found my own ways to get results.
Since I am hard-wired to simplify everything that I care about, I simplified the entire concepts of photography to make myself a better photographer.
If you don’t already know, what I teach in my Kick-Ass Guide to Settings & Kick-Ass Guide to Exposure eBooks are the result of being fed up with too much nonsense and noise around the Internet. I just couldn’t bear the noise anymore.
So, the titles reflect my thought-process. And what I’ve written in those eBooks are just the ones that I devised on my own and practiced for several years and then taught several others through my workshops.
But, these eBooks and the forthcoming ones wouldn’t have been possible without going through that experience first. It was not like I just woke up one fine day and decided like…
“Okay all these other photographers are teaching nonsense, let me go and correct it all.”
That would have been foolish.
I was (and am) a serious student of photography and Art. I’ll talk about my love of Art some other time, but I’ve been an ardent student of photography and entrepreneurship. But, what I read, I tend to practice. But, the issue was that I wasn’t getting results with what I read. I was rather more confused than ever.
I can’t tell you how much frustrated I was with this “Exposure Triangle” thing that sucked (sorry about the language) the blood of me and still sucking it out of countless other photographers.
I am not saying, everyone was bad or I didn’t learn anything from anyone at all. But, most of it was garbage.
What’s the Moral here?
The moral of the story is that you have to test it out. Whenever you read some concept or some field technique or anything, you got to test it out. You shouldn’t blindly believe what other photographers are saying or teaching—no matter how legendary these photographer are.
By that, I remember one of these interviews I was watching the other day of this legendary photographer, whose name I don’t want to metnion here. I love this person’s work.
But, this person made a mess out of countless photographers (indirectly) persuading them to buy this particular DSLR. Those days, I felt like this person should get an award for fooling so many photographers.
That DSLR was a crap. I mean, it was literally a piece of s**t (sorry again) when compared against some brilliant DSLRs which were competing at that time.
I was so distressed to see this person pumping out photos boasting about its capabilities and all that, that I just couldn’t believe how people of that stature with so much responsibility can do that.
Anyway, as a matter of fact, that person did.
Here’s what this person had to say in a recent interview, “I struggled with this camera so much that I still can’t believe I recommended it so much and made a fortune to those manufacturers.”
I could see this person’s realization there, but what’s the point. There were scores of photographers who might have wondered why they weren’t getting results?
Here’s my request
If you could make out whom I am talking about, please don’t mention the name in your comments or anywhere else. I don’t like it. It’s my request to you. Because we all make mistakes. We aren’t perfect either. There’s no point now.
I brought it up to nail a point home that you shouldn’t just blindly trust anyone. Even if you know they have all good intentions. And, perhaps, it’s quite possible that that person also had good intentions, I don’t know.
Just listen to everyone you think deserves to be heard, and then test that thing out. That’s as simple as it gets.
You know the beauty of testing it all out, you’ll know exactly what works and what doesn’t. You’ll know what’s best for you. And, this simple act of testing things out will help you reap the benefits forever.
Tell me how many times can you learn the same thing over and over again? Just once. That’s it. Once you thoroughly understand it, you just don’t care what others say or do.
That’s what is called Confidence.
#3: Fear! At The Max, What Will Happen?
Suppose, today you turned that Shooting Dial to “M” or Manual Mode. What’ll happen?
Will your camera go bust? Will it stop working? Will you be put behind the bars because you broke some rule? Okay, at least will you lose some money?
Nope. Nothing happens really.
Then, what’s that you are afraid of? There’s nothing to be afraid of.
So, why would you have to always say, I don’t know how to use Manual Mode or any other mode for that matter. If you wanted to use Manual Mode or Program Mode or Spot Metering Mode or anything else….
“Why don’t you just go ahead and give it a try?”
That’s it. Give it a try and see what happens. At
You just meddle with those two dials (yes, you just have two dials to turn, maybe third on a Canon) on your camera. See what happens. Here’s an easy way to look at it:
“Just play with your camera as a kid plays with his toys.”
You know, my princess, who’s 2 yrs 10 months now, just twists and turns and breaks so many toys out of curiosity. Okay, I accept, she also breaks when she’s angry at her dad 🙂
You aren’t at least going to break the camera, will you? There’s nothing to break or destroy unless you are trying to test if it’s weather-sealed or something. That’s another matter.
So, what happens if you mess it all up while you were fiddling with this “dreadful’ (as many photographers seem to think about) Manual Mode. You just dial back to Aperture Priority mode or any other mode you were using, and voila, everything will start working perfectly.
That’s as simple as that. If you screwed it all up, which is rare, because there are only a handful of things to screw up, you just reset everything using Factory Reset.
Just be careful to back up all your files, if you happen to do it. I’ve never done a factory reset so I have no idea how it works. All that I know is, it just resets the camera back to the settings that you had when you bought it fresh.
Anyway, the point is not to do factory reset, but to fiddle with the settings and modes to see how they all work.
This simple exercise will take out the fear and builds your confidence. It’ll give you the satisfaction that you know what you are doing. You’ll no more be at the mercy of what others are saying. You’ll know what works and what doesn’t.
Think about it. It’s such a relief. And, it pays the dividends all through your photography life. A brand new camera or technology isn’t going to totally make anything obsolete. It’ll be just the “old wine in a new bottle.”
So, my dear photographer, it’s time to become a kid, once more, and do all crazy stuff with your camera. And, to have fun with it.
So, the same things go with post-processing. Just don’t restrict yourself to these dogmas like “straight-out-of-the-camera” or “minimal processing” or any of those. Just go ahead unleash your creativity as much as you want.
Just push those sliders until you feel happy. I know that sounds crazy. That’s what I teaching you to do anyway. So, go ahead and be crazy. Life is boring if we only had sane guys, you know.
But, the key to know is that you have to decide for yourself, what suits your character as an artist.
If you like what you get straight-out-of-the-camera, so be it.
If you like to do only minimal processing, so be it.
If you like to push the boundaries, push it. Do whatever your heart desires.
Ironically, Titanic instrumental music is playing in the background as I write this 🙂 I am not making this up.
Life is too short and it’s usually not worth following someone else’s opinion.
I’d like to conclude this by quoting my all-time favourite personality, Steve Jobs:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”— Steve Jobs
And, that’s a master stroke.
Remember that Photography is a creative art.
Don’t forget that you are not doing this to impress others, but to impress yourself. Or, to rather express yourself.
Whatever you are expressing through your photos, just express it your way in the best way you possibly can.
That’s it, my dear photographer. I hope I just started a fire in your heart. Haven’t I?
I wish you all the very best in your photography pursuit and your life.
Have fun and live long.
P.S. Here’s another quote from the man who has left a deep impression on me:
“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
My sincere salute to this man.