I have always been an introvert. I have never liked to be the center of attention. And for me, my it can be difficult to share my photography. Risk taking does not come naturally to me and opening myself up to critique or even praise is frightening.
Can you relate?
However, early in my photography journey I quickly learn that if I wanted to improve, I would have to overcome my fears. I would have to open up to get the photos I wanted. To receive the valuable feedback I needed, I would have to share my work.
I would have to be brave.
And if you are like me, the goal of improving as a photographer is enough to take that first step outside your comfort zone. Here are some ways that you can continue to overcome your fears and move toward your goals as a photographer.
Turn off your defense mechanism
You know those voices in your head. They are the ones that say, “I’m not good enough. I shouldn’t share this. I look ridiculous. People will judge me. Who cares about my work?”
That’s your brain’s defense mechanism talking. Trust me, it isn’t some sixth sense intuition that is warning you of impending disaster. It’s merely your fear talking to you, making you second guess yourself.
And you are not alone in these fears. Every person experiences self doubt from time to time. Even the most seasoned photographers still get nervous before a session or before submitting their work for judgement.
The good news is that you can turn those voices off! When those voices whisper to you, you ignore them. They aren’t what is going to make you a better photographer.
Is it scary? Heck yes! But if you listen to your fear talk to you, you will stay in the exact same place as you are now. We all have the voices of self doubt. But the photographers who improve and reach their goals are the ones who ignore the fear and push forward.
Take more risks
You become physically stronger by lifting heavier things more often. You become stronger against your creative fears by pushing against them more often.
Turning off that inner voice is very much like physical exercise. Just like exercise, it’s painful when you begin a new routine. You want to give up. But if you keep going, your body adjusts to its new routine and you are able to stretch yourself further than you could in the beginning.
The same is true with brain training. In the beginning, even the smallest tasks may feel like monumental risks. Set small goals for yourself and take it one baby step at a time. Maybe that means posting to Instagram once a week for a couple of months. Or perhaps you can submit a picture share to the Clickin Moms forum once a month.
Eventually, these small risks can allow you to take bigger steps to grow in your photography. You might just find yourself putting together a professional portfolio or submitting to a magazine!
As your brain gets used to this sort of exercise, it gets easier and easier to turn off that fear and take risks. So after you conquer one fear, you can move onto the bigger dreams that you have for yourself.
I know, I know. No one likes to hear “no.” Rejection is tough and especially when it comes to something that is as personal as your art, rejection can be downright terrifying.
In taking risks you will fail. You will get rejected. And yes, it’s incredibly disappointing when that happens. But honestly, the fear of rejection is often much worse than the actual rejection itself.
And know that you are in good company when you face rejection. Every single success story comes with more than a few tales of being told “no.” The people who find the “yeses” are the ones who don’t let the rejections defeat them.
So embrace the rejections as stepping stones to finding the opportunities that are perfect for you. Allow hearing “no” to motivate you to try harder, learn something new, and work for “yes” next time.
Sometimes being an introvert in a field like photography can feel incredibly isolating. You are a one-man show, creating art by yourself, and sometimes other photographers can feel like the enemy. The competition.
But there is so much to be gained by finding your community. There is value in being able to share and talk about your work with other like-minded creatives.
Really, who else will understand you when you lament about the lack of clouds in the sky during sunset? Who else can you ask for advice on whether to convert an image to black and white? And who else will support and encourage you when you start to give in to fear?
Having a sounding board when you have doubts and having a support system when fear creeps on can make all the difference in helping your overcome challenges.
A community should be a group that is not competing against one another. Rather, it should be artists but working together to build each other up. In a craft that is often lonely, community should make us each feel supported and less isolated. A community will make you more brave.
Don’t pay attention to social media
I want you to post to social media. I want you to follow your community and lift other photographers up by commenting on their work. But for goodness’ sake, don’t count your followers or likes or comments. That will lead you down a path of empty comparisons and self doubt.
The point of sharing on social media is to put your work out into the world. It is not to gain validation or praise. Rather, it is to allow your art to be seen. It is a practice that allows you to see that your work deserves to be seen. It is a means to overcome your fears.
I want you to post to social media, and then I want you to ignore it for the rest of the day. Don’t look to see how many likes you’ve gotten. Don’t check to respond to comments throughout the day. Instead, let it sit out in the world before you attend to these things and bask in the pride of having overcome your fears.
As I’ve learned to recognize and conquer my fears in the photography world, this ability has spilled over into other areas of my life too. I find myself taking risks that I never would have before.
And this risk-taking has made my life so much more fun! Whether that’s singing karaoke at the school fundraiser (my 20-year-old self would have totally cringed at being the center of attention like that!) or introducing myself to a group of people when I don’t know anyone in a crowd, I am a much braver person than I was ten years ago.
So look inward and ask yourself if you have been holding back because of fear. If the answer is yes, start to let it go today. Start to open yourself and your art up to the world. Conquer the fears and be the photographer you were meant to be.