Photography is art, like any painting or sculpture. Our photography is an expression of who we are. It is an intimate look into our vision & our emotions. With that understanding, it really isn’t any wonder that many of us feel insecure about putting our creations out there for the world to see. It’s a vulnerable place, where the mean and nasty social media can chew us gentle folks up, and spit us out. We are far too aware that our art may not resonate with the masses. Our work may not be beautiful to their eye, and for us insecure artists, that is a terrifying thought. Especially if you are finding your confidence as a new photographer.

But what is art, if it is not shared? Sure, we can just stay a quiet artist, keeping our work to ourselves. But if that becomes boring, there is inspiration and growth to be found by putting yourself out there.  So, what can we do? How can we force ourselves out of our ‘safe place’? Here are some ideas!

black and white photo of woman in field

1. Try a Photography Challenge

First, we need to tackle our skills to become more confident. 52 week challenges, or 365 projects are all over the Pinterest boards. They are great creativity builders, and they also help us to gain valuable experience. They teach us to shoot with a goal in mind, instead of just randomly shooting things and hoping it turns out. They also teach us how to achieve effects such as bokeh, sun flare, and dramatic light.

Go at your new challenge alone, or find a nice group to do it together! If there is a theme you don’t understand, Google it (not everyone knows what ‘bokeh’ is, or what ‘leading lines’ are, it’s ok!).

 2. Make a to-do list

We have a lack of confidence because we focus on the negatives, the things we feel that we aren’t doing right. So, lets embrace that knowledge! Create a list of what needs improving. A list of things you need to learn or fix that will to make you feel more confident.

As I crossed things off that list, my confidence grew. It can happen for you too.

3. To join a social media group… or NOT to join a social media group?

That is the question… Social media. We all know it can be nasty, or it can be wonderful…so the main advice is… choose wisely! Find a nice group. And lay low. Check out the dynamics. If it seems like a safe place, give it a try. Warn everyone, “first time posting, nervous poster” or something to that effect. Better safe than sorry! (Our Facebook group, Cole’s Classmates, is the perfect place to start! Join us here!)

Put yourself out there, makes some friends. Find some photogs who create work you admire and ask them questions. It is my experience that most photographers like to help, and if they don’t, you’ve picked the wrong one.

*A disclaimer about photography groups: When posting your photos in these challenges – don’t shoot for the win. Shoot for a kind comment, or more likes than your last photo. NEVER compare your likes /loves/ Wow’s to the other posters. Its not a competition with anyone but yourself, and the photo you posted last time. Sometimes, a photo we love, a vision we feel we are conveying, just doesn’t resonate with others. What matters most is that you love it, and that it speaks to you.

So now, here comes the BUT…

If social media makes you feel bad, sad, or mad, DON’T DO it! A truly positive group can work wonders for your confidence, but if it isn’t kind and welcoming, then its not a place for you.

4. Don’t ask for constructive criticism (CC’s) randomly

Constructive criticism can be so helpful and beneficial to your work. However, take the time to find a trusted, and qualified photographer friend, or even better, pay for a CC from a respected professional.  Everyone has an opinion. But you don’t need EVERY one’s opinion. After all, you know what they say about opinions….

woman walking in field

5. Do some feel good work

Lend out your talents. Offer to take photos of a senior who can’t afford to have his /her photos done. Or a newborn, a family, etc. These are experience builders, low expectation “jobs” that, a) build your confidence and b) don’t cause you a bunch of stress and pressure. You obviously can’t do that too much, but it helps until you get your confidence rolling.

In my journey, putting myself out there really did help me. Had I stayed the private, shy photographer I was, I would have missed out on so many opportunities. If I hadn’t made my to-do list, I would still be intimidated to shoot indoors, or turn my camera to manual mode. I still have moments. I am still really hard on myself. But I can look back on many photos now, and feel proud of them. Sometimes, I take a photo I can’t wait to share on my Facebook page. And even more exciting than that— is I love a handful of those photos SO much, that it wouldn’t matter to me one if no one gave it a ‘like’. Because I love them…and that is a great feeling.

And now here I am writing to all of you who feel the same as me. Finding your confidence as a new photographer is a journey. And that is ok. I’m hoping your journey will be a bit easier, that you will be a little more gentle with yourself, that you will work hard to find your confidence, instead of just giving up. Work hard, believe in yourself, and good things will happen.

And with that, I leave you with the quote I have written on my camera bag:

“If you are out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you’re not out there, you’ll only hear about it” -Jay Maisel

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