Photographers – inspiration; overcoming fears & maintaining momentum
It was high time that I updated my bio photo on my websites and profile photos. I wanted something casual, yet with a certain gravity. While at WPPI last week in Las Vegas, I was surrounded by photographers. I asked … well, prodded and pushed my friend Annie Sullivan to take a series of photos in various locations inside the MGM. This is the photo I settled on. We have other photos that are equally good, and less serious, but this one really says “I’m the one who knocks…” So this is now going across my websites.
Annie was hesitant to take on the task of shooting new bio photos for me. Apparently I can be intimidating. But it’s often a high pressure event to take another photographers’ photos – you feel like you’re being scrutinized. She admitted to being scared witless at the start of it, and then again when I posted this photo. As she told me afterwards, “I have confidence in myself as a human, it’s my work I struggle with. If I’m honest, I’m just afraid people will be like “she needs to go work in a toll booth.””
This ties in with a regular theme with photographers, experienced and less experienced – fear of failure holding you back. Getting out of your own safety zone, and trying the new and unexpected – these are tough hurdles to overcome.
However, in the inspiring words of Eleanor Roosevelt: We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face … we must do that which we think we cannot.
It really is as simple as that – systematically attempting things which we would rather not because they are too difficult. Or scary. Or too much like hard work. Then, in addition to that, we need the energy to maintain momentum. This is why personal photography projects & goals are so good to have – things we do for fun to inspire us, and make us reach further.
Staying on track & keeping momentum
While we’re quoting Eleanor Roosevelt, one of her sayings made a huge impression on me the first time I read it:
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
How true is that? If you think of friends and acquaintances you have – there is a pattern that people who are negative will talk badly about others and gossip. People who reach higher and are successful, are usually the ones who are brimming with ideas. The ones who would rather consider “how do we change this?”, instead of whining about a problem.
Is someone else doing better than you are at either the craft or the business? Don’t resent them for their success. Instead, it should motivate you to do better. It is something you aren’t doing, or it is something you need to be doing better. That’s where the focus should be.
Whenever I feel myself slump into negativity, I remind myself of this truth – great minds discuss ideas. That is where the energy is. That is where the upward trajectory starts – ideas and concepts and projects.
As an aside – chatting the one evening at WPPI with a few people who are prominent in the photography industry, I took to heart something that Roy Ashen of TripleScoopMusic said. In an interview he was asked about his marketing strategy in having created a successful business. He laughed when they were surprised at his answer – his business strategy is built on a simple idea: be nice to everyone and help people were you can.
Again, such a clear truth. Be nice to everyone and help people where you can. Now couple that with: great minds discuss ideas … and add consistent hard work. That’s the road to success.
Camera settings & photo gear (or equivalents) uses during this photo session
- 1/640 @ f/1.8 @ 1600 ISO
- What’s holding you back?
- What have YOU done today for your business?
- Photographers, you don’t know anything
- 85mm – the best lens to change your portrait photography
If you’re not familiar with WPPI – Wedding & Portrait Photographers International – they are an organization with a mission to educate and help raise standards in the photography community. They are well worth joining and being a part of. Oh, the best part for me about WPPI is the annual convention in Las Vegas – a perfect time to meet other photographers and network. Oh, and to party! Always the parties.
This year (2015) I was invited to present a MasterClass, as well as a Photo Walk. Thank you to everyone who attended and came up to chat.
I found it interesting that there were so many new photographers who attended, eager to learn and improve.
The Master-Class was on the topic of dealing with challenging lighting scenarios we find at weddings. In the presentation I discussed the thought-process and practical steps to develop and achieve consistency with your wedding candids and portraits when facing difficult scenarios.
For the Photo Walk, there were two models, and I brought my Profoto B1 and a bunch of triggers along. We had fun with off-camera lighting indoors and outdoors. Again, thank you to everyone who came along.
17 Comments, Add Your Own
1Roy Barnes says
That is really so inspiring Neil…and so perfectly timed for me! I am shooting my biggest wedding in two weeks time…biggest in size of crowd, venue and dollars, and it is 300km from Sydney (Australia). Drive up in the morning, shoot for 13 hours, and drive back the next day. I have to admit that I am daunted by this undertaking and (alright, I admit it) a little scared. Now, having read your article, I’m going to put my best feet forward and give it everything I’m capable of – not just to provide the best possible result for the client, but also to prove that I am capable of bigger and better things.
Thank you Neil – you are simply the best!!!
