You’ve probably felt strong about photography since you can remember. Walking around with your first camera, making family members your first models, capturing the smallest things in the world that suddenly seemed so interesting. As you grew older you realized that this could become more than just a hobby – it could be your identity, your way of living, your everyday life. As kids, we are often programmed to think that we can do anything in the world. But as we grow older, this magical potion tends to fade, and we must face a lot of obstacles in our way to build the perfect dream. Some of these are in our head – like anxiety and lack of confidence. Everyone has their own battle that they’re fighting, in whole different levels and contexts. Take a few moments today to learn how to practice self-confidence and build your mental stability in the world of photography as a woman. Let’s go!
Today, we’ll cover…
- Why is it normal to have insecurities in photography?
- 10 tips on how to boost your confidence as a female photographer.
So, you’ve probably asked yourself some of these questions already: “Am I good enough? Would somebody pay me? Why am I not shooting like her/him? What if my client doesn’t like the photos? How can I start asking for money? Why am I doing photography if there are many better photographers out there? Will I be capable of building my own future?”
These questions come in different forms and intensities, but eventually they mean the same: they’re your insecurities speaking out loud. And you know what? It’s okay because everyone has them.
First, it’s normal to feel this way. The people you look up to probably feel the same. All the inspiring artists, independent women and celebrities felt this way and still struggle with this time to time. Take the voice in your head as an opportunity to learn about your inner self and what exactly is the thing that makes you insecure about your work. What do you struggle with the most? Finding the answer to this relatively easy question is hard, but listening to your inner voice makes it way easier.
What is your biggest insecurity?
Every time you feel like the overwhelming feeling is coming back, focus on it and write down what you’re feeling. Ask yourself “Why?” each time you put down an answer. The roots of your problems might be somewhere else than you think. I finally managed to improve my anxiety on regular photoshoots, but I still get extremely nervous on weddings. Why? Because I worry that I might not do my best work and end up failing the pictures. Yet this has little to do with trusting my own capabilities and a lot to do with external factors. If I ask myself the second “why”, I’ll come to the conclusion that there are various factors that I fear – for example: photographing the wedding on a rainy day, my technology failing me, missing important shoots or very bad light inside the venue. The conclusion for me is that I don’t necessarily need to improve my style of photography, but to be calmer, I need to invest more time into being adaptable to different situations (like using artificial light or shooting on a rainy day). When you know what gives you the headache, it’s easier to prevent it.
How can you work on your confidence?
Self-confidence isn’t going to magically appear in a few hours. Sadly, there isn’t a magical spell for that. It takes a lot of conscious work. In a few weeks, months, or years – you will get significantly better in one area and there will be another new one to focus on. Here are my top tips on how to build confidence, work with anxiety and feeling like you’re “not enough” as a female photographer:
1. Big picture thinking
Embrace the fact that you’re not alone as you go through hard times, and that the photographers you’re currently looking up to probably felt the same – and still do! Everyone starting out with photography has struggled to some extent. There was a first time for them, too. Overall as they gained more work experience, they got more comfortable with their skills, but trust me, if they’ve gotten a bigger offer, they’d have jitters too! It’s not just realizing that we photographers are all the same, you should also understand that while our occupation is beautiful, it is not a life-threatening situation. If your pictures don’t turn out the way you wanted, what’s the worst that could happen? Don’t be so hard on yourself.
2. Know your strengths and weaknesses
As mentioned above, it’s important to find out what your biggest weakness is and where is it coming from. Only this way, can you work on changing it towards your strengths! The first step is being mindful and getting to know yourself. My weaknesses are artificial light and technical aspects of photography, but my strengths such as making my models feel relaxed or getting the best out of natural light compensate for them. What are yours?
3. Know strengths and weaknesses of your equipment
It’s not just about yourself, but about your camera and other equipment too. Try knowing your camera inside out, and I’m not just talking menu settings. Learn how to operate it efficiently and quickly, explore how it behaves in different situations and what are the limits of your camera and lenses. Even if you start with shooting only on your phone, you can learn how to use its limits. Why not do it with your camera?
