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How to Cope When You Wonder if Your Photography is Good Enough

All photographers question if they are good enough sometimes. This is a look at how photographer, Spanki Mills, pulled out of the depths of that slump.

A BLUR.

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That is what this past year has felt like for me. Not because it went by too fast and not because I had so much fun…but because I was lost. I was lost in who I was and what I was creating.  I was allowing those voices in my head telling me I was not good enough.  They grew louder and louder — eventually they hold merit within me. I questioned myself. I became paralyzed in my own doubt and fear.

I wondered:

  • Am I really an artist?
  • Can I create work others will like?
  • Is the work I am creating anything I even love anymore?
  • If I can’t love it why would anyone else?
  • Am I even good enough?

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Agonizing over Self Doubt

The house is quiet… I look up at the clock, it’s 2am…how did I get here? How has this become my life? Fighting back tears as I edit yet another gallery that I am not in love with, one I was almost ashamed to show my client. It hurt so bad to see the work I was “creating” and knowing…KNOWING somewhere within me there was more. But what if that more wasn’t what anyone wanted to see. What if no one likes what I create?

Since when did I became such the people pleaser? Sure I already had that people pleasing quality inside my personality but this was different. I was allowing that to paralyze me in fear. So afraid I was going to create something that wasn’t understood or received by my clients, friends, and followers. So instead of creating freely… I froze. I have spent a year of my life doing something I hated. I loved my clients and by giving them exactly what they wanted, I quit giving myself what I NEEDED. There was a small part of me, maybe bigger than I really even knew, that felt guilty. Like I was a fake. I was offering my clients a product that I didn’t believe in. It pained me to see the images once they came off my memory card and hurt even more so to have to look at them when editing and preparing a gallery to”sell”  them. How can I sell something I was ashamed to show, something I didn’t believe in?

I was once in love with what photography offered me. Not only was I helping contribute to my family but I was feeding something deep inside me. I was happy. Where did that go and how do I get back to that place? Am I just an “artist” and we all have to go through this? But no one ever told me it could get THIS serious.

The Breaking Point

I decided I was going to quit. Maybe I  just lost it, maybe what my mind was telling me was the truth…maybe I wasn’t good enough.  I definitely wasn’t making myself happy, and in turn, I was making my family miserable and I felt I was cheating clients. Nothing was “good enough” anymore but I didn’t know what to do to find where the “enough” was hiding. If you follow me on Facebook you would have noticed how this past year I posted very little of my work. It consumed my daily thoughts. It seemed I couldn’t break these chains that bound me by the words my mind was telling me.

Than one day I asked a friend to go on a shoot with me. This time was different though… I wanted her to shoot…ME.  I wanted to express in images how I was feeling. How I was seeing the world through my own fog.  Through the blur.

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When I got those images back I went through them… and wept. Not one image was in focus yet it was just so clear to me where I was and what I needed to do to get out of this haze. I needed to go and shoot EXACTLY how I was seeing the world at this very moment. For me. No one to give me approval. I needed to stop doing what was comfortable and allow myself to shoot off emotion alone.

I researched images I loved and related to at this very stage in my life. I put them on my screen and began writing down emotions I got from those images. I looked at the images in a way I had never look at anyones work before. I wasn’t looking at the beautiful and perfect imagery, I was only pulling off the emotion of the image. I sat and studied those images for hours. I processed those emotions and when I shot for the very next time, I shot without paying attention to the final image… I shot for the final emotion.

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Finally Free

I can say for the first time ever I can look at some of my work that is more than 48 hours old and STILL love it (I know you all know what I am talking about). I have come to the conclusion that I may not make everyone happy with my imagery, but those who do trust me to tell their story, will love it and appreciate it so much more because it is shows a tiny piece of their soul. We will not stay in a safe place, together we will step out of our comfort zones.  And I’m loving it!

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FIVE things  I learned throughout the storms of this past year…

1. Voices in your mind can play really ugly tricks on your heart. Allow yourself to hear them though because if you repress them they will get louder and more nasty with time.

2. You are not perfect, sometimes you are not even good enough…and that is okay.  If you are true to yourself your clients will see a piece of themselves in you.

3. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. It isn’t easy to see yourself in the blurry moments but through that your growth will come.

4. Becoming an artist that doesn’t play it “safe” will narrow down your reach to the client masses, but it will strengthen your reach to those whom your work really touches.

5. When your heart is telling you it is no longer being fed by what you do, allow yourself to hear that voice and allow yourself to experience change.

 

Spanki Mills is big city girl living in a small Texas town doing what she loves and enjoying every minute of the journey. Taking each moment as it comes and learning and laughing through life….with a name like Spanki…what else can you do! spankimills.com

 How to Cope When You Wonder if Your Photography is Good Enough

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9 Comments

  1. 1
    Dan says:

    Have you noticed how many posts there are telling us that we need to see past the fear? “On the other side of fear is success” “you can’t succeed until you learn through failure” … Fear, uncertainty and doubt. I get so tired of the doubt. It is crippling. But I keep reminding myself that by choosing to be an artist we are not compromising. But, it is a business and a successful business does cater to the tastes of the client. So, are we a boutique (high specialization – and the possibility of a meager or huge income) or a “fast food” artist who caters to the public’s whims ( and has the potential for a more stable income at the cost of losing our true passion). I just want everyone to love my work … the way that I create it … is that too much to ask ? HA!!

  2. 2
    Cindy says:

    GREAT post !!!! And yes I do believe we all are there at sometime or another. Happy to know we are not alone.

  3. 3
    Lindsay says:

    Absolutely beautiful post! Thank you so much for being so honest.

  4. 4
    sue says:

    Hi… i was and did exactly just this. i m getting bored and tired my photos are like every others’ even though that was what the clients actually favours. But not me. I am fed up of ‘giving in’ to unreasonable clients. So I ‘borrowed’ my friend’s teenage daughter. No make up, no blow dry hair. Just her being her. And the result was more astounding than ever. And we work well together being typical teen she has her mood swings etc etc. She didn’t have to smile, laugh even look at the camera.

    Now, i have raised my price and very brave to say what my price is. I m too tired of being ‘cheap but fab’ photographer. That sort of tagline ( cheap & fab) do not pay for my lenses.

  5. 5
    Cynthi says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I think we all go through (or WILL go through) a phase like this.

  6. 6
    Christie says:

    Thank you for your honesty. We have all been there and to see someone you “follow” or look to for advice having these same feelings validates all of us in that same place. Your work is beautiful. Thank you for sharing a piece of your struggle. I would much rather struggle with doubt than to go back to a desk. Photography feeds my creative soul. ;)

  7. 7
    Viviana says:

    OMG! Just music to my ears!!! I have been feeling a lot like that in the past 2 months but couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I even felt like I should put the camera away and look for something else. Now that I think about it I guess it started when these other photographers took some of my clients… I felt like I was not good enough i coud even say I thought about getting specials our sales to get there attention. But hey! After reading what you Spanky and others have shared I’m not going to cheep out my work!! Thank you all for sharing. You’ve made my heart happy and my thoughts come to peace. Love Vi

  8. 8

    Sigh…….all I can say is…….thank you so much for posting this. It’s exactly what I needed. :)

  9. 9
    SINDI says:

    You nailed exactly ho I feel! I keep trying to please my clients and give them the cheesy photos they want, but I hate it! I hate showing others or displaying that, that is my work! I don;t want people to book me based on that! I struggle with clients understanding my work! I want a very natural REAL feel to my work and I feel clients just don’t get that and won’t book me! They want cheese!

    Thank you so much for this blog! Your work is amazing and I LOVE it! Truly inspired!

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