Sunday, June 18, 2017

Limiting Beliefs

I listen to a lot of podcasts. One that I really like is Chamira Young's Pro Photographer Journey. She writes honestly about the business side of being a professional photographer and I learn a lot from her own explorations and interviews.

A recent recap episode she published, The Most Common Limiting Beliefs and Mindset Challenges that Photographers Face (whew! long title!), talked about the beliefs that may limit your potential for growth.

She talked about five limiting beliefs that I list below:

  1. I don't deserve success.
  2. I have to price my photography as cheaply as possible to compete.
  3. I'm not as good as other photographers.
  4. Professional photography is a dying industry.
  5. It's too hard to please everybody.
I want to talk about #3 and #5 in particular.

I'm Not As Good As Other Photographers

As I always say to my kids, there's always somebody out there who is better at something than you are, and you are better at some things than a lot of other people.

It's easy to pick up a magazine or look on Facebook or Instagram to see some amazing photography and think, "man, I will never be that good."

That may be TRUE.

Don't let it limit you.

Keep in mind that the photographers you admire and feel are better than you have put in a ton of time and effort to hone their craft. They've taken training, they've learned from mentors, and they have put in the hard work to discover locations and techniques that help them to take great photos.

You can take great photos too.. if you want to, and you're willing to put the work in.

I remember when I first started taking train photos, in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I was terrible. It took me years before I started taking it seriously enough to study WHY I was bad at train photography, to learn from great photographers, study, and experiment.

I think I'm a much better photographer now. I also know there are others who are better than me.

That's OK.

I can keep learning and improving. There's no limit.

It's Too Hard to Please Everybody

I do like to please everybody. I'm greatly troubled when someone is mad at something I did or wrote. I always preferred to avoid conflict... which is a whole other blog post. Or two.

But here's the thing. There's an very old saying, "if you try to please everyone, you please no one" (maybe from Aesop?). That's good but I like this one better:

If you're trying to please everyone, then you're not going to make anything that is honestly yours, I don't think, in the long run. - Viggo Mortensen
If Aragorn said it, it must be true.

You have to have your own voice. You have to be authentic and take photos and share stories the way you want to.

If there are people out there who don't like your style, or your photos, or your words? Too bad. Ignore them. There are plenty of people who will like what you make.

I recognize that a lot of people don't care for trains think of trains at all and that's OK. They probably won't come to my blog. They won't like my photos.

I'm not going to write about things I don't care about to try to capture a larger audience. It won't be good and I won't be happy with it.

So don't limit yourself by trying to please everybody. Produce good work, promote it, and you will get recognized for it. Maybe not today.. maybe not for a year.. but it will come.

The Sky's The Limit

More than ever, if you're willing to put the work in, there's no limit on what you can accomplish... in photography or elsewhere. Don't let the above limiting beliefs hold you back. Do good work.

See Also


Jenn said...

Good post, I can relate to the 'I'm not as good as other photographers'. It has helped me improve though and I find that some of the photographers I admire are more than willing to answer a question or 2 if I contact them. I know I am no pro but I love getting out there and having fun with it.

Patrice said...

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your post! As an aspiring photographer (I mean really aspiring: I don't even have a decent camera yet), I find this really interesting. It's through looking at your photos and other train and nature photographers that is inspiring me to get into the hobby. Any suggestions for a complete noob would be gladly accepted. In the interim, keep up the great work!

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Jenn, thanks for your comment. Having fun is the main thing! Most people are very happy to answer a question or two and I've learned a lot from asking and listening.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Patrice, as many have said, "the best camera is the one you have with you." Decent cameras help but they can only take you so far.

Suggestions for a complete noob... hmmm. I'm about to write a post about a little PDF I downloaded and read that is a great introduction to photography... The Basic Beginner's Guide to Photography - Light and Exposure. I read it a month or two ago and it is a great starting point.

Patrice said...

Thanks for your reply Steve. To paraphrase your response, my "iPad camera can only take me so far." :-) So I'll try and get a decent camera. Since posting a few days ago, I discovered awhat appears to a realy good introductory photography course here in town. I think that's the way to go. Keep up the great work!

BWBandy said...

