Do you want to call yourself a professional photographer, but feel a MAJOR case of imposter syndrome? You’re normal. Stick around to put this all into context!
So you feel like a fraud.
Let’s just cut to the chase. You’re normal. I know this because I too feel like a total fraud sometimes, even after five hardcore years of non-stop photography! I am a heck of a lot MORE worried if a photographer claims to know IT ALL. Honestly, it makes me question if I can trust them because they refuse to learn anything new! So chill out for a second, okay!? When we start anything, we quickly realize how much we DON’T know, and it can be overwhelming, even crippling for some of us. We feel like we’ll never learn it all (equipment, lighting, white balance, metering, posing, business stuff, taxes, TALKING TO PEOPLE, being a salesperson), YACK. It makes me sweat when I start thinking about it all, so I feel ya!
I feel like there are a few tried and true things you can do to get out of your fauxtographer head, and back on track.
Know that it’s OK not to know it all.
On what planet does a person know EVERYTHING there is to know about photography? Probably THEIR planet, if they have an out of control ego. But let’s get real for a minute. We can’t know everything, and honestly, would you WANT to? The journey is the best darn part! Look at your photos from a year ago! In the last year (or however long you’ve been taking pictures), you’ve come a HECK of a long way.
Wait? When am I allowed to call myself a professional photographer?
Whenever you want to. That’s really what it comes down to, having the guts to declare it to the world. Some people do this after ten years of hobby photography, or 10 minutes after getting their hands on their very first camera. That’s basically what I did, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks of that. Is every market saturated? Yep. Are people going to call themselves a professional photographer, when most of the world would disagree? Heck yea. And you and everyone else’s opinion doesn’t matter. I’m going to be 100% honest; when I read threads of people complaining about how so-and-so JUST bought a camera and is charging $300/session and stealing their clients, I giggle inside. When you’re spending energy worried about what everyone ELSE is doing, your business is suffering. So don’t worry about the haters, because they are everywhere. And those same people aren’t in the ring getting their butts kicked like you are. MOVE ON and shout it from the rooftops, “I AM A PHOTOGRAPHER.”
I get it. It’s super awkward. You don’t know what your family or friends will say, or if they’ll judge you or criticize your work. And maybe they will (mainly because that’s already what they love to do). Here’s the thing, if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, THAT becomes FAR more important than anything anyone has to say about it. Spread the love…I promise the world will make a place for you.
My equipment sucks!!!
Nope, not buying it. You’re shooting on a crop, and you just read that you can’t possibly shoot professional photos on it because it’s old and not as high-tech as those $4k full frames! Let me let you in on a secret. There are some wedding photographers that are successful shooting on crop sensor cameras and making a killing. So let’s talk realistically about equipment. You can make do with a camera body and a solid lens. Is it nice to upgrade, heck yes! And I recommend it, but not at the sake of going broke or going into debt.
I JUST picked up a camera last year! I can’t possibly be a professional.
Yes, you are! Are you continually improving yourself? I mean, you’re reading this article, so that means you’re working harder than most. Do you practice regularly? Have you invested a boatload of money and time into your photography education? Then it could take a month to be delivering good photos. Here’s Kate’s story, who did just that, and is making MORE than her corporate salary month after month.
But I didn’t get a degree in photography! I’m a fake!
I’d guess that 95% of photographers don’t have formal training in photography (like a college education). BUT, let me remind you that you’ve probably spent money on courses, training, watched an absurd amount of YouTube videos, have purchased 59,395 presets, and have spent time reading tutorials on the basics of how to use your camera. I’d argue that it’s MORE valuable than a college degree because YOU had to do it without prompting from a professor that gave you a hard date on when to turn in an assignment. Y’all, my life was EASY in college because I was spoon fed every darn thing! Starting my own business has been FAR more challenging, and I had no one to report to other than myself! Street hustle, having skin in the game and learning about failure the hard way, is FAR more valuable than a piece of paper, my friends.
Success is NOT about having the best photos. I promise you.
Success is about the following:
- The love you have for capturing moments and gifting that to those around you.
- HUSTLE. Straight up working hard for what you want.
- Persistence. Not giving up in the face of repeated failures.
- Good photos. Yea, obviously you need to take GOOD quality photos. You’re in the right place!
- Courage to do what you love and take risks (even in the face of criticism or judgment).
- Treating every client as a friend and making SURE their experience is top notch.
- Knowing when to shift when something isn’t working, and try something new.
- Be open to new ideas.
- BE yourself. In a world where everyone is copying one another, people who stand out, do so for a reason.
You’ve got this. You ARE a photographer. You’re allowed to be here and to do what you love for money. Keep going, friend! Remember that this is YOUR life, and at the end of it, you’ll be disappointed for all the things you DIDN’T go after, versus the things you DID.