So, if you lack a little confidence now and then, I’ve been thinking about what kinds of things you could do to take a few emotional or marketing steroids to boost your belief in yourself. That's where it all starts, believing in yourself.
Your network: To start you've got to surround yourself with positive people. Everybody doesn't have to agree with the path you've chosen, but if they're negative about it, then you need to find a way to remove them from your sphere of influence. I know it's far more complicated than I make it sound, but nobody has the right to step on your dreams.
Your technical skill set: Practice getting to know every aspect of your gear. Know the limits or your equipment and know how to push it to the max every time. Practice on window light, on and off camera strobes, dragging the shutter and experiment with depth of field. If you're a more seasoned veteran and heading off into more diversification for your business then you need to practice in this new area of expertise, just like you hopefully did when you were first starting out.
But remember something about practicing. Practice doesn't make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. If you're practicing it wrong, then you're accomplishing nothing. I'd love to take credit for this, but it all belongs to good buddy, Roberto Valenzuela and it also explains my golf game. I'm practicing, but only reinforcing bad habits.
Composition and your evolution: Look at the last 100 images you took. This one is easy, just take two sheets of paper and as you look at the images, crop them on your computer. New photographers especially tend to put too much in the scene. At a program a few years ago Roberto dissected an image to show how many other potential images there were in the same scene.
This is also a chance for a front row seat on your own evolution as an artist. Pull some images from a few years ago and compare them to your most recent work. More than likely there's been a change in the way you shoot, the look and feel of your images and the quality of your work.
Videos: No, I’m not talking about creating them, but if you're a wedding photographer, what if you could watch the wedding video of one of the weddings you photographed. This requires a relationship with the videographer, but if you can establish that, just watch it and look for the images you might have missed. Train your eyes and ears to look for and listen for emotional moments.
Print Critique: Put a few of your images out there for critique. There are dozens of different forums where you can post your images and other photographers will tell you what they think. Just develop a thick enough skin to handle criticism. Jeff Henshaw talked about it in a recent guest post.
Visit your Lab: Get to know the staff at your lab and learn to understand what they can fix. I'm a huge fan of personal, live, onsite visits, but if you can't do that then make it a point to meet the people from your lab at the next trade show or convention. If that isn't possible then spend time on their site getting to know their product line and website as good as you know your own.
Use your network: Your network, if you've built it right is made of positive people with common interests and a passion for imaging. Don't be afraid to ask for advice or help from people in your network. It's the saddest thing to see a photographer struggle simply because they're embarrassed to ask a few questions.
Own your zipcode: Owning your zipcode simply means getting to know the people and businesses in your neighborhood, but it's also about them knowing you. Confidence comes with familiarity and building relationships with the potential client base physically closest to you will help solidify your skill set and also help you understand the weak links.
Be active in the various forums: Facebook is remarkable, because anybody, no matter how obscure you think your interest in photography might be, can still find a group of people with a common interest. Type your specialty into the Facebook search box and you'll see what comes up.
Attend workshops: This goes well beyond the upcoming SCU Summer Session. This is about you spending time with other photographers and being able to talk about the craft and share ideas. You need to attend as many live programs as you possibly can.
Join the local guild: From PPA affiliates to meetups to ASMP and other groups, in almost every community there are photographers getting together monthly to expand their skill set and share their mutual passion for the craft. You need to be a part of whatever group is in your area.
Find a mentor: This is harder than it sounds, because everybody is typically so busy. However, that doesn't mean you can't develop a relationship with somebody who can help you from time to time with your journey. This is about building confidence and a good choice in a mentor can help you stay focused and smooth out the road here and there when you're feeling frustrated.
Here's the bottom line and it's not exclusive to photography. Building confidence is all about being involved. You can't just sit on the sidelines and watch everyone go by. You have to get involved in the industry and in your community to build confidence in your skill set as a photographer, a communicator and a business person.
Illustration Credit: © kentoh - Fotolia.com