I can certainly relate to number 3. I am starting to get away from that and concentrate on what works for me.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Patrice, I hope you enjoy the introductory photography course.. in-person training is always best for stuff like this.

I agree, an iPad camera can only go so far. I always say that phone / tablet cameras do very well in well-lit situations where the subject isn't moving much. They fall down in low light, moving subjects and any time where you have to zoom. It all depends on what you want to photograph!

Canadian Train Geek said...

hi BW, I enjoy your blog and your photographs! As long as you are enjoying doing it, that's all that really matters.

Anonymous said...

First, as a fellow rain geek, I enjoy your photographs and video clips very much together with the comments on the circumstances and techniques used to achieve these pictures.
The accompanying text is also good reading.
Thanks for all of that.
Regarding becoming a competent photographer, as with probably anything, you have to like your craft, know your tools, think ahead and then analyse and criticise what you have done.
Before digital photography this was more difficult because the time between taking the shot and then seeing the results could be long. This and the fact that you were in the hands of the photographic developer and printer meant that it was difficult to recall the conditions under which the photograph was taken.
The other restraint for me, when I was young and poor, was the expense of good equipment, film and processing.
I used to believe that many esteemed photographers were just rich guys who could afford the good gear, bags of roll film and access to quick developing and printing facilities. They could go off to a shoot, expose lots and lots of film, have it all processed quickly and from the hundreds of frames some were bound to be good.
Whereas I was more in the position of previous photographers using single plates and each shot had to be thought about with the odd one that had to be taken quickly when any experience learned could be put to use – sometimes successfully, sometimes not – but it is all learning.
Now with digital equipment good zoom lenses and computer processing we can all shoot off and not worry about cost and quickly see the results. Even take some crazy shots, so long as you remember what worked and what did not.
That just leaves the need to think in advance about what you are going to do, recall and learn from the mistakes made before, as well as what, sometimes surprisingly, worked.
If you can, carrying out a site reconnaissance, just wandering, looking around, noting light angles, spotting transient (we hope repeating) events, etc. before taking any shots will benefit you. And if possible do not rush. And always think.
Even consulting weather forecasts, tide tables, sunrise and sunset times.
There will always be the need for professional photographers.
There are times when the client needs the certainty that skill and experience brings to capturing a one off, never to be repeated event.
And these days it easy for photographers to showcase their work, so that prospective clients can judge suitability before hiring.

Alexandre Rotenberg said...

Nice article, Steve!

Personally, the best way to know that I'm on the right track is to look back at images of only a few years ago and see how much I've progressed. Some images from 2012 make me cringe now! It's also humbling because perhaps in a few years I'll look at images from the present and cringe again! :D


Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Doonhamer... you wrote a guest post in the comments! ;) Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. You covered a lot of ground and I'd like to touch on a few things that you mentioned.

1. Equipment - I think you'd agree that equipment doesn't have a lot to do with skill. Certainly at some point in a photographer's journey they will bump up against limitations in their equipment and need to upgrade to progress further. That being said, handing a Canon 5D to an amateur photographer will not make them a professional photographer... just an amateur photographer with an expensive camera. I think you agree with that.

2. Preparation / scouting - I was doing that last night waiting for a train. I went to four separate locations before returning to the first one to make the shot. I had the luxury of time and I used it, rather than just parking at the first spot I found and accepting that it was "good enough". One of the marks of a good photographer is going the extra mile to go beyond "good enough" to "great" and site reconnaissance is part of that.

3. Digital vs film. Absolutely we have the gift of digital photography that gives us instant feedback. Our digital cameras are capable of far more than any film camera was and they are only getting better. That being said, they are just tools and the person holding the camera still provides the majority of the "good" in a photo.

4. Criticize what you have done - yes, absolutely. Part of self improvement is not being 100 percent happy with what you are doing now. Why would you work to improve if you are OK with the status quo? I can't look at any of my photos before about 2008-2009 without cringing... except for the occasional lucky accident that turned out OK.

Thanks again for your comment... and if you ever want to write a guest post... :)

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Alexandre, I love the images you are making now.. and you photograph with such intent that you are bound to improve. We all have images from the past we'd prefer not to see but it is helpful to see how far we've come... and how much farther we can go!