4. Join a community
We all benefit from the support of each other! The photographer community is huge and spreads all around the world. If you feel comfortable around female photographers, message them for a feedback or give them well-needed encouragement. It’s up to you who you’ll be surrounded with in the online world, so make the best out of it. Remember lots of women struggle with confidence, even more so in the photography industry. Take a few minutes to compliment someone and they might return the favor when you need it the most! These messages can turn into long lasting friendships and now you’ll have someone to chat with about insecurities you’re battling.
5. Collect positive reviews
Whenever I’m feeling down, I always go back to reading my positive reviews and messages that my clients left me. Create a folder with every kind word that made you smile, and you will have your secret weapon of an instant confidence boost! They have written these messages for a reason, so learn how to embrace good feedback and get back to it as soon as you feel drained.
6. Never stop challenging yourself
When building confidence, you need to train both your mindset and your skills. They are equally important! While we already talked about mental development, we also need to look at your photography work. You can be as strong inside your head as you want, but only real work experience will truly make you feel comfortable. Commit to goals that’ll help you track your progress! If it takes 30 portrait photoshoots in harsh light to get comfortable with it, so be it. Give yourself this goal and compare your weekly and monthly progress. Never get stuck in the same spot because confidence needs certain levels of routine and repetition.
7. Change your locations, conditions & time
Whenever you’re having an unpaid photoshoot, take it as an opportunity to not only expand your portfolio but also your skills. Be intentional about what location and conditions of the photoshoot you choose. Switch them often and don’t get stuck in one place that feels familiar (eg. golden hour in a park). Create a fun game where your next photoshoots always need to have more than 1 different variable in the planning phase!
8. Invest into your brand
Do you remember the last time you dressed up for a dinner date? Whatever you did with your clothes, hair, makeup, and style enhanced your confidence. Imagine your brand going on a ‘date’. Give yourself a reason to change a few things about your photography brand and try on a ‘new coat’. What does that mean? You can rebuild your website, reorganize your portfolio, or change your branding. Just by giving your brand a more luxurious look, you may find yourself walking to your next client meeting more comfortably. Give it a try!
9. Invest into yourself
There are many ways you can invest in yourself – gym memberships, meditation classes, traveling outside of your zone of comfort, beauty procedures… but now we’re talking photography. If you feel like you could use some more confidence, invest in online courses for a specific skill like beauty retouching, indoor shooting, artificial lighting or even accounting. Being your own boss comes up with a lot of skills that are waiting to be developed!
10. Never say no to opportunities
Even though you should know how to say “no” to work you don’t want to do, you should be open to seek opportunities that will push you and your work forward. Have you been approached by a company to shoot their product? Explain to them that it’s your first opportunity and that you’d love to try it out if they don’t mind. Seek new things, network with people, and broaden your horizons. If there aren’t any new opportunities coming ahead, don’t worry. It is very simple – just take time to reach out to companies who could use some help, to new models that wouldn’t mind posing for you or to photographers as a second shooter. Nothing is impossible – you just have to ask.
Building confidence is a hard battle, but it’s so worth stopping every now and then to compare your progress. Good luck on your journey, and always remember that you’re not alone – some photographers are just better at hiding their insecurities.
- Is building confidence a long-term commitment?
- How do you find out what is your biggest insecurity?
- What does it mean to think ‘big picture’?
- What do you need to know about your equipment?
- How can you become a part of a community?
- When building confidence, why do you need routine and repetition?
- What variables can you change in a photoshoot?
- How can you invest in your brand?
- How can you invest into yourself?
- What should you do instead of waiting for new opportunities?
- Choose one of your insecurities that you’d like to work on and create a plan with weekly and monthly goals to follow.
- Find the first photoshoot you did and compare your progress. Can you see how incredibly better you got? Could you describe how?
- Write a list of 3 new opportunities you’d love to try (eg. product photography, coffee shop photography, second shooting on a wedding, artificial light) and write to someone who could make it come true. Simply ask for it and see what happens!
Cover photo by Ľudmila Borošová