We live in a world of never-ending media stream. We have never been as connected to the online as we are today. We embrace photography technology and its benefits, although might not be fully aware of the risks and challenges it constitutes.
Photographers have never had so much resources for education as today. There has never been so many places for inspiration either. Furthermore, there has never been so much space for self promotion. Lastly, it has never been so easy to publish content.
With connectivity at our fingertips, we can look at great work non-stop. Just open your favorite photo sharing app. Endless stream of fantastic looking images, regardless of the genre. Amazing street pictures, beautifully captured portraits, fantastic landscapes or those adventure images we all wish either to capture or to experience. Preferably both.
Then we look at our work and, whether we know it or not, subconsciously, we compare. Most of the time, we do not visit those grand places, or don’t live near them. Not always we manage to capture the greatest street decisive moment or our images lack this or that. What happens next: self esteem, motivation, pride in our work, all go down. What is the point of taking pictures when everybody else is this good? Why should I even publish my work when compared to others it does not stand a chance?
The only way to even start feeling better about the whole thing, is not to compare to others. Easier said than done. Step number one is to realize our feelings when comparing our work to others. Step number two is to stop comparing. Keep on being inspired, but don’t compare. And if you really have to compare, compare to yourself. Look at your pictures from 2 months ago. Look at the ones from 6, 12 or 18 months ago. You’ll feel better. I know I do.
The underlying factor about being happy about own work, is to identify what makes me happy about it. What are my goals with photography? What do I hope to achieve by doing this? Setting the right goals and their size is very important. We do not have to become famous photographers overnight, if that is even your goal. Smaller goals can make us just as happy.
Today, it is hard to focus on the small things, because we constantly see success on social media. There are thousands and thousands of photographers, who have done the hard work and learned how to take those grand images. We don’t see the hard work and we instantly want to become them.
Let’s not expect to take one good picture and become famous. It takes time, effort, sweat and tears as they say. We have to show up at work each day, not only when we feel like it. And most importantly, take it one step at a time.
Tiny achievements can make us just as happy. Some tips: learn a new skill today, edit the picture in new creative way, shoot a brand new subject, use flash, write a blog, create a website, learn how to be consistent in photography, the list goes on..
Yet, whenever I hit that publish/upload button, I feel a bit of worry. Will this picture be successful, will it get the likes and comments? If yes, I will feel very good about my work. If not, I will feel otherwise. And here is one of the biggest dangers of social media. In most cases, the number of likes just does not represent if your art is good or not. There are many other factors which influence the overall “result” of our posts, just think about the instagram’s algorithm. Is it wiser than art gallery curator when deciding which art to show to more people and which not? No, it isn’t and AI will not be so good in these human activities for a very long time.
But back to instant gratification. Being “rewarded” instantly for our work has become the currency of online world this day. I have a lot of likes, therefore I am successful. No, that’s not what success is, though it can be, if its what you’re after. Think about the legends of street photography. They would have hundreds of undeveloped film in their homes, some of which would see the light of day after weeks, months or even years after being shot. Vivian Maier never developed her film, she only become famous after her death. Instead of instant gratification and immediate likes, focus on the work itself, on the process and on being happy about the process itself.
.how not to fall into the unhappiness trap
To sum my thoughts from above, I would recommend three very simple steps to take in order to not become unhappy, but otherwise.. These are:
Get inspired by others, but compare only with yourself
Set the right goals and your expectations
Be patient, do not become obsessed with instant gratification of social media
Here are some other resources on the topic, if you wish to explore it further:
On comparing to yourself, click HERE.
On setting goals and so much more, look at THIS.
On instant gratification, watch THIS.
You can also check out some of my other blogs, for example: 5 REASONS TO FALL IN LOVE WITH STREET PHOTOGRAPHY