5 Ways Fear Based Thinking Holds You Back from Becoming a Better Photographer

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5 Ways Fear Based Thinking Holds You Back from Becoming a Better Photographer

Did you know that fear-based thinking could be keeping you stuck and making you feel like a mediocre photographer? If you’ve been reviewing your images and are not as happy with them as you could be, then you could be suffering from a good old-fashioned case of fear.  If you’re struggling with a fear based mindset, you could be convincing yourself that you are okay with your results.  Fear can be keeping you from taking risks or working toward a goal. 

Before we can understand how a fear based mindset affects our photography, we must begin to understand what fear is and how it works.  Fear is an understandable response to danger, but under the surface, fear can show itself even when a threat doesn’t seem to be present.  Most people are so tightly wrapped in fear that they don’t recognize when the emotion has overtaken their lives.  Fear is sneaky, affecting us in a multitude of ways.  It can hold you back from experiencing new and exciting adventures.  It can also keep you from improving your photography and getting those amazing shots you see from other photographers and wish you could achieve.  Fear could even be keeping you from taking the next step and starting a photography business.

Here are five ways fear stands between you and your photography goals.

1. Fear Steals Your Confidence

Fear (also known as anxiety) is the voice in your head that tries to convince you that something terrible will happen if you do what you set out to do. It’s the reason you don’t call that girl or ask your boss for a raise.  In these moments, it is easy to let your fears take over and steal your confidence.  This fear can be overwhelming, causing you to freeze in place like a deer caught in headlights when you should be moving ahead with your life.

Here’s an example.  If you fear not getting the photo results you want because your confidence is low, leaving the camera at home could be easier.  Your inner dialogue may sound something like, “why bother?  My pictures don’t turn out the way I like anyway.  I’ll leave the camera at home this time.”  Yikes!  Fear has stolen your confidence.

What if instead of letting that fear based thinking take over and steal your confidence, you push through the fear and decide to try a new technique you’ve wanted to learn?  A great place to begin is to learn to shoot with your camera in manual mode!  Next time you head out the door for your kid’s soccer game or a trail hike with your spouse, pack that camera and try something new!

A graphic showing how the elements of exposure work together for the best exposure
The elements of exposure work together for the best exposure

2. Fear Keeps You from Taking Risks

Living with fear based thoughts is a bit boring.  Following the crowd is a dull way to live for most of us.  The trick is not allowing fear to stop you from taking risks.  After all, there are no rewards without risk. The more risks you take, the less power fear has over you, and the better you become at analyzing which chances are worth taking. You become more and more confident in your photographic abilities when you take more risks in your shooting.

Don’t let fear keep you from taking a risk.  Now is the perfect time to try out a new kind of photography that you haven’t tried before!  If you have never taken portraits, find a friend and ask her to model for you.  If you haven’t tried street photography, get out there and give it a try!

When I started photography, I asked a friend if I could practice photographing her family for an autumn photoshoot.  They got a whole bunch of great photos, and I got a whole bunch of practice.  Guess what?  I learned a few things about posing and working with families.  Not only that, but they even ended up sending me a small and unexpected gift a few weeks later because they were so happy with the photos.  Their happy feedback made my day and gave me a significant boost in confidence.  Practice is a great way to gain confidence and push fear aside!  Can you imagine how gaining confidence in your photography abilities will creep into other areas of your life as well?

3. Fear Keeps You from Learning New Things

Fear of failure is the root of self-doubt and self-sabotage. If you don’t try new things, fear will stop you from growing as a photographer.  Anytime you decide to push away fear based thinking and try something new, you open yourself to new experiences.

For example, have you tried attending a photography conference?  If you have, great job!  If you haven’t, why not?  Are you uncomfortable meeting new people or traveling alone?  Sometimes you need to get uncomfortable to grow as a person. The only way out of a comfort zone is through it.

To stretch your skills, I challenge you to check out an in-person (or interactive Zoom) photography weekend.  Take careful notes, and be sure to ask questions!  You will undoubtedly learn from other photographers as well as the instructors.  And as a bonus, you may make a new friend who you can learn with or meet up later and try out a new location or a new style of photography.  Still uneasy?  Get used to feeling uneasy because there are always new opportunities waiting outside what makes you feel stable and secure.

A few years ago, before the world went Covid-crazy, I went to an incredible in-person conference called Out of Chicago.  It was terrific.  I met new friends and made new skills that made a world of difference for me in my photos and my business!  I am still in contact with several of those friends and cannot wait until the in-person conference resumes!

Related: 10 Amazing Truths About Seeing a Therapist

4. Fear Keeps You from Revealing Your Unique Talents

If fear is holding you back from revealing the photographer that you are, then there isn’t much point in picking up your camera or having goals in the first place.  If we allow fear to convince us that we cannot do something that we can do, we may never find our true potential for greatness. 

One of the most insidious results of living with a fear based mindset is negative self-talk.  I don’t know about you, but if my best friend or husband talked to me the way I sometimes talk to myself, I would likely put a fast halt to that relationship.  Try to speak to yourself the way you would speak to your child or your best friend.  Instead of saying, “I’ll never improve.  My photos are ALWAYS blurry,” try saying, “I am an incredible photographer, and I am learning new things every day.” Then be intentional about learning why your photos are blurry and how to fix them. 

Wouldn’t you love to see one of your photos published in a magazine or on display in a local art show?  Push aside your fears, cut out the negative self-talk, and pick up that camera! Make a goal and make it happen!

5. Fear Makes You Sabotage Yourself

Fear tells you that someone else can do it better or faster than you can, so why even bother trying?  You will not accomplish your goals if you practice this form of self-sabotage. Let’s say you want to begin a photography business.  If you let your fear have control, then you may say something like, “the market is saturated with good photographers.  Why bother?  I won’t get any clients anyway.”  Stop that stinking thinking and push through the fear!

As an entrepreneur, you will always have opportunities to learn new skills.  Are you going to be successful if you’re not willing to ask questions and find answers?  Now is the time to push back against fear and take responsibility for your success.  You may get the opportunity to learn about marketing and how to use your photos to promote your new business!  As my good friend (just kidding) Dolly Parton says, “You’ll never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try.”

a fear based quote from Dolly Parton in text

Even if you’re not interested in starting a photography business, you can still look for the opportunities around you.  For example, if a friend or acquaintance asks you to take their portraits, go ahead and take the task, research some fun poses, and learn something new along the way.  The more you practice, the better your photography results will be.

A girl without fear based thinking resting in the grass
Practice your posing on a friend!

Put one foot in front of the other

Once you recognize fear’s hold on your life, it’s time to take bold action to overcome that fear. It can be difficult, but the best way to do it is by pushing fear aside, concentrating on positive self-talk, and taking baby steps forward!  Taking the first steps in overcoming fear based thinking will be a challenge.  Be sure and tell a trusted friend or family member that you’re trying to make this change.  We can all benefit from others around us offering support and helping us to keep focus.  Even better, consider stepping out of your comfort zone and finding a good therapist to help push you through it!  Your fears won’t vanish completely, but your photography self-confidence will grow as you become more comfortable taking risks and stretching yourself.  Likely your joy in other areas of life will develop along the way!

In the immortal words of a young Kris Kringle in the old Christmas classic Santa Clause is Coming to Town, “Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you are walking cross the floor.  Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door!”

Put One Foot in front of the Other!

Fear can be debilitating and keep you from accomplishing your photography and life goals, but it can also be a guidepost that leads you to the life you want. It all depends on how you react to it.  Never stop putting one foot forward!

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