You’ve taken a picture, loaded it into the computer and now you stare at it. You thought it was good when you took it. But now you are wondering if it’s any good at all. You’ve seen pictures by other members of the club and you KNOW how good theirs are. Does yours measure up? Will anyone else like it? Should you put it in the exhibit? Doubt overrides the decision to participate and you shut off the computer thinking, “Maybe next time…”
We are often our own worst critics when it comes to judging whether a photo is worthy to be seen, or not. And truthfully there is something a little bit daunting about putting an image up in an exhibit. When it’s posted on line it’s small and no one can really see all those flaws you perceive to be there. Posting on a page in Facebook is safe because you have some form of anonymity. No one knows you’d hesitate to put it on a wall in a public place. Doubt is probably the biggest deterrent a photographer faces. It’s not easy to push past your comfort zone and let your work be seen in a larger format. You are not alone! Every photographer goes through a period (and not just once) of doubt in regards to their work. For some it is whether or not they are ready to exhibit. For others it is switching off the “Auto” setting and moving towards fully shooting in “Manual”. And for others it is questioning whether or not they actually have a unique “voice” in the pictures they take.
One of our favorite speakers in PPC, John Barclay, shared this experience in his most recent newsletter:
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was traveling to South Africa for a much anticipated workshop with the great Freeman Patterson. I was still quite new to photography and excited to be with my hero, Freeman, but I was also afraid that I’d come home with lousy images. Wanting more than anything to come home with some “keepers", I knew exactly what I had to do! I would look through everyone else’s viewfinder to see what they were seeing!!! Then I would photograph what they were photographing! Guaranteed keepers. There! Done! Problem solved. My traveling partner was my friend, Ferrell McCollough. Ferrell decided - just before we landed in Cape Town - to challenge me to do something new on this trip. "John, I want you to go all 17 days without looking through anyone else's viewfinder. I want you to trust that you have your own unique vision and that it is good!" WHAT!?!? Are you kidding me? Are you crazy? I'm not wasting all the money I paid for this trip! I’M JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH!! I DON'T have a VISION! And there it was; the self doubt, the I’m-not-good-enough. I fought the challenge. I had rings of sweat under my arms from the fear. I was shaking with the thought of being left to my own devices. I didn't want this challenge. But, in my own mind, I knew that I had been hanging on to other’s visions for far too long. I exercised faith and accepted Ferrell’s challenge. And what I was to learn has become one of the most beneficial lessons of my entire photographic journey. I was good enough. I did have a vision, and I was able to make images that I loved without looking though anyone else's viewfinder! Guess what? I did very well, and came home with images that I was very proud of!
I remember the first time I exhibited with the club. I did not have my “big girl” camera then. In my mind my little point and shoot made me unworthy of exhibiting status. Eric Goins asked me if I was going to put something in the Smithfiled Exhibit and I said no stating the aforementioned camera. “That’s not a reason,” he said, “The camera is only a tool. You have a good eye. You should put something in the exhibit.” I can’t say I was inspired and rushed out to have a photo printed. It took me days to figure out which photos to show. And when I saw them up on the wall next to some of the other photos on display, I seriously considered never exhibiting again! But on the night of the opening, I overheard two people who were looking at one of my pictures. “Look at the colors on this one,” one said. “I know,” responded the other, “It’s just how I remember Vermont in the Fall”. (Yes, that's the shot in the picture above.) A little light bulb went off and these words ran through my mind, “You’re better than you think.”
It’s true that some of my equipment has improved. It’s also true that I have a lot to learn about photography and the equipment now in my possession. But I am often reminded that I don’t have to be the next photographer extraordinaire for people to enjoy my images. And that’s the reason why I exhibit. There is no better place to show my work than local galleries and with a club that encourages me to stretch and step out of my comfort zone now and then. It’s time for you to do the same because…
You’re better than you think!