Photographer’s guide #2: Building your confidence

by Tyler McClelland.

Being a working artist of any kind is a beautiful paradox. Through our work we are expressing ourselves to others as our livelihood. Often for photographers we do not even feel comfortable acknowledging that we are, in fact, artists. This creates so much self-doubt and uncertainty that can be stifling to a creative mind and be a deterrent to the work one produces. As a student of the arts, I am learning that I cannot let those facts kill my confidence. A lot of people have this idea that successful people are fearless and have no insecurities — the perfect mix for boundless triumph. However, the truth is everyone has things that are harder for them to accomplish; trials that require bravery and tenacity.

Photo by Bibiana Aguero.
Photo by Bibiana Aguero.

As a photographer, there are so many moments where I am so intimidated and nervous to try something new that I silently wish it was easier. But I am learning that the truth to success does not come because it is easy to attain. It takes having a fear or a doubt and choosing to challenge it head on, defeating one insecurity at a time. Confidence is something I am gaining, not because I effortlessly succeed at everything I try but because I am proving to myself that I can be afraid and still go for it, through the good and bad shots. With the knot in my stomach telling me to leave the job for the fearless, simply trying gives me even more confidence to try again.

Here are some tips to help you:


Nailed it!

Start with something you already know you will achieve successfully. Accomplishing this will give you a boost of confidence to spur you on towards that more challenging project.


Ain’t too proud to beg for help

Don’t be afraid to get advice from a classmate you respect or a professor. They can help you problem-solve and prepare for possible mishaps you wouldn’t have considered otherwise. This will help ease anxiety about your next shoot, especially if it involves a skill you have less experience with.


Fake it ‘til you make it

If you forge some confidence (not to be mistaken for arrogance) the people around you will be at ease and in return help you to stay calm. This will also give you free headspace to think clearly and effectively making the chances for a successful shoot greater.


Know your worth

Whether you are producing freelance work or working on a personal project, no one can produce work exactly the way in which you can. The skills that you bring, however minimal they may seem to you, are not common knowledge. If someone could have done the work they hired you for themselves, they would have.


Make a mess

Sometimes, even after much preparation and all the positive thinking in the world, the shoot still goes south. That’s OK! The key is to take note of the steps you could have done differently and remember them going forward. Before you know it you will have an enormous list of “don’ts” and an even more extensive list of “do’s”, making you a more experienced photographer and your work that much stronger.

Ultimately, all these things will take time to develop. As you become more familiar with the field of photography you’re in, you’ll be more comfortable getting tasks done. Don’t be scared of failing. That’s the perfect indicator that tells us we need to improve. There is no such thing as a perfect photographer. So don’t be afraid to try new things and mess up. As long as you try and keep your head up.