It can be daunting to promote yourself all the time.
In any and every creative profession there can be a weird hurdle to overcome where we go from beginning our craft and growing our skill set, to owning our voice and story, and proudly proclaiming who we are and what we offer. It often feels as we ebb and flow between these two points– always growing and learning, and allowing the changes in our lives to re-shape our voice as time continues on.
As photographers, it is no different.
The hurdles we face as we begin to self-promote come in the form of questioning our skills, our heart, and our ability to capture the moments that make people move. Below are some of the most common areas photographers find daunting when promoting themselves, and my take on why we need to reclaim our declarations of self, becoming confident as we grow our businesses and continue to shoot the work that sets us apart.
Hurdle 1 – Feeling like a fraud.
How often do find yourself feeling like you’re not as good as you are making yourself out to be? Or that you’re simply suffering from ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and you’re waiting until someone finds out you’re not as perfect as your marketing materials make you out to be? The bottom line is we are real people– real people live real lives, get really good at their craft, and have real bad days too. You promote your highlights to show people the magic you can create. You allow them the opportunity to picture themselves in the image they are viewing. You’re not a fraud– you’re just a little scared that not every image will turn out flawless and that’s ok. As long as you are confident in yourself when you show up to the shoot, you’ll deliver and you’ll realize you aren’t a fraud. You are wonderfully, uniquely you.
Hurdle 2 – Not knowing what to say out of fear people will think you are bragging or talking yourself up.
To be honest, it’s just not that big of a deal. The idea that ‘you think other people might be thinking’ is where the issue really stands. You can’t control what other people think; you can only live your truth. If you have confidence in your skills, if you are in tune with your unique creative voice, then you’ll be able to authentically communicate your truth in a way that won’t matter what others think of you.
Hurdle 3 – Not really knowing your own strengths and what sets you apart from the crowd.
This is where having friends in the industry in the form of personal relationships and even online communities can be extremely beneficial. When you create authentic work, other than being able to say you create work you are passionate about, that also ignites the spark in your soul, you are able to look to your fellow photographers to objectively articulate what it is about your images that stand out; what is captivating about your work, what sets you apart, and what makes it one-of-a-kind.
We are often too close to our own work we don’t realize what we do is different from what others are doing. We can often assume our creative process; the way we compose shot ideas, how we style shoots, etc, is the same as everyone else. The truth is, it’s not…
I was teaching a workshop recently where I was sharing that I will encourage kids at a family shoot to race because it makes them laugh when they are running and, how one child will be happy they won, while the other is sad they lost. I love being able to tell both sides of the story; the triumph and the sadness. One child will always be upset they are in second place, and this provides a beautiful opportunity for the parents to comfort the child and for gorgeous emotive images to come to life. A woman came up to me and said it just never occurred to her to take photos of anything other than happy people. What was commonplace to me in the way I commit to storytelling was not even a thought to another person. This is why it’s important to take a step back to be able to see what you do that others don’t.
Hurdle 4 – Everyone seems to be a photographer these days…
People like taking pictures. People like having their memories preserved. It’s just that simple. If one person can pick up a camera and take photos another person likes, who are we to say there are too many people in our industry? I am so grateful for the people who thought I was good, even when I really wasn’t; for the people who liked the work I first created before I really knew what I was doing. A friend of mine asked me to fly out to where she lived and take boudoir photos of her….before I even owned a camera. That changed everything for me. Those first few people who ever asked me to capture any moments for them have infinitely impacted the course of my life and for that, I am grateful. Instead of thinking of the statement negatively, I view it as a positive for everyone. Each photographer is unique. The work you create is different than the work I create and is different for the other 500+ photographers in your city.
Hurdle 5 – There’s someone else out there better than me, so why should I promote myself?
The more individuals who pick up cameras allow their heart and soul to drive the images they create, the more creative the industry becomes. Imagine for a moment what it would be like if your top five favorite photographers had never picked up a camera. What imagery would inspire you? What photographs would exist that could cause the world to join together in a movement of hope, of love, of resistance? Imagine if they had said ‘there’s someone else out there better than I, so I won’t promote myself… I might just not even try’. I can’t wait to see what amazing images look like even just 10 years from now– everyone is getting so good at the craft that it inspires other to continue to push boundaries, take risks, and most of all, trust themselves.
The bottom line is, if you are remaining true to who you are as an artist, a creator, and an individual who is drawn to the moments that create memories, fear will fade away and it won’t feel daunting to promote yourself. You’ll actually feel excited at the opportunity to connect with the specific people out there who resonate so deeply with what you create they couldn’t imagine another photographer capturing their most emotive moments.