Twelve Ideas to Help Photographers Build Confidence

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© kentoh

“One important key to success is self-confidence.
An important key to self-confidence is preparation!”

Arthur Ashe.
If there’s one common denominator between all the photographers who we respect it’s confidence. They speak with the voice of authority. They know what they’re talking about, and it’s so bizarre that so many of you think of them as “overnight” success stories. Their ability to be confident didn’t show up on their doorstep in a Fedex box – it came with years of practice.

We all have moments where we’re treading lightly and lack a little confidence. However, as artists and small business owners there are so many things you can do to boost your belief in yourself and your abilities. 

1. Your network:  Surround yourself with positive people. Everybody doesn’t have to agree with the path you’ve chosen, but if they’re negative about it, then you need to find a way to remove them from your sphere of influence. I know it’s far more complicated than I make it sound, but nobody has the right to step on your dreams.

2. Your technical skill set: Practice getting to know every aspect of your gear. Know the limits or your equipment and know how to push them to the max every time. Practice on window light, on and off camera strobes, dragging the shutter and experiment with depth of field. If you’re a more seasoned veteran and heading off into more diversification for your business, then you need to practice in this new area of expertise, just like you hopefully did when you were first starting out.

But remember something about practicing.  ”Practice doesn’t make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. If you’re practicing it wrong, then you’re accomplishing nothing.”  I’d love to take credit for this, but it all belongs to good buddy, Roberto Valenzuela.  

3. Composition and your evolution: Look at the last 100 images you took. This one is easy, just take two sheets of paper and as you look at the images, crop them on your monitor. New photographers especially tend to put too much in the scene. At a program a few years ago Roberto dissected an image to show how many other potential images there were in the same scene.

This is also a chance for a front row seat on your own evolution as an artist. Pull some images from a few years ago and compare them to your most recent work. More than likely there’s been a change in the way you shoot, the look and feel of your images and the quality of your work.

4. Videos: No, I’m not talking about creating them, but if you’re a wedding photographer, what if you could watch the wedding video of one of the weddings you photographed. This requires a relationship with the videographer, but if you can establish that, just watch it and look for the images you might have missed. Train your eyes and ears to look for and listen for those special emotional moments.

5. Print Critique: Put a few of your images out there for critique. There are dozens of different Facebook forums where you can post your images and other photographers will tell you what they think. Remember to maintain a thick skin. Unfortunately, there’s always one arrogant fool out there who will shred your image, but don’t react. Most people have learned to “play nice.” Besides, always remember, “Beauty is in the eyes of the checkbook holder!” 

6. Visit your Lab: Get to know the staff at your lab and learn to understand what they can fix. I’m a huge fan of personal, live, onsite visits, but if you can’t do that then make it a point to meet the people from your lab at the next trade show or convention. If that isn’t possible then spend time on their site getting to know their product line and website as good as you know your own. Use the phone now and talk to your lab and find out what’s new in their product line. Having exciting cutting-edge products to share with your clients are confidence builders all on their own.

7. Use your network: I started out talking about who you allow in your network, but this is about using it. Your network, if you’ve built it right, is made of positive people with common interests and a passion for imaging.  Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help. It’s the saddest thing to see a photographer struggle simply because they’re embarrassed to ask a few questions.

8. Own your zipcode: Owning your zipcode simply means getting to know the people and businesses in your neighborhood, but it’s also about them knowing you. Confidence comes with familiarity.  Building relationships with the potential client base physically closest to you will help solidify your skill set and also help you understand the weak links.

7. Be active in the various forums: Facebook is remarkable, because anybody, no matter how obscure you think your interest in photography might be, can still find a group of people with a common interest. Type your specialty into the Facebook search box and you’ll see what comes up. People are always asking questions and sharing the answers. What you’ll most often find is you’re not alone in many of your challenges.

8. Attend workshops:  This is about spending time with other photographers and being able to talk about the craft and share ideas. You need to attend as many live programs as you possibly can. And, always talk to the people seated around you. This is more than just building your network, but about finding solutions to many of your biggest concerns.

9. Join the local guild: From PPA affiliates to meetups to ASMP, APA, and local camera clubs, in almost every community there are photographers getting together monthly to expand their skill set and share their mutual passion for the craft. You need to be a part of whatever group is in your area.

10. Role play: So often artists lack confidence in their selling skills. Even with an outstanding skill set, it’s not easy to close the sale. That means you have to spend some time practicing your pitch and dealing with the negatives. Whether it’s somebody in your family or some associates, get together and practice with each other. 

Need a little help on how to close the sale? Check out this post from Scott Bourne and then practice, practice, practice!

11. Find a mentor: This is harder than it sounds, because everybody is typically so busy. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t develop a relationship with somebody who can help you from time to time with your journey. This is about building confidence. A good choice in a mentor can help you stay focused and smooth out the road here and there when you’re feeling frustrated.

12. Be active in your community: Success in business today isn’t about who you know, but who knows you. Work to build relationships with people in your community, active and potential clients and yes, your competitors. Great relationships help build confidence in your presentation and selling skills.

Here’s the bottom line and it’s not exclusive to photography. Building confidence is about being involved. You can’t just sit on the sidelines and watch the parade go by. You have to get involved in the industry and in your community to build confidence in your skill set as a photographer, a communicator and a business person.

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