Photographer’s Self Confidence. The way we think of our art and how to appreciate your own photos

Woman keeping an old frame in front of a harbour
The photograph I took in 2017

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to keep my self-esteem high and how to love my own photos since all the time my visual library gets richer. So the photographs I’ve taken seem to me as weaker and weaker. What I noticed is that when you start out a new hobby or learn a new skill, your self-confidence is rising very quickly. A lot quicker than your skills. Then you get to the point when your skills rise as well. So as you get to know the medium, for instance, photography, your self-esteem drops down a lot.

This is called Dunning–Kruger effect.

Dunning-Kruger effect Illustration
The curved line is showing your self-esteem while the straight one - your actual growing skills

When you start learning something - your ability to do the thing is similar to your ability to understand how good you are at it. While improving your actual skills you first start to feel like an expert but later understand that there’s a lot to learn and your self-confidence drops down. And a lot of near expert people think of themselves as worse than they actually are. Sometimes they think of their skills worse than the people who just started out and are on the self-confidence peak in the beginning.

Gaining Self-confidence is also very important.

Silhouette of a man in front of a window in black and white

What I want to talk more about in this post is that you need to focus on gaining more self-confidence at the same time constantly trying to improve.

To be honest I think bad about my works very soon after I create them. At the time I’m writing this I do not think that my 3 months old photos are cool although they were published in a few magazines. You can think of your art as a flow of your artistic vision. You can reject the photos that you’ve taken a few months ago, but I wouldn’t say it’s something bad. At the same time, when I feel like these photos that I took are mediocre, I know that I have improved my knowledge about photography.

So try to not feel down because your artworks do not seem to be cool anymore. Try to cheer yourself up since it means you’re one step closer on the way to becoming an expert.

How to keep being passionate and achieve your photography goals

Portrait of an Asian man on a sunny day. Portrait photography by Fedor Vasilev

The biggest problem of this Dunning-Kruger effect is that after getting to the top of the self-belief peak you soon realise how long is the way ahead and how wrong you were. Because of all of that, it’s easy to lose your courage and passion and stop doing photography. That moment is quite crucial for your photography journey since you need to keep being passionate about photography to continue learning. To gain passion you could do something easy. But something what seems to be beautiful and interesting for you at the moment.

  • Find the photographs you like and do some similar ones. Or use some photography tricks to create some new (for you) photos.

  • Try to not rely on these tricks. You can use the ideas of others but remember that you need it only to gain some confidence and to realise that you can do the same quality art as well.

  • Try a divergent way of thinking. Come up with as many ideas as possible. Try to implement them even if you think that it might not work out.

  • Do more photography rather than less. Since at this time you can do some better photographs, you will see that you’re improving. If you take a break you will only notice that your old photographs are still looking bad for you and might abandon photography at all.

Think of photography as a long way journey

Musician standing with a guitar on a scene
Photo from 2018 that I reedited a few months ago

If you still like the artworks that you did a few years ago they might be actually really good but you need to let them go and learn new things. You can think of photography as a journey with a direction but without a destination point. It’s like your big research about how the world looks and how you can capture that. There’s no moment when you will say: “Ok I’m done! That’s how life appears in my vision. I've shown all the aspects of life and the world and have learned everything”.

If you feel like an expert, try to look at your photos critically.

A lot of times I had a cool idea for a photoshoot but then checked out similar photos (on Pinterest for instance) and found a lot of examples of similar shots. A lot of “New” ideas I had - turned out to be quite common. It doesn’t mean of course that you have to give up. It’s cool to generate new and creative ideas but it’s impossible to create new ideas not based on anything old. So try to pick your own favourite photos and then search for similar photos on Pinterest. You will gain more knowledge of how people created these photographs. By doing so, you will learn the ways to create something that probably wasn’t created before.

Some of my photos I loved for years. But when I’ve seen more similar photographs I realised that it’s not something I would be proud of. I left it behind as something I was proud of but something very regular that I can do right now.

Learning photography language

Portrait of a man in green blazer by portrait photographer Fedor Vasilev

Keep remembering that as long as you do photography you will gain more self-confidence. You will know accurately how good your skills are. If you see that your works are far worse than you would like them to be, then you only need to work more and look critically at all of the visual arts. It’s like learning a new language. But you learn photography language. You need to understand this language to make better photographs and gain your photographer's self-confidence.

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