Are you ready to say goodbye to imposter syndrome? Imposter Syndrome (IS) is one of the latest buzz-words in the photography community, and refers to a widely experienced feeling of believing that one is not good enough. Individuals experiencing Imposter Syndrome might feel that they are incompetent, don’t belong, and that their accomplishments happened only through “dumb luck” (Cuncic, 2021).
As artists and creatives, many photographers are faced with Imposter Syndrome at some point in their journey. Social media makes it easier than ever to connect with others in the photography community, flooding our feeds with beautiful images and comments from artists around the world. While this is a tremendous blessing, it can also lead into the comparison game if we aren’t careful.
I’m here to share my own experiences with IS and the comparison trap, how I broke free, and how you can swim against the current and discover your voice in a sea of “same.”
I began my photography journey a little over two years ago. Because I’m a hobbyist, my only goal at the time was to take beautiful pictures of my children. I purchased a camera, enrolled in some courses, and began my love affair with documenting the details our life.
At first, I was thrilled with every new image I took. Each release of my shutter resulted in a new skill being learned, and I immersed myself in YouTube tutorials and articles on aperture, shutter speed, composition, and editing. My first preset purchase was game changing. Because of this, I suddenly had the ability to create images that looked polished and even professional. I had never been more excited or proud of myself as a creative.
As my photography progressed, I joined several photography communities and platforms, hoping to accelerate my growth and start taking clients. I poured over the images of popular artists in the community, taking notes on their posing, styling, colors, locations – every detail that went into making their images. I counted likes and comments, setting a mental bar for a “successful” image. It wasn’t lost on me that the images that got the most traction all had a very similar feel – same poses, same tones, same style. So I started to emulate these sessions, mimicking their poses with clients and models, and spending hours trying to match their style in LR. Soon I had developed a look that matched what was popular in most communities. But I still felt an undercurrent of discontent with my work.
Why wasn’t my work getting the same reaction as the popular photographers’?
How come some of my posts in the community got only a handful of interactions, while a similar post by another photographer might get hundreds?
Why didn’t I feel happy and proud when looking at my own images?
Comparing myself with others, my discontent grew. It felt like I was drowning in a sea of talent, struggling to stay afloat as a result of my own mediocrity. I told myself lie after lie, forcing my work to fit into the mold I thought was expected of me.
Your work isn’t good enough.
You’ll never book clients if you don’t have “the look” that everyone wants.
This online workshop or that preset will help you be successful.
I found myself fracturing into two different photographers. As a result, I had a shooting and editing one style for client work, and used a completely different approach for my personal projects. Professional Katie and Creative Katie. It. Was. Exhausting.
March 2020, and the ensuing pandemic, brought about a turning point in my journey. Because I was unable to take on clients, I started to shoot only for myself. As a result, I focused on creative projects, immersed myself in education, and found a community of like-minded creatives who encouraged me where I stood. I resumed taking candid images of my children, the muses that inspired my passion to begin with. Because of this, I was free from the pressure of conformity, and I began making images I loved. As the months progressed I learned several things about myself as an artist:
I LOVE color. While brown tones are beautiful and very popular, they just aren’t for me.
Daily details are my jam. Therefore, I much prefer documentary and journalistic style photography over highly-stylized sessions.
My biggest realization? Memories over perfection. It’s the moment that counts. It’s Not the location. Not the wardrobe. And it’s not the “likes.”
Swimming against the current isn’t always easy. And I still find myself comparing or caught up in the numbers game from time to time. That said, I’m in a much better space than I was just a year ago. Today, I’m unapologetically me.
The following tips are all things that helped me work through my Imposter Syndrome, and I hope they can help you do the same!
Rediscover Your Why
Think back on why you picked up photography in the first place. Was it to capture memories of your family? Were you drawn in by nature and all of the beauty it offers? Maybe you saw the world in a unique way and you wanted to share with others. Ask yourself: Why am I drawn to create images? What is is that I want to convey? Chances are, your unique voice can be found somewhere within your answer.
Take a Break from Social Media
This one sounds a little counterintuitive, but hear me out. When surrounding yourself with the work and words of others, it makes it easy to compare yourself with other artists. And when you “compare”, you will often fall short of your own ridiculous expectations. Many of the photography groups on social media have a certain style or aesthetic that drives them. And if you don’t fit that particular style, you might feel as if you are “falling short.” But you aren’t! Your journey is unique, and you will reach your destination following a different path than the photographers before you.
Last year I made the decision to remove myself from all photography communities that didn’t align with my own personal beliefs and rhetoric. Unkind comments and judgemental tones? No thanks. It didn’t matter how large or popular the group was. If the fit wasn’t right, I left. After clicking “leave group” a ridiculous amount of times, I was left only with the communities that left me feeling inspired. This single step has made a world of difference.
Find Your People
I cannot stress enough the value of finding your tribe – a small group of creatives that is always ready to cheer you on, celebrate your successes, and kick you in the pants when you behave in a way that isn’t true to you. I’m lucky to call six lovely ladies my “people.” We’ve never met in real life, some of us are worlds apart geographically, and yet these ladies know me better than some of my closest family and friends.
Photography, like most creative paths, can be incredibly lonely. But surrounding yourself with a few like-minded friends can make a world of difference.
Community over competition.
Look to Other Creative Outlets
If you are anything like me, creating is in your blood. While photography is my main hobby, I also enjoy creative pursuits such as pottery, watercolor painting, and fiber art. I love color, and have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to color palettes.
Sometimes, the easiest way to get out of a slump is by looking for inspiration in other parts of the art realm. Create a mood board solely focused on color, textures, and art pieces that you love. Then ask yourself what common threads draw you inland find ways to incorporate those elements into your own work. Don’t be afraid to get abstract here! Who knows… you might even find a new craft to try out while curating your board.
The most important thing? Avoid adding popular photography to your mood board. Remember, we are trying to avoid comparison, and focusing on photography is a sure way to end up back in that old game.
Reflect on Your Growth
Have you seen the Febreeze commercials where individuals become “nose blind” to the odors around them? They might not realize how much their pet or sofa stinks, but others sure do! Just like we become “nose blind” to odors, we can also become blind to the value and growth in our work. Seeing our images day after day, everything starts to blend together and look the same.
Let me encourage you to look back and compare your work over the past months and even years. I promise that you are going to see worlds of change and growth. I recently looked back on my images from the past three years and my MIND WAS BLOWN. What felt like tiny tweaks and changes resulted in epic cumulative evolution over time.
Similar to looking back on your past images, you might also ask a friend to describe what they like about your images today. Hearing what others perceive as your “strengths” can be an eye opening experience.
Imposter Syndrome is hard, but it doesn’t have to sap your joy. You were drawn to your camera for a reason, and the world needs your unique eye and vision. Why swim with the current when you were born to stand out?
I hope this post leaves you feeling inspired and ready to dive-in to self-discovery and personal examination. The world doesn’t need more of the same – it needs YOU.
FREE tutorials | NEW podcast episodes | academy news & releases | exclusive interviews | & learn how to let your story unfold.
©HelloStoryteller. 2020 | Designed by Launch Your Daydream