Doubting yourself and your work.

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Hi everyone,

I wanted to talk about this on my blog because it is a common statement I get in my e-mails.  I have received a lot of recent messages pertaining to self-doubt or the feeling of not progressing.  I can only really talk about this from my experience and point of view, I unfortunately cannot step into your shoes and speak exactly to what you are feeling.  I hope at least this blog post will maybe help in small some way.

I started my journey in photography many years ago using 35mm cameras.  The first photograph I took was amazing, maybe not amazing to you but to me it was a national geographic worthy photograph.  The simple reason why it was amazing to me is because it was the first photograph I took completely on my own.  When I say completely on my own I mean no help, all in manual mode with manual lens.  You might look at that photograph and say “Chris, it’s completely over exposed, out of focus, to contrasted and full of grain”.  If I were to listen to your obvious observations I would absolutely agree,  but this is what you are not understanding and missing.  You see this photograph is not just a picture to me it is the beginning and first steps towards my long photographic journey.  It was the first step in a long road of learning, progressing, developing, creating and understanding photography.
Years ago I took the first jump into the puddle of photography and then let the ripples guide me to my next photographic accomplishment.  You see, we all have to start somewhere.  We all have to dip our toes into the dark waters of the unknown.  We all start from the beginning and over time with practice, patience, study and determination you will see your work grow and progress.

THE FEELING OF DOUBT!

I constantly doubt myself and my ability as a photographer.  Every photography shoot I go into I say “can I do this?”.  I am not saying that because I don’t think I am capable of doing the job but I always look at is as a new experience and a new challenge.  I always try to educate myself on whatever particular job I am doing.  Photography is a constant learning process.  You are always going to learn something new, something unique, different and creative that you never thought of before.  You might watch another photographer and be inspired by their work and then you go and create your own interpretation of that creative idea.  Doubt is a healthy thing as long as it helps push you to better your skill or creative work.  I have never met one photographer that said “I got this, no problem… hold my drink!”.  I, as a photographer have confidence in the fact that I understand the fundamentals of photography,  but photography is constantly evolving and changing not only creatively but technologically.  You can take two different photographers and place them in the same situation with the same tools and both will come up with completely different concepts.  That is the beautiful thing about photography and creative arts.  You have the ability to take the tools of photography and bring your own creative and personal touch to your work and share it with the world.

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Some of the e-mails I get are from young photographers just getting out of highschool.  One such e-mail was from this young student who told me they felt left out and they could not compete with their other friends.  They talked about their instagram followers and how they don’t have a lot, that there Facebook is minimal and they feel they are not learning or gaining progress in their photography fast enough.   I am going to give my point of view on this from my own personal experience and how I see the world of social media.

  • Most importantly I do photography because I love taking pictures and being creative.  I don’t do it for instagram, Facebook, YouTube or any other social media platform.  I first and most of all do it for myself.  I enjoy and love photography because it gives me an outlet and platform to let my creative voice scream out loud.
  • In regards to how many media platform subscribers I have, this is honestly something I don’t think about.  Though it is very cool and great to share this with people who enjoy my work or videos it is not the reason why I do this.  I would still do this if I had zero followers, to be honest I was doing it before instagram, Facebook, MySpace, 500px and many others.   I do it for me and for my photography journey.  I don’t look at my accounts saying “oh, I need to do this because I am losing subscribers or followers.”  That is something that never crosses my mind, my work is not defined by how many people like it or share it.  To me my work is defined by the feeling it gives me when I hold that print in my hand.  I will share it with the world but I am not effected if not everyone likes it.  You will see people with millions of followers sharing horrible photographs but people with amazing and beautiful creative work have such a small base of followers.  Don’t let numbers decide whether you’re a failure or success, let your work speak for itself and if people want to follow you or interact with you then that is a plus but it’s not the definition of success.
  • When I started out in photography I took in as much knowledge as I could.  I read books upon books, watched VHS videos on the subject, talked with other photographers and read magazines.  When Youtube came out I found an entire new world of educational material from other photographers and creatives willing to share their experience with the world for free!  You have so much educational material out there to help you learn and discover the important fundamentals of photography at your fingertips.  You can interact with these other creatives in a way that you could never do before and learn so much almost in an instant.  So let yourself embrace the plethora of educational material out there and get inspired by what other photographers are doing.  This statement will lead into my last point.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other photographers!  This is a detrimental path to go down.  When you are starting off as a beginner, mid level or even a pro don’t get sucked into the idea of “oh, that persons work is so much better and I suck!”.  You don’t suck, well at least I don’t think that way.  When I look at another photographers work I don’t compare myself to them.  You know why?, because I am not them!  I am my own photographer and my own creative and comparing myself to someone else is complete nonsense and a waste of time.  I look at their work and I get inspired and excited because it shows me the possibilities of what I can do in the future.  I watch and learn from them so in the end it will help me become a better photographer.

In the end we all doubt our own work.  This is not something unique to one person it is a common thing that happens with all creative people.  Photographers, artists, journalist, painters, writers and so on.  I have been on my photography journey for almost 17 years now and I am still constantly learning.  Some of my work I love and some of it I hate. Some photographs I share and I think they are crappy but people like them, some photographs that I think are awesome some people don’t think the same.  Photography, art and the creative world can feel overwhelming sometimes especially in the age of social media.  We all feel sometimes that our social media presence and acceptance defines our successes or failures.  I think that is a sad way to start your creative journey weather that is photography or not.  Whatever it is that you do remember you do it because you love it and you like the joy it brings you.  The other stuff is just an addition or a plus but it should not define your creative photography journey.

Well, that is my two cents.  I hope that helped anyone who has sent me e-mails regarding this feeling which is an absolutely normal feeling to have.  You are not alone because it happens to all of us.  Just keep learning, push yourself to work hard and most of all enjoy your creative photographic journey.

Sincerely,
Christopher Oneil
oneilchris.com

 

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