2Kevin Bautista says
Your article was really moving. I follow your post every now and then and believe me, it serves as a kick-in-the-butt that raises me to do something with my camera. Last month I covered a children’s birthday party and same with Roy above, I was daunted at first, froze during the start of the event, but killed it DURING the event. Turned out that I was lacking confidence on my skill to extract candid and posed photos of my client and their visitors.
Please keep up your great contribution to our community Neil! :)
I read your www very often, and altough I put some couple stupid questions, I`m in good position to make my photography better and better (especially working with flashes – it`s so logical and easy right now)
Thank you one more time !
4Joan Erickson says
Fear of failure is so much a part of being human, yet we often feel so alone in our fear. Thanks for sharing your perspective, it does help with taking the next step. Great article (loved the quotes) and very nice bio photo.
I need a bit of a kick up the bum sometimes, I tend to slink into a depression at this time of year and start worrying if I’m god enough, maybe we all (apart from Neil) think it at certain times, I have a destination wedding coming up, harsh light, white clothing arrrghhh, ocf, hss, believe it or not I’m actually struggling with my printer right now, dark muddy prints, printer profiles not right, who knows! Las vegas, I can dream, maybe next year.
6Jennifer Lynch says
“It really is as simple as that – systematically attempting things which we would rather not because they are too difficult. Or scary. Or too much like hard work. Then, in addition to that, we need the energy to maintain momentum.”
One of many reasons you’re successful. Good advice.
Looking sexy. Perhaps if you’d have unbuttoned one more button of your shirt at the top it’d look sexier. Maybe some mascara as well. I’d also get rid of the white thing in the upper right corner.
7.1Neil vN says
I’ve given up on the Goth look.
Fantastic new bio photo and truly a very great and inspiring post. I think every photographer out there struggles with this issue and we all need a confidence boost. Thanks, Neil!
9Keith R. Starkey says
Great articles, Neil.
As for me, I couldn’t care less whether others like my photography of not—this luxury comes from the fact that I only shoot for my own personal satisfaction, not for a paycheck, so I can get away with it. Regardless, man, take the camera in hand, shoot, make adjustments and shoot again, and forget what others think (other than to hear their good, sound critique). When you’re as good of a photographer as Ms. Sullivan, you don’t need to think twice about it. You just need to put the camera to your eye and use your knowledge and experience to bring on the magic. Of course, that’s easier said then done when it’s Neil’s figure as subject of the shot, but who cares! Let the chips fall where they may! Annie had no problems to worry about.
10Denis Beaudoin says
Thanks Neil for a great post. I really needed this advice about now.
11Patti Hale says
Neil — I really appreciate Annie’s comment: “I have confidence in myself as a human, it’s my work I struggle with. If I’m honest, I’m just afraid people will be like “she needs to go work in a toll booth.” Haven’t we all thought that about ourselves…. What in the world am I doing with a camera in my hand, actually charging people $ for these images?
Getting past the fear is half the battle. Thanks for an honest reminder that we can keep moving forward toward success, despite the fear.
11.1Valent Lau says
I am always nervous until the clients see the photo and say they love it.
One only hopes it gets easier.
Thank you, Neil, for this inspirational article. Just about 2-3 weeks ago I wanted to mention this exact quote (Great minds…) to my wife, but for the life of me I couldn’t recall it correctly, not to mention that I didn’t know who had said those words. It’s been years since I heard that quote, and now you happen to mention it here. That must be a sign!
I’ll add another one, if I may. Last week me & my wife went to a small public meeting with Slovak photographer Filip Kulisev. He signed one of his books for us, and to his signature he added “Don’t dream your lives, live your dreams”.
My goodness. GREAT info. Stepped on my toes big time. I have some fears on attempting some jobs I’ve been asked to do that I have turned them down for FEAR of failing and my work looking foolish. Thank you Neil for all that info. It will take some time for me to break out of the fear mode – guess I’m too much of a people and self pleaser.
14Pete (Barnet) says
I’m very much a keen amateur, in a world of mobile phone photograhers. I’m not knocing the mobile phone, because as they say “the best camera is the one you’ve got with you”. But when I pull out my old trusty Canon 7d, there’s a high expectation on me to deliver something special.
It might be imaginary but I feel that intense pressure and everything I’ve learned goes out the window as I revert to taking a gigabyte of shots in the hope of getting “the special one”.
But as things progress I find myself relaxing a bit, taking more time and composing shots. That’s when I realise that I quite enjoy doing this.
“systematically attempting things which we would rather not because they are too difficult. Or scary. Or too much like hard work” … phew, I needed to hear (read) this!!