Sometimes nerves get the better of us and a whole session feels like a failure. We feel sick before a session. We are totally scatterbrained during our time. Then we sit in our car, flipping through our files and thinking “I am the worst photographer”. And then a week later we take another look at the session and think “well, they’re not bad, but I should’ve been better“. Sound familiar? I see this all the time. I want to know, what is this fearfulness? Why is anxiety such an epidemic in our trade? We should be loving every minute of our job and riding into the joyous sunset after every session. Not to mention that most of the time, the images are actually amazing and yet we doubt ourselves! While we should be cultivating a deep confidence in our skill, we are stuck in this endless cycle.
Honestly? I think we are just artists who want to be perfect and crumble under our own impossible standards. We want our clients to love us, we want every session to be the next online feature, and we can’t handle it when things go wrong or when we didn’t slay or fleek or whatever your word is. (Can we all just go back to “rad”?)
The key to banishing stress/lack of self confidence might be unique to each artist, but this is the way I began to grow in my passion, as well as my technical skills.
EVERY SHOOT IS A PLACE TO LEARN
I imagine each session or wedding as a time to learn new things, not a test I have to ace. This immediately takes the pressure off because it gives me room to try things and take it slow if necessary. When I give myself permission to try (and even fail) during a session, I am giving myself permission to relax and enjoy my time. Confidence grows when you begin to relax! It’s okay to feel nervous before a wedding or family session, but after a while in the business it’s not healthy to feel this every time. Start each session with a pep talk to yourself about everything you will learn and experience, not about what-ifs or perfection.
Don’t we notice things about ourselves or our gear during a shoot? Sure. And then most of us forget by the time we’re packing up. Not only do I think it’s essential that we’re aware of ourselves during a shoot, but we need to remember it. Here’s why: As soon as I get home, I grab a notebook to write down things while they are fresh in my mind. In one column, I write down the things I would change next time. Opportunities I didn’t take, ideas I didn’t capitalize on, equipment that would have solved a problem, etc… in the other column, I write down my strengths. Did I manage my time well? Did I seize a passing idea and get an amazing image out of it? Did I do a good job of directing poses? These things are important to notice in myself, because I need to know where my specialties lie. I also need to know what to work on next time. You can’t change or appreciate anything you don’t notice! Without giving yourself a pat on the back, you’re only criticizing yourself. Those aren’t the steps towards the confidence we are looking for.
HAVE DEFINED GOALS
That list helps me choose 1 or 2 key weaknesses to prioritize in my next session. It doesn’t help us to stumble through hundreds of things we know we should be doing better, we have to channel our attention to one or two things if we want to see solid improvement. My first couple things I worked on was being clear in the way I directed my clients, and remembering to notice how their hands were placed in a pose. After two or three sessions I had these things down pretty well, so I moved on to the next thing on my list, like being aware of my surroundings/details. Doing this moved me from nervous/anxious before a shoot to excited/confident! It put the control of my skill back in my hands, not in my circumstances.
Try it. Does it help? Do you have your own system? Drop a comment or shoot me a message and let’s talk about that!