Everyone has naysayers in their lives. If you don’t then all I have to say is, “ahhh – so you’re the one?” You email, message, and contact me daily to talk about the naysayers in your photography lives. Either it’s a family member, a friend, or an anonymous face on the internet, and they’re all telling you the same thing. You shouldn’t be here, you can’t do this, and you’re not good enough. It’s hard to find the inspiration to keep going.
I’m not here to judge if you are good enough, only you know that. I’m here because I’ve been able to combine the two things I love to do – photography and teaching art. I think we should all aim to live in such a way that when you leave this place there are no, “I wish I had…” statements.
With the onslaught of the digital age, comes the internet, and the internet provides such a sense of secure anonymity that people find themselves expressing opinions, negativites, and other thoughts they may not otherwise say to your face. Sometimes that’s a good thing. I’ve been a part of many online forums and communities. I’ve worked for one of the largest forums on the internet and the pattern is always the same – people feel they can speak more freely online.
The truth is that you can. By starting your own photography business you have now officially ‘put yourself out there.’ Existing on the internet in any form automatically comes with the territory of getting criticism. The question is, how do you stay above the naysayers and not let them bring you down?
It’s really hard sometimes. If you are here online, at some point you’ll encounter someone telling you that you can’t do this and you’re not good enough. In this community here I’m striving to keep comments and our forum positive. I want people to come here and learn and add to what I am offering. I’m not here to judge and bring anyone down. The ways I run my business are not right for everyone. All I know for sure is that they worked for me. I’m not the best photographer, but I’m always going to keep trying to get better and better. Along the way, I have a passion to teach and help when I have the opportunity.
I have friends and family members who still think my photography business is a ‘thing.’ You know what I mean. Someone you know says, “oh how’s your photography thing going?” A part of me wants to scream out and say, ‘oh that thing that pays my mortgage?’ Really though, it’s fine. Call it a thing if you want. The people who have always called it a ‘thing’ are the ones who motivated me to do better. Instead of being angry and letting it get to me I’ve used it to my advantage. To some people, being a photographer, will just be that ‘thing’ you do.
The fact of the matter is that to put yourself out there is to expose yourself to criticism. Be ready for it. These two things go hand-in-hand and one cannot exist without the other. With a huge corner of the internet dedicated to ‘Signs to Recognize a Bad Photographer’, websites to make fun of bad photos, and communities surrounding these things discussing and furthering those feelings how is anyone to find an ounce of confidence here?
Decide how you are going to respond to it. Are you going to engage with your naysayers? Can you learn from them? We all learn from our mistakes and we are our own worst critics. It’s not helpful to have everyone jump on the bandwagon and be your worst critics too. Since I know I’ve been in those shoes I try not to jump on those bandwagons when it comes to others. Constructive criticism is hard to find. You can chose to engage with those people or not. Would that be a useful way to spend your time? If I spent all my time engaging with those who think my photography is a thing and listening to their negativity about what I do I’d probably have ended up in a corner rocking myself with puffy, wet eyes. I chose to ignore or learn. Sometimes those negative comments are true. I’m not perfect, I’m not the best. When people told me I couldn’t do this I used it as motivation to prove them wrong. I’ve turned their negative into a positive.
On a personal level, it comes down to having the guts to try. I have the guts to stand on the stage and make myself available for the tomato-throwers. I make mistakes and when I do I turn those tomatoes into spaghetti sauce (in case you love a bad analogy). Whatever I do, when I’m standing up on the stage putting myself out there I just try not to throw the tomatoes back.
You’ll get out what you put into the world also applies to your business. If you believe the naysayers who tell you you’ll fail, then you will. If you work hard, educate yourself, and learn from your mistakes you can succeed in this business.
I’ll end this with a final thought: You’re going to become a target, but don’t make yourself a victim.
If you’re interested in mentoring with me to learn more about photography or the business side of photography consider scheduling a business consultation. Check out The Shop, it is full of tools, guides, ebooks and other resources to help you succeed.